College Football: 2008 ACC Preview

A KContributor IJuly 13, 2008

I am going to be doing a college football preview of each major conference and each team with their projected record. Then I will do one big mid-major conference preview.

After that, I will do teams/players to watch/Heisman candidates. Next, I will do a final top 25 (not preseason), then I will project every bowl and who will win so essentially a mock season.

ACC ATLANTIC

Team Overview: Clemson may be one of the top 10 most talented teams in the nation. They return a plethora of starters and will be a force to be reckoned with in the ACC.

Despite their recent struggles to become a power in the College Football world, expect them to be a very good team. They return an All-ACC QB and a player who I think was miles better than Matt Ryan in Cullen Harper. He threw for nearly 3,000 yards as well as having 27 TD's and only six INTs.

I believe they may become a much better team than people expect. They have a Top Five RB tandem in the nation with two speedsters in CJ Spiller and James Davis. Both are stars and give Clemson weapons in the backfield.

Aaron Kelly is a player who is known for his famed drop against BC that cost them the game, but he is an All-American WR who may break many school and conference records this season.

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Tyler Grisham will also be a star for the Tigers at wideout, and they have Jacoby Ford who is reported to run a 4.24 40. With all those weapons the offense should be fine, right?

The problem is the "O" line, which struggled last year, allowing a whole lot of sacks. That is bad enough, but Clemson only returns one starter on the O-line. If they can protect Harper and give Davis and Spiller lanes to run through, they will be fine.

On "D," the Tigers lost star DE Phillip Merling, but if Daquan Bowers lives up to his the billing, it will not matter. He and star-in-the-making DE Ricky Sapp form one of the most dangerous DE combos in the country which should attack QB's all around the country.

The pass defense was amazing last year and corners Crezdon Butler and Chris Chancellor and safeties Chris Clemons and Michael Hamlin are all back to claim their starting positions.

They should all for one of the most potent secondaries in the nation allowing Clemson to become very successful this year.  

Schedule Breakdown   Aug. 30 Alabama (Georgia Dome) W   Sept. 6 The Citadel W   Sept. 13 NC State W   Sept. 20 SC State W   Sept. 27 Maryland W   Oct. 9 at Wake Forest (Thu.) W   Oct. 18 Georgia Tech W   Nov. 1 at Boston College W   Nov. 8 at Florida State W   Nov. 15 Duke W   Nov. 22 at Virginia W   Nov. 29 South Carolina L   11-1 8-0   

Team Overview: Boston College has a lot of momentum coming off of a 11-3 season. They lost a lot of talent, including first-round picks Matt Ryan and Godser Cherilus and all-ACC performers Dajuan Tribble and Jamie Silva.

This team has talent coming back, though, and expect senior QB Chris Crane to be a solid starter maybe not up to the level of Matt Ryan, but a QB that will give them efficient quality games.

The key to BC's success on the offensive side of the football will be the play of true freshman RB and probable starter Josh Haden, a speedster back. The better Haden plays, the better this offense will be, and it will likely be a mighty good passing offense with returning Receivers Rich Gunnell, Brandon Robinson, and star TE Ryan Purvis.

This should allow BC to become a solid offense, as well as the return of star bookend Anthony Castonzo. On the defensive side of the ball, BC returns four quality LB's in Kevin Akins, Robert Francois, Mark Herzlich and Mike McLaughlin not to mention the return of Brian Toal, who sat out last season with an injury.

This LB unit may be one of the top 5 in the nation and should keep teams worried. The weakness of the "D" will be the secondary, with the loss of Jamie Silva and DeJuan Tribble, they will need players to step up in the secondary.

On the "D" line, they will be solid with the return of sack artist Alex Albright and a now healthy B.J. Raji at DT, who missed all of last season. Expect the "D" to play among the best in the nation and allow BC to contend for the ACC title.

