2010 FINAL ACC STANDINGS
FSU 10-4 (6-2)
Maryland 9-4 (5-3)
NC State 9-4 (5-3)
Boston College 7-6 (4-4)
Clemson 6-7 (4-4)
Wake Forest 3-9 (1-7)
Virginia Tech 11-3 (8-0)
Miami, Fl 7-6 (5-3)
UNC 8-5 (4-4)
Georgia Tech 6-7 (4-4)
Virginia 4-8 (1-7)
Duke 3-9 (1-7)
2010 Championship Game: Virginia Tech 44 FSU 33
2010 CFBZ Prediction: Virginia Tech over FSU
RETURNING STATISTICAL LEADERS
Returning Leaders: Passing
Danny O'Brien, Maryland, Soph (192 of 337 for 2,438 yds, 22 TD, 8 INT)
Sean Renfree, Duke, Jr (285 of 464 for 3,131 yds, 14 TD, 17 INT)
Jacory Harris, Miami, Sr (148 of 270 for 1,793 yds, 14 TD, 15 INT)
Tanner Price, WF, Soph (137 of 241 for 1,349 yds, 7 TD, 8 INT)
Returning Leaders: Rushing
Montel Harris, BC, Sr (268 carries for 1242 yds, 4.6 ypc, 8 TD)
Josh Harris, WF, Soph (125 carries for 720 yds, 5.7 ypc, 7 TD)
Chris Thompson, FSU, Jr (133 carries for 846 yds, 6.3 ypc, 6 TD)
Lamar Miller, Miami, Soph (108 carries for 646 yds, 5.9 ypc, 6 TD)
Returning Leaders: Receiving
Conner Vernon, Duke, Jr (73 rec for 973 yds, 4 TD)
Dwight Jones, UNC, Jr (62 rec for 946 yds, 4 TD)
Donovan Varner, Duke, Sr (60 rec for 736 yds, 1 TD)
Kris Burd, Virginia, Sr (58 rec for 799 yds, 5 TD)
Returning Leaders: Tackles
Luke Kuechly, BC, Jr, LB (183 total, 14.08 tackles/game)
Sean Spence, Miami, Sr, LB (111 total, 8.54 tackles/game)
Matt Daniels, Duke, Sr, S (93 total, 7.75 tackles/game
Kenny Tate, Maryland, Sr, S (100 total, 7.69 tackles/game)
Returning Leaders: Sacks
Brandon Jenkins, FSU, Jr, DE (13.5 sacks)
Quinton Coples, UNC, Jr, DE (10.0)
Donte Paige-Moss, UNC, Jr, DE (7.0)
Returning Leaders: Interceptions
Jayron Hosley, VT, Jr, CB (9 interceptions)
Chase Minnifield, Virginia, Sr, CB (6)
Donnie Fletcher, BC, Sr, CB (5)
BREAKING DOWN THE ACC WITH THE ZEALOTS AND SPECIAL GUEST BLOG LAMBETH FIELD:
Lambeth Field (Atlantic Prediction: #3): I think more of Boston College than most, but it’s only by default. Their defense could be the best in the league and they return most of the offense that was freshmen and sophomores last year. They have to play some tough games this year, including a road schedule that features Clemson, VT, Notre Dame, and Miami. They should end up with a better than record and challenge Clemson for second billing in the division if Rettig can be the leader that this young offense needs.
Jay (Atlantic Prediction: #5): The Eagles constantly vex me. When I pick them to do poorly, they win the division. When I pick them to contend, they struggle to make a bowl. This year, I'm picking them 5th in the division, so I guess Florida State better watch out. And the truth is I could kinda see this team putting a run if the schedule wasn't so daunting. Their returning numbers are very strong on offense, including workhorse Montel Harris at running back, and if they could sort out their situation at QB and get solid play out of someone like Chase Rettig, they would be a tough out in conference play. They don't have a ton of playmakers on defense beyond Luke Kuechly and Kevin Pierre-Louis at linebacker, but BC has always fielded a stout D under Frank Spaziani. Ultimately, though, their schedule is too stacked, both in conference and out, for them to mount a strong campaign. I wouldn't call for them to miss a bowl, but it's a distinct possibility.
