Last year I picked BC to win this division on the rationale that the Eagles had the best quarterback in the conference. It worked, so I’m doing it again with a pick of Cullen Harper’s Tigers.
Throw in the best running back tandem and what should be a great defense under fourth-year DC Vic Koenning, and you’ve got the favorite for the conference title too.
Tommy Bowden losing games he shouldn’t is always a risk, but he only had one such game last year in the Georgia Tech loss. Coming off four consecutive top 20 recruiting classes, Clemson finally breaks through this year.
The Runner-Up: Wake Forest
It won’t be pretty, but Wake Forest will be in the hunt all season long thanks to smoke, mirrors, defense, and great coaching from Jim Grobe.
If Riley Skinner gets his TD/INT ratio back in check and Clemson gives away some games, the Demon Deacons will be headed for their second ACC Championship Game in three years. That can’t be what the conference had in mind when it expanded.
The Dark Horse: Maryland
Maryland is a potential riser thanks to its record in close games last season. Nine offensive starters return, though there is a question mark at quarterback again. The defensive line looks shaky, but the linebackers and corners should be fine.
Under the right circumstances, and if everything comes together, the Terrapins could steal the division.
The Pick: Virginia Tech
Yawn. Picking the favorite again? Well, who else you gonna take? Duke is terrible and Virginia will fall off the map. Miami and North Carolina are probably at least a year away still, and Georgia Tech is transplanting everything about itself.
Yes, the Hokies lost a lot from last year’s team, but there’s an advantage to being the dominant program of the Mid-Atlantic region: Lots of young talent comes in every year. The people who left will be replaced by players who could end up being just as good, if not better.
Quarterback tandem Sean Glennon and Tyrod Taylor return (along with four offensive linemen) to anchor the offense, and CB Macho Harris returns to anchor the defense. Bud Foster never disappoints as a defensive coordinator, and Beamer Ball makes for great special teams.
When there’s this much uncertainty in the division, continuity rules.
The Runner-Up: North Carolina
Butch Davis is building something good, something UNC hasn’t seen since Mack Brown roamed the sidelines in the ’90s. There is plenty of young talent, and teams often make their biggest leap going from year one to year two under a coach. Plus, the Tar Heels are also a potential riser.
If things really gel, they could make a run at the division title earlier than expected.
Oh, and don’t forget to check out WR Hakeem Nicks on YouTube. It’s not mind blowing, but it doubles as a QB T.J. Yates highlight reel too, and it shows that someone out there cares enough about UNC football to actually make a highlight video for it.
The Dark Horse: Georgia Tech
Paul Johnson scored plenty of points against BCS schools with his triple option runs while at Navy, and that was with Navy-caliber players. Georgia Tech rushed for 199 yards a game last season, and that was with Chan Gailey’s boring and predictable offense.
Most every starter from that team is gone though, and the loss of 1,400-yard rusher Tashard Choice hurts. Losing DC John Tenuta also hurts. However, if the triple option gets going with aplomb, the Yellow Jackets might be able to outscore enough teams to take the weakest division in all the BCS conferences.
BCS At-Large: N/A