Roundtable Preview: Coastal Division

Posted by Brandon Rink on August 25, 2011 under ACC Football | Comments are off for this article

Will the 2009 vacated title give Paul Johnson and the Jackets some extra motivation this season? (Pic per OrangeandWhite.com)

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

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

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

And, me, Brandon Rink – editor of this here site.

On to the questions…

1) HD at the ESPN ACC blog has the Blue Devils bowling – agree/disagree? What will it take for Duke to make the postseason?

Jeff Fann, AllSportsDiscussion.com: It’s a stretch. If Duke beats Richmond, Tulane, FIU and Wake, then they need 2 wins somewhere. They get Georgia Tech at home. That’s a game that they do have a chance in. Virginia won’t overwhelm you and the Blue Devils usually play UNC tough but those two games are on the road. Sean Renfree will guide an offense that should put some points on the board, but defensive improvement is an absolute must. I’m seeing a 3-5 win season, just too many things have to break right for the Blue Devils to get beyond that.

Brandon Rink, ACCBlogger.com: I have the Blue Devils at 4-8 – the swing games for getting to that elusive bowl are FIU, Georgia Tech and winning a road game at BC, UNC or Virginia. Duke hasn’t lost to Virginia since 2007 when they fell 24-13 in Charlottesville – winning a fourth straight against the ‘Hoos would be a big step towards a bowl berth.

Beyond that, FIU is a tricky road game at a solid Sun Belt squad in the Golden Panthers…then they really have to hold court at home against a Georgia Tech team that could run wild on the Devils’ D – all in all, I don’t think a bowl is likely for the Blue Devils. Just too many things would have to happen – primarily, Duke finding a reliable defense.

J.J. Greenstein, ACCBlogger.com: While the Blue Devils do return one of the better passing attacks in the ACC, their running game and defense is still a step or two behind. It’s unlikely they’ll be much better than their 35.4 points against per game. Looking at Duke’s schedule, I just don’t see it happening. Five wins maybe, but that’s about it. They will need to win at least two or three games they’re not expected to win if they want to reach six wins.

2) Three questions in one here – the NCAA has investigated (UNC), is currently investigating (Miami) and already handed down punishment (Georgia Tech) here in the Coastal – the facts in each case are all over the place so I’m just going to talk football…what’s the effect on this season for the UNC, Georgia Tech and Miami? Of the three, who is the most likely to make a run to Charlotte?

Fann, AllSportsDiscussion.com: Georgia Tech – Paul Johnson was really angry about the whole NCAA situation. You don’t want to take an ACC Title away from Mr. Johnson over allegedly $300. The punishment for Georgia Tech was excessive and ridiculous. The Jackets didn’t lose any scholarships and their NCAA investigation is over. For Georgia Tech it will be a motivating factor to win another ACC Title.

UNC – The NCAA comes to Chapel Hill in October. The Heels have already parted ways with Butch Davis and have been forced to go Everett Withers. Too much stuff happening in such a short period of time for the Heels to make a run in the ACC Coastal. They’ll be distracted, but Heels can thank Miami that they won’t be the center of attention this fall.

Miami – Can you say nightmare? Whispers of the death penalty running around, as many as 70 (former and current) players involved. The Canes might be able weather the storm this year and win 7-8 games, but the forthcoming years may be where the real damage will be done.

I don’t see any of the 3 teams having much shot to get to Charlotte. Virginia Tech’s schedule is just too tailor-made for a 7-1, 8-0 ACC mark. UNC and Miami will be too distracted and Georgia Tech just doesn’t have enough proven talent to go better than 5-3 in the ACC.

Rink, ACCBlogger.com: The hardest punishment handed down so far between the three for this season was self-inflicted on UNC’s part, in the firing of Butch Davis. But of three, the Heels have the best shot to do some damage. They don’t have the scandal looming over them a la Miami, and are settled at QB with Bryn Renner unlike Georgia Tech. They’re still a contender in the Coastal.

With Georgia Tech, the effect is pretty minimal – Johnson will do a good job of turning the negative of the vacated title into motivation for the players on that team, and for the younger players, it’s not something they need to worry about (still think they’re going 6-6).