Kevin (Atlantic Prediction: #4): I like this BC team but after I worked the schedule out this is where I have them finishing. I think their ceiling is second place and their basement is fifth so there is a lot of room for them to feast or famine. I really like their defense. If they can find an offense then they can compete with just about anybody in the ACC.
Ross (Atlantic Prediction: #4): Ah, Boston College, the ACC team that annually seems to do just a bit more than you think they ought to. The preseason mags have them picked anywhere from 3-5 in the division, which seems about right. They're better than the dross (like Wake Forest), but nowhere near as good as the upper class (like Florida State). On the bright side, they do have one of college football's best defenders in LB Luke Kuechly, who led the nation with 183 (!) tackles. So at least there's A reason to watch them as they head to another 6-8 win season.
Lambeth Field (Atlantic Prediction: #2): Clemson runs a very up tempo offense and is very quick at the skilled positions. Their defense should be solid again, but with a new QB as well and stretch of games early that would baffle most SEC teams (Auburn, FSU, @VT, and BC) it will show if Clemson is legit or if it is time for Dabo to go. The only reason they are not higher is due the fact they will probably go 2-2 in non-conference games.
Jay (Atlantic Prediction: #2): A big reason I'm bullish on Clemson is the arrival of new offensive coordinator Chad Morris. Morris' career trajectory is reminiscent of fellow former high school guru, Gus Malzahn. He dominated the HS ranks in Texas before proving that his system could work in college during a successful stint at Tulsa and ultimately getting the call-up to the big leagues. Morris comes to Clemson proposing a fairly radical change in offensive philosophy, which is typically a recipe for a down year, but here's the thing to remember with successful high school coaches: They have mastered the art of teaching their scheme quickly, simply, and effectively. And with a wealth of experienced skill players at his disposal, along with 100 starts worth of experience along the OL to operate behind, I expect Morris to get a ton of production out of this group, even with a relatively inexperienced (but very talented) QB. And Dabo Swinney will need that production if he's going to save his job, because the defense looks way down after being rocked by departures in the front 7. Lack of experienced talent on that side of the ball and a tough draw from the Coastal division will keep them from posing a serious threat to FSU, but I like the Tigers' odds to outpace the rest of a weak Atlantic.
Kevin (Atlantic Prediction: #3): Clemson is the most consistent underperformer in the Nation in terms of talent versus production. Dabo is a fantastic recruiter but he just hasn't turned the corner as a coach. If Chad Morris is all that he's cracked up to be then Clemson will be very dangerous this year. If not, then Rich Rodriguez is going to have some fun with this offensive talent.
Ross (Atlantic Prediction: #2): Talented? Check. Inconsistent? Check. Sounds like another year of Clemson football; they'll be talented enough to beat virtually every team on their schedule, but odds are they'll lose one or two games they shouldn't. Because they're Clemson and that's just what they do.
Lambeth Field (Coastal Prediction: #6): Every season, the blog writer for ESPN says this will be Duke’s year. And every year it doesn’t pan out. Outside of probably the most experienced QB in the league, there is not a lot to look forward to this year. They will have to break in some new receivers in the spread offense and the defense has given up a ton of 40 and 50 point games the past 3 years. The schedule is not in their favor this year either, with Alabama being replaced by Stanford and recent ACC whipping boys Virginia improving and that game on the road. Even the home opener against Richmond is not going to be easy, as well as other non conference games against Tulane and FIU. They could get a win against Wake Forest, but don’t look for many more.
