Sorry for the delay, readers, but here’s the second half of our ACC preview, brought to you by our resident college football expert, Big League Clew!
1. Virginia Tech Hokies
Last Season: 10-3, (8-0) – won ACC coastal & Conference title, lost the Orange Bowl vs. Stanford
After what can be considered one of the best seasons since the Michael Vick era at Virginia Tech, the Hokies lost ACC player of the year QB Tyrod Taylor and All-ACC running backs Ryan Williams and Darren Evans. Despite those losses, this is a team that will surprise you, and here’s why. After carefully looking through their schedule, VT doesn’t face top 10 powerhouses such as Alabama & Boise State. They need to focus on is rebuilding the defense, and hope that new starting RB David Wilson becomes the breakout star that experts feel he will become. This team could even head into the ACC championship game undefeated because of their weaker in-conference schedule. Virginia Tech isn’t as talented or experienced as Florida State, but the Hokies softer schedule might make them the more realistic national title contender. After all, they don’t have to worry about hosting Oklahoma or playing at Florida.
My Prediction: 10 wins with a trip to the ACC title game and National title implication, but the BCS are a bunch of stingy SOBs so they could get snubbed, just look at TCU last year.
2. University of Miami Hurricanes (Pre-Scandal)
Last season: 7-6 (5-3) – 2nd in ACC Coastal, lost Sun Bowl vs. Notre Dame
This year the ‘Canes returns six starters on offense that would lead you to believe they are legit contenders for the ACC Coastal title, yet they only finished fifth in the conference in scoring. Why? Because the Hurricanes committed 36 turnovers, second only to Middle Tennessee State. The Hurricanes won’t contend for any title unless they can figure out a way to take better care of the football. It all begins with establishing the ground game, which is what new head Coach Al Golden, unlike his predecessors, is aiming to do. On the other side of the ball, Golden and new coordinator Mark D’Onofrio (the man who resurrected the Temple Owls defense for those who don’t know) are taking over a team that should have one of the best defenses in the ACC. This season, they return seven starters from a unit that ranked third in the conference last season. As always, Miami plays a very challenging schedule and probably the toughest in the conference. They continue the tradition of arduous Septembers where they play at home vs. Ohio State and Kansas State in consecutive games.
My Prediction: 6 wins. Just because I don’t think they will be able to improve on turnovers, and for the simple fact that I don’t like Miami.
3. North Carolina Tar Heels
Last season: 8-5 (4-4) -Tied for 3rd in ACC Coastal, won Music City Bowl vs. Tennessee
The Tar Heels have a great receiving core that looks to get better as the year progresses. Keep an eye out for Dwight Jones who was last year’s rising star (62 catches, 946 yrds & 4 TD’s.) UNC’s biggest challenge is going to be replacing T.J. Yates, their starting quarterback for the past four seasons. Bryn (no that is not a typo, his first name) Renner is the clear-cut favorite to be the starting quarterback, and he will be throwing to plethora of talented receivers. The inexperience at quarterback means North Carolina must upgrade a rushing attack that ranked 10th in the ACC and 94th in the FBS. On the defense there is a much different scenario; North Carolina has a defense that features plenty of future NFL players. Unfortunately, last season numerous players were suspended for NCAA infractions, which needs to be remedied for this season. North Carolina has excellent chance to end up with a great record for the year. The first three games against James Madison, Rutgers and Virginia are at home, followed by winnable road contests against Georgia Tech & East Carolina. There is a possibility that UNC could start the year 5-0.
My Prediction: Look for big things this year from the Tar Heels. They’ll have 9 wins and will be in contention for the ACC Coastal title.
4. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Last Season: 6-7 (4-4) – Tied for 3rd in ACC Coastal; lost Independence Bowl vs. Air Force)
The Yellow Jackets run a unique triple option run scheme, which was considered one of the nation’s strongest rushing attacks last year. This year they are going to try to prove that they are still capable of doing such things with the ground attack, while dealing with a quarterback controversy none the less .The favorite to replace Joshua Nesbitt is Tevin Washington, who started at quarterback when Nesbitt missed the last four games of the season with an injury in 2010. Also thrown into the mix will be Redshirt freshman Synjyn Days, which should make for an interesting training camp. While the triple option has been the Yellow Jackets staple, there must be some impression of a passing attack to keep opposing defenses somewhat on their toes. The schedule should allow for GT to get out to a 3-0 start. But when they get into the thick of their conference schedule, it should become a challenge. I will say this though; Georgia Tech has gone to 14 consecutive bowl games, which ties for the fourth-longest streak in the nation. This shows that they have the ability to win.
My prediction: Just based on what I said about GT’s consecutive bowl appearance, and that they lead the nation in rushing. I think they can get to 7 wins and keep that streak going for 2011 season.
5. Virginia Cavaliers
Last Season: 4-8 (1-7) – Tied for 5th in ACC Coastal
When you say that Virginia has a quarterback controversy, this should be considered the Mecca of controversies! From what I have been able to decipher, the Cavs depth chart lists sophomores Ross Metheny and Michael Rocco as “co-starters,” which already speaks for itself. However, redshirt freshman Michael Strauss and even true freshman David Watford will also be considered for the job, so you have four potential QBs that could become the starter or co-starters. Maybe they will play all four QBs, one for every down. Regardless, whoever comes out on top should enjoy being able to throw the Cav’s top receiver Kris Burd (58 catches, 799 yards, five TDs) and TE Colter Phillips (18 catches, 155 yards and 3 TDs.) If Virginia sorts out its quarterback situation, there could be an outside chance that they get a bowl bid, (thanks to an easy early-season schedule) as they could win four of their first five.
My Prediction: QB controversy, a defense that allowed 6 teams to score 33 points or more last season… they should only be able to repeat what they did last year, 4 wins.
Duke Blue Devils
Last Season: 3-9 (1-7) – Tied for 5th in ACC Coastal)
The Blue Devils actually have something to play for this year, as they return eight offensive starters and show off what can be considered the ACC’s top receiving core in Conner Vernon (73 catches, 973 yards, 4 TDs) and Donovan Varner (60 catches 736 yards and 1 TD). Duke must be able to take better care of the ball, as they ranked 112th in turnover margin last season. They have also struggled to run the ball for years, ranking last in the ACC in rushing in 2010. Their biggest issue will be on defense where Duke ranked last in the ACC in total defense, rushing defense, pass defense, pass efficiency defense, sacks and tackles for loss last season…Ouch!!
My Prediction: Duke has not had a winning season since 1994-1995. I look for that trend to continue with only 2 wins this year. They’re shitty.
Wilson image courtesy of: Josh D. Weiss Photography
Harris image courtesy of: AP Photo/Lynne Sladky
Jones image courtesy of: Josh D. Weiss Photography
Washington courtesy of: Josh D. Weiss Photography
Rocco image courtesy of: the Associated Press
Vernon image courtesy of: Josh D. Weiss Photography
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