ACC Preseason Media Poll
All-ACC Preseason Team
Get ready for another tight race in the ACC.
Only 2.13 power points separate Clemson, Florida State and Boston College in the Atlantic. Over in the Coastal division, North Carolina, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and Miami are just 3.99 points apart.
Ultimately, the Tar Heels are slated to run the table and claim the Coastal division with a 1.55-point home win over Virginia Tech on November 13. North Carolina fans should beware that no ACC team has gone undefeated in conference play since FSU performed the trick in 2000.
Clemson is forecasted to go just 9-3 overall and 6-2 in the conference, but that's good enough to top Florida State and Boston College in the Atlantic division. However, the Tigers have to face both of those teams on the road and are favored by just 0.33 over the Seminoles and 1.87 over the Eagles. Clemson is also a mere 0.37-point favorite at home over Miami (Fla.). The projected losses are at UNC (+9.61) in the regular season showdown on October 9, and at home against Georgia Tech (+3.85) two weeks later.
Clemson, last year's loser in the ACC Championship game, will have to adjust to life without C.J. Spiller. His 2009 performance topped the ACC in kick returns and all-purpose yards. Spiller also finished last season 4th in rushing yardage and second in yards from scrimmage. The Tigers open with consecutive home games against lightweights North Texas and Presbyterian. The Mean Green went 2-10 last year while the FCS member Blue Hose (no joke) went 0-11.
North Carolina hasn't won an ACC title since 1980, and Clemson's drought began after it took the 1991 crown. But those are the two teams that will play in this season's championship game if the computer's forecast is correct.
That should insure a sold out Bank Of America Stadium in Charlotte as the ACC Championship game relocates from Tampa's NFL facility to the home of the Carolina Panthers. The computer's final verdict tilts toward UNC bringing home the trophy with a 6.61-point victory.
Butch Davis' bunch gets its first test on opening weekend when the Tar Heels face LSU in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic. The Heels are favored by 4.89 points in the high-profile event that features a top ACC-SEC matchup for the third straight season. Alabama won the first two contests over Clemson and Virginia Tech, respectively.
It's the first time time since 2004 that the computer has picked a team other than Virginia Tech to win the ACC title.
The Hokies are picked to take second in the Coastal with a 4.21-point home win over Georgia Tech on November 4. The Yellow Jackets are defending champions, but lost four players to early entry in the NFL draft as standout defensive end Derrick Morgan and top running back Jonathan Dwyer were joined by safety Morgan Burnett and WR Demaryius Thomas. Only the Florida Gators lost more players (5) to NFL defection.
The Hokies lose 8 starters on defense, but DE Jason Worilds was the only Virginia Tech player taken in the first four rounds of the NFL draft. Frank Beamer's offense is loaded with RB's Ryan Williams and Darren Evans, QB Tyrod Taylor, and an experienced receiving corps. Evans set the ACC freshman season rushing record two years ago, only to see it broken by Williams last year while he sat on the sidelines recovering from a torn ACL.
Virginia Tech opens with a tough opponent at a neutral field for the third straight year. The Hokies were upset by East Carolina, 27-22, two years ago in Charlotte, and lost 34-24 to Alabama in Atlanta last year in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic. This year, Beamerball heads to the nation's capital to play designated host to a dangerous Boise State team that returns nearly every starter but lost its defensive coordinator, Justin Wilcox, to Tennessee in the offseason. That game will be played on Labor Day evening with the Broncos surprisingly favored by over 15 points by the computer.
FSU gets the computer's nod for second-place in the Atlantic, by virtue of an anticipated 4.54-point home win over Boston College on October 16. A 6-6 overall forecast seems a bit pessimistic when the 'Noles draw Clemson and North Carolina to Tallahassee and only have Oklahoma and Miami as tough away contests. The computer gives Florida State a home loss to BYU, a year after FSU laid a 54-28 whipping on the Cougars at Provo.
Florida State forced Bobby Bowden into retirement after a 6-6 regular season last year and handed the reins to head coach-in-waiting Jimbo Fisher. A sideways move to another .500 season won't be received well in Tallahassee, even if it is Fisher's first.
Boston College welcomes the inspirational return of Mark Herzlich. The 2008 all-American linebacker sat out all of 2009 after being diagnosed with Ewing's Sarcoma, a rare form of bone and muscle cancer which is now in remission after intensive treatment. Beat Clemson at home on October 30 and the Eagles could wind up winning the Atlantic division.
Wake Forest is forecasted to endure a second consecutive 5-7 campaign, including a repeat 3-5 conference mark. Jim Grobe's teams have been sliding backward since claiming the ACC title in 2006 and finishing 11-3.
At N.C. State, Tom O'Brien has produced records of 5-7, 6-7 and 5-7 since moving from Boston College, and the outlook is even dimmer for this season. The Wolfpack return QB Russell Wilson who threw 31 TD passes and 11 INT's a year ago, and some quality senior receivers. But they also lose the top two running backs, and five of the top six tacklers.
Maryland let Ralph Friedgen keep his job for another year, despite having named offensive coordinator James Franklin its head coach-in-waiting in February, 2009. Friedgen's teams have only experienced two winning seasons in the past six years after his first three teams won at least 10 games each season. Last year's 2-10 finish was the school's worst since Bob Ward coached the Terps to an 0-9 mark in 1967.
Miami's expected fortunes would be greater if it wasn't facing the nation's 9th-toughest schedule and confronting four of its strongest opponents on the road. The Hurricanes are saddled with conference road losses to Clemson and Georgia Tech, and nonconference defeats at Ohio State and Pitt. Miami is also a slim underdog in home games against the Tar Heels and Hokies.
Duke and Virginia are picked to repeat their 5th and 6th-place Coastal division finishes of a year ago. The Blue Devils begin the year nearly 12 power points better than a year ago, but still lag behind the top four teams in the division by two touchdowns or more.
UVa is a firm last-place pick, trailing Duke by over 9 power points. After a 3-9 finish a year ago, the Cavaliers dismissed Al Groh (now Georgia Tech's defensive coordinator) and hired his former defensive coordinator back from FCS member Richmond (Va.). London was 24-5 in two seasons as head coach of the Spiders and his inaugural team captured the 2008 FCS national championship.
Every ACC member plays one FCS school, except for Virginia which plays two. The Cavaliers open the season against London's former team, then head out west to face USC before returning home to VMI two weeks later. The schedule may give London time to adapt to his new job, but UVa lost last year's opener to FCS member William & Mary. The largely pathetic non-conference schedule also includes an Eastern Michigan squad that owns the nation's second-longest losing streak at 12 games, second only to Western Kentucky's 20 straight losses.