The ACC is by no means a stellar conference, they won't be sending any teams to the National Championship. They have some historic teams in this conference, but there are some historically bad teams as well. None of the teams are at a high point in school history, and its hard to get excited about any of these teams (unless you just love the triple option and want to see Georgia Tech like me). The race for the divisional crown doesn't even seem like it will be all that exciting. Its really hard to get excited about this conference, especially at this point.
Christian Ponder has left and is now with the Minnesota Vikings, but its not as bad as it sounds. Last year they were 68th in passing yards, and he was very mediocre and injured last year. EJ Manuel, the new quarterback, is supposed to be a beast. Jimbo Fisher proved to be a great hire, as his first year brought in 10 wins and the conference last year. However, they may have been the ugliest 10 win team in the nation and perhaps ever, they beat Clemson by 3 points, lost to NC state and North Carolina, and Miami and Florida had terrible years last year and were easy wins for the Seminoles last season. They lost two key offensive linemen, even though they still will have a veteran line for the most part. They are always great recruiters and can usually plug in people just fine.
Final Prediction: Louisiana Monroe and Charleston Southern provide a couple easy wins to start the year, but they were beatdown by Oklahoma last year, and I think it will happen again this year. Wake Forest, Duke, and North Carolina State are some of the easier teams on the conference schedule. Florida at the end of the season will be kind of a wildcard, but I would still be surprised if they won that game. I have them winning the conference, but like last year, it will be ugly.
Frank Beamer is probably the best coach in the nation that hasn't won a national title. They were crushed in their BCS bowl game last year to a really good Stanford team. They lose Tyrod Taylor, who was so great that he was breaking Mike Vick's college records. They also lost their solid running back in Ryan Williams, but the majority of starters return.
Final Prediction: Soft start to the schedule, as they should win the first 5 games and don't face a tough test until Miami, who is in a transition year anyway. Teams like Wake Forest, Duke, North Carolina, and Virginia make up the second half. The schedule alone says that Virginia Tech should win 10 games. Expect Virginia Tech to make a serious run at winning the conference again. I don't think they will be quite as good as last year, but they will still be a very solid team.
The best running team in the nation had a disappointing season last year. They had the major injury of Nesbit that devastated their triple option attack. This offseason, they also had the controversy of playing an illegal player and vacating all their wins from a few years ago. I don't think this matters to this years' team at all though. I think Paul Johnson is a good coach (look at what he did at Navy), and this team will probably be better than last year. They have a good defense and former Virgina coach Al Groh has is really starting to build a good system.
Final Prediction: The first 6 games are really winnable, with Maryland being the toughest on the schedule in the first half. Georgia will provide a tough test at the end of the year, but they have shown they are at least as good of a program as Georgia's very overrated program. I don't know that they will make a serious run to win the conference, but they could be in the mix.
A new coach for the U after Randy Shannon didn't do a whole lot as head coach. Al Golden appears to be a good hire, but it is unknown how long it will take for him to turn this around. They are still talented, and so would think he can turn it around rather quickly. The quarterback situation last year was really bizarre and really hampered their season. They also lost to South Florida, which seemed to put the nail in the coffin in Shannon's coaching career. They return 7 starters on offense, and Jacory Harris will probably gain back his starting job at quarterback. These guys are talented at nearly every position. There is no excuse for them to not be good.
Final Prediction: Ohio State, Kansas State, Virginia Tech, and Florida State all won't be easy. Bethune-Cookman is the only really easy game, with Virginia and Duke being relatively easy. They will be a mediocre team, I believe, expect a little bit better bowl, but not a trip to the conference championship.
North Carolina State
A very good year for NC State last year, as they won 9 and beat Florida State. However, they lost their key quarterback Russell Wilson and key linebacker Nate Irving who was a third round pick. Tom O'Brien is a very solid coach. They did not run very well last year, and they will have to run better this year or they won't stand a chance. They are only returning 5 players on offense, but defensively they return 8 from a good defense last year.
Final Prediction: They get an easy opener with Liberty, get South Alabama in week 3, and Central Michigan on Oct. 8th. Florida State will want revenge, and Cincinatti and Georgia Tech will not be easy. Despite it being sort of a rebuilding year, expect a bowl game and 7 or so wins.