Schedule Breakdown   Aug. 30 at Kent State (Cleveland) W 1-0   Sept. 6 Georgia Tech W 2-0   Sept. 20 UCF W 3-0   Sept. 27 Rhode Island W 4-0   Oct. 4 at NC State W 5-0   Oct. 18 Virginia Tech W 6-0   Oct. 25 at North Carolina W 7-0   Nov. 1 Clemson L 7-1   Nov. 8 Notre Dame L 7-2   Nov. 15 at Florida State W 8-2   Nov. 22 at Wake Forest W 9-2   Nov. 29 Maryland W 10-2   Final Projected Record:10-2 7-1   

Team Overview: Wake Forest is led by talented QB Riley Skinner, who led the country with a 72 percent completions, but he only had 12 TDs. Even worse, he had 13 interceptions, If he can cut back on the picks, he will become a star for Wake.

Speaking of stars, Wake has a blossoming one at tailback in reigning ACC freshman of the year, Josh Adams, who had 935 yards and 11 TDs a year ago. Adams is expected to get more carries this season, so expect a big year.

At WR this team is not deep after losing star Kenneth Moore, but Chip Brinkman, who had 22 catches a year ago is expected to step up and become the go-to receiver for the Deacons.

The "O" line lost three starters, so that may be a concern, but this team still has talented guard Barrett McMillin. 

On the "D" line, this team lost two starters but returns stars in the making DT's Boo Robinson and John Russell. The back seven is set with every starter there back from a year ago.

Aaron Curry is the key LB, with three picks a year ago that he took back for TD's. Expect another all-ACC year from him. The secondary is especially good with safety Chip Vaughn back after recording 105 tackles first on the team, and Alphonso Smith, the All-American corner is back after getting eight picks and three TD's a year ago.

Schedule Breakdown

Wake Forest Aug. 30 at Baylor W 1-0 Sept. 6 Mississippi W 2-0 Sept. 20 at Florida State W 3-0 Sept. 27 Navy W 4-0  Oct. 9 Clemson (Thu.) L 4-1 Oct. 18 at Maryland W 5-1 Oct. 25 at Miami L  5-2 Nov. 1 Duke W 6-2 Nov. 8 Virginia  W 7-2 Nov. 15 at NC State W 8-2 Nov. 22 Boston College L 8-3 Nov. 29 Vanderbilt W  9-3

Projected Records: 9-3, 5-3

 

Team Overview:  The Florida State Seminoles are a team with a lot of talent, but little production over the last few years.

The head of the Seminole offense should be Drew Weatherford. He has gone through a lot and has never lived up to expectations. He will be given one last chance, but if he does not live up to the hype he will get his job yanked.

The Noles do have weapons with tall receiver Greg Carr, a DC's nightmare with his soft hands and height. They also return solid RB Antone Smith, who solidifies their running game.

The "O" line doesn't appear to be a big problem and will be anchored by OT Rodney Hudson.

The "D" line is where problems arise. The loss of Andre Fluellen hurts this team for he was the one consistent force on the "D" line. They do return Everrette Brown a solid pass rusher, but the rest of the positions are not filled with solid players, and that may hurt the Seminoles.

At linebacker, the Seminoles return Derek Nicholson, who is a very good LB who had 99 tackles to lead the team. Dekoda Watson returns to the strongside position and will be a good LB for the Seminoles.

The weakside spot is open for competition. The secondary of the Seminoles is among the best in the nation. They return Tony Carter, who had four INT's last year and Patrick Robinson who had six.

Both are great CB's with a knack for the ball. Myron Rolle returns and he has started 23 straight games in his college career.     Schedule Breakdown   Sept. 6 Western Carolina W 1-0   Sept. 13 UT Chattanooga W 2-0   Sept. 20 Wake Forest L 2-1   Sept. 27 Colorado (Jacksonville) W 3-1   Oct. 4 at Miami W 4-1   Oct. 16 at NC State (Thu.) W 5-1   Oct. 25 Virginia Tech L 5-2   Nov. 1 at Georgia Tech W 6-2   Nov. 8 Clemson L 6-3   Nov. 15 Boston College L 6-4   Nov. 22 at Maryland W 7-4   Nov. 29 Florida L 7-5   7-5 4-4 

Team Overview: NC State is coming off of a very disappointing first season under head coach Tom O'Brien, but I think they will regress returning only nine starters to their team from last season.

The Wolfpack return starting QB Daniel Evans after a 2,000 yard season. Evans may not be the starter this year with a big competition between him Russel Wilson, a redshirt freshman, and Harrison Beck.

