Virginia Tech Hokies
2008 Record: 10-4 Overall, 5-3 In The ACC
Defeated Cincinnati 20-6 In The Orange Bowl
Things To Like About Virginia Tech:
Defense: If defensive coordinator Bud Foster isn’t the best DC in college football then he’s on a very short list. It’s been the most consistent defensive unit year in and year out. The Hokie “D” will be stout again under the direction of Foster.
Things To Not Like About The Hokies:
Offensive Line: It’s been an issue for the last couple of seasons especially in pass protection. The Virginia Tech O-Line allowed 42 sacks last year. They must improve that number in 2009.
Darren Evans Out For The Year: Evans’ ACL tear is a huge loss for the Hokies. He was to be counted on to take most of the workload running the ball. Now the Hokies must rely on two freshman and an inexperienced upper class man at the RB position.
Wilkie: Darren Evans’ ACL injury really puts a down mood on what was and is expected to be a big year at Virginia Tech. Depending on redshirt freshman Ryan Williams, Josh Oglesby or highly regarded freshman David Wilson, an inexperience trio, kind of makes Virginia Tech’s season a crap shoot. I really like Tyrod Taylor who doesn’t have to look over his shoulder now. The QB job is his and Taylor had an excellent spring. Taylor will ride that momentum into the season. There’s pressure right from the get-go opening the season against Alabama in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, a scenario that bit Clemson in the backside last year and ruined their 2008 season. I didn’t think that will happen to Virginia Tech if they can recover from the blow of losing Darren Evans.
Phil: They have been very inconsistent the past few seasons. This year they should be the class of this conference, but I don’t know that they will be. Losing Evans hurts and though Taylor has potential, he hasn’t done much to this point. They will compete for the conference title and if a couple of guys step up, could win it. Definite Bowl Team.
Nelson: The Evans injury, to understate, is huge. I had initially thought that the BCS berth to the Orange would be clear sailing. But now, I’m not so sure… And it will be interesting to see how Taylor responds to the added pressure behind center and out in open space. I still think the Hokies win the ACC, but the luster is off- for now…
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
2008 Record: 5-3 Overall, 5-3 In The ACC
Lost to LSU 38-3 In The Peach Bowl
Things To Like About Georgia Tech:
Offense: Show me a better big play running back combo than Jonathan Dwyer and Roddy Jones? Every time Dwyer and Jones touch the ball it could go for a bunch of yards.. They were off the charts in Paul Johnson’s offense and will be again in 2009. Watch Demaryuis Thomas because he will catch more balls this year as opposing defenses will no doubt overpursue trying to stop the triple option. Josh Nesbitt is the perfect fit to run this offense as well. The skill players are darn good on the Flats.
Things Not To Like About Georgia Tech:
Defensive Line: The D-line lost 3 outstanding starters in Darryl Richard, Vance Walker and Michael Johnson. The Jackets do return Derrick Morgan at DE and he’s good and will have to carry this unit for a while. This puts pressure on the linebacker and defensive backs.
Wilkie: Georgia Tech won’t sneak up on anyone this season and has the opportunity to be special this year. Yes the defensive line will be a concern but with their offensive firepower 10 wins is reachable. Plus don’t be surprised if the Jackets play in Tampa Bay.
Phil: : These guys will be a very tough out. Coach Johnson’s offense is tough to stop. With a year under his belt, Nesbitt will be much more comfortable with it. Dwyer is the best player in this conference…period. The only question is the “D” and there is enough talent there with Derrick Morgan and Morgan Burnett that they will be fine. This is the best team in the ACC this year.
Nelson: When was the last time that you actually talked about UGA and Georgia Tech in the same sentence- and, by that, I mean “in positives” for both…??? We knew Paul Johnson would bring instant credibility to the Flats, but instant success…? Look for the “North Avenue Technical College” to have another run at the division, another run at UGA, and another run at a New Year’s Bowl. But the Jaybo Shaw injury means Josh Nesbitt MUST remain healthy…
2008 Record: 7-6 Overall, 4-4 In The ACC
Lost To California 24-17 In The Emerald Bowl
Things To Like About Miami:
Young Talent: Randy Shannon has had 2 great recruiting classes and that should begin bearing fruit this season. Sophomore QB Jacory Harris is the key on offense. Harris’ job will be to get the ball to Miami’s offensive playmakers and the Hurricanes have a few, RB Greg Cooper, WR Travis Benjamin, etc. Harris doesn’t have to be Vinny Testaverde or even Gino Toretta. Just grasp enough of the offense to distribute the ball. The defense has a stud in Sophomore LB Sam Spence.
