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2007 ACC FOOTBALL PREVIEW

 

When the ACC kicked off the 2006 season, I don't think many expected the title game to be between Wake Forest and Georgia Tech. It was nice to see a team like Wake Forest replace some of the "usual suspects" at the top of the ACC last year. But can they stay on top? It won't be easy. Let's take a look at some of the contenders and pretenders for the 2007-2008 season.

Coastal Division

Virginia Tech - There should be little doubt that Va Tech will have a solid year. They always do. The last 5 years have seen them win 10+ games all but once, an 8 win season in 2003. This team brings back 8 starters on offense and 8 starters on defense with just about all key players in place.  This is a defense that was the number one defense in the nation last year. Their schedule looks to be a little tougher this year than last, but this team will win some games and go bowling yet again. The Virginia Tech tragedy will also give added motivation to this team, as they will no doubt dedicate the season to those that lost their lives. Keep an eye on Va Tech this year.

Georgia Tech - Ga Tech returns a good core group of players from last year, 7 on offense and 8 on defense. They lost QB Reggie Ball, however, most feel that's actually a plus. Tech probably overachieved a tad last year, making it to the ACC championship against Wake Forest. Big wins over Miami and Va Tech led the way to a 9 win season. Tech won 7 games in each of the previous 4 seasons. This year we see tech back in the 7 win zone. Look for Miami and Va Tech both to gain revenge for last years losses while the rest of the schedule is a mixed bag. There's 3, maybe 4 games that look like locks for Tech, while the rest look like they can go either way. Back to mediocrity this year?

Miami - Like Florida St, Miami had a down year last year winning only 7 games. Hence, coach Larry Coker was canned and defensive coordinator Randy Shannon was given the job. Shannon has no head coaching experience, however he has a world of talent to work with. I think anyone reading this article could win at least 6 or 7 games with the talent the Hurricanes have. They return just about the entire team from a year ago, a team whose only lopsided loss was a 31-7 setback at Louisville. Miami only has 3 or 4 games on their schedule that you can count as wins already. Otherwise, they have their work cut out for them with most of their toughest tests coming on the road. We don't see a National Title in Miami this year, but with a defense ranked 7th overall last season and an offense that can only get better, we think Miami has a good chance to be playing in a January Bowl game rather than a December one.

Virginia - The Cavs in off a very disappointing 2006, A season in which they won just 5 games. But this is a Cavs team with a defense that was ranked 17th overall and returns 10 starters on that unit. On the offensive side of things, the Cavs ranked a pathetic 113th last year. Not that it matters, but they do return 8 starters from that unit. Hey, it's going to be hard to do any worse than last year offensively. Bottom line, in looking at Virginias schedule for this year, there are some very winnable games. They should win the required 6 minimum for bowl eligibility and maybe with an upset along the way, they'll boost their chances for a decent bowl game. But definitely a bowl game to be played in December, not January.

North Carolina - Can't expect much from a team that won 3 games last year and never more than 6 in a season the last 5 years. Not to mention they only return 5 starters on offense and 5 on defense. But the bright spot is new head coach Butch Davis who figures to get the Tar Heels headed in the right direction eventually. Look for at least one major upset by this squad, as they send a message to the rest of the ACC that they'll be a team to deal with in the future. Other than that, don't expect miracles. 6 wins would be an accomplishment.

Duke - In our article about returning starters, we mentioned how in some cases, it really doesn't matter. This is one of them. Duke returns their entire offense from last year. But big deal, this was an 0-12 team last year, a team that hasn't won more than 2 games in four of the last 5 seasons. But hey, Duke has a damn good basketball team!