Evans will be behind, because of his shoulder surgery. At RB, this team returns speedy back Jamelle Eugene who stepped up in the last six games a season ago and players who were expected to be stars a year ago in Toney Baker and Andre Brown.

At WR, this team will lean on Donald Bowens who had over 500 yards a year ago; expect him to be the primary receiver this year.

The "O" line only returns two starters, and that will be a problem because they were horrible at run blocking a year ago. The biggest returnee is TE Anthony Hill who missed all of last year, but two years ago was the team's top receiver.

The "D" line may be very good with star Willie Young back and primed for a breakout year. On the opposite end, Markus Kuhn has gotten rave reviews for his great speed.

The LB corps is entirely new, and the leader is a player who just got converted from safety Robbie Leonard. The secondary will be decent behind CB DeAndre Morgan.

Schedule Breakdown   NC State Aug. 28 at South Carolina (Thu.) L 0-1

Sept. 6 William & Mary W 1-1

Sept. 13 at Clemson L 1-2 Sept. 20 East Carolina W  2-2 Sept. 27 South Florida L  2-3 Oct. 4 Boston College L 2-4 Oct. 16 Florida State (Thu.) L 2-5 Oct. 25 at Maryland L  2-6 Nov. 8 at Duke W  3-6 Nov. 15 Wake Forest L 3-7  Nov. 22 at North Carolina L 3-8  Nov. 29 Miami L  3-9 3-9 1-7

Team Overview: I think this is a big year for Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen. I know it does not make much sense, but if this team does not win at least 7 or 8 games I feel Friedgen will be fired.

He just hasn't had significant success in five or six years, and this team's play has been very mediocre.

The key to the team's season will be the QB play. This team has not decided on picking either Chris Turner or Jordan Steffy. Turner was the starter last year and was solid.

Still in the hunt is Florida transfer Josh Portis, who has yet to live up to his immense potential.

At RB, this team lost their two best players in Lance Ball and Keon Lattimore. They will need Da’Rel Scott, who played a little last season to become their feature back and have a solid season to keep Maryland from, struggling.

For all the problems in the backfield this team has a truckload of playmakers at WR in wide receivers Darrius Heyward-Bey, Isaiah Williams, LaQuan Williams and Danny Oquendo.

Heyward-Bey is a freak speedster with great size who can make you miss and streak straight past you. He has incredible skills and should be a top 15 draft pick.

Injuries were a huge problem last year on the line, but now those injuries have led to a group that has a ton of experience. They did allow a lot of sacks last season, but with more depth I expect them to be decent this season.

On the "D" line, there may be problems. They lost both DT's this past season and unless Travis Ivey, and his DT/DE tweener in the 3-4 "D" Mack Frost step up significantly, they may be in trouble. They do have Jeremy Navarre who had 5.5 sacks a season ago and will be solid this year.

At LB, this team will be led by Dave Philistin, who had 124 tackles last season. Alongside him they will have Moise Fokou, a proven LB and a new player Chase Bullock.

The Terrapins only return one defensive starter, Kevin Barnes, who had four picks last season. If others can step it up in the secondary, it may help Maryland to a more successful season.

Schedule Breakdown Aug. 30 Delaware W

Sept. 6 at Middle Tennessee State W

Sept. 13 California L   Sept. 20 Eastern Michigan W  Sept. 27 at Clemson L  Oct. 4 at Virginia L  Oct. 18 Wake Forest L  Oct. 25 NC State L   Nov. 6 at Virginia Tech (Thu.) L Nov. 15 North Carolina L Nov. 22 Florida State L  Nov. 29 at Boston College L 3-9 0-8

ACC Coastal

Team Overview The Virginia Tech Hokies have a couple options at QB: use Sean Glennon as the starter or split time, like he and Tyrod Taylor did last year. It appears that they will split time again, and this was successful last year giving the "D" two different types of players.

This team was set at RB, but the loss of Brandon Ore is a big blow and leaves the RB spot open to anyone. At WR, this team lost their top four wideouts from a year ago, but former QB Ike Whitaker had some great plays in the spring and may become a star with speedster Brandon Dillard as the second target.

