Clemson Tigers 9-5 (6-2)
Boston College Eagles 8-5 (5-3)
Florida State Seminoles 7-6 (4-4)
Wake Forest Demon Deacons 5-7 (3-5)
North Carolina St Wolfpack 5-7 (2-6)
Maryland Terrapins 2-10 (1-7)
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 10-3 (7-1)
Virginia Tech Hokies 10-3 (6-2)
Miami Hurricanes 9-4 (5-3)
North Carolina Tar Heels 8-5 (4-4)
Duke Blue Devils 5-7 (3-5)
Virginia Cavaliers 3-9 (2-6)
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ACC Championship Game: Georgia Tech 39 Clemson 34
Returning Leaders: Passing
Jacory Harris, Miami, Jr (242 of 406 for 3352 yds, 24 TD, 17 INT)
Russell Wilson, NC St, Jr (224 of 378 for 3027 yds, 31 TD, 11 INT)
Kyle Parker, Clemson, Soph (205 of 369 for 2526 yds, 20 TD, 12 INT)
Tyrod Taylor, Va Tech, Sr (136 of 243 for 2311 yds, 13 TD, 5 INT)
T.J. Yates, NC, Sr (214 of 355 for 2136 yds, 14 TD, 15 INT)
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Returning Leaders: Rushing
Ryan Williams, Va Tech, Soph (293 carries for 1655 yds, 21 TD)
Montel Harris, BC, Jr (308 carries for 1457 yds, 14 TD, 4.7 ypc)
Joshua Nesbitt, GT,Sr, (279 carries for 1037 yds, 18 TD, 3.7 ypc)
Jermaine Thomas, FSU, Jr (163 carries for 832 yds, 9 TD, 5.1 ypc)
Ryan Houston, UNC, Sr (191 carries for 713 yds, 9 TD, 5.1 ypc)
Returning Leaders: Receiving
Donovan Varner, Duke, Jr (65 rec for 1047 yds, 8 TD, 5.4 rec/game)
Greg Little, UNC, Sr (62 rec for 724 yds, 5 TD, 4.8 rec/game)
Torrey Smith, Maryland, Jr (61 rec for 828 yds, 5 TD, 5.1 rec/game)
Devon Brown, Wake Forest, Jr (61 rec for 671 yds, 6 TD)
Marshall Williams, Wake Forest, Sr (60 rec for 867 yds, 6 TD)
Bert Reed, FSU, Jr (60 rec for 711 yds, 0 TD, 4.6 rec/game)
Returning Leaders: Tackles
Luke Kuechly, BC, Soph, LB (158 total, 12.1 tackles/game)
Alex Wujciak, Maryland, Sr, LB (131 total, 10.9 tackles/game)
DeAndre McDaniel, Clemson, Sr, SS (98 total, 7 tackles/game
Marcus Gilchrist, Clemson, Sr, CB (96 total, 6.8 tackles/game)
Barquell Rivers, Va Tech, Jr, LB (96 total, 7.3 tackles/game)
Returning Leaders: Sacks
Robert Quinn, UNC, Jr, DE (11.0 sacks)
Allen Bailey, Miami, Sr, DE (7.0)
Adrian Moten, Maryland, Sr, LB (5.5)
Mister Alexander, FSU, Sr, LB (5.0)
Quinton Copes, UNC, Jr, DE (5.0)
Returning Leaders: Interceptions
DeAndre McDaniel, Clemson, Sr, SS (8 interceptions)
Deunta Williams, UNC, Sr, FS (6)
Rashad Carmichael, Va Tech, Sr, CB (6)
Rashard Hall, Clemson, Soph, FS (6)
Kendric Burney, UNC, Sr, CB (5)
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Who is your pick to win the ACC?
Virginia Tech. It always comes back to the Hokies.
I'm a homer so I have to go with Virginia Tech. I think issues with both lines might cause the Hokies to struggle early on, but they'll hit their stride in time for conference play. They have a tough gauntlet of games in November against the other three Coastal contenders, but they're helped by not having to play FSU or Clemson this year.
