North Carolina State kicks off its season against South Carolina tonight on national television and the rest of the ACC follows suit over the holiday weekend. It will be a test to see if the Wolfpack can match the expectations that many have for them this year.
As for Maryland the Terps have to travel out to California to play the Bears on Saturday night. The 10pm Eastern time kickoff will be rough on Maryland's fans and players but probably won't have any effect on the outcome of the game. Cal will be a very difficult test right off the bat for Maryland and historically Friedgen's teams have not done well in early season games against quality opponents. I think California should be the overwhelming favorite and I don't expect Maryland to pull off a win but I hope that it doesn't turn into a rout that could damage the confidence of a young squad.
As for position battles Tommy Galt seems to have beaten out Lansford Watson at tight end. Watson is a better athlete than Galt but seems to have problems with his blocking and being a consistent receiver. It will be worth watching to see if the production at tight end declines this year.
Lamar Young and Andrew Gonnella have locked up the guard positions for the first game but don't be shocked if Friedgen toys with the lineups over the first three games. If the young line gets dominated against Cal changes are likely to occur. I have a feeling that this group, though untested, might turn out to be better than the underachieving veterans who were locked into their positions last year.
Besides tight end another position that hasn't received much attention in the off season is defensive end. The emphasis on the blitz might make the position less important this year but if the Terps are going to be better than average this season then either Jared Harrell or Derek Drummond need to become playmakers. If both struggle against the run or fail to pressure the opposing QB it may limit the improvement of the entire defense.
It still isn't clear who will be the placekicker this season. It seemed that Mike Barbour had the edge coming into the fall camp but freshman Nick Ferrera has been making a strong challenge. Both seem to have good accuracy and distance which might help the offense this season after the inconsistency of Obi Egekeze in 2008.
Here are my guesses as to how this ACC season will go:
1. Virginia Tech (9-3)
2. Georgia Tech (8-4)
3. North Carolina (8-4)
4. Miami (6-6)
5. Virginia (5-7)
6. Duke (5-7)
1. Florida State (8-4)
2. N.C. State (7-5)
3. Wake Forest (7-5)
4. Clemson (6-6)
5. Maryland (6-6)
6. Boston College (6-6)
I see Maryland and Boston College in the 5-7 or 6-6 range but I gave both the benefit of the doubt because of their out of conference schedules. I wouldn't be surprised if both teams came into the season finale in College Park at 5-6.
I see FSU claiming the ACC title back from Virginia Tech, who could also be supplanted by Georgia Tech in the Coastal. I'm just not convinced the Hokies' offense will be good enough to carry through the whole season.