The "O" line only lost first-round pick Duane Brown. Sergio Render at OG is a star who can be an All-American. The TE position is set with Sam Wheeler, which expected to play a bigger role in the "O" this season.

The "D" lost almost the entire front seven and will be hurt by this. Orion Martin must play better this year with the loss of the entire "D" line other than him.

The LB corps is also counting on returning starter Cam Martin to play well and a player who has proven himself in Brett Warren. The secondary returns only two starters but both may be All-Americans in Macho Harris and Kam Chancellor.

Schedule Breakdown: Virginia Tech  Aug. 30 East Carolina (Charlotte) W 1-0

Sept. 6 Furman W  2-0

Sept. 13 Georgia Tech L 2-1 Sept. 20 at North Carolina W 3-1 Sept. 27 at Nebraska L 3-2 Oct. 4 Western Kentucky W 4-2 Oct. 18 at Boston College L 4-3 Oct. 25 at Florida State W 5-3 Nov. 6 Maryland (Thu.) W  6-3 Nov. 13 at Miami (Thu.) W  7-3 Nov. 22 Duke W  8-3 Nov. 29 Virginia W  9-3 9-3 6-2

Team Overview: Miami coach Randy Shannon may be feeling the heat if he does not perform this season, after not even getting his team to bowl a season ago. The key to success will be Miami's star recruiting class.

At QB, this team will start Robert Marve a dual threat QB who is a fan favorite, though only an unproven freshman. His success will help to show how Miami plays during the year.

At RB, this team has a two-headed monster in Graig Cooper and Javarrius James. Both are speedy backs with game-breaking abilities. Miami will lean on them both heavily.

Losing wide receivers Darnall Jenkins and Lance Leggett will hurt a team that was last in passing a year ago. The Canes will rely heavily on Sam Shields to be their top target.

On the "O" line there wasn't a significant loss aside from Center. The line will be anchored by OT Jason Fox, and OT Reggie Youngblood. Both are solid and will give the RB's good lanes to run through.

On the "D" line, the team may have problems. The loss of Calais Cambell will hurt this team significantly, though expect a breakout year from end Eric Moncur. The team will have huge questions at DT, but expect true freshman Marcus Fortston to anchor that part of the line.

At LB the loss of Tavares Goodman, also will cause problems, but Miami returns Daryll Sharpton and Colin McCarthey, both solid LB"s, but don't be surprised to see true freshman Sean Spence and especially Arthur Brown getting a lot of playing time at the LB slots.

In the secondary, Miami lost Kenny Phillips, but returns another solid safety in Randy Phillips who will anchor the team's secondary. Also at safety, this team has another playmaker in Anthony Reddick. The questions are also at CB where the best one will be DeMarcus Van.  

Schedule Breakdown   Miami   Aug. 28 Charleston Southern (Thu.) W 1-0   Sept. 6 at Florida L 1-1   Sept. 20 at Texas A&M L 1-2   Sept. 27 North Carolina W 2-2   Oct. 4 Florida State L 2-3   Oct. 11 UCF W 3-3   Oct. 18 at Duke W 4-3   Oct. 25 Wake Forest W 5-3   Nov. 1 at Virginia W 6-3   Nov. 13 Virginia Tech (Thu.) L 6-4   Nov. 20 at Georgia Tech (Thu.) W 7-4   Nov. 29 at NC State W 8-4   8-4 6-2   

Team Overview: I love Georgia Tech hire of Paul Johnson. While I may not be a big fan of the offense he runs, since I love passing, but to put it simply, this guy knows how to win. With more talent, there is no telling what he can do.

The GT offense will be the key to the season. They are young and if they play well will allow GT to have a good season.

At QB, GT will start Josh Nesbitt after the transfer of Taylor Bennett. Nesbitt is mobile and will be a good fit for the triple option, but he is inexperienced.

At RB they have John Dwyer who was solid when Tashard Choice was out. He must play well in GT's new scheme to allow GT to have a solid season.

The "O" line will more than likely be adequate this season behind bookend Andrew Gardner, but do not expect anything special.

The problem lies with the WRs. The Hornets lack any players who are threats at WR, especially with the loss of James Johnson, and the injury of Greg Smith. They will need someone to step up in order to be successful.