Jay (Coastal Prediction: #6): Much like Virginia, Duke is a not overwhelmingly talented team that has enough veteran presence to be a problem for a team that's looking past them. That said, they're going to need pretty major improvement from Sean Renfree at quarterback (17 interceptions in 2010), or maybe even a change to the more mobile Brandon Connette to add some juice to the running game, if they're going to get back to flirting with bowl eligibility.
Kevin (Coastal Prediction: #6): I really like David Cutcliffe so it pains me to peg them as last again in the Coastal but where else am I supposed to put them?
Ross (Coastal Prediction: #6): Someday Duke football will emerge from the cellar of the ACC Atlantic Division. It might even be in 2011 if North Carolina craters as spectacularly as they seem hellbent on doing. But I cannot in good conscience pick Duke to finish out of the cellar because, c'mon -- it's Duke football. But fight on you proud and mighty Blue Devils. Someday your day will come.
Lambeth Field (Atlantic Prediction: #1; Conference Champion): Look for the power shift in the conference to happen this year. Although I think FSU won’t have the best overall record in the league, they will be able to emerge from the Atlantic Division with relative ease. The past few recruiting classes have been stellar, which should turn into an improved record, but with games against Oklahoma and road games against Clemson, BC, and Florida will make it difficult to go unscathed. E.J. Manuel will have to pick up where Ponder left off and will need help from the offensive line to compete with the big boys. If they can shore up the front four and the secondary with the young talent, they should be a team in national discussions if they can get past the Sooners.
Jay (Atlantic Prediction: #1): I'm in love with this team. To the surprise of many (but not me), FSU's defense posted huge improvements across the board in Mark Stoops' first year as defensive coordinator and keyed the Noles to their first 10-win season in 7 years. This year, Stoops returns an impressive 17 of his top 20 tacklers from that squad, including 8 starters. This defense is deep. The secondary is loaded with experience, and the d-line is beastly. Best of luck to anyone who wants to pass against this defense. The only question marks are at linebacker, where two starting spots are open. But when you're filling those spots with freakish athletes like Christian Jones and Jeff Luc, I'd hardly consider it a weak spot, especially not with a veteran like Nigel Bradham to shepherd them through. The Nole D looks so good on paper, I'd probably pick them to win the Atlantic, even if they didn't have 8 starters back on offense, including all their RB's, nearly all their receivers, 100 starts worth of experience on the line, and a superbly talented, mildly seasoned quarterback. Which they do. I can easily see this team running the table undefeated through the ACC. And if they can trip up Oklahoma at home in Week 3, they have a great shot at playing for the BCS title.
Kevin (Atlantic Prediction: #1; Conference Runner-Up): I love the FSU defense and I think the offense will be good enough to get by. I think FSU goes 11-1 in the regular season (with a loss to OU) but then I think they slip up against Virginia Tech in the Championship Game. I think it's going to take them a couple of years to get over the VT hurdle.
Ross (Atlantic Prediction: #1; Conference Champion): I know, I know -- every year for the last decade it seems like we've proclaimed that "Florida State is back!" And then they go out and lose 3-5 games and all the preseason prognosticators look silly because it's Same Old Florida State. But there are a couple reasons to pick them here. One, they did win the Coastal last year, so they're a little bit closer to that whole "they're back!" thing than they've been for a while. Two, they finally have a stable coaching situation in place with Jimbo Fisher directing things, which is a marked change from the tumult of the end of the Bowden Era. Three, they return a lot of talent from last year's squad, including most of last year's key players (minus oft-injured QB Christian Ponder), and coupled with Fisher's dynamite recruiting, they have one of the two or three strongest talent pools in the league. Four, c'mon, do you really have more faith in Clemson or B.C. or Maryland?
