>Wednesday Lunch: ACC Preview

Posted: March 10, 2010 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

>   Hey everybody, it’s Dylan back again with all your college football news and notes. Before I begin I’d like to address one point that my colleague Evan Ream made in his column this week about a player he called Yakuba Dyldogged. For the more astute readers out there, as well as Matt Ream who was my soccer coach last year, you may realize that my name closely resembles Dyldog. That is because I constantly shoot easy chances over the goal during soccer games and practices. The reason I’m bringing this to light is because I am proud of my nickname. Not many people will always be remembered, but I feel like when people remember their soccer playing careers in Davis AYSO soccer, they will always remember the terrible shooting of Dyldog Davis.

   Now that we’ve established my soccer playing skills, or lack of, lets move on to the true reason for my next series of columns. Over the course of the next six weeks I will be previewing every team in the BCS conferences. I won’t be doing it the normal way; instead I will be giving a best case/worst case scenario for every team. I’m not going to take into account injuries because, let’s face it, anything can happen when it comes to injuries. The entire Alabama team could tear their ACL’s on the first day of camp, but it is too hard to predict injuries so unless a player is returning form a major injury or has a history of nagging problems I won’t factor that in, so we’ll leave that alone.

   You may be asking yourself, why I am choosing to set out predictions in this manner. The short answer is because my way is awesome. The long answer is that everyone has a cookie cutter version of their predictions that follow the same mold and become monotonous after one or two articles. Also, because my way is awesome. I also wanted to give lots of leeway for teams because, let’s face it, neither you nor I have any idea who will be crowned the national champion any more than you or I know who will win best picture next year. If you don’t believe me, let me break it down for you using a few examples from last season compared to a few happenings from my life. I’m warning you now that many of these sentences may have convoluted structures and hard to follow connections, and if you don’t like it, go read Dr. Seuss or something.

Alabama/Dark Knight:   Before the start of last season, many pundits thought that Alabama would be a quality, top ten team that couldn’t win the title with Florida in the same conference. Before I saw the opening show of the Dark Knight I thought it would be a high quality movie that couldn’t surpass my favorite movie of all time, Gladiator. The season rolled around and Alabama dismantled Virginia Tech. Although they played very well, it was difficult to judge if that was because Alabama was so good, or because Virginia Tech was so weak. As Batman rode off into the distance and the credits rolled for the Dark Knight, I thought that this was possibly my favorite movie ever. I did have to wonder if that was because Heath Ledger’s performance was superb and the action was awesome, or if it had to do with the adrenaline from seeing an opening night movie. As the season rolled along and Alabama dismantled every team in its path it became clear that they were the best team and nothing could stand in their way. The same thing happened for the Dark Knight. As I saw it more and more times I realized that this was my favorite all around movie. By the end of their 14th win Alabama had cemented itself as the best team of the year and by my 14th viewing (seriously, I’ve now seen this movie at least 15 times), the Dark Knight had shown that it also had incredible rewatchability.

Iowa/Thai Food:   At the start of the season Iowa was ranked 20th in the country and didn’t have too many expectations as they were thought to be well behind Penn State and Ohio State in the Big 11. After the first week of the season they dropped completely out of the polls and nothing was expected of them for the rest of the year. The first time I had Thai food it wasn’t hyped up at all and I didn’t know what to expect. We got to the restaurant and I had no idea what to order and as they made the food my expectations dropped even lower. Iowa turned their season around and went on a huge run to end the season ranked in the top ten. I got my pad thai and Thai food quickly leapfrogged Indian and Italian into the top two of my favorite ethnic foods (along with Mexican). Neither of them were perfect, Iowa lost twice and Thai food is a little too expensive at restaurants, but both of them are solid choices that can’t be overlooked.

Florida/The Big Lebowski:   Before the start of the season everyone was hyping Florida as possibly the greatest team ever and expectations were so high you had to wonder if there would be a letdown. Before I saw the Big Lebowski I was told countless times by my colleague Will Robinson and my dad how amazingly funny this movie was. As the season progressed for Florida you could see the heavy expectations working against them and as the season came to a close and they were not the number one team fans saw it as a huge letdown. Florida only lost once and ended up in the top five at the end of the year, but the crushing expectations at the beginning of the year made it seem like a letdown that they weren’t the greatest. The Big Lebowski was a quality movie that I enjoyed sporadically throughout. John Goodman and Steve Buscemi were hilarious and some scenes stick out, but after the massive expectations I had, it just couldn’t live up. No, it wasn’t a terrible movie, but the fact it wasn’t the funniest movie ever was, and still is, a letdown.

