Roundtable Preview: Atlantic Division

Posted by Brandon Rink on August 22, 2011 under ACC Football | Comments are off for this article

This is probably the last time I use a Russell Wilson pic on the site (Pic per

We’re closing in college football – and I’ve assembled a panel of ACC bloggers to hit the top questions in the Atlantic…

Jeff Fann –…Fann blogs on it all when it comes to sports, but focuses on the ACC when it comes to college football.

J.J. Greenstein –…J.J. blogs N.C. State athletics and the ACC as a whole.

And me too.

On to the questions…

1) I’m giving you two scenarios – an NC State team QB’d by Russell Wilson, and a Wolfpack squad QB’d by Mike Glennon – how do their seasons work out? Did Tom O’Brien make the right call to have Wilson make the decision between baseball and NC State?

Brandon Rink, ACC Blogger: It’s the difference between – yeah, they could really challenge FSU (with Wilson) to – Glennon should be alright, but FSU wins the Atlantic.

In the long run, Glennon being QB this year helps NC State because he’ll be comfortable with the job and ready for 2012. Wilson would’ve grabbed preseason All-ACC honors at QB and finished among the ACC and nation’s best, but I don’t think it would’ve dramatically changed the Wolfpack’s standing in the division.

The only thing that gets me about the Wilson/O’Brien saga was how quickly Wilson dropped baseball to get to camp early for Wisconsin. Was that out of spite for how NC State handled him? Would he have done the same thing if O’Brien asked at NC State? Did O’Brien ask and he declined – therefore, they went their different ways in the first place? Just a tangled web that I don’t know if we’ll ever have all the answers too.

Jeff Fann, All About Sports: It all depends on Glennon. If he’s as good as advertised it was the right move. O’Brien may have been a little gun-shy watching how poorly Clemson’s Kyle Parker played last year, while having his attention divided between baseball and football.

J.J. Greenstein, ACC Blogger: State will be fine without Wilson. Glennon has been groomed on the sideline for three years learning the offense and polishing his mechanics while Wilson was in the spotlight. Now that his time has finally come, I expect Glennon to be poised and to succeed. His early schedule makes for an easy transition into the starting role- and I see this team starting out 7-0- or at worst 5-2 with losses on the road. The difference here is that with Wilson, I see State as a 7-0, with an experienced quarterback winning on the road. With Glennon, there is a question whether the Pack can take care of business and there’s a chance they drop an early road game.

After the first seven games, the absence of Wilson could really show. The Pack hits the road to play Florida State- I really don’t see the Pack winning this game with Glennon, too tough of an opponent in that environment. With Wilson, I could see the Pack winning in Tallahassee.

Bottom line is with Wilson the Pack could win the Atlantic Division without shocking a lot of people. With Glennon, the odds are against them. Though, they will still be in the hunt at the end of the season.

Coach Tom O’Brien absolutely made the right decision in forcing Wilson to choose. O’Brien made the best decision for his team and stuck with the guy who was completely committed to the team. I’d expect Glennon to play like he has something to prove, he wasn’t the third best quarterback in his class for no reason.

2) With a new offensive coordinator in Chad Morris, does Dabo Swinney get a pass this season? What’s the scenario for 2011 that he might get the ax?

Rink, ACC Blogger: In a sense, yes. National and even local media seems to think Swinney’s head is on the chopping block without a successful 2011 season, but if the Tigers show improvement on offense (won’t be hard to do), they’ll get at least one more season to figure everything out.

As for the scenario that gets him fired this year? I’d say a listless effort by the team to a bowl-less season. Based on what I’ve seen from Clemson so far in practice, that shouldn’t come to fruition.

Fann, All About Sports: Swinney is a lot safer than I think people think. Last season was a disappointment, but by hiring Morris, Swinney addressed his most immediate need – an inept offense. In addition, Swinney’s recruiting is off the charts at the moment. It would take a losing season and a third loss in a row to South Carolina before I think Swinney had anything to worry about.

Greenstein, ACC Blogger: Regardless of who the offensive coordinator is or the offense being run, Dabo needs to produce some wins. There is no excuse for finishing under .500 with the talent being recruited in by this staff. That being said, I see this team going 6-6 in the regular season. There will be serious heat on Dabo and the staff if this is the case, but I see him getting another year.

The only way I see this being Dabo’s final season at Clemson is finishing worse than 4-8. I think if he makes a bowl game, he is safe. His recruiting classes will be what saves him.

3) The ACC media picked Maryland fifth in the ACC – fair assessment on the Terps with one of the few returning QBs? What are your expectations for Randy Edsall in year one with Maryland?

Rink, ACC Blogger: It’s a fair assessment in that they’re in for a down season coming off winning nine games last year. QB Danny O’Brien will have some issues finding reliable targets early on, but if he doesn’t find those targets at all, Maryland is really in trouble.

But on expectations, this is Maryland’s “good to great” hire in Randy Edsall and Terps fans should expect a solid season right off the bat. My expectations are a 4th or lower finish and slipping into a bowl.

Fann, All About Sports: It’s fair, but this isn’t an indictment on Maryland. The fact is the ACC Atlantic is loaded outside of Wake Forest. There are scenarios where the Terps finish 5th and would still be considered a very solid team. Personally I have them 4th. Danny O’Brien is the best returning QB in the ACC.