Things To Not Like About Miami:
Schedule: The first 4 games on the schedule is a doozy for the young Hurricanes who get thrown into the fire from the git go.. Miami opens at Florida State then hosts Georgia Tech. Then it’s off to Blacksburg, VA for a date with the Virginia Tech Hokies and then Oklahoma at Landshark. A stern test for a young but talented team.
Wilkie: Miami is a year away for being well, Miami again. The Hurricanes will take the punishment at the beginning and we will see just how talented and mentally tough they are. Barring any injuries Miami should be damn good the 2nd half of the season. They won’t win the Coastal but they will be close and go bowling. Watch out though in 2010.
Phil: Shannon is the right guy to coach here and probably should have been the guy a few years ago. He is building them back into the power that they were. I agree with Wilkie, they will be good, but there best years are still ahead of them. A definite bowl team.
Nelson: When Randy Shannon showed up, the new sheriff was NOT going to put up with any shenanigans at all. It’s his stamp on both sides on the ball now, especially after the dust-up with former OC Patrick Nix. Results are a year or so away, but the team isn’t the young bunch of kids wandering lost anymore. Look for another bowl game this year, but 2010 should really be interesting.
North Carolina Tar Heels
2008 Record: 8-5 Overall, 4-4 In The ACC
Lost To West Virginia 31-30 In The Meineke Car Care Bowl
Things To Like About North Carolina:
Defense: They are talented and there is speed everywhere. Marvin Austin is a man with NFL stardom written all over him. If the Tar Heel front can put more pressure on the QB this season than last, only 11 sacks a year ago from the D-Line, they will be a stout bunch.
Things To Not Like About North Carolina:
Quarterback: T.J. Yates needs to prove his durability and the Tar Heels need for him to step up for the offense to shine.
Wide Receivers: North Carolina lost 4 NFL type receivers from last year. The most experienced receiver returning is Greg Little who was the starting RB at the beginning of 2008. The WR’s are a concern at the start of the year however none of Carolina’s receivers are under 6’2” and they are physical. It may become a strength in the middle of the year.
Wilkie: I really like this North Carolina team. The defense is fast and talented with some really good players. T.J. Yates is the key on offense. The Tar Heels will compete for the Coastal Division title and if things fall into place they might win it. But the Heels have to go to Virginia Tech to do it and that might be too much.
Phil: Another team on the rise. There are some good players here. Davis has done a good job getting them competitive fast. The defense is stout and Yates is a good QB. They may not be ready for an ACC title, but a winning year and a bowl game is a lock.
Nelson: Butch Davis… Paul Johnson… guys with a fresh perspective on winning in the ACC. And I think the defense will be able to keep the team on the winning side until the offense gets its sea legs. Agreeing with Wilkie, the Tar Heels will be competitive in the Atlantic but the trip to Blacksburg will be the end of a title run. Another bowl here for Butch Davis and a program on the up-swing…
Duke Blue Devils
2008 Record: 4-8 Overall, 1-7 In The ACC
Things To Like About Duke:
Quarterback Thad Lewis: You don’t hear much about Lewis because he plays for Duke but you look at his career numbers and he will leave Durham as one of the best in the league. Lewis has thrown for over 6, 000 yards and thrown 41 TD’s in 3 years. Duke is set at QB and Lewis has a shot of leading the Blue Devils to a bowl game.
Hungary Seniors: The seniors at Duke have gone to hell and back. After a year in David Cutcliffe’s system the senior class truly believe what coach Cutcliffe is telling them, they can go to a bowl this season. Can you think of a senior class that is more deserving of that reward.
Things To Not Like About Duke:
Replacing Talented Players: Duke suffered heavy losses in talent from 2008. Michael Tauiliili lead the ACC and was 3rd nationally in tackles, Eron Riley was Duke’s big play receiver and 3 starters on the offensive line are gone. Duke isn’t at the level to reload and those will be tough losses.
