2011 College Football Predictions: The ACC

LaMar Gafford@primetime2832Contributor IIAugust 10, 2011

2011 College Football Predictions: The ACC

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    Last season, Virginia Tech dominated the Atlantic Coast Conference but lost in the Orange Bowl to Stanford, 40-12, making the conference 1-8 in the Orange Bowl and 2-11 overall in BCS games since the BCS era began in 1998.

    This season, the ACC will try to right its recent slump in the BCS games, as the conference is undergoing big changes. North Carolina and Miami have new coaches, while North Carolina State and Virginia Tech will break in new starters at quarterback.

    After Florida State, Miami and Virginia Tech, the ACC will be a bit unpredictable in the middle of the conference, but it will be fun to see how things turn out.

Atlantic Division No. 6: Wake Forest Demon Decons

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    This could be a really tough season for Wake Forest.

    Last season, Wake Forest gave up 35.8 points per game, including surrendering more than 45 points on four separate occasions.

    On offense, the Demon Deacons have to contend with inexperience at the skill positions.  Senior safety Cyhl Quarles and junior wide receiver Chris Givens might be the team’s best players, but it might be a double-digit loss season for Wake this year.


    PREDICTION: 1-11, 0-8 ACC

Atlantic Division No. 5: Maryland Terrapins

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    Last season, Maryland finished the year 9-4 and improved its win total by seven games, giving longtime coach Ralph Friedgen the ACC Coach of the Year award. However, the university decided to part ways with him after 10 years and name former Connecticut coach Randy Edsall as his replacement.

    Senior safety Kenny Tate returns after recording 100 total tackles and three interceptions in 2010. Sophomore Danny O’Brien will look to follow up a freshman campaign that saw him throw for 2,438 yards and 22 touchdowns, but he will not have leading receiver Torrey Smith, who declared for the NFL Draft.

    The team starts with Miami at home, but could win its next four before the second half of the season.


    PREDICTION: 6-6, 3-5 ACC

Atlantic Division No. 4: Boston College Eagles

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    Last season, Boston College finished 7-6 and in fourth place in the Atlantic Division, and I think the same will happen this year.

    Senior running back Montel Harris and junior linebacker Luke Kuechly are two key players who will return to Boston College after a roller-coaster year.

    Harris is eyeing both the school’s and the ACC’s rushing records, while Kuechly will be looking to lead an Eagles’ defense that allowed just 19.5 points per game last year—good for 19th in the nation. 


    PREDICTION: 7-5, 4-4 ACC

Atlantic Division No. 3: North Carolina State Wolfpack

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    NC State received a huge blow this offseason as quarterback Russell Wilson decided to transfer to Wisconsin.

    Junior Mike Glennon—brother of former Virginia Tech quarterback Sean Glennon—will be called on to replace Wilson. The younger Glennon has thrown only 52 collegiate passes, but Wolfpack coach Tom O’Brien has high praise for him.

    On defense, junior safety Earl Wolff is hoping to have another season like the 95-tackle season he had last year.

    With some growing pains along the way, not having Coastal Division heavyweight Miami or Virginia Tech to play can help NC State to have a good season.


    PREDICTION: 8-4, 5-3 ACC

Atlantic Division No. 2: Clemson Tigers

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    Losing Da’Quan Bowers may hurt, but senior Brandon Thompson will try to fill his shoes on the defensive line. The senior defensive tackle played well last year with Bowers and will need to step up his game without him.

    Sophomore Tajh Boyd will assume the role as starting quarterback for the Tigers this season, but he has help in sophomore receiver DeAndre Hopkins and junior running back Andre Ellington.

    With the unpredictability in the middle of this conference, Clemson’s youth could push this team to a good year.


    PREDICTION: 8-4, 6-2 ACC

Atlantic Division No. 1: Florida State Seminoles

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    Year 1 of the post-Bobby Bowden era went well, with Florida State winning the Atlantic. However, sights are larger this year, as the Seminoles look to win their first ACC title since 2005.