Ole Miss and Oklahoma State/First Disneyland trip:   Ole Miss and Oklahoma State were both talked up during the regular season as possible sleeper national championship teams. Disneyland has always been described as one of the greatest theme parks in the country and an awesome experience. Both teams won their first game and looked primed for a long run to the championship. I went on my first rollercoaster ever and Disneyland was looking pretty awesome. Then a few things happened that majorly dampened both teams and my Disneyland experience. Ole Miss QB Jevan Snead played poorly and the team lost a Thursday night game at South Carolina. Oklahoma State lost to upstart Houston and within the following weeks Wide Receiver Dez Bryant was injured and then suspended by the NCAA and there title hopes went down in flames. By the time I got to Disneyland I was already tired and feeling a little sick and the prospect of spending until six in the morning within those walls was not exciting. All three kept on a slightly downward spiral until they were able to salvage a bowl bid at the end of the year/a slightly enjoyable experience. Overall, both performed far below expectations and were a major disappointment. Although they all could have been much worse if presided over by this guy.

   Now that I have established how crazy a college football season can be, and also that I’ve seen Dark Knight waaaaaay too many times, let’s dive into the ACC predictions.

ACC Atlantic

Boston College: 2009 record 8-5 (5-3 conference)

Best Case:   Mark Herzlich returns from a year off after having cancer and ignites a ferocious defense that plays with passion the entire year. Junior running back Montel Harris adds to his nearly 1,500 rushing yards from last year and becomes one of the premier rushers in the country. Sophomore quarterback Dave Shinskie continues his promising rise and opens up the offense for Harris to have more running room. A favorable non-conference schedule leads to ten wins and an ACC championship title.

Worst Case:   No weapons step up in the passing game and Shinskie has a sophomore slump. Herzlich can’t come back from chemotherapy treatments to where he was previously. While the rest off the ACC has an up year Boston College is still in rebuilding mode and finishes with a disappointing six wins.

Clemson: 2009 record 9-5 (6-2 conference)

Best Case:   Kyle Parker steps up in his sophomore year and improves on his 20 touchdowns and 2,500 yards from last season. A young stable of running backs is able to offset the void left by CJ Spiller’s graduation. A defense that dominated some games and was completely non-existent in others becomes more consistent and balances nicely with a wide open passing game. They take advantage of two 1AA teams early in the schedule to get into a rhythm that they carry through the entire season. Nine wins and a quality bowl game could be in their future.

Worst Case:   The offense and return game implodes after Spiller is not there to save them time and time again. The defense plays like it did against Miami and Georgia Tech last year when they gave up 79 points combined. Two SEC teams on their non-conference schedule offset the two easy wins and they struggle to a 4-8 finish.

Florida State: 2009 record 7-6 (4-4 conference)

Best Case:   Bobby Bowden’s departure gives the full time coaching job to Jimbo Fisher and he takes full advantage of EJ Manuel’s playmaking ability at quarterback. The offense brings back most of its playmakers and the running gets jump started with junior tailback Jermaine Thomas hitting double digits in touchdowns. The defense suffocates opponents like they did at the beginning of last season and they cruise to nine wins and the division crown.

Worst Case:   Players struggle to make the change from the laid back Bowden to a more rigid Fisher. A quarterback battle ensues between Christian Ponder and Manuel that isn’t decided before the beginning of the season. They decided to use a split system and it fails miserably. The defense continues its awful streak from the end of last season and hemorrhages points and yardage. Players start finger pointing and Fisher is canned mid season. Non-conference games against Florida, Oklahoma, and BYU destroy the players’ confidence and they miss out on a bowl bid.

Maryland: 2009 record 2-10 (1-7 conference)

Best Case:   Da’Rel Scott and Davin Megget step up to form the premier one-two running back punch in the country and carries a new quarterback through the first few games. The passing offense finds its way midway through the season and the offense is competitive enough to keep them in games. The defense brings back many starters from last year and improves enough for the Terps to get to seven wins and a bowl bid.

