Atlantic Coast Conference
Bottom Line: Due to poor showings by a number of teams, including perennial powerhouses Florida State and Miami, the Atlantic Coast Conference has recently slid further and further down the BCS conference pecking order, with some believing it is now less prestigious than the Big East. This is all very ironic considering Boston College, Miami (FL) and Virginia Tech were spoon-fed loads of cash for agreeing to transition from the Big East to the ACC prior to the 2004 season.
Clemson Tigers (12-0): With an assembly of talent unmatched in the conference, if they can get by Alabama in the season opener, the Tigers should experience clear sailing until they enter the ACC championship game. A big part Tommy Bowden’s team’s success this year will be attributed to the contributions of true freshman DE DaQuan Bowers, who many considered to be the nation’s best overall recruit.
Wake Forest Demon Deacons (9-3): It took some time, but after his first five years in Winston-Salem, head coach Jim Grobe has successfully raised the bar at Wake Forest. In the past two seasons, the Demon Deacons have won as many games (20) as they did the previous four. What do they have to show for it? Just a renewed optimism, lofty expectations and a coach who is now widely regarded as one of college football’s best gameday masterminds.
Boston College Golden Eagles (7-5): And so the post-Matt Ryan era begins at Chestnut Hill. Attempting to fill the void will be Ryan’s backup from a year ago, Chris Crane, a 6’4″-239 lb. senior who more than looks the part, and freshman Dominique Davis, who is built more for speed than comfort. It has not been determined whether Davis is a motor-boating son-of-a-bitch.
Maryland Terrapins (7-5): From what I hear, the only thing scarier than interrupting coach Ralph Friedgen’s midday snack for an interview request is getting liquored up on 10-year-old scotch and encountering an angry terrapin. These freshwater turtles have long had a reputation of subjecting those influenced by mind-altering substances to maddening bouts with hysteria and extreme paranoia. Why else do you think both The Grateful Dead and Pink Floyd decided to utilize the powers of the terrapin to help enhance the psychedelic nature of their music?
Florida State Seminoles (6-6): We can only hope that the immortal Bobby Bowden comes back for one more year, especially after a season so scarred by a rare blend of mediocrity and underachieving talent. An interesting test for the Seminoles will be on the road against rival Miami in October. Many will be judging that game as a barometer to determine which of these two former juggernauts is closer to returning to national prominence.
North Carolina State Wolfpack (5-7): In a heated battle between contiguous states that just so happen to share the same surname, the Wolfpack will travel to Columbia, South Carolina Thursday (Aug. 28) for ESPN’s first nationally televised game of the season. There’s nothing like a tepid ACC-SEC clash to kick-start the season and remind North Carolina State that it’s still worthy of the limelight, despite the fact it has churned out only one winning record since 2003.
Virginia Tech Hokies (9-3): Ending all questions surrounding his team’s quarterback position, head coach Frank Beamer announced Tuesday (Aug. 26) that he will redshirt sophomore dual-threat quarterback Tyrod Taylor. Beamer said he intends to institute a one-quarterback offense after the Hokies spent much of last season playing musical chairs under center. Sean Glennon, a senior who threw for 1,796 yards in split duty with Taylor in 2007, was named the starter. Cory Holt will be the backup. Beamer said his unexpected move to bench Taylor for the entire 2008 season was done with his team’s future in mind. “I think in the long term, thinking about our football program, if we could get this done is what we need to do. He [Taylor] is only going to get better and better.”
North Carolina Tar Heels (8-4): It took only a year for Butch Davis to clean up the mess left by Dennis Erickson in Miami when he arrived there in 1995. In his first season, the ‘Canes went 8-3 but were banned from postseason play due to NCAA regulations. By 2000, Davis had turned Miami back into a national championship contender. Perhaps this is why experts across the country are predicting 2008 to be the year Davis takes a North Carolina program that was left in horrific shape by former head coach John Bunting to new heights and its first winning record since 2001.
Virginia Cavaliers (8-4): Former New York Jets head coach Al Groh will have to find a way to erase the memory of blowing a 14-point, fourth-quarter lead in last year’s 31-28 Gator Bowl loss to Texas Tech. And he’ll have to do it with the departure of his best defensive player, Chris Long, an All-American defensive end who was selected second overall in last April’s NFL Draft. Long’s bookend, junior Jeffrey Fitzgerald, who collected 7 sacks as a sophomore a year ago, must also be replaced after he left the Virginia program due to undisclosed off-the-field problems.
Miami Hurricanes (7-5): ESPN.com ACC blogger Heather Dinich reported Tuesday (Aug. 26) that seven Miami players have been suspended by head coach Randy Shannon for the Hurricanes’ season opener versus Charleston Southern on Thursday for violation of team rules. Among the seven is Miami’s projected starting quarterback, freshman Robert Marve. Because of the suspension, Marve’s first collegiate snap will presumably be on September 6, when Miami goes to Gainesville to play no. 5 Florida.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (6-6): Paul Johnson arrives in Atlanta to a load of fanfare that was generated by his five consecutive winning seasons at the Naval Academy, where he instituted his intricate triple option offense. Johnson will attempt to do the same at Georgia Tech with a considerable amount of better athletes at his disposal. On defense, 6’7″- 260 lb. gangbuster DE Michael Johnson (right), who many consider to be a 2009 first-round selection, returns after posting four sacks in 2007. Johnson, without question, has the best neck in football—at any level—since former San Francisco 49ers safety Merton Hanks.
Duke Blue Devils (2-10): Forever recognized solely as a basketball school, Duke will likely never be seen as a gridiron mecca, though newly hired head coach David Cutcliffe, who coached both Peyton and Eli Manning at Tennessee and Mississippi, respectively, is trying to change the one-sided culture in Durham. But breathing life into a program that has performed as pathetically as Duke the past few decades will take some time. The Blue Devils have enjoyed only three winning seasons in the last 25 years and haven’t beaten a conference opponent since 2004.
Champion: Clemson over Virginia Tech
Team on the rise: North Carolina
Team on the fall: Boston College
Player to Watch: Clemson QB Cullen Harper
Bowlers: Clemson, Virginia Tech, Virginia, Wake Forest, Miami, North Carolina, Boston College