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ACC Atlantic Division College Football Conference Preview with Picks and Predictions
The Atlantic Coast Conference Atlantic division was taken by the Florida State Seminoles last year in their first season under HC Jimbo Fisher. It appears that they have only reloaded for the 2011 campaign and Clemson, NC State, Boston College, Maryland and Wake Forest will have to knock them off. Like they say, to be the best you have to beat the best. Let's look at FSU and its challengers for the Atlantic division.
Florida State Seminoles - With 8 starters back on both sides of the ball, the Seminoles should move forward from last year's mark of 10-4. EJ Manuel takes over at QB for the exiting Christian Ponder. Manuel performed well in last year's bowl game going 7-7 as he took over for the injured starter. The running game is strong with the top 3 back in Thompson, Jones and Tomas. They combined for 1,940 yards in 2010. The WR corps return everyone and should do better as a more experienced group. On the other side of the ball they boast a strong defensive line and an improved secondary. Outside the conference they must visit the Swamp to play UF and they host Oklahoma. They will be favored in all 8 ACC games and should once again be the team to beat.
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Clemson Tigers - 2010 was disappointing as they ended up 6-7 despite a team that was fairly decent. They were there until they end against Auburn and nearly beat Florida State too. The offense gets back 9 starters including last year's second leading rusher Andre Ellington. The offensive line replaces only a single starter and could be the best the Tigers have had in 5 years. The QB unit will regress with Kyle Parker leaving to pursue baseball full time. Sophomore Tajh Boyd is a bit of an unknown quantity. At the very least Clemson should make it back to bowl play.
NC State Wolfpack - The loss of Russell Wilson at QB will be felt. The ultra athletic player left the Wolfpack as the 3rd leading passer in the history of the school. It appears he might play for Auburn this year. The coaching staff has faith in new starter Mike Glennon who they have compared to Matt Ryan. Easy there, let's see him win a few games first. He will play behind what is arguably the best offensive line in the ACC. The WR corps is young, but good. On the other side of the ball the Wolfpack have a good LB corp and a solid defensive line. If Glennon is as good as they say he is then this team will compete.
Boston College Eagles - This team finished 7-6 last year and returns 9 offensive starters from that team. Sophomore QB Chase Rettig struggled a tad last year, but with some experience under his belt he figures to improve, especially behind a good offensive line. RB Montel Harris is just 125 yards away from being the leading rusher in Boston College history and his back up Andre Williams is no slouch either. The offensive won't wow anyone, but they will score points. The defense is strong, especially at LB. Look for a big time start where they might go 5-0 before running into Virginia Tech, Florida State, NC, Notre Dame and Miami.
Maryland Terrapins - Things are looking hopeful in College Park for this team that brings back 7 starters on both sides. New HC Randy Edsall has inherited a good team. Danny O'Brien had a 22-8 ratio as a freshman and with an improving offensive line and good young receivers he will improve. On the defensive side of the ball the defensive line figures to move up yet again. Fans should temper expectations as Edsall gets his bearings. Making it bowl play is an honest goal.
Wake Forest Demon Deacons - Usually having 17 starters back is a great thing, but when a team goes 3-9 it might not be so great. Josh Harris at RB is a bright spot with 720 yards and 7 TDs on 126 carries last year. Tough call on this team, but they should beat last year's 3 wins. QB Kevin Sousa is one to watch as he was a top recruit and picked the Demon Deacons over Michigan.
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