ACC Round Table Part Two: Virginia Tech Coastal Favorites, Clemson May Surpise

Jeffrey Fann@TalkinACCSportsAnalyst IJuly 27, 2009

JACKSONVILLE, FL - JANUARY 1:  Jacoby Ford #6 of the Clemson Tigers breaks the tackle of Matt O'Hanlon #33 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers during the Konica Minolta Gator Bowl against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium January 1, 2009 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

ACC Media Days started on July 26th. Select the official site of the ACC for more coverage.

In the meantime, we are looking at part two of our ACC Round Table where we ask two questions:

Which team is the favorite to win Coastal Division? Which team is the mostly likely to surprise in the ACC this season?

For what's been covered and what's upcoming, check the rest of the series below.

Part 1
Round Table Introduction.
Which team is the favorite to win the Atlantic Division?

Part 3
Which team is most likely to disappoint in the ACC this season?
What are your final thoughts on the ACC this year?

2) Which team is the favorite to win the Coastal Division?

Clark Nelson:
The Techs are the clear-cut favorites. UNC look nice on paper, but I don't think they have the QB play or game day coaching to win it. Same goes for Miami. Ga Tech gets Va Tech at home in October, but the Hokies have won the last two times in Atlanta.

From the Atlantic, GT draws @FSU, vs. Wake, and vs. Clemson. VT gets BC at home, @ Maryland, and home vs. NC State. The cross division edge clearly favors Va Tech and with the head-to-matchup too close to call, I will go with Virginia Tech.

Harlon Jordan:
Virginia Tech—While I typically don't think a run first QB equals success, Tyrod Taylor is making it work for the Hokies. Running back Darren Evans is a beast with All-ACC talent, plus with the addition of Redshirt Freshman stud Ryan Williams, the running game is more than solid. Add to that their defense, which will be stacked again in '09.

Their schedule is fairly easy (in regards to ACC play)—they get Miami, North Carolina and NC State at home, and the only real road test is at Georgia Tech. It's normally impossible for a team to go undefeated in conference play, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Tech go 8-0, or 7-1 at the worst.

The game against Georgia Tech could very well end up being the make or break game for either team—the winner advancing to the ACCCG.

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Allen Lopp:
The Coastal Division is even tougher to choose a favorite, but I like Virginia Tech over a very good Georgia Tech team. Tyrod Taylor, another dual-threat quarterback, still needs development as a passer (standing in the pocket longer instead of running at the first sign of pressure would go a long way towards fixing this issue).

They have one of the ACC's best defenses with Cody Grimm, Stephen Virgil, Kam Chancellor, and Jason Worilds. Virginia Tech might be the best team in the ACC.

Ben Gibson:
As much as it pains me to say, you have to go with the Hokies. When I went through the season I had the Jackets losing three times in conference, at most VT will lose two conference games. GT has the big game between these two teams, but even if they get the win I think they might lay an egg up in Charlottesville the following week, a place where they haven't won since 1990. Look for Greg Boone to be the difference maker for the Hokies this season.

Jeffrey Fann:
The Coastal Division is a three team race, UNC, Georgia Tech, and Virginia Tech. Not much separates the three teams, but I give the Hokies the slight edge to win it all.

Georgia Tech must replace NFL draftees Daryl Richards, Vance Walker, and Michael Johnson along the defensive line. That’s some big holes to fill. UNC is tremendous along the defensive front seven, but they lost five of their top six WRs. QB TJ Yates must remain healthy.

The Hokies are always solid on defense under Bud Foster. Running back Darren Evans is one of the ACC's best back. The only glaring question mark is the quarterback, Tyrod Taylor. He’s talented but raw. He played plenty last season and I think he’ll be fine.

3)Which team is the mostly likely to surprise in the ACC this season?

Clark Nelson:
I am going to go with Duke. The Blue Devils made marked improvement in David Cutcliffe's first year. No one is going to pick them better than fifth and most will pick them sixth.

Runner Up: NC State looks like they will make improvement this year, but QB Russell Wilson will have to stay healthy.

Harlon Jordan:
Clemson—with the departure of QB Cullen Harper and a new, "inexperienced" head coach, many people are expecting a mediocre season from the Tigers. While experience in the QB slot is a problem, I don't think it's as big a deal as people think.

Willy Korn knows this system and had he not suffered an injury in his first start last season against Georgia Tech, I think the college football world would have gotten a glimpse at what talent is actually there. And this is not counting out Kyle Parker, who has absolutely showed out in practice and the spring game.

Either way, whichever signal caller is back there, they'll have the advantage of a much more experienced line than what we saw last year, and who can forget about premiere running back CJ Spiller, easily one of the most dangerous players in the nation.

On the defensive side, new coordinator Kevin Steele has a ton of talent to work with—the defensive line in particular. A combo of Ricky Sapp and Da'Quan Bowers, plus the addition of super-stud freshman Malliciah Goodman will provide a solid front.

And the linebacker position, which was super-thin and inexperienced last year should actually be a strength this season—leading tackler Kavell Conner is back, and Brandon Maye is a superstar in the making.

If they can get past killer road games at Georgia Tech, at Miami, and at NC State, they should be able to take of business in Death Valley against their other league opponents.

Allen Lopp:
The Duke Blue Devils could surprise many people in the ACC. Last year, they were 1-7 in the conference and 4-8 overall, but under David Cutcliffe they have shown improvement.

On offense, they are returning Second team All-ACC Quarterback Thaddeus Lewis. On the defensive side of the ball they are in the bottom of the ACC statistically speaking, but they are returning OLB Vincent Rey who had 109 tackles last year.

They may not win the Coastal Division, but they should not be overlooked on any schedule because they could potentially upset any time on any given Saturday.

Ben Gibson:
It seems like everyone has forgotten about the Wake Forest Demon Deacons. Last year they flew under the radar a bit, but the Coastal is so wide open I like their chances, especially with their easy start to the season.

Wake will go into the N.C. State game with momentum and if they were to win that match at home, they would be looking at an 8-1 record, at worst, come November.

Jeffrey Fann:
The team I think that people may underestimate this season are the Clemson Tigers. Earlier this year, I said the Tigers had the potential to be one of the surprise teams in the nation, and I still believe that.

With C.J Spiller returning, and Jaime Harper back, the running should be solid. The offensive line will be better, because it can’t be worse than last season. If 100 percent healthy, Rickey Sapp and future star De’quan Bowers form the conferences best DE tandem. Even DE backup Kevin Alexander is talented and experienced.

New defensive coordinator Kevin Steele is from Alabama and has also coached at places like Florida State, Nebraska, and the Carolina Panthers. The question mark is who will play QB, Kyle Parker or Willie Korn? Both have the ability to lead the team, but neither has a ton collegiate game experience.

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