Miami, well, that’s the interesting one. I picked them to go 8-4, but uh, that could change depending on how everything falls out. Miami President Donna Shalala said 15 Hurricane athletes’ eligibility is in question, and a good chunk of those could end up being starters. So, we don’t know the exact effect, but regardless, any dark horse Coastal shot is in trouble in my eyes. As it is, I have Miami losing their ACC road games and winning their ACC home matchups – and most likely, that still happens with what amounts to not exactly a home gauntlet (GT, Virginia, Duke and BC). Again, it’s still a toss-up on where things fall out – much like UNC last season, and the Heels ended up with a 7-5 regular season.

Greenstein, ACCBlogger.com: Georgia Tech should be fairly unaffected, as their punishment has already been handed down, and probation does not affect on field-play. UNC served most of their on-field punishment last season while having to sit many key players, as long as nothing new comes out over the next few months, they should be fine. Replacing Butch Davis with Everett Withers shouldn’t be a step down, either. Miami will have the toughest task in dealing with the investigation. As I would expect they’ll have some players held out at some point this season.

As for which of the three teams has the best chance at making a title run: UNC. They have the most talent of the three teams and will be fairly undistracted throughout the season.

3) I tend to think Virginia has a better shot than Duke at making a bowl – agree/disagree? How much of that depends on them finding one solid QB out of the four-player battle?

Fann, AllSportsDiscussion.com: Virginia has a pretty good chance to make a bowl. The non-conference schedule is light, and if they can score an upset at UNC, they could start the season 5-0. I’m not kidding about that either. They will win 2 out of 3 homes games with NC State, Georgia Tech, and Duke. Certainly consistent QB play will help, but that position is still unsettled. This won’t be a high flying prolific scoring offense, though no matter who start. The Cavs if they are successful will be with defense.  

Rink, ACCBlogger.com: Seeing that I made the questions, yeah, I agree, and much of it depends on finding a reliable QB. Sophomore Michael Rocco seems to have the inside edge on the job, and against a manageable schedule – all Virginia needs is a game manager who can get it to the skill players.

Greenstein, ACCBlogger.com: I agree that Virginia has a better chance to go bowling than Duke, and I really like what Mike London is doing in Charlottesville for this program. Unlike Duke, there are six winnable games on the schedule for the Cavaliers.

I think they’ll find respectable quarterback play as the season progresses – they should know who will be the main guy following their second game at Indiana. The thing with a four quarterback battle is that they’ve got options and can experiment until something sticks.

4) Is it possible, after the ACC media made FSU a landslide favorite for conference crown, we’re underrating Virginia Tech? With as easy a schedule as they have, give me a percentage on their chances for an undefeated regular season going into Charlotte?

Fann, AllSportsDiscussion.com: Find me one game on the Hokies schedule they won’t be favored in. There isn’t one out there. I give the Hokies a 50/50 shot of running the table. The one game that the Hokies need to be ready for is at Georgia Tech on a Thursday night. Bud Foster has yet to solve the triple option offense of Paul Johnson, and these two teams have had some real battles in recent years. Virginia Tech will be favored, but it’s a dangerous game late in the year for them.

Rink, ACCBlogger.com: A tad. 50 to 18. That was the amount of picks for FSU as the champs to Virginia Tech in the ACC media poll (your humble blogger in that total on the ‘Noles side).

The Hokies have been the top dog basically since they entered the ACC, and now, their in the position of a slight underdog to a ‘Noles team they throttled in Charlotte last year. Granted, Virginia Tech loses ACC Player of the Year Tyrod Taylor in favor of a sophomore who’s attempted 26 passes in his career, but the FSU goes to a fairly green QB too under a second-year coach.

It all comes down to the o-line in terms of winning the ACC and 12-0 going into Charlotte, and I’d give Virginia Tech a 45-50 percent chance of getting there (a near 100 percent chance they don’t slip past 11-1 though).

Greenstein, ACCBlogger.com: You could say that we are underrating Virginia Tech, but ACC fans know that the Hokies are still king of the ACC. They’ll be fairly unchallenged by their schedule. Their toughest game of the season will be the ACC Championship game- assuming Florida State makes there to play them. Other than that, the game they have the best chance of being tripped up is at East Carolina on Sept. 10, but that would surprise me.