I am picking Georgia Tech to win the conference again. Despite the pundits stating otherwise, Georgia Tech's schedule lines up perfectly. The easy games are early in the season allowing Georgia Tech to focus on tougher opponents later in the season and build momentum. The offense relies heavily on timing and execution. CPJ gets the wheels turning by the midpoint of the season and very few teams late in the season can slow down GT's rushing attack. And I have proof. Check out the average points and yards per game per month since CPJ has been at GT:
September - 26.0 PPG, 362 YPG
October - 31.6 PPG, 393 YPG
November - 32.4, 433 YPG
No other team in the ACC has shown more consistency from start to finish in the regular season from 2008-2009 besides the Jackets. VPI lost a ton of talent on defense (their offense's crutch). Miami and FSU will ruin one or the other's season on Labor Day and the winner of that game will start losing once the temperature drops below 85 degrees. UNC and Clemson are tragically flawed (UNC with a terrible offense and Clemson with a terrible head coach). And the rest of the teams don't have the horses to run with Georgia Tech in a Championship Game.
I think Virginia Tech finally gets it done this season. The Hokies always come in as a top-rated team, but never seem to be able to finish the job in conference. However, quarterback Tyrod Taylor, running backs Ryan Williams and Darren Evans (who missed all of last season), and a healthy dose of Beamer ball can finally get the job done and bring an ACC Conference Championship to Blacksburg this season.
Breaking Down The ACC With The Zealots
Chris (Atlantic Prediction: #2): The Eagles return many of the major pieces to the puzzle. The odd piece out is Dave Shinskie, although his low profile hard work are character traits rather famous with former BC quarterbacks. Montel Harris can be a star, but at worst he's a very productive back...to the tune of 1,450 yards 14 TD's a year ago. Add in Mark Herzlich and you've got your Atlantic Division runners up. But if Shinskie can improve, there is no doubt the Eagles are capable of going to the ACCCG.
J Martin (Atlantic Prediction: #2): Each of the last two years, I've picked BC to finish last in the division. And each year, they've made me look foolish, winning the division in 2008 and placing second last season. So I'm not making that mistake again. This year's squad looks like another really solid unit with good experience and a great running back in Montel Harris. If Dave Shinskie can cut his interceptions in half, there's no reason they can't compete for the division title. And remember, they're 3-1 over the last 4 years against Florida State, their primary competition. Though they travel to Tallahassee and get a visit from Virginia Tech this season, they also draw the two worst teams from the Coastal Division (Duke, Virginia) and have no other really challenging away games. Whatever they can get out of Mark Herzlich is just gravy. There will be a lot of inspirational stories told about what he means to this team, but in truth, they're capable of winning big without him.
Ross (Atlantic Prediction: #2): BC has an overpowering OL, a top-notch RB (Montel Harris), and a member of the Chris Weinke All-Stars at QB (26-year old sophomore Dave Shinskie). On the other hand, Shinskie threw 14 interceptions last year and lacks many returning targets at WR. Until the offense proves they can throw the ball at least moderately well, Harris may not have much room to run. The defense should be good as it returns a pair of starters at LB, DL, and in the secondary -- and could be really good if cancer survivor Mark Herzlich is as good as he was in 2008 (ACC Defensive Player of the Year). They draw Virginia Tech, Duke, and Virginia from the other division, which is pretty favorable; the division title may come down to their 10/16 road tilt against Florida State.
Chris (Atlantic Prediction: #1): Kyle Parker shocked a lot of people when he decided to return to school despite being picked early in the MLB Draft in an early round. He brings back with him a nearly intact offensive line, though the skill position players are relatively new. The guy who it just seems like was the fresh face (Parker) will have to lead and teach these new guys the ropes. Even after losing Spiller and Jacoby Ford, I believe that Parker is up to the job. Add in a defense that was very good overall last year and returns 7 starters and it begins to start becoming more apparent why I picked these guys. Remember, not too many reasons are needed, after all, this is the weaker side of the ACC.