Lambeth Field (Coastal Prediction: #4): Georgia Tech is at a crossroads this year. It will be the 4th year for Paul Johnson in Atlanta and the 2nd year for the 3-4 defense, but most ACC teams now know what to expect from the triple option and the defense is not that revolutionary any more. They will get most of the tough games at home, but it is not the most intimidating place to play. Somehow each year, GT loses games they aren’t supposed to, like Kansas last year, and teams like Maryland, UVa, and Middle Tennessee are looking at this season to pull upsets. Throw in a defense that has lost a ton of talent from last year and an offense that is breaking in new playmakers could lead to a massive turnover disparity. Surviving this year and bringing in the new players slowly should be the focus.
Jay (Coastal Prediction: #5): The quality of defense at Georgia Tech has steadily declined since Paul Johnson arrived, and on paper, I see nothing to convince me that the Yellow Jackets are going to reverse that trend in 2011. That means it's going to take an offensive output the caliber of their 2009 non-ACC-Championship-winning team if they're going to contend in this conference, and I don't see that on paper either. First and foremost, you have to keep in mind that most of that offensive success in 09 was keyed by having a superfreak wideout in Demaryius Thomas, who opened up the option game like never before by being able to abuse single coverage. They don't have that guy anymore (and likely never will again, because you can't recruit that caliber of wideout to the flexbone). I've seen some suggest that Stephen Hill could be that guy, and he does have the measurables, but he's yet to show much on the field. And even if he does finally come into his own, who's going to get him the ball, or distribute it wisely to GT's assortment of backs? They're totally unproven at the trigger position. It's always difficult to predict these triple option teams, but all the data seems to add up to bad tidings for Tech in 2011.
Kevin (Coastal Prediction: #4): There are just too many questions on this Georgia Tech team to put them higher than #4. On offense they are replacing the leading rusher in the ACC, Anthony Allen, and their heart and soul Joshua Nesbitt. Tevin Washington showed last year that he's not the man. This will be a rebuilding year for Tech as they find a new QB and try to fix the defense.
Ross (Coastal Prediction: #3): The bloom is off the CPJ rose at Georgia Tech after a ho-hum 6-7 season and NCAA sanctions that stripped Tech of their '09 ACC title. The once-feared flexbone attack is starting to look a little familiar to ACC teams and without that novelty (or Josh Nesbitt and Jonathan Dwyer to run it), it's not exactly the fearsome offensive assault that laid waste to the league a few years ago. Until Johnson is able to find some more truly inspired practitioners of that offense, they seem destined for also-ran status in the league.
Lambeth Field (Atlantic Prediction: #5): In comes Randy Edsall to coach a team that overachieved last year. But they are missing all of their playmakers in the skilled positions and boasts a very small defensive front seven. They will have to sport a makeshift offensive line and rely on sophomore QB Danny O’Brien to keep a level head with all the changes this season. Outside of Towson, no game is a gimmie on their schedule and with a stretch of GT, Clemson, FSU, and BC, they will have to find something that works early, or they will be playing Wake the next to last week of the season to avoid the bottom of the Atlantic.
Jay (Atlantic Prediction: #3): I'm a big fan of Randy Edsall. He is the epitome of consistency, his teams are always going to be fundamentally sound. They are going to run the ball and play solid defense, and as long as he has a reasonable amount of talent on hand, he's going to win 8 games. Period. This year's Maryland team has what I would consider "a reasonable amount of talent," so I'd expect something close to that out of the Terrapins in Edsall's first year there, although their schedule is stacked. The only thing Edsall really lacks right now that he's had the last few years at UConn is a go-to running back (or two). However, Danny O'Brien is the most talented quarterback he's had at his disposal this decade, so I think maybe it evens out. I see a very solid season and a minor bowl game to cap off Year 1 for the Edsall regime.
Kevin (Atlantic Prediction: #5): In the Atlantic I really don't see much of a difference between fifth place and second place. I've got them low because of the coaching change and the fact that I like the teams I've placed ahead of them just a little bit (not a lot) more.