I’ll go with an 80 percent chance of going undefeated this season, as I only see them being really challenged twice.

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 OrangeandWhite.com).

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

J.J. Greenstein – ACCBlogger.com…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.

To go or not to go to the SEC, that is the question for Virginia Tech

Posted by Brandon Rink on August 18, 2011 under ACC Baseball, ACC Basketball, ACC Football, Other ACC Coverage | Comments are off for this article

Virginia Tech might be in the unique spot of the only ACC team that the SEC would take because of the reported "gentlemen's agreement" - do they go? (Pic per OrangeandWhite.com)

Editor’s note: I asked Matthew from @hokieguru on Twitter what he would do if he ran the Hokies and Virginia Tech was the only ACC team that could really leave the conference – the 140 character limit wasn’t quite enough to explain his thinking so he’s here for a guest post…

Greetings from the @hokieguru, a regular contributor to the @TalkinACCSports and @accblogger websites.

Texas A&M recently sent some major shockwaves through the college sports’ world with a possible move to the SEC.  While the SEC has held off on expansion for now, the new Texas A&M chancellor is reportedly on board with a move.  Additionally:

So there you have it… Virginia Tech should go to the SEC… it’s as easy as that… no it’s not… lots of positives and negatives about a potential move to the SEC… and that’s the focus of this blog post… what should we do?  Well, let’s talk about it…

Positives

  • A change in Virginia Tech’s conference affiliation would most likely increase its athletic revenue (SEC television negotiations would work in the Hokies’ favor and alumni donations would most likely increase).
  • Virginia Tech football recruiting would improve to a certain degree.  The Hokies would never lose another player to any of the North Carolina schools, and more specifically, would not lose another player in Virginia’s famous 757.  We might be more of a national player here.

Negatives

  • Right now, Virginia Tech is a pretty big fish in a small pond in ACC football (four ACC titles in seven years). Additionally, with our fellow Coastal Division teams having troubles with the NCAA, the Hokies figure to be the odds on favorite for the next 3-4 years to be in the ACC title game.  Matt Zemek of @MattZemek_CFN has said that we are the one team that qualifies as a star right now in the ACC.    Is it worth it to make the move to the SEC with the knowledge that it would be really difficult replicating that success?
  • Save Kentucky, SEC men’s basketball is not good. While Virginia Tech has not made the NCAA tournament in four years, we’ve made a lot of progress.  The ACC never considered us to be a basketball school, but we do have the third most wins in conference play since our inclusion in the league.  SEC men’s basketball might be the worst of the BCS conferences and our men’s hoops recruiting could weaken.
  • How far would that additional SEC revenue go?  The SEC is an airplane league.  The ACC is a bus league.  Virginia Tech would have to fly most of its athletes from its non-revenue sports to SEC locations and that could be quite expensive.
  • Most of the schools in the ACC are a short travel distance from Virginia Tech.  We’ve established really good relationships with our fellow ACC schools.  I think it’s harder to do that with the SEC schools that are farther away.
  • The academics (why most of us go to school) in the ACC are vastly superior to those in the SEC.  The majority of student athletes do not turn pro (yes, you’ve heard this before, but it’s true).  For example, three ACC business schools are in the U.S. News and World Report Top 20 list (and seven in the top 50).  How many from the SEC in the top 20?  Zero (and two in the top 50… and one, Vanderbilt, is a private school).  I am proud of being an alumnus of a conference that values academics.  Our academic partnerships with our fellow ACC schools are second to none.

The bigger question is:  What is John Swofford doing to ensure the ACC’s future viability?  I’d have to say next to nothing.  I don’t see that he has the conference future in mind.

The issue of conference expansion is a tough issue to wrestle with for us Hokies.  I think in our heart of hearts, we don’t want the ACC to disband.  However, we also don’t want to be on the outside looking in… and if we go the SEC, I will support the move 100 percent (even though I don’t want us to go there… there, I said it).

I’m always a Hokie!!! Keep it 110!! Go Hokies!!