Wednesday, August 6, 2008

2008 ACC football predictions

Wes Wilson

Football season is almost here... so to break up the monotony that is Brett Favre news, I have decided to post my predictions for the upcoming 2008 ACC football season. It should prove to be a very interesting season. There are still a lot of big-time position battles going on at campuses across ACC country.

After dismissing starting running back Brandon Ore from the team, Virginia Tech has yet to decide on a starter. Juniors Kenny Lewis and Jahre Cheeseman could split carries before one separates himself from the pack. VT's first big test will come Sept. 20 at upstart North Carolina, so look for one back to get the bulk of the carries in that game.

A number of teams also have ongoing battles for the starting quarterback position with the season's first game less than a month away. Miami has put together two talented recruiting classes under Randy Shannon, but it's tough to do consistently well with a young signal caller, and redshirt freshman Robert Marve will likely get the nod over true freshman Jacory Harris for the Canes' first game. They will only go as far as their young QBs take them.

Tommy Bowden will officially unseat his dad this year as the Bowden most likely to win a national championship. Clemson is loaded across the board. I expect Cullen Harper to win the ACC Player of the Year this season as he leads the Tigers to the school's first ACC Championship since 1991. I expect to see Clemson slip up late in the year at least once -- like all Tommy Bowden teams do -- but that should not keep them out of the ACC Championship game, and I think they will end Virginia Tech's own national championship hopes.

In Florida State, is Drew Weatherford really the quarterback they are going to win with? They will have to find out soon because suspensions dating back to last year's academic scandal could kill this team early on. I expect Florida State to be up and down all season long, but they could set the tone for their season on Sept. 20 when Wake Forest comes to town. And I can't believe I would ever be saying this, but the Florida State players are calling out the Demon Deacons saying they're the team they want to beat. My how ACC football has changed.

As for North Carolina, this team won't surprise many local fans. In a depleted Coastal division, most are picking the Tar Heels to finish second, and four brave--or crazy if you ask Butch Davis--sports reporters picked North Carolina to actually dethrone Virginia Tech and win the Coastal division outright. I have tempered those expectations a little bit. The Tar Heels are indeed talented, but I think they are maybe a year away from seriously competing for an ACC Championship. By all indications, quarterback TJ Yates is back from shoulder surgery and throwing the ball remarkably well, and the Tar Heel offense is starting to come together. This team's speed has increased exponentially under Butch Davis, and as this team plays faster and faster, it should lead to more of those big plays Tar Heel fans fell in love with last season. Also, look for the defensive line, weighted by sophomore stud Marvin Austin and Cam Thomas to be particularly strong.

As for the Demon Deacons, I don't know how they do it, but I expect Wake Forest to have another great year with so many starters coming back. Riley Skinner and Josh Adams will lead the Wake Forest passing and rushing attack, one that has rolled over even the best ACC defenses the past two years.

Sorry Pack fans, but I think it will be a tough year in Raleigh. Like Miami, NC State has yet to name a starting quarterback. Running back will be a big positive though as Jamelle Eugene should run downhill behind the Tom O'Brien-coached offensive line. I expect the line to take big steps in Year 2 under O'Brien. Look for the Wolfpack to come up with a big upset or two this year but ultimately bide time until O'Brien can get more of his own guys in place.



1. Clemson (7-1)
2. Florida State (6-2)
3. Wake Forest (6-2)
4. Maryland (3-5)
5. NC State (3-5)
6. Boston College (2-6)


1. Virginia Tech (8-0)
2. Miami (5-3)
3. North Carolina (5-3)
4. Virginia (2-6)
5. Georgia Tech (1-7)
6. Duke (0-8)

Clemson beats Virginia Tech in ACC Championship

Notable ACC games:

Sept. 20 - Florida State beats Wake Forest
Sept. 27 - Miami beats North Carolina
Oct. 16 - NC State beats Florida State
Nov. 8 - Florida State beats Clemson
Dec. 6 - Clemson beats Virginia Tech in ACC Championship, ends VT's national title hopes

ACC teams in bowls:

Clemson (12-1 overall) - Orange Bowl
Virginia Tech (12-1 overall) - Peach Bowl
Wake Forest (10-2 overall) - Gator Bowl
North Carolina (9-3 overall) - Meineke Car Care Bowl
Miami (7-5 overall) - Champs Sports Bowl

ACC Player of the Year: Clemson QB Cullen Harper
ACC Coach of the Year: Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer

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