On "D," they have one of the top 10 "D" lines with star DT Vance Walker, who had 8.5 sacks a season ago. Add in freak athlete DE Micheal Johnson, and solid run stopping DT Darryl Richard, the GT "D" will be solid up front.

This team lost star LBs Phillip Wheeler and Gary Guyton, who will be hard to replace, but they return Shane Bowen, who will have to head up an inexperienced LB crew.

The secondary for the Yellow Jackets is also relatively inexperienced, but they will still have Morgan Burnett, a safety who had 57 tackles a season ago and lockdown corner Jahi Word-Daniels.

  Schedule Breakdown   Aug. 28 Jacksonville State W 1-0   Sept. 6 at Boston College L 1-1   Sept. 13 at Virginia Tech W 2-1   Sept. 20 Mississippi State W 3-1   Oct. 4 Duke W 4-1   Oct. 11 Gardner-Webb W 5-1   Oct. 18 at Clemson L 5-2   Oct. 25 Virginia W 6-2   Nov. 1 Florida State L 6-3   Nov. 8 at North Carolina W 7-3   Nov. 20 Miami (Thu.) L 7-4   Nov. 29 at Georgia L 7-5   7-5 4-4   

Team Overview: Virginia was a team that was looking much better before a couple of players quit/were suspended.

At QB, the kicking out of Jameel Sewell is huge. He was a 2 year starter and now former five-star recruit Peter Lalich will take over the job to Al Groh's new more wide open passing offense.

At RB, this team returns good runners Mikell Simpson and Cedric Peerman, who are not only good rushers, but solid receivers.

WR Kevin Ogletree is back after an injury, and he will be back in top form as the go-to receiver for the Cavaliers.

The "O" line has a star in OT Eugene Monroe, he and Will Barker will head up the team up front.

The "D" line lost two double-digit sack artists in Chris Long and Jeffery Fitzgerald. The LB corps will be the strength of this team with star Clint Sintim, Jon Cooper, and Antonio Appelby all back in the 3-4 "D" good LB's are key.

The secondary will be ready with all four starters having contributed previously and this team though they may have talent lacks the depth to be a serious contender.

Schedule Breakdown

Virginia Aug. 30 Southern California L 0-1

Sept. 6 Richmond W  1-1

Sept. 13 at Connecticut W 2-1 Sept. 27 at Duke W  3-1  Oct. 4 Maryland W  4-1 Oct. 11 East Carolina W 5-1  Oct. 18 North Carolina W  6-1 Oct. 25 at Georgia Tech L 6-2 Nov. 1 Miami L 6-3 Nov. 8 at Wake Forest L 6-4 Nov. 22 Clemson L 6-5 Nov. 29 at Virginia Tech L 6-6 6-6 3-5

Team Overview North Carolina is a big sleeper team I think they will be much better than their record it is just the schedule is very hard.

At QB, this team returns TJ Yates who had over2,600 yards a year ago and 14 TD's both school records.

This team also has converted WR Greg Little in the backfield starting at tailback. A year ago, he had 247 yards in two starts to end the season.

This team returns star WR Hakeem Nicks, who had 74 catches for 948 yards and 5 TDs last year and should improve on those numbers and garner attention.

The "O" line lost only one starter and should do well; the team will go behind a veteran right side of the line with two seniors.

The "D" line is underrated, with returning starters Aleric Mullins and E.J. Wilson both back and five-star recruit Marvin Austin ready to take over as a starter after playing sparingly for a year.

LBs Quan Sturdiverant and Bruce Carter both return after impressive freshman campaigns and are ready to take their games to the next level.

The secondary returns all four starters and FS Deunta Williams was defensive rookie of the year last year for the ACC and should continue his solid play with two fellow sophomores.

Regardless, this team is a year away, but still are a dangerous team so watch out.

Schedule Breakdown North Carolina

Aug. 30 McNeese State W

Sept. 11 at Rutgers (Thu.) L

Sept. 20 Virginia Tech L   Sept. 27 at Miami L  Oct. 4 Connecticut L  Oct. 11 Notre Dame W  Oct. 18 at Virginia L  Oct. 25 Boston College  L  Nov. 8 Georgia Tech L   Nov. 15 at Maryland W   Nov. 22 NC State W  Nov. 29 at Duke W  5-7 3-5

 

Team Overview: I know Duke is not a great team, but watch out for them, especially in the near future.