Wilkie: I admit it, I will be open cheering for Duke this year. Spend some time with David Cutcliffe and you to will want to run through a wall for him. My heart wants the Blue Devils to go to a bowl and it will take 7 wins to do it. If the offense reaches it’s potential and if the front 7 is as stingy has it appears on paper it might happen.
Phil: Again, a good coach and the right guy for the situation. They aren’t ready to play with the big boys yet, but they will be soon. There is some talent here and they aren’t the pushover they’ve been in the past. I don’t think the 7 win thing will be doable this year, but they will be close to .500 and a tough out for whoever they play.
Nelson: Coach Cut is the right guy to get Duke competitive. But without the athlete that the other teams have in the Conference, he’s a fun team to watch even if the wins aren’t there. They’ll be the team you can’t get rid of until half-way in the 4th quarter most of the year. You just wonder how much fight there is in the Devils… I think more than people think there is…
2008 Record: 5-7 Overall, 3-5 In The ACC
Things To Like About Virginia:
Vic Hall: He is definitely the Vic-of-all-trades. Hall is the leading returning tackler and set a school record with five forced fumbles. Hall returns punts and now he will be the starting QB. If UVA has 11 Vic Hall clones on each side of the ball and special teams the Cavaliers would be the favorite in the ACC Coastal Division.
Secondary: ACC QB’s you have been warned, the UVA secondary will be great and perhaps one of the best in the ACC. They are fast and can cover. I recommend to ACC QB’s to avoid throwing in Ras-I Dowling’s zip code. He’s got NFL scouts salivating. That group is so good it could let a front line talent a corner like Vic Hall concentrate on offense.
Things To Not Like About Virginia:
Where To Start: The offense was dead last in the ACC in total offense and had trouble just scoring. The passing game was horrible in 2008. On defense the Wahoos lost their top 3 tacklers.
Wilkie: Al Groh’s backside might be very warm this year and Groh might not give you warm and fuzzy’s but I contend that if someone else coached the 2008 UVA Cavaliers they would have been lucky to win 2 games. Groh can flat out coach football and he maxed out the ‘Hoos last year and then some. All I can say is remember the 2007 team Cavalier fans, UVA wasn’t expected to do anything and ended up going to a bowl. Maxing out this team might mean 6 wins and a bowl.
Phil: : I don’t get what happened to this team. They were very good for a long time and last year they were tough to watch. I don’t think they will be any better this year. While Hall is a great athlete, there aren’t enough guys of that caliber for them to be a threat…to anyone. I say 3 wins and Al Groh is done.
Nelson: I’m still wondering why Al Groh is coach at UVa… the immediate reason is that he had his own son fall on the sword for a lackluster offense. He won’t have anyone else to blame for any failures in 2009, and no one will accept the blame from anyone else. Anything less than a .500 season will mean the end of an era for a coach.
Coastal Division Champion:
Wilkie: Georgia Tech
Phil: Georgia Tech
Nelson: Virginia Tech
2008 Record: 7-6 Overall, 4-4 In The ACC
Lost To Nebraska 26-21 In The Gator Bowl
Things To Like About Clemson:
Speed On Offense: WR Jacoby Ford is super fast. Ford is the reigning NCAA Indoor Champion in the 60 meters plus he has a pair of soft hands. Ford can make big plays and so can C.J. Spiller, who has the backfield all to himself this year with James Davis graduated. A Heisman campaign has begun for Spiller, not sure that’s going to happen but he will get his yards this year.
Defense: 8 starters return and this Tiger “D” has the chance to be the best in the ACC. Both CB’s ,Crezdon Butler and Chris Chancellor, return and they are damn good.
Things To Not Like About Clemson:
Quarterback: It’s not that they aren’t talented it’s just who do you pick. Willy Korn was a 5-star recruit battling Kyle Parker for the starting job. Both can sling it, accurate and can be mobile in the pocket. Plus both lack experience.
Offensive Line: The good news is that the 2 freshman that started on the O-Line last year are sophomores now. They will need to improve with their pass protection this year and cut down on the sacks allowed.