    Junior E.J. Manuel will take over the reins at quarterback, while junior defensive end Brandon Jenkins will look to repeat his 13.5 sack performance of last year.

    With a home game against Oklahoma possibly their toughest game and with the Miami game also being at home, the Seminoles have a high chance of repeating as Atlantic Division champs.


    PREDICTION: 11-1, 8-0 ACC

Coastal Division No. 6: Virginia Cavaliers

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    Although Virginia went 4-8 last season, the team was able to stun then-No.22 Miami in Mike London’s first year as head coach.

    The Cavaliers may have the same record this year, but there could be some improvement on the defensive end.

    Senior cornerback Chase Minnifield intercepted six passes last year and will lead a defense that has a year of experience.

    If the offense can gel together with a new quarterback and starting running back, Virginia could surprise and become bowl eligible.


    PREDICTION: 4-8, 1-7 ACC

Coastal Division No. 5: Duke Blue Devils

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    After a 5-7 campaign in 2009, Duke regressed to 3-9 last year in Coach David Cutcliffe’s third year with the program.

    This year’s team might have the same disappointment, thanks to a so-so defense that had trouble stopping the run last year—giving up 208.2 yards per game.

    The offense will be the key, as junior quarterback Sean Renfree has a pair of good receivers in Conner Vernon and Donovan Varner to throw the ball to.

    The Blue Devils will get off to a nice start, but unless they pull off an upset, they will be home for the holidays again.


    PREDICTION: 4-8, 1-7 ACC

Coastal Division No. 4: North Carolina Tar Heels

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    On July 27, North Carolina fired Butch Davis and replaced him with defensive coordinator Everett Withers. Withers inherits a team that has senior defensive lineman Quinton Coples leading the defense following a 10-sack season.

    However, the Tar Heels will need to replace their leading passer and rusher on offense. Luckily, senior receiver Dwight Jones returns following a 62-catch season for 946 yards last year, but things could be shaky with the worst yet to come.


    PREDICTION: 6-6, 3-5 ACC

Coastal Division No. 3: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

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    Georgia Tech comes into this season not only having to vacate its 2009 ACC title but also having to replace its quarterback and leading running back from its run-heavy, triple option offense.

    Juniors Tevin Washington and Orwin Smith each ran for over 500 yards last year and will both be called on to be the leaders on the offensive side of the ball.

    If their defense can improve, they could make a run at the Coastal Division title. But expect the same record as last year.


    PREDICTION: 6-6, 3-5 ACC

Coastal Division No. 2: Virginia Tech Hokies

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    After a 0-2 start that included a loss to FCS member James Madison, Virginia Tech rolled all the way to the Orange Bowl but got crushed by Stanford.

    This season, the Hokies will have a soft schedule, as they replace quarterback Tyrod Taylor with Logan Thomas.

    The defense is capable to pick up the slack, as juniors Jayron Hosley and Bruce Taylor are the big playmakers. Hosley picked off nine passes last season and Taylor had 15.5 tackles for a loss.

    A showdown with Miami on Oct. 8 looms for the Coastal title, but if the Hokies can overcome their youth, the division is theirs. 


    PREDICTION: 11-1, 7-1 ACC

Coastal Division No. 1: Miami Hurricanes

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    The Golden era—as in new head coach Al Golden—has officially begun in Miami, as the Hurricanes will look to play in its first ever ACC title game since joining the conference in 2004.

    In order to do that, Miami must put behind the shaky quarterback play that plagued them last year. Senior Jacory Harris and sophomore Stephen Morris will continue to compete for the job, but they must improve from the 27 interceptions Miami threw as a team last year.


    PREDICTION: 11-1, 7-1 ACC

ACC Championship Game: Florida State vs. Miami

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    This could be the year that the two Florida rivals square off for the ACC crown.

    Florida State has the firepower to overtake an average Atlantic Division, while Miami is just a steady quarterback away from edging out Virginia Tech in the Coastal.

    With that said, I see the Seminoles walking away with the ACC crown, taking their second title in the process, from Miami.