Worst Case:   Early wins against Morgan State and Florida International are the only positives as Maryland equals its win total from a year ago and goes defeated in conference play. No quarterback emerges and Scott and Megget continue their slump from last season and the defense gets trounced again game after game.

North Carolina State: 2009 record 5-7 (2-6 conference)

Best Case:   This is one of the two teams I am really excited to watch this upcoming season in the ACC. Quarterback Russell Wilson is rounding into one of the most exciting dual threat quarterbacks in the college game. He may not reach Vince Young heights, but a Brad Smith level of play is a possibility. If that doesn’t mean anything to you, check out these stats from Smith. That’s 13,100 total yards and 101 total touchdowns! Wilson’s top two receivers return and Wilson fills the void in the running game. The defense plays well enough to keep them in games and Wilson wins them with his dynamic play. NC State lost three winnable games last year but this year they win the close ones this year. That combined with a favorable non-conference schedule vaults them to ten wins and a berth in the ACC championship game.

Worst Case:   Wilson struggles with no help from the running game and the defense completely collapses like it did many times last year. They continue to lose the close ones and finish out of the bowls for the second consecutive year.

Wake Forest: 2009 record 5-7 (3-5 conference)

Best Case:   The Deacons quirky offense and Jim Grobe led defense confuse and stifle opponents enough for them to escape the season with eight wins and a quality bowl game. An easy non-conference schedule keeps them afloat and builds confidence for the remainder of the season.

Worst Case:   11th year senior Riley Skinner finally graduated last year and there will be a gaping hole to fill. What’s that? He was only there for five years? It just seemed like 11? My bad people, that ones on me. Anyway, Skinner was the drive behind the offense and with him gone, multi-purpose threat Josh Adams will be focused in on as the lone weapon in the Deacons offense. I’m thinking six wins is a probability, but three or four is the worst case for this team.

ACC Coastal

Duke: 2009 record 5-7 (3-5 conference)

Best Case:   Duke has returned to respectability under Coach David Cutcliffe and that continues this season as the Blue Devils get a bowl bid behind a balanced team with little-to-nothing in the star power department. Six or seven wins would be great for this team. A close game early in the season against Alabama could boost the confidence for this team sky high.

Worst Case:   Losing Thad Lewis, the do-everything quarterback who was the heart and soul of this team, hurts and the Blue Devils struggle in the tougher Coastal division. Playing Alabama early on in the season kills any confidence they may have had coming into the season and the offense struggles to find its way with no playmakers. I see a return to two or three wins as a worst case, yet very likely, scenario.

Georgia Tech: 2009 record 11-3 (7-1)

Best Case:   The triple option continues to flourish under Paul Johnson as he starts to bring in his own playmakers that fit his system. Losing Jonathon Dwyer hurts, but bringing back Josh Nesbitt, Anthony Allen, and Roddy Jones keeps Georgia Tech at the top of the conference and puts them in position for a possible National Title run. The defense improves slightly over last year and a more balanced attack leads to even more points and yards for one of the nations best running teams.

Worst Case:   A bad defense from last year gets even worse as they lose top defenders Derrick Morgan and Morgan Burnett. The offense misses Dwyer and receiver Demaryius Thomas and in the third year in the ACC, other teams start to catch onto the offense. The defense continues its dreadful form from a year ago, and somehow gets worse. Games at Kansas and Georgia test this team and they prove not ready to defend their ACC crown. Seven wins and a lower tier bowl could be in their future.

Miami (FL): 2009 record 9-4 (5-3)

Best Case:   This is the other team that I am really excited about in the ACC. Last year was supposed to be a bit of a rebuilding year with a lot of young players coming in for new coach Randy Shannon. Early season wins over Florida State, Georgia Tech, and Oklahoma paved the way for a quality season. I see exciting quarterback Jacory Harris improving and becoming a dark horse Heisman candidate this year with a bevy of weapons in the passing and rushing games. Exciting young linebacker Sean Spence leads what should be a loaded defense. I could see this team winning 11 games, including early season at Ohio State, and possibly going all the way this season.

Worst Case:   Playing at Ohio State and Pittsburgh early could hurt the confidence of this still-developing team and four or five losses could be on the horizon. They lost a couple of games last year that they shouldn’t have and if they do that again the Miami fans will not be pleased. They will make a bowl no matter what, barring major injuries, but the glamour of that bowl game could be seriously damaged if the Hurricanes don’t stay focused.