Wilkie: Dabo Swinney clearly won the hearts and minds of Clemson fans and players as the interim head coach and now the gig is his. His fire and enthusiasm is infectious and his Tigers all “all in”. I really like this team in the Atlantic Division.
Phil: They should be better just because the turmoil will be behind them. Despite losing James Davis, there is plenty of talent here. Swinney seems to be a good fit as coach too. I think they won’t be as good as Clemson fans think they should be, but they will be decent. Definite Bowl Team.
Nelson: A little Dabo will do ya, but how much will a lot of Dabo do…? The easiest solution for the offense is for the QB to turn around- and not throw it EVER. They need to ride CJ Spiller as far as he will go, and let the defense pin its ears back and tee off on anyone and everyone. I think it’ll be a really fun year in Death Valley- until the ACC title game.
North Carolina State Wolfpack
2008 Record 6-7 Overall, 4-4 In The ACC
Lost To Rutgers 29-23 In The Papajohns.com Bowl
Things To Like About NC State:
Quarterbacks: Russell Wilson is the most dynamic quarterback in the ACC. Wilson makes the Wolfpack offense move and will be a favorite for ACC Player of the Year as a sophomore. Should Wilson go down with an injury then NC State has a very capable back-up in Mike Glennon who was heavily recruited out of high school.
Runnng Backs: Jamelle Eugene and Toney Baker form a pretty formable running back combo. Baker is back after sitting out last season with a knee injury.
Things To Not Like About NC State:
Defense: This wouldn’t have been a concern at all until Nate Irving’s car accident in June. Irving is sitting out this year so that’s a huge blow to the Wolfpack defense.
Wilkie: I really liked NC State this year until Nate Irving’s car accident. That makes their defense a little suspect even though they have some good players that are fundamentally sound. The offense will be terrific with Russell Wilson leading the way. If the defense adjusts to life without Nate Irving NC State may be on the way to Tampa Bay.
Phil: Tom O’Brien has done a great job making the ‘Pack competitive again. There is talent in a lot of places. Wilson, Baker and Eugene make them a strong offense and as long as someone steps up on “D”, they will be fine. Possible conference title for these guys if they stay healthy.
Nelson: I’m thinking the latter on NC State. The Wolfpack may score a lot of points, but I think they’ll give a lot of points up as well. Slight improvement over last year, but they won’t be playing anywhere close to New Year’s…
Florida State Seminoles
2008 Record: 9-4 Overall, 5-3 In The ACC
Defeated Wisconsin 42-13 In The Champs Sports Bowl
Things To Like About Florida State:
Offensive Line: This group has jelled into the best in the ACC. The Seminole running game should benefit.
Things To Not Like About Florida State:
Receivers: Hard hit by graduation though the FSU has good young talent in Bert Reed and Taiwan Easterling who were productive last year as freshman. This year Christian Ponder will have to rely on them for big plays…. or maybe Ponder will throw to the Tight End.
Wilkie: I really like this FSU team. Christian Ponder has the QB job, the running game is sound and though the defense lost some big time talent they should just reload. Plus I never bet against a Mickey Andrews coached defense. The Seminoles should make major strides this year of being relevant again.
Phil: Another maddingly inconsistent team. They should be better, but I wonder if they will be. Ponder needs to kick it up to the next level in order for them to be successful. I don’t think they will ever be at the level they were seemingly a few years ago, but they will be a winning team again this season. No title, but a bowl game.
Nelson: The Seminoles have been bordering mediocre and irrelevant in the national title picture for six years now. A lot of alums have lost patience with the team and the cloud hovering over the 14 wins-in-question is trying what nerve is left. If there aren’t serious, and I mean SERIOUS strides back to the teams of yesteryear, there may be a revolt. Jimbo Fisher is still waiting in the wings, $5-million buyout penalty in hand, to take over for Bobby Bowden. If the NCAA wipes those wins off the books, both Bowden and Mickey Andrews will ride off into an uncomfortable sunset.
Wake Forest Demon Deacons
2008 Record: 8-5 Overall, 4-4 In The ACC
Defeated Navy 29-19 In The EagleBank Bowl
Things To Like About Wake Forest:
Riley Skinner: You can have your Tim Tebow’s, Colt McCoy’s or Sam Bradford’s, I’ll take Riley Skinner on my team anytime. All Skinner does is put his team in a position to win and he has won more often than any Wake Forest QB. Skinner has led the Demon Deacons to four 4th quarter wins plus he is the most accurate passer in ACC history.
