ACC Roundtable: Preseason Edition

Posted by Brandon Rink on August 29, 2011 under ACC Football | Comments are off for this article

The ACC roundtable is back, just in time for game week one.

Hitting the top questions facing the ACC preseason – BC Interruption is hosting the ACC Roundtable this week and will have a wrap from all the bloggers involved on Thursday/Friday. My answers…

1. Most ACC programs are hitting the snooze button for the first two weeks of the season before hosting four preseason top 25 programs in week 3 — #1 Oklahoma, #18 Ohio State, #23 Auburn and #24 West Virginia. How’s week 3 in the ACC go down? Can the conference win a majority of those four high-profile games on Sept. 17?

Can’t we just focus on not losing to App. State or Troy or William & Mary first? No? Ok, well, winning the majority looks less likely with Miami’s recent turn of fortune. Preseason, I projected wins for Miami, Clemson and West Virginia in those games – now, I’m leaning more to a split, but FSU could come up big and take out Oklahoma too. It’s not a question of is the ACC able to pull off the majority of those games – it’s “Will they?” And I’m going with a split.

2. What’s the one game on the schedule that your respective fan bases have circled on this year’s sched? (Conference-wide bloggers — what are the handful of can’t miss games on the regular season sched?).

FSU-Oklahoma – HUGE game for the conference, but every out of conference game, from Auburn to Western Carolina, is big for an ACC that just hasn’t performed OOC. An FSU win against a likely No. 1 Sooners team will do wonders for the ACC’s standing in the conference landscape, but another James Madison or Richmond will just cut it back down.

3. Name one ACC program that’s not Florida State or Virginia Tech that has a legitimate shot at winning this year’s ACC football title. Your ACC’s football champion dark horse is:

It’s tough to narrow down just one out of a pretty unspectacular crew past the top two, but I’ll stick with UNC, a team I projected to win 10 games before they toppled the Butch Davis regime. They still have to go to Virginia Tech on a Thursday, but like ’09 when they won at Lane Stadium, the Heels take the trip to Blacksburg after the Hokies play Georgia Tech.

4. It’s been an offseason to forget with major NCAA infractions / investigations into the North Carolina, Georgia Tech and Miami programs. Can the conference as a whole move forward from this whole mess? How do you expect this all to shake out?

Yes…until the next scandal. We’re all at the mercy of Yahoo! and the NCAA at this point.

Georgia Tech will be fine – they need to be more worried about finding the next Josh Nesbitt and Demaryius Thomas.

UNC has their punishment coming down midseason, and where that program goes is partly from the ruling and also if the higher-ups in Chapel Hill keep Tar Heels’ football on the frontburner. The timing of the Butch Davis firing doesn’t exactly have me optimistic for the future of North Carolina football.

Miami, oh Miami, we have a lot sorting out to do before we know what exactly happens there. Doesn’t look good though.

5. You can also add conference realignment rumors to the 2011 offseason to forget. With A&M set to divorce the Big 12 and move to the SEC, rumors swirl about a 14th program coming from the ACC. Now’s the time to pledge your allegiance to John Swofford and the ACC. Or don’t. Either way, tell us what you think the endgame is for the next round of conference musical chairs.

I’m leaning towards less movement than more, and quite likely that the current ACC holds. Something has changed – it appears the conference commissioners are doing some backroom dealin’ to keep each other alive.

Texas A&M is headed to the SEC, which means somebody has to fill that 14th slot. If the SEC is staying out of current markets (i.e. SC, FL & GA), Virginia Tech makes a lot of sense, but it’s not as easy as with Texas A&M. The Hokies are happy in the ACC – they win – they dominate in football. They fit well in the conference. If the SEC does wish to pluck Virginia Tech, they’ll have to go full-court press, a far different strategy than with Texas A&M so far.

Their best bet is just moving the conference West with another Big XII team and moving the Bama schools to the SEC East.

6. Last one, and recycled from last year. a) What do you expect out of your team, b) What kind of season would keep you content and happy, c) What kind of season would be a disappointment?

This could be a special season for the ACC. If Virginia Tech and FSU are as good as advertised, the conference could get two BCS bowl bids for the first time. What I expect and what I’d be content and happy with are the same – an improved out of conference record and a BCS bowl win. Anything less is a disappointment.

