This may be a big down year for the ACC, the ACC Championship is wide open too.
Predicted Order of Finish:
The Tigers return a plethora of starters, 14 in all. The backfield should be incredible, QB Cullen Harper returns, along with one of the best RB tandems in the nation in James Davis and CJ Spiller. The offensive line could keep them from competing for a national title spot. They struggled a lot last season with not protecting Harper and they need to replace virtually that whole line. The defense should be solid as most of the key starters are in-tact.
Wake struggled last season because of Riley Skinner's shoulder injury, but as long as he stays healthy, Wake should be a contender in the ACC. Josh Adams is a speedy runner at tailback, the WR department will have some unknowns as the returners only caught 47 passes total last season. The defensive front seven will be loaded led by DTs Boo Robinson and John Russell and LBs Aaron Curry and Stanley Arnoux. The secondary will be decent with 3 starters back, which includes All-ACC Alphonso Smith.
This could be Bobby Bowden's last season and he wants to end on a high note. QB Drew Weatherford returns after improving upon his turnovers from 2006. FSU will be pretty deep at RB with Antone Smith back, plus JC transfer Tavares Pressley and true frosh Jermaine Thomas. Off-season problems will hurt WR, top wide-out Preston Parker is out for the first two games. Sr. Greg Carr is back though. FSU will need their defense to step up if they want to rise back to the top of the ACC, they have plenty of holes which should keep them from playing in a New Years Day bowl game.
Chris Turner will be the likely starter after starting in the final 6 games last season and defeated BC and Rutgers. Josh Portis, a transfer from Florida, should see some time as well. Da'Rel Scott and Morgan Green are capable backs but they need more depth. The WRs should be among the best in the ACC, led by Derrius Heyward-Bey. If the defense can find some depth up-front and in the secondary they can compete for reasonable bowl bid.
BC does lose Matt Ryan, which could be a problem during the beginning of the season. RB James McCluskey is back as BC's leading rusher. The WR crew returns some decent pass catchers which should help the new QB. BJ Raji is the lone returning bright spot on the D-Line. The LB corps was struck hard with graduation after having a strong unit last season. Expect this to be more of a rebuilding season after losing in the ACC Championship.
6. NC State
The QB position is a huge question mark. RB could be the lone positive area of the team with some talent and depth there, led by Toney Baker and Andre Brown. The WR and O-Line need some players to step up. Look for the defense to struggle, especially early as they look for some play makers to step up and replace some loses.
1. Virginia Tech
V-Tech won't be as deep or talented as in recent years but they still have plenty of play makers and Frank Beamer and Bud Foster are terrific coaches. The QB position is deep, Sr. Sean Glennon recently won the starting job. Tyrod Taylor is a great back-up. The Hokies were hit hard after Branden Ore was kicked off the team. The Hokies need some WRs to step up as they lose their top 4 WRs, all seniors. The O-Line is a plus with it's experience. The defense will be down after big losses in Chris Ellis at DE, Vince Hall and Xavier Adibi at LB, and Brandon Flowers at CB; but there won't be a huge drop-off. There may not be much experience back, but look for DE Orion Martin and DB Victor (Macho) Harris to be some of the best in the ACC.
2. North Carolina
UNC returns 43 letter winners in all and is looking to improve and compete for an ACC Title. QB TJ Yates returns, so does RB Greg Little and top WR Hakeem Hicks. The O-Line has developed some depth. The defense should be better; the DT is loaded with talent and depth but they need someone to step up at end. The LB unit just needs more experience and the secondary returns all 4 starters, who look very promising.
Miami is well positioned for a bright future with plenty of young talent and good recruiting classes. But this year? Not so much. QB is deep but young. Robert Marve should be the opening day starter and he has loads of talent. Javarris James and Graig Cooper are a tremendous RB duo. Aldarius Johnson looks to lead a young WR unit. The D-Line could be one of the worst in the conference and that's saying a lot. LB has been hit with injuries and the secondary looks promising, they just need someone to replace Kenny Phillips.
The Cavs do lose DE Chris Long, other key defensive players, important O-Linemen, and QB Jameel Sewell, but they should dwell on a surprising 2007 season that ended up in the Gator Bowl.
Look for Tech to underachieve again with plenty of question marks all over the field.
QB Thad Lewis is the lone bright spot for one of the worst FBS teams out there.
Clemson over Virginia Tech
Offensive Player of the Year:
James Davis, RB- Clemson
Defensive Player of the Year:
Michael Johnson, DE- Georgia Tech
Freshman of the Year:
Coach of the Year:
Butch Davis- UNC
Top 3 Games:
Virginia Tech at North Carolina- Sept. 20
Clemson at Wake Forest- Oct. 9
Clemson at Florida St.- Nov. 8