J Martin (Atlantic Prediction: #3): I'm feeling Clemson a little more than I was, now that Kyle Parker has confirmed he's returning this season. He looked very promising as a freshman, but at the same time, you have to wonder how much he's improved in the off-season with so much of his attention going towards baseball. You also have to wonder how much motivation he has to improve from here out, knowing that this is likely going to be his last year playing football. Regardless, Clemson is better off with him under center than to be breaking in a freshman for the second straight year. But that's somewhat beside the point. The REAL issue facing the Tigers this season is figuring out where they can dig up about 2,700 total yards and 21 TDs, because that's what walked out the door with CJ Spiller. He WAS the offense last year. Andre Ellington and Jamie Harper are nice players, but they won't come close to matching Spiller's impact. Clemson also doesn't have a returning receiver who caught more than 14 passes last year. The defense should be alright, but Clemson draws 3 of the toughest teams out of the Coastal division AND has to go on the road to play FSU and BC. On second thought, maybe this wouldn't be such a bad year to break in Tajh Boyd at QB. They aren't going to contend for anything, anyway.
Ross (Atlantic Prediction: #3): The good news for Clemson's offense is that they return four starters on the offensive line and their starting QB; the bad news is they don't return much else. CJ Spiller leaves a big hole to fill and they have no proven receivers. The defense should be pretty solid since they return a lot along the defensive line and in the secondary, but until this team finds some new stars at the skill positions, they're going to have a tough time equaling last year's accomplishments. They draw Miami, North Carolina, and Georgia Tech from the other division, too, which is no picnic.
Chris (Coastal Prediction: #5): Let me now clarify that I hate Duke. Having said that, I think Duke is improving under David Cutcliffe. It will certainly be interesting to see how sophomore Sean Renfree tries to fill the shoes of four-year starter at quarterback Thaddeus Lewis. I think Duke could finish as high as fourth and maybe even contend for a bowl this year, BUT it all centers around Renfree. He has the skill position players to get it done, as was evidenced by Duke finishing #9 in the nation last year in passing. But they also finished DEAD last in rushing. Many teams had a single player that out-rushed Duke's 762-yard rushing output for the season. So to improve and become bowl eligible, it starts with being able to have some semblance of a running game. And then the Blue Devils must also improve upon a defense that was a little below average last year. But if they can stay in that range, they will put themselves in position to maybe move up a spot in the ACC pecking order.
J Martin (Coastal Prediction: #5): I'm a big fan of David Cutcliffe as a coach. He walked in the door at Duke and had them pushing for bowl eligibility after 4 straight years of 2 wins or less (6 double-digit loss seasons in the previous 8 years). However, I think he takes a step back in 2010. Its a bit of a rebuilding year on defense (and when you're rebuilding at Duke you're REALLY rebuilding), and Duke has to replace Thad Lewis at QB. Sean Renfree looks promising as his replacement, but there are going to be major growing pains. And the schedule doesn't set up well for them at all. Their only winnable conference home game looks like Virginia, beyond that maybe they catch Maryland or Wake Forest on the road. Regardless, the gap between Duke and the Big Four in the Coastal is gargantuan.
Ross (Coastal Prediction: #5): They lose their best player in some time (Thaddeus Lewis), as well as slew of other key players on offense and defense and play in arguably the toughest division in college football. David Cutcliffe is doing a nice job at Duke, but this year doesn't set up too well for him.
Chris (Atlantic Prediction: #3): I know, I know, I know. I am not picking the post-Bobby Bowden Seminoles to win the Atlantic. I just don't think that Christian Ponder is the savior of the fan nation with the annoying chop chant (most annoying thing in college football, closely followed by Rockytop). Rather, he reminds me more of the lineage of Chris Weinke, Chris Rix, or Wyatt Sexton (Minus the whole I am the messiah worship me part). On one hand they do return their entire offensive line. A GREAT offensive line! On the other hand, which skill position player is going to do something with it? Also, a key skill player was already suspended. The BIGGEST question mark is how drastically the D can improve under Jimbo Fisher. Without it, they don't stand a chance at #1 in the Atlantic. If they do, I may need to think about changing my pick.