Duke made splashes with one of the best coaching hires with the signing of David Cutcliffe. He should develop a surprisingly talented team into a better team.

They have an extremely good QB in Thaddeus Young, who had 21 TDs against only 10 INTs. He should become a star under Cutcliffe, a QB master.

The key to the Duke season will be the Blue Devils' O-line. Last season, they allowed 44 sacks, and I think if anything they will get worse under a new scheme. That is why I pick Duke not to improve much this year.

The return of Eron Riley, who caught 40 passes for 830 yards and nine touchdowns will make the Blue Devils a much better passing team.

Duke also lacks a talented RB who can take pressure off of Young. On "D" the Devils are led by All-ACC DT Vince Oghobaase. He is a great talent and should make Duke decent against the run.

Other than him and Vince Rey a tackling machine, the Devils will struggle on "D" much like last year, unless Duke steps it up big time.

Schedule Breakdown   Aug. 30 James Madison W   Sept. 6 Northwestern L   Sept. 13 Navy W   Sept. 27 Virginia L   Oct. 4 at Georgia Tech L   Oct. 18 Miami L   Oct. 25 at Vanderbilt W   Nov. 1 at Wake Forest L   Nov. 8 NC State L   Nov. 15 at Clemson L   Nov. 22 at Virginia Tech L   Nov. 29 North Carolina L   3-9 0-8   

Projected ACC Standings

ATLANTIC

1. CLEMSON 11-1 8-0

2. BC 10-2 7-1

3. WAKE 9-3 5-3 4. FSU 7-5 4-4 5. NC STATE 3-9 1-7 6. MARYLAND 3-9 0-8

COASTAL

1. VT 9-3 6-2

2. MIAMI 8-4 6-2

3. GEORGIA TECH 7-5 4-4 4. VIRGINIA 6-6 3-5 5. UNC 5-7 3-5 6. DUKE 2-10 0-8

Projected ACC Title Game

Virginia Tech vs. Clemson This would be a hotly contested game with two very talented offenses and stout secondaries, both teams would have plenty of playmakers though I would think Clemson has more talent then VT.

For Clemson, the key would be to protect the QB, despite the fact VT does not have a great front seven does not mean Bud Foster will not send the boys and if the weak Clemson "O" line can't hold up, there will be trouble.

If Macho Harris and Kam Chancellor both shut down the Clemson air attack, VT has a shot but in the end the talent of Clemson should win itClemson 31, Virginia Tech 21

Top Five players in the ACC

#1 Cullen Harper Clemson, QB

#2 Alphonso Smith Wake Forest, CB

#3 Eugene Monroe Virginia, OT #4 Victor "Macho" Harris, Virginia Tech CB #5 Aaron Kelly Clemson, WR 

All ACC Team

OFFENSE

DEFENSE

 

QB-Cullen Harper (Clemson)

 

DE- Ricky Sapp (Clemson)

 

RB-James Davis (Clemson)

 

DE-Everette Brown/ Michael Johnson (FSU/GT)

 

RB-C.J. Spiller (Clemson)

 

DT-Vince Oghobaasse (Duke)

 

WR-Darius Heyward-Bey (Maryland)

 

DT-Vance Walker (GT)

 

WR-Aaron Kelly (Clemson)

 

WLB-Brian Toal (BC)

 

TE- Ryan Purvis (BC)

 

ILB-Dave Philstin (Maryland)

 

OT-Eugene Monroe (Virginia)

 

SLB-Aaron Curry(Wake)

 

OT-Andrew Gardner (Georgia Tech )

 

CB-Macho Harris (VT)

 

OG-Sergio Render (VT)

 

CB-Alphonso Smith (Wake)

 

OG-Orlando Franklin (Miami)

 

FS-Myron Rolle (FSU)

 

C-Edwin Williams (Maryland)

 

SS-Michael Hamlin (Clemson)

SPECIAL TEAMS

 

P- Sam Swank

(Wake)

 

K Sam Swank

(Wake)