College Football Predictions: Will Virginia Tech Hokies Win the ACC?
The Atlantic Coast Conference figures to be one of the top conferences in college football next season. Five teams have a chance at winning the championship.
Although Florida State is the preseason favorite, they will have to deal with a strong Virginia Tech team, among others.
Over the past decade, the ACC has ranged from a top conference to an embarrassment among conferences that got an automatic BCS-bid.
This year, the ACC will return to the top and will have a number of teams in contention for a top-25 spot come season's end.
Florida State Seminoles
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Losing Bobby Bowden did not immediately diminish the Seminoles to irrelevancy last season. Jimbo Fisher piled up ten wins in his first season replacing a legend.
Although the Seminoles lost star quarterback Christian Ponder to the NFL, most (18/22) starters on last year's team will be returning and new quarterback E.J. Manuel has a great reputation and appears ready to lead the Seminoles offense.
The Seminoles also will have a fearsome defense if its young corners and linebackers continue to develop.
Florida State is the favorite in the ACC and could begin the season ranked in the top-five.
Virginia Tech Hokies
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The Hokies will have to adjust early in the season to losing quarterback Tyrod Taylor and running backs Ryan Williams and Darren Evans.
Even so, it appears the Hokies will have veteran leadership on offense—Virginia Tech returns four seniors on the offensive line.
With a line that knows how to play together, sophomore Logan Thomas should have time in the pocket to learn how to be a quarterback in the ACC.
The Hokies always seem to have a strong defense. They will again in 2011, returning seven starters from a playmaking defense last season.
The Hokies don't play a game they should lose until Week 5 which should allow its offense to learn the ropes before plunging into ACC games.
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Last year, the Terps came back in a big way from a 2009 season where they only won two games by going 9-4 and winning a bowl game.
Maryland figures to continue to take steps forward. Although the team lost star wide receiver Torrey Smith, quarterback Danny O'Brien is coming off a season that he won ACC Rookie of the Year in and is playing for new head coach Randy Edsall.
Maryland also returns its leading rusher from last season in Davin Meggett. Meggett and O'Brien will be the leaders of what figures to be a potent offensive attack.
Defense will be a question mark for the Terrapins. New defensive coordinator Todd Bradford does not have a sterling reputation, and the Terps lost star linebacker Alex Wujciak. Even so, talented safety and NFL prospect Kenny Tate will be shifting to linebacker and should continue to make plays.
Maryland felt snubbed by its bowl selection last season and is motivated to improve this season.
North Carolina Tar Heels
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Butch Davis has helped turn around a Tar Heel program that used to be a perennial ACC basement-dweller.
Although a number of defensive Tar Heels were drafted this year, many didn't play last year because of suspensions, so the Tar Heels return a number of players on offense and defense who should help the team advance in the ACC.
The loss of quarterback T.J. Yates will undoubtedly hurt, but his successor, Bryn Renner, should have the tools, including star wide receiver Dwight Jones, to effectively lead the offense.
The Tar Heels have the ability to finish in the top two ACC teams if they continue to improve at the pace of the past few seasons.
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Excitement has returned to Miami with the hire of former Temple coach Al Golden.
Miami returns an experienced offensive line who should be able to create holes for running back Lamar Taylor.
The Hurricanes also have two talented quarterbacks in Jacory Harris and Stephen Morris. Neither found their stride last season, often throwing interceptions.
But with another year of experience under their belts and a more experience offensive line, expect whichever player starts makes strides this season.
On defense, the Hurricanes will count on linebacker Sean Spence to build upon his solid 2010 season. Two safeties return, hoping to give security to new starting corners. Three of four defensive linemen return.
The Hurricanes should improve upon their 2010 season and be in contention for a top ACC bowl game.