J Martin (Atlantic Prediction: #1): The Jimbo Fisher era at FSU got off to a hot start on the recruiting trail, where he dramatically upgraded the defensive talent level with the likes of LaMarcus Joyner, Jeff Luc, and Christian Jones, among others. Those guys are throwbacks to the freak athletes that used to dominate the Seminole defense, and all of them will get on the field this year. Of course, they'll be a bit erratic, being so inexperienced, but they'll make up for it by making the sort of dynamic plays FSU has lacked on that side of the ball during Mickey Andrews' last years. And expect new defensive coordinator Mark Stoops to light a fire under everyone. It's unlikely they're going to turn into a defensive powerhouse over night, but if they can just keep their points allowed under 30 points per game (last year's average), FSU is going to win a lot of games. Because the offense is going to take care of itself. FSU may boast the best offensive line in the country, and Christian Ponder seemed to be making a lot of progress as a passer before going down with an injury last season. I'm not buying into the Heisman hype, though.
Ross (Atlantic Prediction: #1): Every year we talk about Florida State being "back"... but this really might be the year. Christian Ponder should be the best QB in the league (and a possible Heisman contender) and he should get ample time to find his experienced receivers behind an offensive line that returns all five starters. That same line should be able to open up a lot of holes for a pair of solid running backs (Jermaine Thomas and Chris Thompson), too. As good as the offense should be, though, the defense will need to be a lot better for FSU to win the division. They were one of the worst in the nation a year ago, so there's a lot of work for new defensive coordinator Mark Stoops to do. But if he can get them up to even respectable levels, the offense should be potent enough to lead them back to the promised land. The schedule is a little tricky, especially in October when they play Miami, Boston College, and North Carolina over the span of four games (the fourth game is against NC State). That run of games will either sink their title hopes or put them in pole position.
Chris (Coastal Prediction: #4): This may finally be the year where Paul Johnson's triple option attack at GT will look humanly possible to contain. Aside from quarterback Josh Nesbitt, the Yellow Jackets lost nearly every other playmaker on offense and defense. Roddy Jones and Embry Peoples will try to reproduce some of the explosiveness and productivity of Dwyer while Anthony Allen will try to be the punishing back that Dwyer could channel as well. However, the Yellow Jackets may have to go away from their run, run, run, run, run, hail mary deep pass strategy with the loss of Demaryius Thomas. Thomas was a huge field-stretcher for the Yellow Jackets and their most reliable option. Nesbitt was able to throw up balls for grabs and Thomas would come down with them. Even still, Nesbitt completed a paltry 46% of his passes, and that is likely to worsen and make the Jackets into even more of a running team that in Johnson's two previous years with them. The Jackets also lose a lot on the defensive side of the ball, most notably with Derrick Morgan. They are changing their defense as well, so I would imagine it may take some time to click. Basically, Georgia Tech is high in many peoples polls, but not mine. Despite Nesbitt's leadership and experience, working with some new skill position players and behind a completely revamped offensive line (2 returning starters) makes me doubt their ACC contention. In my eyes, Duke even has a chance to leap the Yellow Jackets. Don't sleep on the Dookies!