North Carolina: 2009 record 8-5 (4-4 conference)

Best Case:   T.J Yates, Greg Little, and Ryan Houston (or Shaun Draughn at running back) form one of the most explosive trios in the country and UNC bounces back from an off year. If they are more consistent on the offensive side of the ball, which they should be, the high quality defense should push them to at least nine wins. Quan Sturdivant anchors the defense and an early season game against LSU could be make or break for them.

Worst Case:   The offense continues it’s up and down play from a year ago and the defense can’t carry them. No second receiver steps up to take the heat off of Little and the passing game is shut down. Losing big to LSU could hurt the confidence of this team, not to mention the perception of the ACC, and create some controversy surrounding the talent that is not producing at a level that it should. This team should get to a bowl game, but six wins is a possibility on the bad end of things.

Virginia: 2009 record 3-9 (2-6 conference)

Best Case:   New blood in the coaching staff and on the field yield a much hungrier and tougher product on the field than in previous years. I think no matter what, this will be a rebuilding year the best Cavalier fans can hope for is looking forward to a bright future. The very best case would be six wins and a stunning upset of hated rival Virginia Tech.

Worst Case:   This team could be terrible. T-R-B-L turible. A new coaching staff and no stand out players on either side of the ball could spell doom (and a possible defeated season) for this young team. Because they’re so bad, and the fact that I’m reaching 3,000 words, that’s all I’ll say about them.

Virginia Tech: 2009 record 10-3 (6-2)

Best Case:   The first week of the season brings top five ranked Boise State to Washington, DC for what is basically a home game for the Hokies. I am very excited about this game and if Tech can pull out the victory, the rest of their non-conference schedule sets up nicely for them to make a run at an undefeated season, I see the winner of the game against Miami in the second to last week of the regular season as the team that wins the ACC and possibly goes to the national championship game. Tyrod Taylor should continue to grow as a passer and the running back position will be absolutely loaded. Darren Evans and Ryan Williams are two of the best backs in the entire country and the only problem for the Hokies is who to give the ball to more. Both are extremely talented and if Evans can’t find his groove early after missing all of last year with a torn ACL, Williams can step up and challenge for ACC player of the year. The defense and special teams should be a huge plus like they always are under Frank Beamer and if this team finishes outside of the top ten, consider it a failed year for the Hokies.

Worst Case:   Taylor continues to look like Michael Vick, but only when passing the ball. Evans can’t come back from his injury and no receivers step up to help take the pressure off of Williams. The defense and special teams takes a year off and they could easily lose their three challenging games to Georgia Tech, Boise State, and Miami. I see eight wins as the bare minimum for this team and that would be a major disappointment.

   There you have it, the best and worst possible of the ACC. Look for a few teams to separate form the pack, but as usual with the ACC, it should be a close race with plenty of exciting games.

   Now that we’ve reached about 10,000 words (or 3,500, whatever) it’s time for this weeks entry into my top five list. For those of you who lost all of you brain cells trying to get through this massive post, the topic is five most exciting players of my lifetime. Last week was Michael Vick at number five, and this week I’m cheating a little with two players from my beloved West Virginia Mountaineers.

4.   Pat White and Steve Slaton- The country was introduced to White and Slaton in an epic game against 19th ranked Louisville that saw the Mountaineers rally from a 17 point deficit in the fourth quarter and win in triple-overtime. These electrifying playmakers went on to key the upset of Georgia in the Sugar Bowl. Although they never won a national championship together, they won two conference titles and two BCS games in three years. Both were scintillating runners that excelled in Rich Rodriguez’s spread option offense detailed in last week’s column. I became a huge Mountaineer fan because of these two electrifying athletes and will continue to follow their pro careers for years to come.

   Thanks to the two readers who have stuck with this column the entire way through. Look for a much shorter Big East predictions column next week and the number three most exciting player of my lifetime.

  1. >LOL at steve slaton having a pro career. That guy fumbles worse than the OJ prosecuting team!

  2. Flyingoose says:

    >hey i really appreciate that you put your astute readers AND me in the same sentence. i'll keep reaching for the sky.and when you hit that ball right, you have a hell of a shot…don't get down on yourself.

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