Ross (Atlantic Prediction: #3): FEAR THE TURTLE! Or at least be mildly concerned about the turtle. Among the preseason mags, Maryland has the widest range of predictions in the Coastal division -- anywhere from 2nd to 5th. That probably has as much to do with them breaking in a new coach (Randy Edsall) than it does anything else, because on talent alone they look like a solid bet to finish in the upper half of the division: they return a talented QB (Danny O'Brien), RB (Davin Maggett), and a handful of talented defenders. Edsall was Mr. Consistency at UConn and while he only won a title (in 2010) when the rest of the league imploded down the stretch, he usually fielded solid, capable teams.
Lambeth Field (Coastal Prediction: #2): The Al Golden era has begun in Coral Gables, and he has inherited problems most teams would dream of. The Canes have two capable QBs and a slew of fast receivers and defensive backs. The schedule does not look as daunting now that Ohio State is in flux, but they still have to go on the road to VT and FSU. If Al can find slots for all those 5 star players, especially on defense, they can give Virginia Tech a run for the Coastal only if they can navigate the rest of the ACC and get some help from the Hokies.
Jay (Coastal Prediction: #3): In sizing up this Miami team, I don't think I'll go quite so far as I did with Pittsburgh, suggesting that this particular iteration of the team might have been more successful with their old, underachieving coach (because Randy Shannon made Dave Wannstedt look downright competent), but I do get the sense that there would be less chance of the season devolving into a total catastrophe with Shannon at the helm. They'd win 7 or 8 games and ultimately disappoint, as always, but with the talent he had amassed, it's difficult to imagine the Canes suddenly going 4-8 under his steady guidance. Under Al Golden, who knows? I fee like the ceiling is much higher with him in charge, but he has employed some fairly radical tactics in his first months on the job, and I could just as easily see those blowing up in his face and tanking the 2011 team. With that in mind, I'm kinda hedging my bets on Miami and picking them squarely in the middle of the pack.
Kevin (Coastal Prediction: #2): With the blow-up at UNC and the question-marks at Georgia Tech it would be shocking to me if Miami can't finish in second place in their half of the ACC. I think Al Golden will move to a more running style this year which will limit the mistakes that the QBs make and Miami will be a more productive well-rounded team this year. Look for them in the Top 25 as the season moves forward.
Ross (Coastal Prediction: #2): Like Florida State, we've spent the better part of the last decade waiting for Miami to "get back." Both teams started the 00s on top of the college football world, only to see their empires come crumbling down thanks to coaching issues and increasingly dodgy talent. The ACC expansion was implemented primarily to set up as many Miami-Florida State ACC Championship Game match-ups as possible, which was resulted in a grand total of... zero Miami-Florida State ACC Championship Game match-ups thus far. Oops. Al Golden is the latest guy to try and resurrect Miami football; he has pretty decent resurrection credits on his resume already for exhuming Temple football from the dead, but time will tell. Right now, while Miami has oodles of talent, it's too hard to know how well it will gel under Golden -- and if Jacory Harris will quit being absurdly interception-prone.
Lambeth Field (Coastal Prediction: #3): Where to put the Heels? With the talent on defense, especially in the front 7, and a non threatening non-conference schedule they should be higher. But if if they can’t break in a totally revamped offense, it could be a long season, especially with road games at GT, Clemson, NC State, and VT. It could be a log jam in the Coastal with GT and Miami, but if the defense can keep the games low scoring and the off field distractions are minimal, they could be a very decent team.
Jay (Coastal Prediction: #2): Last year should have been a special year for UNC football, but...well, no need to rehash what happened there. In summation, a tremendous amount of talent was squandered, but the remaining Tar Heels managed to pull together a respectable 8-win year with eyes toward starting the 2011 season with a clean slate. Despite looming sanctions, there was a definite sense of this year being a fresh start for everyone. And then Butch Davis was fired just weeks before fall camp. Now, yet another season of Tar Heel football begins under a dark, heavy cloud. For most teams, I would have written them off the instant that news came out. But here's the thing to keep in mind about these kids: For better or worse, they're well acclimated to adversity by now. Yes, it's a bad thing to lose your head coach a month before the season, but for North Carolina...it's just one more thing. I expect them to handle this ordeal well. And if there's one thing Davis did right during his tenure at Chapel Hill, it's stockpile talent. This is one of the most talented teams in the conference, and I think it would be a mistake to doubt their ability to cobble together another solid season amid the turmoil.
