ACC Atlantic Division Preview from MadduxSports.com
When we were constructing our NCAA football predictions yearbook and free season preview, the ACC Atlantic division was without a doubt the most challenging to predict. After Florida State, the skill level between Atlantic teams 2-6 is microscopic. When we come across a scenario like this where the teams are so comparable, we have to really rely on the schedule to sort out the order of finish. Add some new coaches to the mix, Cinderella stories, bizarre stats and the challenge to take the ACC Atlantic expects to be one thrilling race this season.
1) Florida State – After a 3-5 ACC record in 2006, most prognosticators are down on the Seminoles. Maybe it is the fact that Florida State has lost 22 games in the last 5 seasons and is not just the dominant Seminole team of old. Or it could be the fact Bowden has a plethora of new coordinators. I am not buying it. Last season they were young and had very few seniors. Seventeen freshmen saw playing time, but guess what all those guys have experience now. As for the coaches, Jimbo Fisher, Rick Trickett, and Chuck Amato are all viable head coaching candidates; these are not your normal run of the mill coaches.
FSU will be lead by their defense that only allowed 92.5 ypg rushing in 06. The defensive line is arguably the best in entire nation and goes 2 deep at all 4 spots. Former JUCO All-American Paul Griffin is back from an early season knee injury which will move tackle by trade Andre Fluellen back to his normal position. The linebacking corps loses a couple of players to the NFL including stud Lawrence Timmons. Early injuries to the line backers hurt last years output but if the Seminoles can stay injury free you could actually see melioration in this unit.
The offense will hinge on how fast Drew Weatherford learns Jimbo Fisher’s playbook. If the learning curve is quick, the Seminoles will be explosive and should average 30 ppg. Don’t forget that while he was the offensive coordinator at LSU, Fishers offense’s averaged 30 points a game against SEC defenses. How do you think his troops will do playing against inferior competition? I fully expect a return to prominence for the Noles and anticipate seeing them in a BCS game in January of 08.
2) Wake Forest – No one is giving the Demon Deacons a chance to repeat as ACC champions, but I’ll bite. We all know that Wake Forest was very fortunate having the ball bounce their way in 2006 (+13 TO margin & +3 in close wins), but a lot of the success has to be accredited to perhaps the ACC’s best coaching staff lead by Jim Grobe. To dismiss the TO issue, the Demon Deacons are normally on the plus side of the turnover numbers because of Steed Lobotzke’s confusing innovative offensive schemes and Dean Hood’s ball hawking defense. Wake Forest returns 14 starters, including 9 on offense which should get the Deacs scoring back in the mid 20’s. Their ACC schedule is also the weakest in the entire conference and they get the lucky draw of playing the 2 bottom feeders from the Coastal; Duke & North Carolina. We won’t go out on a limb and say they repeat last year’s magical season, but there will not be that huge drop in the standings that you are reading about everywhere else.
3) Clemson – After starting the season 7-1 the Tigers fell flat on their face finishing at 8-5. They capped off the late season futility by losing to Kentucky 28-20 in the Music City bowl. Even with the dynamic running back duo of James Davis and CJ Spiller, the offense could be in some trouble. No Tiger quarterback has played a meaningful snap and the offensive line must be retooled. The defense is one of the ACC’s best and will need to carry the club until the offense gels. Clemson is young only having 8 senior scholarship players. The schedule is one of the more manageable ones in the ACC which is we are calling for a 3rd place finish and 5-3 record in ACC play even though some teams listed below the Tigers are more gifted.
4) NC State – Last years 9 losses (most since 1959) sparked the Wolfpack to fire Chuck Amato and hire rival BC Eagle coach Tom O’Brien. O’Brien immediately brings a no-nonsense attitude guaranteeing to repair the undisciplined penalties and turnovers that plagued NC State during the Amato era. NC State was hindered by a -11 in turnover margin and 5 close losses in 06, so better luck is anticipated. If the Wolfpack can solve the QB quandary and the defense retools after losing their top 2 tacklers, expect to see the Wolfpack bowling again.
5) Boston College – The Eagles had to a hire a new head coach after Tom O’Brien bolted away to rival NC State before last years bowl game. Jeff Jagodzinski is now the man in charge and inherits O’Brien’s talented recruits. Jagodzinski is a young and innovative offensive coach who spent some time in the NFL before taking the position. He also has some familiarity with Boston College as he was the offensive coordinator for the Eagles from 1997-98. Senior quarterback Matt Ryan is one of the best and toughest guys in the country passing for almost 3,000 yards while playing most of last season with a broken foot. Boston College returns 17 starters from a team that won their 7th straight bowl game the year before. Why are we so down on the Eagles? BC benefited from a +15 turnover margin in 2006. They also have a new head coach and are running new offensive schemes. Add to it that BC has arguably the toughest ACC schedule drawing the top three Coastal division teams and we have to place the Eagles in the 5th slot.
6) Maryland – We are still scratching our heads trying to figure out how the Terrapins finished with a 9-4 record last year. In the 2006 season Maryland won 5 ACC games by a combined margin of victory of only 13 points! They were also outgained by 85 yards per contest in all ACC games. They had six close wins overall and tremendous fortune like that doesn’t often repeat itself. Maryland does return 8 starters on offense so expect improvement on the 21 points per game. Maryland’s club is refined but the win/loss record won’t reflect it.
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