J Martin (Coastal Prediction: #4): I'm looking for a big step backwards for Paul Johnson's option attack this season. The biggest loss for this team probably isn't even Jonathan Dwyer; Anthony Allen should fill his role as the big B-back very well. No, the guy they'll miss the most is Demaryius Thomas. His emergence as a gigantic deep threat (1,154 receiving yards - out of 1,701 passing yards for Josh Nesbitt), opened up the field for the option game to be even more explosive than before. With him gone, teams are going to clamp down again. I highly doubt there are any other receivers on the team capable of filling that void. I doubt Nesbitt could get the ball to them, anyway. Nesbitt really can't throw, but Thomas was great for him because he was so huge, he was hard to miss. Two of GT's biggest conference rivals also have bye weeks prior to their games with the Yellow Jackets (UNC and VT), which further lessens the effectiveness of the option by giving them more prep time. They'll still roll up yards, but scoring is going to be much more difficult. Defensively, they slipped last season, and I see more slippage in 2010 with the loss of guys like Morgan Burnett, Sedric Griffin, and Derrick Morgan. They return nearly every one else, but Johnson doesn't seem to be refreshing the talent level to the same standard as Chan Gailey to this point. You also have to expect some degree of an adjustment period as they make the switch to a 3-4 defense.
Ross (Coastal Prediction: #4): It's hard not to see this team taking a step back, given how much they lost on offense (three linemen, plus their leading rusher [Jonathan Dwyer] and their top receiver [Demaryius Thomas]) and defense (Derrick Morgan, Morgan Burnett). That's a lot of high-level production to replace. Nesbitt was a poor passer a year ago even with a stud WR and a more experienced OL... what's he going to be like if he has to scramble more and he doesn't have a target like Thomas out there? The defense was lousy a year ago and adding Al Groh as defensive coordinator and switching to a 3-4 isn't going to fix things overnight. It doesn't help that two of their toughest opponents (Virginia Tech, North Carolina) are on the road and get 10-14 days to prep for GT's funky offense. High-level defense + extended prep time = bad news for Georgia Tech.
Chris (Atlantic Prediction: #5): The only separation I have between Maryland and Wake at the bottom of the division is that Maryland not only has play-makers in Da'Rel Scott and Torrey Smith, but they also have a quarterback to get it to them, or at least they know who the guy who will try to do that is. Friedgen is on the hot seat, and all indications point to him being gone by this time next year. This could negatively effect this team and cause them to lose focus or feel like they really don't have anything to play for. It will be interesting to see how this team reacts. Looking at what the Terps need to improve on, the list goes on so long that I can't definitively say what it is that needs most improvement. They have a bad defense, a bad offense, and a young roster. If they don't improve though, they could be asking him to leave College Park mid-season and return that athletic department Nordic Trek that's collecting dust somewhere in the Friedgen house.
J Martin (Atlantic Prediction: #5): I can only assume the people at Maryland don't care about football. That's the only explanation I have as to why Ralph Friedgen still has a job there. I know he had those 3 great years in the beginning, but the program has been trending downwards every since, bottoming out at 2-10 last season. I don't see them doing much better this year. What they gain in favorable conference scheduling (drawing Duke and Virginia from the Coastal), they make up for in tough non-conference games against Navy and at West Virginia. Maybe they'll get serious about football up there after their 5th losing season in the last 7 years.
Ross: (Atlantic Prediction: #6): Ralph Friedgen is a dead man walking and this doesn't look like the sort of team that can give him a proud send-off.
Chris (Coastal Prediction: #3): Many people have Miami in the second spot switched with Carolina, but not me. I like the Canes, and I like Jacorry Harris (although he needs to limit his mistakes), but I think replacing 3 offensive linemen and the leading rusher for 3 consecutive years in Greg Cooper will be a big blow. Cooper may return, but it is doubtful. Defensively, they will be good, but I would expect Carolina to unseat the Hokies at the top of the division if it is going to be anyone.
