Looks like the ACC is finally stating to climb back to a powerful conference for the first time since they expanded to 12 teams. The ACC has a few teams that are ready to make an impact on the national scene. Both divisions are up for grabs so lets see who will be playing in the championship game in Charlotte this year.
Champion - Florida State
It is going to be so strange watching the Seminoles play without Bobby Bowden roaming the sidelines. New coach Jimbo Fisher inherits the most talented team in Tallahassee since the early 2000s. Most of the offense hinges around senior QB Christian Ponder who missed the last few games last year because of a separated shoulder. If his shoulder holds up the Seminoles should have a very powerful offense. The defense is another story. FSU ranked 94th in total defense and things will have to improve this year. A new scheme and new coaches will hopefully help. FSU has to travel to Norman to play the Sooners in week 2 and have their usual battles with Miami and Florida. The Seminoles are back on the rise and it starts with a trip to the ACC Title game this year.
Runner Up - Boston College
It doesn't seem to matter who coaches the Eagles, they always seem to win eight or nine games every season. They will be back at it again this season. RB Montel Harris is one of the best backs in the ACC setting freshman and sophomore records at Chestnut Hill. They need to get some competent receivers to keep defenses from stacking the line. The Eagles already solid linebackers have a chance to be great with the return of 2008 ACC Defensive Player of the Year Mark Herzlich after winning his battle with bone cancer.
Great to have Kyle Parker back under center and he must feel great after signing a million dollar deal to play baseball later. This team has the talent to compete in the conference, but how can they replace an all time great like C.J. Spiller?
Looks like the wolfpack are ready to turn things around. Russell Wilson is a playmaker at QB, leading the conference in touchdown passes with 31. With question marks at running back and on the offensive line Russell might have to pitch it around even more this season. The wolfpack have a great chance to make a bowl.
It has been fun the past few seasons to see the Demon Deacons be competitive going to three bowl games in four years. However, QB Riley Skinner is not running the offense anymore. Wake has solid talent on offense but the defense has to step up. Never put it past Head Coach Jim Grobe to create a winner.
Teams did not "Fear the Turtle" last season with Maryland only going 2-10. Athletic Director Debbie Yow has made it clear that a winning record is needed for Head Coach Ralph Friedgen to keep his job. There is talent on this team, mostly on offense, but the defense will have to force an occasional punt this season.
Champion - Virginia Tech
It is a season of opposites for the Hokies this year. For once Virginia Tech is stacked on offense and the defense will have to catch up. QB Tyrod Taylor is a proven winner and has possibly the best tandem of running backs outside of Alabama with Ryan Williams and Darren Evans. Meanwhile, for the first time in a long time there are question marks on defense and special teams in Blacksburg. Of course Frank Beamer and Bud Foster have been at this a long time so expect the defense and Beamer Ball to be just fine. The Hokies have a doozy to start the season facing Boise State in D.C. if they can get by the Broncos (I think they will) they have to play Georgia Tech, at UNC and at Miami to round out the year. It is going to be tough but I think the Hokies have a chance to do something big this season.
Runner Up - Miami
The Hurricanes have the best collection of athletes in the ACC and they have finally begun to mature. QB Jacory Harris is poised to be a top star, but he is going to have to make plays behind three new offensive linemen. The defense is back to that old Miami speed again. To return to elite status, Miami must navigate a tough early stretch at Ohio State, at Pitt, and at Clemson. The Hurricanes get through that and the swagger might be back.
The Tar Heels might have six to seven players picked in the first two rounds of next year's draft. Sadly they are all on defense and the offense has been nowhere near spectacular. The season opener in Atlanta against LSU will be very telling. If the offense can score at all, the defense could lead them to a championship.
As a fan of the option I have loved watching the Yellow Jackets the past two seasons under Paul Johnson. QB Joshua Nesbitt returns to run the attack, but the Jackets have to find replacements for RB Jonathan Dwyer and WR Demaryius Thomas and that won't be easy. If new defensive coordinator Al Groh can improve the defense and new skill players can step up, the Ramblin' Wreck will be in the title picture.
Former Tennessee Offensive Coordinator David Cutcliffe has made Duke watchable. Winning nine games in his first two seasons is nothing short of phenomenal (Duke won ten in the eight seasons prior). The talent level is slowly getting better but losing QB Thaddeus Lewis is not good. Of course, we know Cutcliffe can mold quarterbacks (See Peyton and Eli). Can this be the year the Blue Devils make it back to a bowl?
New Head Coach Mike London is energetic and won a national title at Richmond in 2008. He knows how to win and has shaken the apathy off the program. Not enough playmakers this season but the Cavaliers will be back soon.
ACC Champion - Virginia Tech
Hokies not only compete for the conference championship, but a win over Boise State in the opener puts them in the National Title race.
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