2008 College Football Preview - ACC/Big East/Big Ten

Bleacher ReportCorrespondent IAugust 30, 2008

Here are three major conferences, read and feedback.

ACC (predicted order of finish and records)

Clemson Tigers (10-2) – Senior quarterback Cullen Harper has no shortage of weaponry at his disposal this season, led by the lethal backfield tandem of Davis and Spiller, along with a number of gifted wide receivers. Clemson has the talent to win the ACC, but must overcome the recent trend of disappointment in seasons with big expectations. It seems as if Tommy Bowden’s Tigers will shake the disease this year.

Virginia Tech Hokies (9-3) – Virginia Tech is always a reliable pick to win the ACC’s Coastal Division, but it’s not very often that Frank Beamer must replace as many as the eight starters that left for the NFL after 2007. After disappointment in last year’s Orange Bowl, this team looks to right the ship and continue recent success. The Hokies will still be able to contend for the conference title, even during a reloading phase.

Wake Forest Demon Deacons (8-4) – It doesn’t seem as if this program will come back to earth after piling up 20 wins over the past two seasons, as head coach Jim Grobe has built Wake Forest into a perennial contender in this conference. Led by junior quarterback Riley Skinner, a proven winner in the past, the Deacs are certainly capable of threatening for an ACC title, hoping to continue their recent positive trends.

Florida State Seminoles (7-5) – Should the Tigers or Deacs falter, Florida State may be able to return to the top of the Atlantic Division standings. Bobby Bowden returns for at least one more season, and with a more talented and tougher team and seven home games, the ‘Noles hope to reverse the pattern of disappointing losses exhibited in the past few years, despite their somewhat tarnished reputation due to academic scandal.

Miami Hurricanes (7-5)
Boston College Eagles (6-6)
Maryland Terrapins (6-6)
North Carolina Tar Heels (5-7)
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (4-8)
North Carolina State Wolfpack (4-8)
Virginia Cavaliers (3-9)
Duke Blue Devils (1-11)

Big East (predicted order of finish and records)

West Virginia Mountaineers (10-2) – The hire of coach Bill Stewart and his Fiesta Bowl victory was exactly what this team needed after Rich Rodriguez’s hasty departure. The explosive offense, led by quarterback and Heisman candidate Pat White should put up astronomical totals in a somewhat shallow conference. West Virginia should be a top 10 caliber team all year long on their way to their fifth Big East title in the last six years.

South Florida Bulls (8-4) – A team that was ranked as high as No. 2 in the nation last year hopes to see some of the same success from their balanced attack, led by an explosive offense and All-American defensive end George Selvie. The Big East title is a possibility for USF, but would likely have to win a December 6th showdown at West Virginia, and winning it would be a huge step in the right direction for the emerging Bulls.

Pittsburgh Panthers (7-5) – This should be the season that Dave Wannstedt’s recruiting prowess finally pays off, making it hard to imagine Pitt not winning at least seven games and reaching a respectable bowl. They are led by sophomore sensation running back LeSean McCoy, and after a disappointing 5-7 campaign in 2007, they look to build off their season-ending win over WVU and challenge the top two teams for the Big East crown.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights (7-5) – The loss of Ray Rice is a crushing blow to Rutgers’ running game, but the Scarlet Knights feature an impressive passing attack under senior quarterback Mike Teel, who is complemented by several standout receivers. Greg Schiano’s eighth season coaching Rutgers won’t be an easy one due to several tough non-conference opponents, however, Rutgers should go bowling for a fourth straight year.

Louisville Cardinals (6-6)
Connecticut Huskies (5-7)
Cincinnati Bearcats (4-8)
Syracuse Orange (3-9)

Big Ten (predicted order of finish and records)

Ohio State Buckeyes (11-1) – With so much experience and talent, the Buckeyes have a legit shot of reaching their third consecutive BCS title game. Getting there may require a victory in arguably the season’s best matchup, September 13th at USC. Jim Tressel returns twenty starters, including emerging quarterback Todd Boeckman and explosive running back Chris Wells, not to mention four starting offensive linemen and nine defensive starters for what might be the nation’s top team.

Illinois Fighting Illini (9-3) – One of the surprise teams of 2007, Illinois hopes to start quickly (an Aug. 30 win over Missouri would be ideal), and if they do, they will be there in the end. However, their conference schedule begins with games against Penn State and Michigan, and if they can weather that storm, Ron Zook’s team led by star quarterback Juice Williams should be able to capture nine or more wins, and challenge for a conference crown.

Wisconsin Badgers (8-4) – A consistent program year after year, Bret Bielema’s Badgers come into 2008 with uncertainty at the quarterback position, but look to overcome that problem with a monster season from power running back P.J. Hill. They also open with a rigorous conference slate, with Michigan, Ohio State, and Penn State in succession. However they did go 7-0 at home in 2007, which is promising in a transition year for the Badgers.

Michigan Wolverines (7-5) – Michigan cannot be considered among the top conference contenders, due to the coaching change from Carr to Rodriguez, the gaping hole at the quarterback position, and the loss of five other players to the NFL. It is always possible that Michigan could surprise the nation with an eight or nine win campaign. However, this looks to be the beginning of a rebuilding stage for the Wolverines.

Penn State Nittany Lions (7-5)
Purdue Boilermakers (6-6)
Iowa Hawkeyes (5-7)
Michigan State Spartans (5-7)
Indiana Hoosiers (4-8)
Minnesota Golden Gophers (3-9)
Northwestern Wildcats (3-9)

ACC’s Top 10 Players

1) Cullen Harper, QB – Clemson, Sr.
2) Michael Johnson, DE – Georgia Tech, Sr.
3) James Davis, RB – Clemson, Sr.
4) Vance Walker, DT – Georgia Tech, Sr.
5) Aaron Kelly, WR – Clemson, Sr.
6) Victor Harris, CB – Virginia Tech, Sr.
7) Myron Rolle, S – Florida State, Jr.
8) Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR – Maryland, Jr.
9) Alphonso Smith, CB – Wake Forest, Sr.
10) C.J. Spiller, RB – Clemson, Jr.

Big East’s Top 10 Players

1) Pat White, QB – West Virginia, Sr.
2) George Selvie, DE – South Florida, Jr.
3) LeSean McCoy, RB – Pittsburgh, So.
4) Mike Mickens, CB – Cincinnati, Sr.
5) Scott McKillop, LB – Pittsburgh, Sr.
6) Courtney Greene, S – Rutgers, Sr.
7) Terrill Byrd, DT – Cincinnati, Sr.
8) Kenny Britt, WR – Rutgers, Jr.
9) Hunter Cantwell, QB – Louisville, Sr.
10) Anthony Davis, OT – Rutgers, So.

Big Ten’s Top 10 Players

1) Chris Wells, RB – Ohio State, Jr.
2) Juice Williams, QB – Illinois, Jr.
3) Todd Boeckman, QB – Ohio State, Sr.
4) James Laurinaitis, LB – Ohio State, Sr.
5) Malcolm Jenkins, CB – Ohio State, Sr.
6) Maurice Evans, DE – Penn State, Jr.
7) Vontae Davis, CB – Illinois, Jr.
8) P.J. Hill, RB – Wisconsin, Jr.
9) Curtis Painter, QB – Purdue, Sr.
10) Travis Beckum, TE – Wisconsin, Sr.