When the College Football season kicks off next week, Florida State will be going for its fourth straight ACC Championship. In 23 years in the Conference, the Seminoles have won 15 championships. Add in National Championships in 1999 and 2013, it’s clear who is the most dominant team in the league. And they should be, they are in the most fertile recruiting ground on the East Coast. If you listen to the National radio shows, the “experts” seem to think that Clemson is the pick in the ACC. Not so fast. With that my ACC predictions.
- Virginia Tech – this is probably more of a pick with your heart than based on logic because nothing in the way they’ve played the last two years gives you any hope that this year will be different. I’m not a Michael Brewer fan. His decision making is atrocious at times (see hitting a Ga. Tech free safety right in the numbers last year), but in all fairness he was late getting to campus last year, had just a few weeks of practice before the first game, and he is tough. There were a couple of games last year where he was just beaten up and just kept playing. That I admire. Likewise, if the offensive line would learn how to block and the running game could somehow return it would help his cause tremendously. So, why pick Va. Tech to win the Coastal? Two reasons (1) they had a lifetime full of injuries last year and you have to figure they are owed some good luck, and (2) most importantly defense. There also isn’t a team on their schedule – other than Ohio State – that’s more talented. Yet, would anyone be surprised to see another so-so year just as long as we never have to endure a 0-0 tie headed to overtime ever again.
- Ga. Tech – What Virginia Tech lacks in an offensive identity, Ga. Tech has it. As an old school football guy, I love the triple option and Ga. Tech’s offense. You also have to like Paul Johnson. Yes, he looks like he’s always pissed off, but he’s true to his system and himself. I’d be willing to predict Ga. Tech to win this division if not for the fact that their defense isn’t as good as Virginia Tech’s and the schedule is brutal with Clemson, Florida State, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech and Georgia. If they somehow could navigate their schedule and win the conference, the playoff committee would almost have to put them in the final four and then anything could happen.
- Duke – Talk about a coach who knows his role and where he belongs. David Cutcliffe was a fantastic major college offensive coordinator and how many coaches tutored two quarterbacks who wound up number 1 draft picks in the NFL. His head coaching stops have been at Ole Miss and the Rebels have been mostly a fraud since they fired him and now Duke where all he’s done is win an ACC Coastal Division title. Duke football is now relevant and no longer a pushover in the ACC and this is a school that until it decided to renovate Wallace Wade Stadium had a press box that doubled as the home of the sports medicine program.
- Pittsburgh – Kick these guys around now because I have a feeling that’s not going to last long. This program needs stability and in comes Pat Narduzzi who coordinated some nasty defenses at Michigan State. Add in new offensive coordinator Jim Chaney (all he did was develop a pretty good quarterback named Drew Brees at Purdue) who likes to throw the ball around and Pitt is about to become a player in the ACC sooner rather than later.
- Miami – Poor coach Al Golden. The guy basically walked into a dumpster fire at Miami. I’m not sure his new bosses were all together honest with him at the time they hired him, but the fact is that Miami has fallen a long way since winning a National Championship in 2001 and playing for another in 2002 and Golden has to shoulder some of the responsibility for that. Do you think the ACC figured that when it added Miami to the league that the Hurricanes would still not have appeared in the ACC Championship game? Anything short of that this year probably gets Golden a buyout and a job in television. It also doesn’t help that former Coach Butch Davis is still unemployed and has already rebuilt this program once.
- North Carolina – Can someone please explain North Carolina? It’s a beautiful campus in a cool town with great facilities and in a state that in my opinion is one of the hidden gems for High School Football talent. So why is UNC always so mediocre? North Carolina hasn’t won an ACC title since 1980 and unless Larry Fedora figures out how to at least compete for one quickly, he’s going to join the growing list of those who have tried and failed.
- Virginia – Three words for coach Mike London “Parchment Resume Paper”. It’s not every school where 5-7 gets you another year unless of course, you have a very expensive contract buyout that the school didn’t really want to pay. There’s no chance Virginia sniffs 5 wins this year with UCLA, Boise State, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech and Ga. Tech on the schedule. Moving forward, how about this for an idea, George Welsh is still available. Hey Bill Snyder re-built Kansas State twice, why not George Welsh. Virginia won two ACC Championships with him as head coach and his ability to assemble a staff and recruit was fantastic. For comparison purposes, Mike London’s major staff move was firing the tight ends coach who just happened to be the best quarterback in school history. But, hey at least he has a 1-AA championship to put on that resume.
- Florida State – Jimbo Fisher is Nick Saban with personality. The man knows what he’s doing. Until someone shows me otherwise, Florida State is the best team in the ACC. The game day atmosphere is pretty special as well when the Chief fires the flaming spear into the logo at mid field. The major issue was quarterback and they have a Notre Dame transfer to handle that. Remember, Clemson couldn’t beat FSU when FSU had a back up quarterback. No reason to think otherwise this year.
- Clemson – Okay. I have to admit that I once described Clemson football as a “mid-major” program. That’s not fair and frankly not accurate. Regardless, Clemson might want to ask the ACC for reassignment to the other division because regardless of how enthusiastic Dabo Sweeney has proven to be, he’s yet to solve the puzzle known as Florida State
- Louisville – I still have a hard time seeing Louisville as an ACC team, but they are. Frankly, if Florida State doesn’t win the Atlantic Division, I’d be inclined to believe Louisville would win it ahead of Clemson. Frankly, I think coach Bobby Petrino is a bit of a worm, but he can coordinate an offense and Todd Grantham (from Pulaski County, Va.) has proven he can coordinate a defense. If Louisville beats Auburn in the first game, look out, the sky might be the limit.
- Boston College – Does anyone in Boston actually care? I assume on Saturdays the lead story on the local sports is the Red Sox, not to mention the Bruins and Celtics. Regardless, this program has shown some physical toughness since Steve Addazio took over as head coach. Maybe the Eagles will give Boston a reason to care. After all, B-C largely lives off one Doug Flutie pass in 1984.
- N.C. State – the best thing I can say about this operation is they are just kind of there. Capable of making waves every once in a while, but mostly just a really nice American Conference team playing the ACC.
- Wake Forest – Another beautiful campus. In the time since North Carolina last won an ACC title, Wake Forest has won one. Of course, we all remember them combining with Va. Tech to play the worst college football game in history last year. Every once in a while Wake will be a player in the ACC, but the goal should really be six wins and a bowl game.
- Syracuse – Remember this is the program of Jim Brown, Ernie Davis and Donovan McNabb. There was no badder operation on the block in the Big East in the 1990s and then a stupid athletic director fired the coach and tried to turn the program into USC East. It didn’t work and they are still trying to recover.
Championship Game – FSU over Va. Tech. Now let’s see how many I get wrong. Tomorrow, onto the SEC.