Yeah, it's N.C. State.
The Wolfpack has the best quarterback in the conference, two NFL-level game-changers on defense and a smart coach.
Technically, State finished last in the division in '08 but it was only one game behind the winner (Boston College). All six teams finished either 5-3 or 4-4.
Expect the same competitiveness this season. Which means you pick the team with the best QB (his right knee willing) and eight home games.
Consider the alternatives:
— Florida State
Probably will take the preseason media vote because, well, they always do, but the Noles are a hot mess.
Running back Antone Smith (792 yards, 15 TDs) carried that offense last season and he's gone.
Maybe Greg Paulus will play receiver because among the (annual?) offseason transgressions, the Noles lost five receivers to the police blotter/waiver wire. A sixth, Taiwan Easterling, ruptured his Achilles.
Scary that FSU only lost one defender to the NFL (rush end Everette Brown), and the Noles will be good on defense, but don't underestimate the loss of kicker Graham Gano.
If Marcus Sims doesn't fumble on the goal line, FSU beats Georgia Tech and wins the Atlantic, and probably the ACC title. If that happens, Gano, not Wilson, is the league's MVP.
Is there any good reason to believe the Terps will break the cycle of mediocrity they're in?
(Aside: Consensus says Oakland took Maryland receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey way too soon in the NFL Draft. Agreed. But what about the teams (all 32?) that had Hey-Bey ahead of UNC's Hakeem Nicks on their draft board? Insanity.)
— Wake Forest
The Deacs' offense will better in quarterback Riley Skinner's seventh season as the starter — it has to be.
Not the defense, though. I'd take Jim Grobe over any coach in the ACC but as a program, Wake's simply not to the point where it can lose talent like Aaron Curry (fourth overall pick) and Alphonso Smith (second-round pick) and replace it without taking a step back.
With Grobe, it won't get much worse than 6-6 but this is not another Orange Bowl team.
Let's face it, Clemson's broke. They had to buyout Tommy Bowden and they couldn't afford another coach. Hence, Dabo Swinney.
Given the fiscal environment, that's commendable but look at what has happened almost every time an ACC program has hired an inexperienced coach.
The ACC is not the place for on-the-job training. Look at how much further along UNC and N.C. State are with established head coaches who know how to manage a coaching staff and understand what it takes to build a program.
This is not going end well for Clemson. Maybe not 3-9 bad, or no-bowl bad but it's not going to end with a division title either.
— Boston College
The Eagles defied the odds in '08. And I'll be the first to admit I was wrong about that.
But another coaching transition? This one without Matt Ryan at quarterback or two NFL defensive linemen? Or without an innovative playcaller like Steve Logan?
BC won't fall completely off the map (yet), the schedule won't let them, but the post-O'Brien hangover will truly hit the Heights this season.
-- Coastal Division favorite
Friday, May 8, 2009
Yeah, it's N.C. State.