Kevin (Coastal Prediction: #3): Without Butch to lead the team I just can't pick them higher than third. UNC has a lot of talent and they have a high ceiling but I think the turmoil will just be too much for them to contend for a championship this year.
Ross (Coastal Prediction: #5): Chaos, thy name is North Carolina. A bad situation (NCAA investigation clouds hanging overhead) got worse when UNC fired Butch Davis out of the blue. With NCAA sanctions on the horizon (which will probably also bring a "get-out-jail-free" transfer card for current players, some of whom will undoubtedly use it) and a new head coach whose most notable credit is being at the helm of the 2007 Minnesota defense that was one of the worst major-conference defenses of the decade... well, let's just say even this placement may be optimistic. The forecast for UNC football is pain, agony... and a little more pain.
Lambeth Field (Atlantic Prediction: #4): Now while I thought BC is underrated, I think NC State is overrated. While they have the 2nd easiest schedule in the league, they have a big problem to address. If you give them the benefit of the doubt that Glennon is just as good as Wilson was, which I'm not that sure, their defense is a massive sieve. Teams like Cincinnati, GT, FSU, Clemson, and even Maryland have the offenses that can move the ball against the Pack, causing them to play catch up all game. Anything less than a stellar offensive performance from Sean will let teams like BC, UNC, and UVa into games. NC State could start the year 5-1, but the stretch could prove their downfall.
Jay (Atlantic Prediction: #4): Time will tell which of them was right. Was it Tom O'Brien, who thought the main thing holding back this year's talented Wolfpack team was their All-ACC quarterback's love of baseball, so they were better off without him? Or was it Russell Wilson, who thought this year's Wolfpack team was so not-talented that it wasn't worth playing football anymore if he had to play with them? Given the massive turnover in the receiving corps, the lack of a proven playmaker at running back, and an uninspiring number of returning starts on the offensive line, I'm siding with Wilson. Mike Glennon certainly looks the part of a QB, but he's proven nothing to this point, and I see no reason to assume they're better off with him than Wilson. I also don't see the defense picking up the slack. It's been a rather pedestrian group for years now, and it looks even moreso than usual with the departure of Nate Irving. And here's something to be mindful of: The Wolfpack have two non-FBS opponents on the schedule, meaning they'll have to win 7 games to get bowl eligible. It's going to be close.
Kevin: (Atlantic Prediction: #2): Like I said previously I don't think there is much difference between the second place team in this division and the fifth place team. I think the defense will be much improved this year and Glennon will be able to have a good (not great) year at the helm.
Ross (Atlantic Prediction: #5): If Tom O'Brien hadn't gotten tired of Russell Wilson's regular off-season dalliances with baseball and kicked him to the curb last spring, they'd almost certainly rank higher on this list. But, hey, you show an ACC Player of the Year runner-up the door and you deal with the consequences. Tom O'Brien teams are rarely terrible so even without Wilson, it's unlikely that they'll totally bottom out, but they seem destined for some sort of uninspiring 5-7 win season and a possible berth in a minor bowl game.
Lambeth Field (Coastal Prediction: #5): Virginia is probably a year away from making serious noise in the ACC, but that doesn’t mean they can’t have a productive year. Growth in the offensive efficiency and another year in the 4-3 should become evident as the season progresses, if, and only if, they can cut down on the penalties. It seemed every game they were in, they just gave away by committing bad personal fouls and drive killing mistakes. Also with 4 quarterbacks on the roster that could be called into service, finding one quickly and sticking with him should be a priority if they want to pull off some wins. If there is slight improvements to these three points, this could be a .500 team.
