ACC Preseason Media Poll
All-ACC Preseason Team
Last year, the ACC established a new NCAA record by sending 10 teams to bowl games as only Duke and Virginia were left out. The conference won just four of those games, but Virginia Tech did manage to end the ACC's 8-year stretch of futility in BCS bowls by defeating Cincinnati 20-7 in the Orange Bowl.
The Hokies have claimed three titles in their five seasons in the ACC, and won last year's crown in a rebuilding year. Virginia Tech was just one of many youthful teams in the conference last year, so it will be interesting to see which one grows up the fastest and establishes supremacy.
The computer (about the computer) gives a heavy nod to Virginia Tech to claim another Coastal division title and then trump Florida State in the conference championship game at Tampa, with both schools projected to go undefeated in conference play.
The Seminoles' presence in the title game would provide a boost to attendance as only 27,360 saw the Hokies roll over Boston College last year, most of whom were attired in Virginia Tech's colors of burnt orange and Chicago maroon.
The computer correctly picked the Hokies as ACC champs last year, and they begin this season with a power rating that is more than 9 points higher than last season's final rating. They are favored by over a dozen points in nine of their games, and the only projected setback is a narrow 0.10-point disadvantage in the opener against Alabama at the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game in Atlanta.
However, Alabama isn't Virginia Tech's only obstacle in a tough opening month schedule. The Hokies host Nebraska on September 19 and Miami on September 26, with a home date against Marshall on September 12 providing a bit of a breather. Head coach Frank Beamer's bunch surely realizes that they will be taken seriously as a national title contender if they get out of September with a 4-0 record.
The computer thinks Virginia Tech's toughest remaining games will come at Georgia Tech (-7.09) on October 17, and at East Carolina (-5.85) on November 5.
Georgia Tech is the projected second-place finisher in the Coastal division, but the Yellow Jackets trail the Hokies by over 10 power points. The computer doesn't buy into everyone's rosy forecast for Georgia Tech, just as it didn't echo the sentiment for Clemson last year.
Last year, in its' first season under head coach Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech finished four wins better than the computer's preseason forecast. This year's 7-5 (5-3, ACC) projection includes three losses by less than five points - at Miami (+1.45), at Vanderbilt (+4.32), and at home to Georgia (+4.24). However, two projected wins are also under five points as the Yellow Jackets are slim home favorites over Clemson (-4.86) and North Carolina (-4.75) early in the season.
Georgia Tech is actually one of three teams that are within 1.75 power points of each other in the battle for second. The Yellow Jackets' 73.23 power rating barely eclipses North Carolina (71.48) and Miami (71.68).
Virginia is securely wedged into the 5th-place spot as the Cavaliers rest 9 points behind the 4th-place team, and 10 points ahead of Duke.
In the Atlantic division, Florida State fans should feel good about the computer forecasting a 10-2 record. The 2007 forecast nailed the 'Noles 7-5 regular season mark, and missed by 2 wins with the 2008 projection of a 6-6 campaign.
FSU's only expected losses this season are in non-conference road games at BYU and Florida. The Cougars get a mere 1.25-point edge, but the Gators have a whopping 23.14-point advantage. Indeed, a run to the top of the division won't be easy for the 'Noles as they face 11 teams that went bowling a year ago. Their season opens at home as an 8.97-point choice over state rival Miami on Labor Day Monday.
Florida State has four ACC road games where it is favored by fewer than 4 points - Boston College (-1.26), North Carolina (-3.17), Clemson (-3.28), and Wake Forest (-3.54).
The Seminoles begin the year just 4.26 power points ahead of the Eagles, while Clemson and Wake Forest are slightly more than 2 points behind Boston College.
Clemson will be playing its' first full season under Dabo Swinney who replaced Tommy Bowden halfway through last season after a 3-3 start. The Tigers went 4-3 down the stretch, including a 26-21 loss to Nebraska in the Gator Bowl.
The forecast for Boston College is quite surprising as it lost its head coach in January under odd circumstances, and learned in May that its' top defensive player has a rare form of cancer. Head coach Jeff Jagodzinski interviewed for the head coaching position with the NFL's New York Jets, defying the school administration's warning that his dismissal was imminent if he did so. The administration made good on the threat and Jagodzinski was fired after amassing a 20-8 record in his two seasons at the helm, including two losses to Virginia Tech in ACC title games.
Frank Spaziani, the defensive coordinator under Jagodzinski and Tom O'Brien (Jagozinski's predecessor), was promoted to head coach on January 13. The 2009 season will mark Spaziani's 13th year with the Eagles, having spent his first two seasons as running backs coach and the past 10 as defensive coordinator. He was BC's interim head coach in a 25-24 win over Navy at the 2006 Meineke Car Care Bowl.
On May 14, the Eagles lost all-American linebacker Mark Herzlich to a diagnosis of Ewing's Sarcoma, a rare form of bone and muscle cancer.
Many feel this could be a breakout season for North Carolina as Butch Davis embarks on his third campaign at Chapel Hill. After a 4-8 inaugural campaign in 2007, the Tar Heels improved to 8-5 last season. UNC closed with a 31-30 loss to West Virginia in the Meineke Car Care Bowl, its' first postseason appearance since 2004.
Maryland and N.C. State trail the top four teams in the Atlantic by more than 6 points. It would be a signficant step backward for a pair of schools that went bowling in 2008.
In summation, any preseason ACC forecast should probably be written in pencil. 2008 was a helter-skelter year for the conference, and 2009 presents plenty of questions. No afront to the other ten teams in the conference, but you can almost hear the front office praying for the forecasted marquee matchup of Virginia Tech-Florida State in the championship game.