Post-camp/Offseason ACC Blogger Power Poll

Posted by Brandon Rink on August 28, 2011 under ACC Football | Comments are off for this article

Eight of these nine coaches will take the sidelines next weekend - that's right, football starts this week(!).(Pic per OrangeandWhite.com)

Anything happen this offseason in the ACC? Judging where the ACC is at this point before we go into week one, which has one conference matchup (Miami/Maryland), two BCS v. BCS conference OOC games and a diet of cupcakes…

Rank….Team…………………………………2010 Record
1)….Virginia Tech Hokies…………………11-3 (9-0 ACC)
What else can you say? The ACC title trophy case is quite full at Virginia Tech, and with recent developments in the Coastal, their path to Charlotte seems pretty clear right now. The issue out of camp is offensive line injuries for the Hokies, but they have the month of September to get healthy before conference play starts with Clemson coming to Blacksburg on October 1st.

2)….Florida State Seminoles………….10-4 (6-2 ACC)
Preseason ACC favorite – no pressure, Jimbo Fisher. Oh, and No. 1 Oklahoma comes to your stadium in week three – a win there, jolts expectations through the roof for the ‘Noles. Can FSU live up to the hype? Remains to be seen (but they’re my pick for the ACC crown for the second year in a row).

T-3)….North Carolina State Wolfpack/Maryland Terrapins………..9-4 (5-3 ACC)
Hard to separate the Wolfpack and Terrapins – one had a offseason coaching change (MD) – the other lost an All-ACC QB to Wisconsin (NCSU). Both lost a lot in the receiver corps and the pressure’s on the running game to improve. And O’Brien and Edsall’s squads are playing the role of the dark horse contender in the Atlantic at this point with everybody picking FSU. These teams both tasted nine wins last season – can they get back there (or better) this season?

5)….North Carolina Tar Heels…………8-5 (4-4 ACC)
Honestly, I don’t know what to think about UNC at this point. Obviously, they had the shake up at the top with Butch Davis’ firing, and that’ll have some effect on this season. How much? That’s the trick. This is a talented team that didn’t wilt under last year’s pressure with players out left and right – now, they have to overcome another obstacle.

6)….Clemson Tigers………………….6-7 (4-4 ACC)
You can see it in their eyes – Clemson’s coaches are excited about what their new offense, filled with talented freshmen coming in, will do in ACC play. New OC Chad Morris has installed about 75 percent of his fast-paced, ‘smashmouth’ spread offense with a green QB in Tajh Boyd running the show, but most importantly, Clemson has a healthy Andre Ellington to carry the football. This is a big season for Dabo Swinney to show the Tigers’ program is going in the right direction.

7)….Boston College Eagles………………7-6 (4-4 ACC)
Another team with a new offensive coordinator here with Kevin Rogers, and the early returns are positive from the BC faithful. Fall camp wasn’t kind to the RB corps though with Montel Harris needing knee surgery that’ll keep him out for some of the early games, and No. 2 back Andre Williams spraining his ankle. At least initially, the pressure will be on sophomore QB Chase Rettig to perform against an underrated Northwestern team and a not exactly easy road trip to UCF in week two.

8)….Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets…………..6-7 (5-3 ACC)
Looks like junior QB Tevin Washington will be running the show come Thursday against Western Carolina after a bit of competition. Limiting turnovers and improving the passing game will be keys for Georgia Tech to get back on the championship level.

9)….Miami Hurricanes………………………7-6 (5-3 ACC)
It’s been a nightmare two weeks for the Miami program since the Yahoo! story dropped on Nevin Shapiro’s alleged grandiose dealings with ‘Canes players for several years. With several players’ eligibility in question, any success this season is in question – it’s just a mess of situation for Al Golden in his first year on the job.

10)….Duke Blue Devils…………………………3-9 (1-7 ACC)
Duke got back to work early this season with a February start to spring practice – you can tell, they think this is the season they can get to that elusive bowl, but David Cutcliffe said at ACC media days he’s all about building the program for the future. Some folks are declaring this is the year of the bowl for the Blue Devils, but with their schedule, 5 wins would be a good season.

11)….Virginia Cavaliers…………………..4-8 (1-7 ACC)
Mike London, in a short time, has given Virginia fans reasons for optimism, and with a no. of starters back on offense and defense + a easy non-conference schedule sets the mark for this season a bowl for the first time since 2007. Finally beating the team just above them in the rankings here would be a big step towards that goal.

12)….Wake Forest Demon Deacons…3-9 (1-7 ACC)
The Deacs are one of five teams from the ACC to end 2010 with a win (Vandy), and have a team stacked with returning starters. Add to that, they’re about as under the radar as it comes – a definite candidate for surprising some teams this season. But a schedule with both divisional winners and Notre Dame coming to BB&T will keep Wake bowl-less again most likely.

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.