J Martin (Coastal Prediction: #2): They're the glamor team in the ACC this year. And for good reason, I guess. I think they're by far the most athletically gifted team in the conference. Leonard Hankerson and Alderius Johnson look like gazelles running around on the field. And, of course, everyone is in love with Jacory Harris. I'm...not so much. Obviously, he has the talent, but I question his decision making process. 17 interceptions is just unacceptable. Normally, you would expect progression in that area between seasons, but he missed a lot of valuable reps during the spring with an injury. Defensively, they lose a handful of very good players, but return a ton more. I think this could be the year Randy Shannon finally gets them under 20 points allowed per game. And the schedule will definitely help them (in conference at least), as they get all their big games except Georgia Tech at home and draw Virginia and Duke from the Atlantic. At times, I think the biggest thing holding this team back is Shannon himself. Half the time I see him, he looks half asleep. Teams tend to take on the personalities of their coaches, and I wonder if this Miami team's lack of intensity and killer instinct, things that would take them to the next level, comes straight from the languorous Shannon.
Ross: (Coastal Prediction: #2): The lingering Randy Shannon factor is still a concern, but there's a lot of returning talent on offense and defense here -- especially on defense, where they could field the most Miami-like defense in quite a while this year. On the other hand, they have to find three new starters on the offensive line and the schedule is loaded with potholes, especially a brutal four-game stretch early on: @ Ohio State (9/11), @ Pitt (9/23), @ Clemson (10/2), Florida State (10/9). Only two of those games will have a bearing on their hunt for a division title, but that's still a stretch of games that could take a lot out of them.
Chris (Coastal Prediction: #2): You will never catch me praising Butch Davis for his coaching skills (what? he has those?), but he is an amazing recruiter. And finally, his players that he has brought in have made what will be the most intimidating defense in the nation this year. If Butch Davis can coach his way out of a paper bag then the Heels may take the Hokies spot in the ACC title game, but he hasn't proven to have any competence in the area that his job title indicates. What you will see is a NASTY defense, an anemic but improving offense (it can't get much worse than 108th nationally), and a coach trying to make sense of it all on the sideline. If he ever does, watch out. If not, just expect Butch to keep landing top of the line kids and twiddle his thumbs on gameday.
J Martin (Coastal Prediction: #3): On paper, this should be North Carolina's year. With something like 19 returning starters, including a 3 year starter at QB, a deep o-line, and a ton of guys on defense who are going to be getting paid to play on Sundays (if they're not already), the Tar Heels seem like a no-brainer for #1 in the division, maybe even the conference. But, for one thing, there have been SO many distractions around the team as of late. Even if everybody stays eligible, I don't see how they can NOT be affected by it. And even if they can stay focused and the defense only allows 17 points per game again, can the offense be counted on to score 18? That's two too many if's. TJ Yates is such an enigma at QB. I have no idea what to expect out of him. I do know that another 15 interception year isn't going to be winning any titles. And while Ryan Houston and Shaun Draughn are nice players, neither are exactly a Mark Ingram that can carry a game and hide rough QB play while the defense wins it. I won't be shocked if Butch Davis gives Bryn Renner a shot at QB is Yates struggles early. So that's my dilemma: the defense is BCS bowl material, the offense is Pizza Bowl material. Who do I side with? Unless the defense puts up crazy 08 USC numbers (think under 10 points a game), I don't think they can win consistently enough to get above that Meineke Car Care Bowl level they've been at the past couple of years.
Ross (Coastal Prediction: #3): If Agentgate doesn't take too big a bite out of their team, they could be even better than this, frankly. Their defense should be flat-out nasty, given how many returning starters they have -- and how many guys they have who turned down the NFL to come back to Chapel Hill. And just ask Virginia Tech how far a dominant defense can carry you in the ACC, even with a middling offense. Whether or not the UNC offense is any better than middling will depend on what kind of progress QB TJ Yates can make. 15 TD/14 INT again probably won't get it done. UNC also benefits from the scheduling, which spaces out their toughest games (aside from back-to-back games with FSU and Virginia Tech in late November) pretty nicely.