 

Atlantic Division

Wake Forest - Wake certainly provided us with some thrills last season, and some nice winning tickets were cashed as well. But it will be much more difficult for Wake this year. Similar to Rutgers, Wake Forest had one of those magical seasons in 2006 where everything went their way.  Not to take anything away from them, they still had a damn good football team. But like so many Cinderella stories, they caught all the breaks along the way. This year the Demon Deacons return 8 offensive starters, many of them key players, such as QB Riley Skinner and and receiver Ken Moore. So Wake figures to be able to do some damage on the offensive side of the ball this year. It's on the defensive side of the ball where they may run into trouble. Stats can be misleading. Wake only ranked 9th overall in defense in the ACC last year, but anyone watching them last year knew that the Wake defense was a special unit. They were among the top teams in the nation in turnover differential and were number two in the ACC scoring defense. Last years defense made some HUGE plays along the way which contributed to their overall success. But they will lose linebacker Jon Abbate, the nucleus of that defense who led the team in tackles three straight seasons, as well as most of their secondary which was weak to begin with. Bottom line - Wake Forest won't have ALL the breaks go their way this year. Last year was special. Their success this year will depend on talent alone. They have the talent on offense but the defense is a question mark. They should win more than they lose this year, but we doubt they'll be the talk of the ACC in 2007

Clemson - Clemson returns just 3 starters on the offensive side of the ball, but while that may spell trouble for some teams, I wouldn't be overly concerned with Clemson. Clemson puts a solid team on the field year after year. Their worst showing in the last 5 years came in 2004 in a season where they won just 6 games. The other four years saw 7, 9, and 8 win seasons. Clemson recruits well year after year. Look for Clemson to make some noise this year and look particularly at three games where Clemson will have a chance to atone for close losses a year ago. A one point loss to BC, A one point loss to Maryland and a field goal loss to South Carolina.

Florida State - Florida State won 7 games last year, 8 in 2005, 9 in 2004 and 2002, and 10 in 2003. Most schools and their fans would be trying to sign the coach of those results to a major contract extension yet at Florida State, they're calling for Bowden's head and saying the game has passed him by! Kind of laughable. But Bowden cleaned house after last season and will be working with a mostly new staff this year. Such a major change could have a negative impact initially so we'll have to watch and see. But the fact remains, FSU has talent year after year and this year will be no different. FSU can play with any team in the country. Even in their "dismal" 7 win season last year, if you take a look at the results, all of the games they lost were close on the scoreboard with one exception. A break here and there and the 7 win season could have been 9 or 10. Speaking of the one exemption, circle October 11th on your schedules. That's the date that FSU gets a chance to get as little revenge for one of their worst losses ever, a 30-0 embarrassment to Wake Forest.

Boston College - Certainly all the pieces of the puzzle are there for a great BC season. This is a team that returns just about all of the key players on both sides of the ball, 9 on defense and 7 on offense. BC has won 9 or 10 games in 4 out of the last 5 season, with the other being an 8 win season. The one major piece of the puzzle that's missing, is the head coach. Coach Tom O'Brien who left for NC ST. Don't underestimate the loss of a solid coach like O'Brien. There's more to coaching than just x's and o's. The kids have to want to win for you. The coach is the nucleolus that holds it all together and makes best use of the talent he has. In this case, these are all O'Brien's players. There's a learning curve here for new coach Jagodzinski, as he was busy as a member of the Green Bay Packers coaching staff last year and he brings in an almost entirely new coaching staff to BC as well. The talent is there, but it remains to be seen if the coaching staff will be able to utilize it. Either way, circle September 8th. That's the day NC ST comes to town. When O'Brien left, he said the most he'd ever be able to win at BC is 9 or 10 games. He said the sky is the limit at NC ST. Look for his former team to remind him that the grass isn't always greener on the other side of the fence.

Maryland - After two consecutive 5 win seasons, Maryland bounced back with 9 wins last year and returns a good solid base of key players, 7 on both sides of the ball, from a year ago. They will however, have a first year starter at the QB position. We don't see a 9 or better season for the Terps this year. They had three close wins last year that figure to go the other way this year. Specifically, FSU, Clemson and Virginia. But they still figure to be able to do enough to get to a bowl game come xmas time.