Jay (Coastal Prediction: #4): This is a team to watch out for. They're still not very talented (though Mike London has put some serious work into upping the talent level going forward), and their schedule is tough, especially on the back end, so it's still likely that they miss out on a bowl, but they are absolutely loaded with veteran players coming into their second year of London's program. That makes them a very dangerous opponent, even if they don't have a ton of guys who jump off the screen athletically. In my opinion, they are a trap game for every team that visits Charlottesville or thinks they can take a day off before or after a game with a more threatening opponent. I won't call for them to win 6 and go to a bowl right now, but if they can get settled at quarterback early, it's a possibility.
Kevin (Coastal Prediction: #5): Like everybody else here, count me in on the Mike London bandwagon. He has Virginia headed in the right direction but let's pull that train back into the station because it's not taking off quite yet. Maybe next year.
Ross (Coastal Prediction: #4): This is a process of elimination pick as much as anything. I think they have a spunky coach in Mike London who's gradually improving the talent level at UVA and I also think they benefit from playing in a division with Duke (historically awful) and North Carolina (on the road to ruin). Hence, fourth place.
Lambeth Field (Coastal Prediction: #1; Conference Runner-Up): With a very easy schedule, they have the possibility to go 12-0, but with a new QB, who is not as mobile as Taylor was, it will be interesting to see how the O-line holds up. While Tyrod relied on the passing game a lot last year, Tech will need David Wilson to make big plays early to keep up the point production while Logan Thomas learns on the field. The biggest question mark is on defense, where the gaping holes in linebacker will have to limit opponents running game at the second level. But regardless, they should capture the Coastal easily and could make the ACC a 2 bid BCS conference this year.
Jay (Coastal Prediction: #1): I don't feel incredibly strong about any team in the Coastal, so when in doubt, I defer to the Hokies. All Beamer does is win 10+ games a year and contend for championships. He's like the Jim Tresel of the ACC. Of course, the major buzz around VT this year is about Logan Thomas. While I think most of the comparisons to Cam Newton that his measurable have drawn are premature, at best, it's hard not to notice that he steps into a situation that mirrors Cammy Cam's at Auburn last year. He steps in behind a veteran offensive line and will be throwing to a corps of solid, veteran receivers. And while it definitely would have helped if either Ryan Williams or Darren Evans had hung around, I could easily see speedster David Wilson throwing up Onterio McCalebb-like numbers if Thomas can establish himself as an inside running threat. Either way, while the odds are against Thomas becoming a Cam-esque offensive phenomenon, he should be effective enough to power the Hokies through a slightly down Coastal, regardless of what they get ouf of Bud Foster's once reliable defense (though I do think it's likely that unit returns to it's pre-2010 standard of not allowing more than 20 on average and keeping yardage below 300 a game).
Kevin (Coastal Prediction: #1; Conference Champion): Virginia Tech has gone to a BCS bowl in three of the last four years and they've won three of the last four ACC Championship Games. So I'm riding the odds on this one. To be the man you have to beat the man. I really like FSU but I'm going to go with VT until FSU beats them. I think VT is going to be much improved on defense this year and that will really carry this team until Logan Thomas gets comfortable.
Ross (Coastal Prediction: #1; Conference Runner-Up): Picking Virginia Tech to finish first in this division is like picking the sun to rise in the east every monring, but hey: sometimes you gotta be boring when boring wins (and wins, and wins, and wins...). There's nothing sexy about picking Virginia Tech here, but Frank Beamer and Bud Foster have hit on a winning formula that's enabled them to all-but-dominate the ACC for the better part of a half-decade now. They do have some significant holes to fill (new QB, new-ish RB, three new starters on the DL), but they have a pretty cake schedule, too. Until further notice, Va Tech reigns supreme here.