Greenstein, ACC Blogger: I think that Maryland is underrated. Danny O’Brien’s decision making will be better than last year, though losing Torrey Smith will really hurt his production. They also return their leading rusher Davin Meggett, who ran for at least 50 yards in a game eight times last season. They return 14 starters from last season’s 9-4 squad, and Randy Edsall is a good coach – how many other ACC coaches have coached a BCS game?  Four now? Maryland will finish better than fifth in the Atlantic. I don’t expect them to win it but they will push Florida State, Clemson, and NC State.

4) With a new offensive coordinator in Kevin Rogers and returning QB in Chase Rettig, are our sights set too low on BC? What’s the best case scenario for the Eagles this season?

Rink, ACC Blogger: Probably. They always seem to be, like O’Brien at Maryland, I expect Rettig to take his lumps at QB in a new system.

Best case scenario is an 8-4 finish, where the Eagles defend the home field in ACC play (including a win over FSU) and grab a road win at either Maryland or Miami for a 5-3 ACC record.

Fann, All About Sports: Even if Rettig improves, which I believe he will, the schedule is an absolute nightmare. They end the season with five road games in the last seven games. The two home games are Florida State and NC State. There are no breaks for the Eagles the last half of the season. If they finish 9-3, Spaziani should be ACC Coach of the Year. That’s the best I can see them doing with that schedule, and that’s if everything and I mean everything goes right for them.

Greenstein, ACC Blogger: This Boston College team will be able to move the ball. With Montel Harris in the backfield the offense should be efficient. Like Danny O’Brien, Chase Rettig will improve from last season and make better decisions in the pocket- I expect them to be better than the 18.5 points per game they scored last season. This combined with a defense that was 19th in the country in scoring defense last season; they should be good enough to finish in the top half of the Atlantic – but their schedule will not make that an easy task.

They play two of their toughest divisional games at home against Florida State and NC State, but must travel to Clemson, Maryland, Miami, and Virginia Tech. This sets up for a tough conference schedule that they will be lucky to finish 4-4 in (they play Duke and Wake Forest at home which should be winnable games for the Eagles). All of that being said- I expect this team to finish 7-5 at best this season

5) With as many returning starters as anybody in conference back, what’s a good season for Wake Forest?

Rink, ACC Blogger: Not losing by the margins they were last year. With FSU and Virginia Tech on the schedule, albeit at home, I wouldn’t expect a bowl, but they need to win the easy and 50/50 games. To make a bowl for their first time since 2008, they’ll need to a win a 40/60 or 25/75 game too.

Fann, All About Sports: If Wake Forest makes a bowl game, I would be stunned. It wasn’t but a couple of years ago the Deacs had more NFL draft picks than Florida State. They will be better than last year but the record won’t show, becuase every other team in the Atlantic is good enough to win 8 or more games.

Greenstein, ACC Blogger: A good season for Wake Forest is 6-6 and a bowl appearance. I just don’t see it happening, as they could easily start out losing five of their first six games. This team will not just magically turn things around from their 3-9 season.

The good news is that they return their leading passer (Tanner Price), their leading rusher (Josh Harris), and their leading receiver (Chris Givens) from last season. Offense is nice, but they were 11oth in the country in points against last season and I don’t think they’ll be too much better on that side of the ball.

6) How much of a lock is ACC favorite Florida State for winning the Atlantic? Who’s the next best contender and how likely is there shot at toppling the ‘Noles?

Rink, ACC Blogger: I too put FSU as ACC Champ on my media ballot in Pinehurst, and that’s partially because their path to the ACC Championship Game isn’t exactly the hardest. Clemson, BC and Maryland are all bringing in new offensive schemes – NC State has a new QB (and the ‘Noles host them), and Wake Forest is, well, Wake Forest. I’m pretty confident in the pick.

Picked NC State second in the division, but Clemson has just as good or better a chance to challenge FSU because they host them in the last week of September. The key for the Wolfpack and/or Tigers is getting to 6-2, and beating FSU. Do that and you’ve got a good shot of punching a ticket to Charlotte.

Fann, All About Sports: They are the prohibitive favorite, but not a stone cold lock.

The reason is they still have to play at Clemson. Death Valley has traditionally been a very difficult place for Florida State to play. If Clemson beats Florida State they can afford two ACC losses regardless of what FSU does because they will hold the tie-breaker over the Noles.

Maryland and NC State have to go to FSU, and BC’s schedule is too tough. Clemson is the one team that could steal the division title from the Seminoles, but they have to win that home game in September with FSU.

Greenstein, ACC Blogger: Without a doubt the Seminoles are the most talented team in the Atlantic Division, but games aren’t won on paper. This is the same team (well minus an NFL first round quarterback) that lost to a depleted North Carolina team at home last season. They will get tripped up, will it keep them from winning the Atlantic? Probably not.

The two games I could see them struggling in are at Clemson and home against NC State. I think they would still win the Atlantic with two losses as long as they aren’t to one of these teams, though. NC State has the best chance of anyone of beating out the ‘Noles for the division title, simply because of their schedule (unlike Clemson, they don’t have to play at Virginia Tech as a cross-division games). If they can pull out the win in Tallahassee then they will have a shot to hold on and win the division.

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