Thursday, August 28, 2008

ACC Predictions Part 1

Coastal Division

1. Virginia Tech (8-4)*
2. North Carolina (7-5)*
3. Miami (7-5)*
4. Georgia Tech (6-6)*
5. Virginia (5-7)
6. Duke (1-11)

*-Bowl game

Virginia Tech will likely win the Coastal division again this season because they are the least flawed team out of what appears to be a fairly mediocre group. I actually think that North Carolina could have a chance to win the division but will probably get held back by a challenging out of conference slate that includes Connecticut, Notre Dame and Rutgers. Meanwhile the Hokies, in normal Beamer fashion, play Furman, Western Kentucky and East Carolina giving them a likely two game advantage in the standings. As usual Bud Foster's defense will keep Virginia Tech's moribund offense from costing them too many games but Sean Glennon isn't reliable without a strong running game and solid offensive line, neither of which he is likely to have this year.

Miami continues to float along with excellent recruits that don't add up to a great football team. The defense is the strength of this group and will need to carry them if they are to reach my projected 7-5. That may be a little optimistic of me but I think the Hurricanes will find some impact freshmen among their #1 rated recruiting class. There are larger problems in Coral Gables as the intimidation factor that Miami once enjoyed is not totally gone. In just two games last season against Oklahoma and Virginia the once proud "U" was obliterated 99-13. Think about that for a moment.

Georgia Tech replaced Chan Gailey with former Navy coach Paul Johnson. It may take a few games for ACC defenses to adjust to Johnson's option style spread attack. That alone may allow the Yellow Jackets to steal a few extra games. Assuming the players buy into the new philosophy and the loss of Jon Tenuta isn't devastating to the defense they could piece together a decent season. My guess is there was too much talent and experience that departed last year and with only eight returning starters it might be optimistic to predict anything more than a fringe bowl game for this group.

Virginia was my sleeper pick last season and they didn't disappoint, going 9-4 and nearly appearing in the ACC Championship game. This team bears little resemblance to that group as the Wahoos lost nearly everyone including both their kickers. Quarterback Jameel Sewell was lost for academic reasons along with a few other players and All-American DE Chris Long went to the NFL. It would take a coaching feat of genius for Al Groh to get this group back to a bowl game and I don't think he has that in him.

Duke hired David Cutcliffe to try to elevate them out of the cellar of college football. Cutcliffe may be able to do that, like Jim Grobe did at Wake Forest, but it will take some time. Lucky for him 19 starters return to this team but unfortunately most of them are not any good. Still, with all that experience Duke could win an ACC game this year.

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