Things To Not Like About Wake Forest:
Inexperience On Defense: The Deacon Defense lost some tremendous talent on defense including Aaron Curry. Only 4 returning starters return on defense so it’s a work in progress.
Wilkie: What does Wake Forest need to do to earn respect? The Deacs have proven they can win on a consistent basis in the ACC and Jim Grobe hasn’t bolted for a big time job (and Grobe has had his opportunities.) Yes the defense suffered key losses but should get better game by game. The offense rarely makes mistakes and has some playmakers. Do I think Wake Forest will win the Atlantic Division? Probably not, but they will be in the mix.
Phil: How many years has Skinner been the QB here? Six? That said, he is pretty good and will keep them competitive this year. They are a team in transistion though. They will be solid, maybe even a winning season, but not much more than that.
Nelson: Isn’t Riley Skinner, like, 32-years-old or something…? He’ll need every bit of that experience to get Wake in position for an early winning start. If he can hold off the defensive growing pains, they’ll be another bowl-bound team.
2008 Record: 8-5 Overall, 4-4 In The ACC
Defeated Nevada 42-35 In The Humanitarian Bowl
Things To Like About Maryland:
Running Backs: Da'Rel Scott had some big games last year especially in the Humanitarian Bowl where he rushed for 174 yards in just 21 minutes of playing time. Devin Meggett has the bloodlines, his dad Dave was Bill Parcells’ favorite RB in the NFL. With Morgan Green Maryland has 3 quality RB’s in their stable.
Things To Not Like About Maryland:
Defense: The Terps return 4 starters on a defense that really wasn’t that good last year. Let’s see what new defensive coordinator Don Brown can do.
Wilkie: Maryland has some great skill players on offense but after that there are many issues. With that said, head coach Ralph Friedgen loves this 2009 team. He told me at ACC Football Kickoff that this team didn’t have a bad practice this spring. Maybe the Terps will surprise this year but to me 6 wins is the max.
Phil: Limited success. There is enough talent to win, but not win big. There is some rebuilding that needs to be done. .500 will be a stretch, but you never know.
Nelson: It wouldn’t surprise me if Maryland wins their games with low scores and the bulk of possession time. But if the offense sputters, that means the defense stays out there too long and gives up too many points. A .500 season sounds about right.
Boston College Eagles
2008 Record: 9-5 Overall, 5-3 In The ACC
Lost To Vanderbilt 16-14 In The Music City Bowl
Things To Like About Boston College:
Offensive Line: Come on, it’s Boston College. They are entitled to have a great offensive line and they do again this year.
Things To Not Like About Boston College:
Quarterback: Who’s it gonna be? The trio that are competing consist of a redshirt freshman, a JUCO transfer and a newcomer/ex minor league baseball player. Not much experience there.
Wilkie: It might be a long year on the Heights this year however, I wouldn’t count out a Frank Spaziani coached defense. Oh, by the way, he’s the new head coach at B.C. It’s obvious the Eagles won’t go to their third ACC Championship Game in a row and 5 wins is probably about it.
Phil: Again, rebuilding is the key word here. There are way too many holes. They won’t be very competitive; there just isn’t enough talent around. Bottom of the conference.
Nelson: Spaz! Spaz! Spaz! Growing pains… growing pains… growing pains. Maybe another .500 team in the ACC. Give it a few years for Spaz to get the team to be truly his…
Atlantic Division Champion:
Wilkie: NC State
Phil: NC State
OSG’s Predictions On The ACC:
Wilkie: Georgia Tech
Phil: Georgia Tech
Nelson: Virginia Tech
ACC’s Best Offensive Player:
Wilkie: Jonathan Dwyer – Georgia Tech
Phil: Jonathan Dwyer – Georgia Tech
Nelson: CJ Spiller- Clemson
ACC’s Best Defensive Player:
Wilkie: Vince Oghobaase - Duke
Phil: Morgan Burnett – Georgia Tech
Nelson: Ras-I Dowling- Virginia