July 09, 2004

Let's play some Football! ACC Version

With the college football season approaching, I’d thought I’d start giving my CFB predictions. I may eventually do the NFL too, but I am a college guy all the way. First conference up: the ACC. This conference is now the best in college football, no other is as strong top-to-bottom. The lead dogs, Florida State and Miami, should compete for the national championship every year and great coaching hires at NC State, Clemson, Maryland, and Virginia have put these programs on the cusp of joining them. Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and North Carolina should eventually compete as well, but it may take a coaching change for the Tar Heels.

1) Florida State Seminoles
Chris Rix gets one last shot to prove him something other than a bust. Rix will start the year as the first 4-year starting quarterback of Bobby Bowden’s career, but that’s due to the lack of a quality replacement more than his talents. He’s perfectly capable of being an All-American, but he’s never shown the leadership or intelligence on the field necessary. If Rix can get it together, the ‘Noles have enough young talent to challenge for the national championship. It’s a big if though.

2) Miami (FLA) Hurricanes
The Hurricanes make the move from the Big East following a disastrous season that saw them only win 11games, an Orange Bowl championship and finish in the top 5 nationally. Life must be rough, huh? Miami still lacks an answer at quarterback, as neither Brock Berlin (who sounds a Stan Lee superhero) nor Derrick Crudup performed up to Miami expectations last year. The answer might be hyped redshirt freshman Kyle Wright, and the future may begin in August.

3) Virginia Cavaliers
If Matt Schaub had an additional year of eligibility, UVa would be a contender for the BCS championship. As it stands, this is an impressively talented young team with a question mark under center. Currently junior Marques Hagans is listed atop the depth chart, but sophomore Christian Olson is pushing him. Olson, a heralded transfer from Notre Dame, may be the answer at two positions. Having him under center would free Hagans up to play at receiver, where he was effective at times last year. This team is loaded otherwise, with NFL-quality players along both lines, at running back, and a fleet of talented young linebackers.

4) Clemson Tigers

Finally, an ACC team with no questions at QB; Charlie Whitehurst entrenched himself enough last year to move his backup, Chansi Stuckey, to receiver. The junior and the rest of the Tigers finished strong last year, saving Coach Tommy Bowden’s job with a win over FSU and a crushing defeat of Tennessee in the Peach Bowl. The Tigers are strong contender to be overrated this year, as they lost more talent than people think. Whitehurst doesn’t have much experience to throw too, and the lines need work.

5) Maryland Terrapins
Considering the Terps have won 30 games in the 3 years of Ralph Friegen’s tenure, it really isn’t fair any to call them a sleeper team anymore. They have lost a lot, especially at the skill positions, with QB Scott McBrien and RB Bruce Perry having exhausted eligibility. The Fridge has recruited well, and with the best coaching staff in the conference, they should reload quickly. The defense should carry the team at first, with such talented players as LB D’Qwell Jackson and DB Domonique Foxworth.

6) North Carolina State Wolf Pack
This is TA McLendon’s team now, as Philip Rivers leaves as the best QB in ACC history. Jay Davis has first crack at replacing Rivers, but Marcus Stone has the physical tools to succeed. Provided McLendon stays healthy, this will be a run-based team. This could be a down year for the Wolf Pack, but with Chuck Amato recruiting, it should be the foundation for a big 2005.

7) Virginia Tech Hokies

While the move from the Big East will eventually be a good one for the Hokies, it won’t be at first. They go from a clear #2 to a middle-of-the-pack team in this new superconference. The Hokies, who collapsed last November for the 3rd year in a row, lost a lot of talent, with RB Kevin Jones, WR Ernest Wilford, C Jake Grove and CB DeAngelo Hall were all high NFL draft picks. The team wasn’t helped by the simmering quarterback controversy all year, as all Hokie fans not in his immediate family wanted Bryan Randall replaced by Vick the Younger (Marcus). This was despite the fact that Randall played very well up until the loss at West Virginia, and Marcus Vick is still a very raw talent. Considering Vick’s legal troubles in the off-season, expect to see Randall play the majority of the time.

8) Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
For an offensive coach known for his work with quarterbacks, Chan Gailey has adapted to an option run attack quick. The Yellow Jackets return former walk-on PJ Daniels, the nation’s leading rusher, and ACC Freshman of the Year Reggie Ball, a slippery run-oriented QB. GT is still behind most ACC schools in terms of talent, but Gailey, an understated type, seems to be changing that, despite being in a recruiting war zone with both SEC and ACC schools. He certainly has built an excellent staff, as both coordinators, Patrick Nix on offense and John Tenuta on defense, should be head coaches before too long.

9) Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Jim Grobe has done an excellent job with the Deacs since coming over from Ohio, turning this perennial doormat into a gritty team that everyone hates to play. Still, his team does the overall talent of the bigger conference schools, though redshirt Freshman QB Ben Mauk was heavily recruited. Playing Mauk could change the Deacons to more of a passing team.

10) North Carolina Tar Heels

The John Bunting Era seems to be sputtering to a close. After Mack Brown left UNC for Texas, neither Carl Torbush nor Bunting has been able to come close to duplicating his success. While the Heels have a few nice players, like QB Darian Durant and WR Jawarski Pollock, the overall talent level is far below that of upper-echelon ACC teams. That, and success of cross-state rival NC State, have Bunting on a very short leash.

11) Duke Blue Devils

From 1999 until mid 2003, Carl Franks was 2-21 against ACC opponents. In his first five games as Duke coach, Ted Roof is 2-3, with both wins against conference foes. Now, much of this is due to Franks’ upgrading of the teams talent level, it is also a testament to Roof’s fiery nature, and how his team reacted to it. The Devils will always be primarily remain a basketball school, and perhaps never again attain the heights it did under Steve Spurrier, but Roof could be the man to establish Wake Forest –like credibility to the program.

ACC, Big East, Big 10, Big 12 ,Non-BCS Conferences, PAC-10, SEC

Posted by Frinklin at July 9, 2004 06:04 PM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?