Maryland did a bizarre thing last year, they won 9 games and fired their coach. After considering Mike Leach, they hired a very good coach in Randy Edsall. He did a great job in UConn and was even a candidate to take the Miami job. They have 7 starters returning on both sides of the ball. They return their quarterback, a solid one, and their key defensive players besides Alex Wukciak who was their leading tackler. Their secondary is young and this could hurt them.
Final Prediction: They start off with Miami who, even though they are going through rebuilding, are always tough. Florida State, West Virginia and Notre Dame will be tough games as well. Its not a real easy schedule, so they have to win the games they should win, like Wake Forest, Virginia, and Temple. If they are able to do that, they will make a bowl game.
They were awesome on defense, but terrible on offense last season. They used a two headed quarterback system last year, and both were mediocre at best. They have two good running backs, but they still didn't run all that well last year. They are an underrated solid football program that everyone needs to take seriously. They are coming off a mediocre season, but they were young and should be better.
Final Prediction: Massachusetts is the only automatic win on the schedule, although Duke and UCF shouldn't be too tough for this team. Northwestern provides an interesting matchup to begin the year. They are right on the bubble on being a bowl team. I will go ahead and give this program the benefit of the doubt, and predict that they will be in some kind of bowl.
They are coming off a terrible year, as they had their first losing season since 1998. Dabo Swinney's time as coach is probably running out. They lost their best overall player in Bowers, so things don't look like they are going to go too well.
Final Prediction: Troy and Wofford provide two pretty easy wins to start the year. But a gautlet of Florida State, Virginia Tech, Boston College, Georgia Tech, and South Carolina will provide huge problems for Clemson. Expect the second straight losing season.
A couple of weeks ago, I would have had much more hope for this team. However, they fired their coach Butch Davis because of the scandal with the NCAA. Thats not a good way to start a season. Turmoil and disaster defines this program. They lost TJ Yates who was a very nice quarterback for them. Not to mention losing their key running back and Bruce Carter, a very good linebacker.
Final Prediction: James Madison is a good way to start the season, but Rutgers won't be easy, and Virginia may not be as easy as it sounds with this crazy situation. Va Tech and Miami are on the schedule as the two hardest teams on the schedule. Don't expect anymore than 4 or 5 wins for this team. Its going to be a long year.
Last year, they were the 114th best in passing. They are hoping Tanner Price can develop into a starter so they will actually be able to pass the ball. The leading receiver and key running back are coming back and if the offensive line holds up, this offense could still do some damage. 9 starters return on defense, and they expect to be a pretty solid bunch (even though they were really bad last year), but they are small and that teams like Virginia Tech and Florida State would do good just to pound them inside all game long.
Final Prediction: Gardner Webb is the only automatic win, but they could pull wins over Vanderbilt and Duke one would think, and with all the turmoil North Carolina is going through, they should be able to beat them as well. They went 3-9 last year, and one expects improvement, but the question is just how much improvement we can expect. Some pickers are actually not expecting them to approve at all.
This will be Mike London's second year, as he tries to rebuild the program. He will have a quarterback controversy, which will make things interesting. The defense looks very solid, and could carry a mediocre offense.
Final Prediction: They start off with two very winnable games with William and Mary and Indiana. Southern Miss, Duke, and Idaho are also very winnable, and if they can upset a team like Miami or Florida State (a tall order) its not crazy to think they could make a bowl game. However, I just don't see them having the talent to do this, so they would be lucky to get 5 wins.
They went a grand total of 3-9 last year. Some see a slight improvement, but this is one of those football programs that is bad year in and year out. They do have 8 returning starters on offense, but they turned it over way too much last year. Their defense is pretty bad and they were only
able to win 1 conference game last year. They have a decent quarterback, but quarterbacks do not carry teams.
Final Prediction: Richmond may be an FCS program, but they are a very good FCS program, and Duke opens with them. They could lose that game. Then they play Stanford. They will lose that game. They may have a chance to beat Tulane and Florida International, but they aren't locks, and there probably isn't another game on the schedule (besides maybe Wake Forest) that they have a real chance to win.