Maize n Brew's 2007 Misguided Preview of the ACC
For the last ten years, Florida State has maintained a strangle hold on the ACC title. Despite a hiccup in 2001 when Maryland surprised the hell out of everyone, Florida State was the dominant ACC power. It wasn't until 2004 that expansion and Virginia Tech ruined the party. Starting in 2005 the ACC switched to a two division system (aptly named "Atlantic" and "Coastal") to accommodate new comers Miami, Boston College and Virginia Tech. The move was thought to make the ACC the new conference superpower and doom the Big East to bankruptcy.
How'd that work out?
The last two years were not kind to the ACC. Two years ago a four-loss Florida State team took home the ACC title beating 5th ranked Virginia Tech. FSU prevailed despite one of its worst teams in a decade. Last year Wake Forest and Georgia Tech topped their respective divisions, with Wake Forest emerging the ACC Champion in the worst championship game ever played (when you win a football championship game 9-6, both teams should be forced to erase all evidence the game ever occurred and immediately proceed to rochambeau one another for the title.). With traditional powers like FSU and Miami struggling, the rest of the ACC decided to struggle too. In fact the conference went
1-8 4-4 (Ed. note: error on my part) in bowl games and finished the season with its highest ranked team being Wake Forest at #17 or #18 depending on the poll.
A tsunami of changes wiped the ACC coaching ranks clear following the Bowl season as AD's around the conference struggled to deal with heavy criticism and a conference that was starting to look like the MAC. This year will determine whether those efforts paid off.
Big Changes, Big Results?
After torturing Seminole fans for almost a decade Bobby Bowden finally canned is son Jeff and brought in someone who doesn't use an Etch a Sketch to call plays. In his place will be Jimbo Fisher, freshly stolen from LSU's dismantling of Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl. Joining Fisher will be freshly fired ex-NC State head coach Chuck "Boobies!" Amato who will coach the linebackers. Additionally, Seminole fans will get to know Rick Trickett, the new O-Line coach who will hopefully bring a little stability to a nightmarish line.
Miami lived up to its name when Huricane Shalala swept through the athletic department. Despite a MNC, Larry Coker was thrown out on his ass after the embarrassing thunderdome style brawl against Florida International. Randy Shannon takes over after 14 years of service (the last six as DC) at Miami. A large portion of the staff remains, but for some ungodly reason The "U" brought in Patrik Nix, Georgia Tech's OC for the past five years. Are they serious? I'm looking forward to the next string of short, panicky quarterbacks who throw into triple coverage to emerge under his watch.
If North Carolina is ever going to emerge from the powder blue hell of the ACC basement, new head coach Butch Davis has the best shot at making it happen. And when he arrived at Chapel Hill he didn't come alone. Joining him are OC John "Run and" Shoop, DC Chuck Pagano, and Dline coach John Blake (former OU HC). He's already reeling in talent and posted one of the top 5 recruiting classes of 2007. UNC's got a long way to go, but they're definitely on the right track.
North Carolina State made a big change as well, canning the under achieving Amato and bringing in BC head coach Tom O'Brien. While O'Brien has had success at a school which, honestly, has a high school stadium, whether his success at a larger, football hungrier institution remains to be seen. He remains in the same division as his former employer, so this has the chance to be a really nasty rivalry over the next few years. I expect some great battles over the next few years as these two teams duke it out for third in the division.
Boston College was taken by surprise when O'Brien left for NC State and took most of his staff with him. BC tabbed Green Bay's OC Jeff Jagodzinski (who never should've left Green bay with a name like that) as the Eagles new HC. The Eagles kept their DC and the OC is a former NFL Europe HC. Could be good. Dunno.
Players to Watch
James Davis/CJ Spiller, Clemson - Clemson's twin tailback monster devoured the ACC last year and rolled up 2100 yards and 27 TDs last year. 27 friggin touchdowns. With visions of a Maroney/Russell like combo dancing in their heads, Clemson fans are giddy about their ACC chances even though they're coached by Tommy Bowden.
Drew Weatherford, FSU - There's no way in hell Matt Ryan is the best QB in this conference, I don't care if he threw for almost 3,000 yards. Not too long ago Weatherford was a highly touted recruit, and managed to throw for 2100 yards despite the line and his psyche collapsing on him. Weatherford is finally free of the cruel shackles of fate (e.g., Jeff Bowden) and in the hands of a capable Offensive Coordinator. Face it folks, if you thought Jamarcus Russell was a No. 1 draft you're lying, you filthy lying bastards.
Vince Hall, Virginia Tech - The key linebacker in the conference's stingiest defense, Hall mauled 128 people last year. 20 more than the next closest returning tackler in the conference. As the signal caller on a Virginia Tech defense that returns 8 starters (including three of the starting front four) Hall is looking at an even bigger year in 2007.