NC ST - It's been all down hill for NC ST since an 11 win season in 2002. The following years they won 8, 5, 7 and a dismal 3 games last year, which led to the hiring of BC coach Tom O'Brien. O'Brien will eventually make some noise in NC, but it will take time. The schedule is no picnic.

To Sum up - in the Coastal division it looks like Miami and Va Tech will be the top two teams. Over in the Atlantic division, it looks a little tighter. We expect it to come down to Clemson, Florida State and Boston College. We'll pick Va Tech as the eventual ACC champ this year. The team should be great and should have all the added motivation it needs.

 

 

2007 ACC Football schedule

Saturday, September 1
Wake Forest at Boston College
Connecticut at Duke
Georgia Tech at Notre Dame
Villanova at Maryland
Marshall at Miami
James Madison at North Carolina
UCF at NC State
Virginia at Wyoming
East Carolina at Virginia Tech

Monday, September 3
Florida State at Clemson

Saturday, September 8
NC State at Boston College
UL Monroe at Clemson
Duke at Virginia
UAB at Florida State
Samford at Georgia Tech
Maryland at Florida International
Miami at Oklahoma
North Carolina at East Carolina
Virginia Tech at LSU
Nebraska at Wake Forest

Thursday, September 13
West Virginia at Maryland

Saturday, September 15
Boston College at Georgia Tech
Furman at Clemson
Duke at Northwestern
Florida State at Colorado
Florida International at Miami
Virginia at North Carolina
Wofford at NC State
Ohio at Virginia Tech
Army at Wake Forest

Thursday, September 20
Texas A&M at Miami

Saturday, September 22
Army at Boston College
Clemson at NC State
Duke at Navy
Georgia Tech at Virginia
Maryland at Wake Forest
North Carolina at South Florida
William & Mary at Virginia Tech

Saturday, September 29
Massachusetts at Boston College
Clemson at Georgia Tech
Duke at Miami
Florida State vs. Alabama (Jacksonville, Fla.)
Maryland at Rutgers
North Carolina at Virginia Tech
Louisville at NC State (Thursday, Sept. 27 or Saturday, Sept. 29)
Pittsburgh at Virginia

Saturday, October 6
Bowling Green at Boston College
Virginia Tech at Clemson
Wake Forest at Duke
NC State at Florida State
Georgia Tech at Maryland
Miami at North Carolina
Virginia at Middle Tennessee

Thursday, October 11
Florida State at Wake Forest

Saturday, October 13
Boston College at Notre Dame
Virginia Tech at Duke
Georgia Tech at Miami
South Carolina at North Carolina
Connecticut at Virginia

Saturday, October 20
Central Michigan at Clemson
Miami at Florida State
Army at Georgia Tech
Virginia at Maryland
NC State at East Carolina
Wake Forest at Navy

Thursday, October 25
Boston College at Virginia Tech

Saturday, October 27
Clemson at Maryland
Duke at Florida State
North Carolina at Wake Forest
Virginia at NC State

Thursday, November 1
Virginia Tech at Georgia Tech

Saturday, November 3
Florida State at Boston College
Clemson at Duke
Maryland at North Carolina
NC State at Miami
Wake Forest at Virginia

Saturday, November 10
Boston College at Maryland
Wake Forest at Clemson
Georgia Tech at Duke
Florida State at Virginia Tech
Virginia at Miami
North Carolina at NC State

Saturday, November 17
Boston College at Clemson
Duke at Notre Dame
Maryland at Florida State
North Carolina at Georgia Tech
Miami at Virginia Tech
NC State at Wake Forest

Saturday, November 24
Miami at Boston College
Clemson at South Carolina
Duke at North Carolina
Florida State at Florida
Georgia at Georgia Tech
Maryland at NC State
Virginia Tech at Virginia
Wake Forest at Vanderbilt

 

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