Chris (Atlantic Prediction: #4): When Coach Tom O'Brien left a successful Boston College program for a stalling NC State program, I was shocked. Still, 4 years late I sit here shocked...not at the result, but the decision. The reason I have NC State at #4 is this: I don't trust a team that is not as talented as the top-3 and returns a total of 9 starters to make a run for the Atlantic Division crown. Heck, if not for Russell Wilson, they would be dead last in the Atlantic in my mind. But they do happen to have one of the nation's best quarterbacks. People feeling bad for Jake Locker should look at Wilson. Their skill position players are similar in talent and yet Wilson is the more efficient. The Pack will have to make the most of their opportunities and their junior quarterback, and try to aide their inexperience at the three interior offensive line spots and defense. If they can do that, they'll be going bowling.
J Martin (Atlantic Prediction: #4): This is probably the end for Tom O'Brien in Raleigh. The Wolfpack has one of the best QBs in the conference, in terms of his actual production to this point, with Russell Wilson, but they have NOTHING around him. Despite owning North Carolina on the field, O'Brien has been taken to the woodshed by Butch Davis on the recruiting trail. He just doesn't have the talent on hand to compete in an ACC with several program peaking at the same time. The schedule is hellacious. By my count, there's only one sure win on their entire schedule. Every other game is going to be a desperate fight for survival. I like them heads-up against Wake Forest and Maryland, but beyond that...I don't see them being bowl eligible. UCF and ECU will give them a run for their money.
Ross (Atlantic Prediction: #4): Russell Wilson might be the second best QB in the ACC, but there may not be much to work with here. NC State has big holes to fill on both lines and the defense was miserable last year. It doesn't help that they have to play Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, and North Carolina from the other division.
Chris (Coastal Prediction: #6): I like Mike London, don't get my wrong. I think he was the right guy for the job. But man is he going to have one tough first year. Usually when coaches vacate their jobs they at least leave something behind. For UVA, the cupboard is almost completely bare. They will be EXTREMELY lucky to win more than one ACC game this year.
J Martin (Coastal Prediction: #6): Step 1 is acknowledging you have a problem. Virginia did that when they finally showed Al Groh the door. Unfortunately, there's no undoing the damage he did in short order. It's going to be a lengthy process. I'm not sure if Mike London is the guy to get it done, but consider this inevitably brutal season as Step 2. At the very least, I expect Virginia to avoid another William & Mary-esque debacle against Richmond or VMI. That's progress.
Ross (Coastal Prediction: #6): Getting rid of Groh was a good first step, but it's still going to take a while to turn this ship around. Especially in this division.
Chris (Coastal Prediction: #1 and ACC Champion): The Hokies return a crop of offensive talent the likes of which Blacksburg has never seen at any one time. They are loaded in the backfield, challenging Alabama for the best backfield in the nation. They have one of the nation's top 5 running backs in Ryan Williams and a guy backing him up that is also previously a 1,000 yard rusher. Their backup from a season ago was moved to fullback to get him touches and the most athletic player on the team, sophomore David Wilson, is a former High School All-American and will probably redshirt because the backfield is too deep for him despite scoring 4 touchdowns in 2009 in a reserve role. His replacement will be Tony Gregory, a back who prepped for an extra year and was the star of the spring game, breaking tackles left and right...yet he will be the Hokies fifth rushing option out of the backfield as Tyrod Taylor is a mobile QB. Speaking of Taylor, he will be entering his third full year as a starter. He finally started to turn his game around a year ago, and was impressive and efficient. He returns all of his receivers, a VERY deep and versatile core, except for TE Greg Boone who was only in on 7 catches in 2009. Back up quarterback Logan Thomas, a former Army All-American will also play tight end and H-back and be a big time player wherever he lines up. The Hokies lost their best offensive lineman in Sergio Render and somewhat of a liability in Ed Wang. However, I do not see much of a drop off in offensive line play. On defense, believe it or not the Hokies will not be AS good as their counterparts on the offensive side of the ball. I actually think they are getting off a little easy in the media for what they have coming back. They return 5 starters, only 4 of which will be on the field against Boise State, when their most experienced linebacker Barquell Rivers will be out of action still with a torn quadriceps tendon, so that could be big. Eventually, conventional wisdom says that they will be alright there, especially with defensive coordinator Bud Foster at the helm. The offense may have to beat teams early though for the defense to catch on. There is too much talent to ignore on this Virginia Tech team, and they will win the Coastal Division and the Conference Championship.
