Boston College 8-4*
Florida State 7-5*
Wake Forest 7-5*
NC State 4-8
I think the first three teams in the standings are not all that different. I give Boston College a slight edge because of their returning starters and the fact that in a division with few established starters at quarterback BC has potential ACC Player of the Year candidate Matt Ryan. An experienced and capable quarterback can make up for many other sins on a football team. The Eagles did get some bad news when it was announced that linebacker Brian Toal would probably miss the 2007 season while recovering from shoulder surgery. Rookie coach Jeff Jagodzinski still has a veteran defense anchored by DT B.J. Raji and LB Jolonn Dunbar. On offense they have the luxury of 7 starting seniors: 3 on the offensive line and the others at the important skill positions. With such a experienced squad it may ease some of the burdens of a first year head coach and the retention of defensive coordinator Frank Spaziani will held smooth the transition. Look for Jagodzinski to spice up former coach Tom O'Brien's fossilized offense.
Clemson has some talent on their roster and probably has the best backfield duo in James Davis and C.J. Spiller but have massive turnover in the starting spots over last season. Only three starters return on offense while the defense is slightly better off with six returning starters. Like Maryland Clemson is breaking in a new quarterback and doesn't have much proven talent at wide receiver. Unless the Tigers can upgrade their passing game they shouldn't expect to do better than last season's 8-5 record. I think I may be overestimating this Tommy Bowden coached team but someone has to win the Atlantic division.
Instead of preseason article talking about how Florida State hopes to challenge for a national title lately all they have talked about is how Bobby Bowden hopes to reinvigorate his moribund program. After canning his own son and revamping his entire staff Bowden hopes to reclaim some of that Seminole magic. Jimbo Fisher takes over as the offensive coordinator, former West Virginia line coach Rick Trickett will try to bolster the anemic running attack, while Chuck Amato scurries back to Tallahassee as "Executive coach" while Mickey Andrews maintains his duties as defensive coordinator par excellance. It will be another transition year for FSU as they are still not set at quarterback with Drew Weatherford or Xavier Lee, neither of whom has shown the ability to take over the starting spot. The lack of experienced starters, quarterback troubles and a tough schedule will make the Seminoles hard pressed to win the division.
Wake Forest was a nice story last year. I knew they were going to beat Maryland to get to the ACC title game against Georgia Tech. It was almost destiny after the brutal losses the Deacons had suffered at the hands of Fridge's teams. Jim Grobe could finally fulfill his anointed title of most under rated coach in college football. The real question for Wake Forest is their defense that has only five returning starters from a unit that made just enough plays to win games. Perhaps it is a good thing that the secondary will have to be restructured since they were pretty bad for much of last season. The scary possibility is that the backups are not any better. If Riley Skinner, the most underrated signal caller in the ACC, can avoid a sophomore slump then the Deacons will be back in the race for the division. Wake Forest succeeded last year by having a close knit team that played better than the sum of its parts. Can they continue that unified team attitude after tasting some success?
I'll get to Maryland a little later suffice to say that the Terps have many of the same difficulties that the rest of the ACC will deal with this year. An unproven quarterback and a retooled offensive line to go with an under performing defense. Not a great combination guys. Both of those areas will have to show considerable improvement for Maryland to match its record from last year.
With sadness we recognize that the Amato era is over for the Wolfpack. With former BC coach Tom O'Brien NC State certainly got something different from old coach fancy shoes. The quarterback position for the Wolfpack looks to be a mess and with only five returning starters on defense they won't be able to bail themselves out of trouble. If they can cut down on the dumb mistakes and penalties that marked the Amato era then the Wolfpack might be competitive but this team is a long way from being a contender.