Calais Campbell, Miami - Very large. Very scary man. The Miami DE enjoys moon light walks on the beach with rabid pumas, challenging the devil to fiddlin contests, and pulling the beating heart out opposing quarterbacks in order to show it to them just before they expire. Campbell totaled up 20.5 tackles for loss (first in the conference) including 10.5 sacks (3rd in the conference). Plus, his name is spelled like an ED medication.
Hakeem Nicks, UNC - Tar Heel fans need something to Cheer about, right? Nicks averaged 16.9 yards a catch and posted 660 yards last year for a North Carolina team that threw an interception for every four completions to Nicks. Nicks managed to make waves despite being a freshman and a lot of bad passes.
Tashard Choice, Georgia Tech - It wasn't just Calvin Johnson catching touchdowns and Reggie Ball screwing up, Choice led the conference in rushing last year with 1473 yards. Damn. He also found the endzone 12 times. With Johnson gone and Ball (thankfully) gone, the onus will be on Choice to lead the Yellow Jackets back to the ACC championship.
Maize n Brew's Fearless and Hopelessly Incorrect ACC Predictions!
|1||The schedule sets up nicely for Vech. Their road games are tough (LSU, Clemson, Georgia Tech) but manageable. Despite losing a close one to GT, the Hookies handled Clemson. They get FSU and Miami at home. 10-2 (7-1).|
|2||I want to pick them higher but their schedule is brutal. Oz level brutal. 5 difficult road games including Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Vtech, and FSU. New coaches and coordinators will help the talent, but there will be an adjustment period. If there’s a team that can surprise it’s this one. 9-3 (6-2).|
|t3||Calvin Johnson and Reggie Ball depart, so the net effect on the team is a wash. Despite 5 road games their schedule is surprisingly manageable. Still, I’m thinking losses to VTech, @Miami, and Clemson or @Virginia. 8-4 (5-3) [And yes, that means I think they lose to Georgia.]|
|t3||10 starters back on D. 9 on offense return. Why didn’t I pick them higher? Because they’re Virginia and Al Groh coaches them. Their schedule is Downy soft, so this could be a suckers panning, but I’m betting they lose two of their last three road games and drop their finale to VTech. 8-4 (5-3).|
|5||There’s a lot of incoming talent, but they’re still two to three years away from a Butch Davis miracle in Chapel Hill. The O-line is veteran while the skill positions are young and raw. The Defense is basically brand new. Next year this will be an Illinois level mess-up-your-schedule team, but not yet. I’ll pencil them in for a low level upset, saaaaay…. @ Wake. 4-8 (2-6)|
|6||Believe it or not, the Blue Devils return their ENTIRE offense. That has to count for something, right? I’ll pick ‘em to upset UConn to start the season and end their 20 game losing streak. Then they’ll start a new one. 1-11 (0-8).|
|1||Another suckers pick, but there’s too much talent in Tallahassee. FSU’s three toughest games are on the road against Florida, VTech and Clemson. The defense returns 8 starters including the entire secondary. Competent coaching gets the FSU offense on track. WR Gregg Carr scores 16 TDs. 11-1 (7-1).|
|2||Really tough not to pick the Tigers, but replacing the entire offensive line isn’t going to make things easy. Willy Proctor now passes the torch to Willy Korn, whose name we will have fun with for his entire career. The Defensive line and Linebackers replace two starters and secondary losses will be covered by 3 top #50 DB recruits. A favorable schedule could easily land them in the ACC championship. 9-3 (7-2)|
|3||The Fridge’s offense looks ready to roll behind Senior RB Lance Ball who could be the best RB in the conference. Despite losing three of their top four tacklers, the Terps will field an excellent defense. Unfortunately the Terps play 6 road games this year with Trips to Rutgers and FSU. Still, Maryland will be a fun team to watch. 8-4 (5-3)|
|4||While I can’t see Wake duplicating its success last year, I last can’t see them flopping a year later. The offense returns basically intact and the Defensive front should be solid. The secondary’s losses will be hard to cover and that’s where Wake will come up short. They should still make a bowl. 7-5 (4-4)|
|5||BC loses its coach and plays almost every tough game on the road. The Gtech and Notre Dame could be wins, but they’ll be hard fought. The reason for the drop to the bottom is their schedule. I’m betting they start 5-2 and then the freefall begins. @VTech, FSU, @Maryland, @Clemson, and finishing up against a Miami team that could be playing for a conference Championship. That’s two wins at best, likely only 1. This team could hit 4 conference wins, but I can’t see it right now. 6-6 (3-5)|
|6||There are a lot of returning starters. A lot of talent. But new coaching and a horrendous schedule will undermine Tom O’Brien’s first year. They could be a lot better than I’m predicting, but the last few years say otherwise. 4-8 (2-6).|
That puts FSU and Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship.
I like Virginia Tech to win the ACC.
Feel free to tell me how wrong I am in the comments below.