J Martin (Coastal Prediction: #1 and ACC Champion): Generally speaking, it's hard to go wrong picking Virginia Tech to win the Coastal. What Frank Beamer does in Blacksburg isn't flashy, but it wins a heck of a lot of football games. However, this year he could have his most prolific offene since the days of Mike Vick. Ryan Williams and a healthy Darren Evans comprise the most powerful 1-2 punch at running back outside the Tuscaloosa city limits. And while I'm not a huge fan of Tyrod Taylor as a quarterback, he did show improvement in his decision making last year, and with Williams and Evans dominating on the ground, it should make his job much easier. He'll also have the benefit of playing with all of his favorite receiving targets from last year. Defensively, they'll be somewhat of a work in progress, but Bud Foster has a tremendous reputation as a defensive coordinator and hasn't allowed opponents to average over 20 points or 300 yards per game in 6 years. They'll be fine. They do have to travel to North Carolina and Miami, but Beamer has winning records against both schools over the past 5 years. If they can get up for Boise State and take care of business to start the year, they'll be dark horse national title contenders.
Ross (Coastal Prediction: #1 and ACC Champion): When in doubt, bet on Virginia Tech in the ACC. And with so much parity in the ACC (and this division in particular), there's room for plenty of doubt. But they should have an absolutely dynamite offense and it's not really taking a huge leap of faith to expect Bud Foster to assemble another nasty defense, even if the does have to slot in a lot of new faces this year. That said, their season really boils down to a three-game stretch in November: Georgia Tech (11/4), @ UNC (11/13), and @ Miami (11/20). If they go at least 2-1 in that stretch, they should be in good shape to win the division. Getting 10 days to prep for Georgia Tech's offense and playing them in Blacksburg on a Thursday night (where VT is almost unbeatable) is a big boost.
Chris (Atlantic Prediction: #6): This call is so hard because of how little teams like Maryland and Wake can be separated on paper, and possibly will be at the end of the year. The two teams are so similar that Athlon sports projected them one pick apart nationally and 5th and 6th in this division respectively. Wake can be a lot higher if their young athletic defense can mature and if their quarterback (s) (realize I use an s. They don't know who their starter is definitively yet) and young offensive line don't slow down what is otherwise an impressive slew of skill position players. Jim Grobe is one of the best coaches in the league and has been as consistent as you can expect for the smallest school in FBS football (enrollment just over 4,000), you just kind of feel sorry for the guy because it's hard to recruit players there.
J Martin (Atlantic Prediction: #6): The post-Riley Skinner Era begins in much the same place the pre-Riley Skinner Era ended: with a losing record. Jim Grobe is a very good coach, and he did an excellent job of taking advantage of a down ACC. But the ACC is coming back around again, and he just doesn't have the talent to keep up. You can actually track the resurgence of the ACC against Wake's conference record since their BCS season in 06 (7-2, 5-3, 4-4, 3-5). Well, this is going to be the best ACC in a long while, and I can easily see Wake only winning 1 conference game (home against Duke in week 2). Beyond that, all their home games are tough and all their winnable matchups are on the road.
Ross (Atlantic Prediction: #5): Jim Grobe's a helluva coach, but they're looking a little thin in the talent department at the moment.
CFBZ Predicted ACC Finish
1. Virginia Tech Hokies
2. Miami Hurricanes
3. North Carolina Tar Heels
4. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
5. Duke Blue Devils
6. Virginia Cavaliers
1. Florida State Seminoles
2. Boston College Eagles
3. Clemson Tigers
4. North Carolina State Wolfpack
5. Maryland Terrapins
6. Wake Forest Demon Deacons
ACC Championship Game: Virginia Tech over FSU