Lambeth Field (Atlantic Prediction: #6): The good news is they played a ton freshmen last year. The bad news is they lost 9 in a row after starting 2-0 with those players. Now comes all new coordinators and a 3-4 defense they installed in the middle of last year. There are just to many things that have to go right with this team to keep up with most of the league. Outside of Gardner-Webb and maybe Vandy at home, it will be tough to keep the players and the fans happy this year in Winston-Salem, and the coordinator changes Jim Grobe has made hark on the same moves Al Groh did in his last year at UVa to try to salvage his job.
Jay (Atlantic Prediction: #6): What do you want me to say? It's Wake Forest. Jim Grobe is a very respectable coach, and he engineered some surprising winners during the dark age of the ACC, but the conference has come back around, and Wake has returned to it's rightful place. They have a solid core coming back, so maybe they jump up and bite a few people, but they're not escaping the cellar in the Atlantic and they're not going bowling.
Kevin (Atlantic Prediction: #6): Ah, Wake Forest. They get both VT and FSU and their most winnable in-conference game (Duke) is on the road. I think it's going to be a long year for Wake.
Ross (Atlantic Prediction: #6): Was it really just five seasons ago that Wake won the ACC and played in the Orange Bowl? What a strange fever dream that run was. Anyway, Wake is back to being Wake at football -- i.e., no damn good at all.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR PREDICTIONS:
Lambeth Field: E.J. Manuel, QB, Florida State. The MVP should be the best player on the best team, and if FSU is going to compete not only in conference but nationally, he needs to show that he can lead this team of exciting players. Forced into action in two big games, including the ACC Championship game last year will give him the benchmark he will need to perform at all year, and he has the skills to do just that.
Jay: Tajh Boyd, Quarterback, Clemson. Typically, you'd pick the best player on the best team for this type of award, usually the quarterback, in which case I'd be going with EJ Manuel or Logan Thomas here. But Jimbo is going to keep things balanced at FSU, which is going to keep EJ's statistics somewhat pedestrian. I think a lot of the hype on Thomas is premature at best, and Hokie offenses have developed a reputation for underwhelming when expectations are high. So I'm going with Boyd. I expect this offense to be surprisingly explosive in Chad Morris' first year. A Brandon Weeden-esque "Where did that guy come from?" type of season could be in order for Clemson's QB.
Kevin: Jayron Hosley, CB, Virginia Tech. I really like EJ Manuel and Logan Thomas and I have VT and FSU as my top teams in their divisions but I just don't think they will be good enough (at least statistically) to merit a Player of the Year Award. So I'm going with the best defensive player on the team that I think will win the conference.
BREAKOUT PLAYER OF THE YEAR PREDICTIONS:
Lambeth Field: Tim Smith, WR, Virginia. I’m going to use my one homer card on this one. Tim Smith is a very dynamic player that was injured all of last year but was slotted as a true sophomore to be the #1 wide receiver. Not only has he flashed speed to get behind defenses, including a TD reception against TCU, but he can be a very effective kick and punt returner as well. It was the philosophy of London to get the man as many touches as possible last year, and nothing has changed this year.
Jay: Logan Thomas, Quarterback, Virginia Tech. I guess Boyd would technically qualify here, as well, but I thought I'd spread the love around a little. And, yes, I know I've spent the bulk of this preview downplaying Thomas, but the bottom line is he is going to be the quarterback for one of the best teams with a lot of experienced talent around him. If he doesn't have a breakout season, it will be considered nothing short of a major disappointment.
Kevin: Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech. Thomas has a number of weapons at WR and a very explosive backfield mate in David Wilson and I think that will help him ease into the starting role this year. By the end of the year he's going to be a superstar.
CFBZ PREDICTED 2011 ACC FINISH
3 NC State
4 (tie) Boston College
4 (tie) Maryland
6 Wake Forest
1. Virginia Tech
2. Miami, Fl
4. Georgia Tech
ACC Championship Game: FSU over Virginia Tech