Thanks to Famous Jameis and Jimbo’s best Bobby Bowden impression, the ACC is finally starting to look good. As much as the Big East got heat for being the worst of the BCS conferences, the ACC should have got just as much shit if not more. Unlike the Big East, the talent was there in the ACC, it just seemed like the collection of teams underperformed on a ridiculous scale. But it’s not just the Noles doing this. Clemson has looked great the past few years, North Carolina and Miami have had mini-resurgences, and Duke (Duke…I repeat, DUKE!) is a player now in the ACC, not the doormat. And it continues this year as they somehow were able to upgrade from Maryland to Louisville (good job there Big Ten). Alright, here are the predictions (with the first one being painfully obvious).
- Florida State Seminoles (8-0 conference, 12-0 overall) – What a shock eh? I, along with pretty much every expert out there (and no I don’t include myself as an expert), have the Noles running the table, at least for the regular season. I can’t see how they won’t be favoured in every game, and most of them by double digits. I guess the road games at Louisville and Miami could be considered tests but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Noles never even trailed in a game all regular season.
- Clemson Tigers (6-2 conference, 9-3 overall) – And now for the consolation trophy presentation. It is clearly a race for best of the rest in the Atlantic and despite the fact Dabo lost Boyd and Watkins, this team should still be damn good. One of the tougher schedules in the country will make it difficult to win more than 9 and it wouldn’t surprise me if they won less.
- Louisville Cardinals (6-2 conference, 9-3 overall) – The ACC came out smelling like roses after the realignment this time around. Replacing Maryland with the Cards? That’s a coup for a conference that is starting to bear its teeth a lot more. The conference is already much better with UL on board and with Fun Time Bobby Petrino back at the helm, this should be, well a fun team to watch (as long as they have banned Sideshow Bob from motorcycles…and women…might as well hedge their bets).
- N.C. State Wolfpack (2-6 conference, 6-6 overall) – After the top three there is a MASSIVE drop-off. Basically the rest of the teams will be scrambling for enough wins to be bowl-eligible. The Pack should be the best of those teams. Dave Doeren has had a rough time so far in Raleigh but things are looking up for a team that should be at least middle-of-the-pack (and can always terrify the shit out of better teams like Florida State once or twice a year).
- Syracuse Orange (2-6 conference, 5-7 overall) – Their season should start out so nice. A 3-0 start. Then it all goes to shit. Their schedule is not fun. Notre Dame, Louisville, and Florida State in consecutive weeks makes you think the scheduler has a hate on for Donovan McNabb, Paul Pasqualoni, the colour orange, any town within 100 km of Syracuse, etc. They will need to overperform to try to get to .500 this season.
- Boston College Eagles (2-6 conference, 5-7 overall) – I don’t know if there is a single team out there that loses a bigger part of their team than BC does with the loss of Andre Williams. He was basically the offense. I mean no offense (and pun very much intended) to the offense but he was the man last year. All chances of scoring rested on his shoulders. Super Steve Addazio is a great coach, but even he may want to temper any excitement on the Hill this year.
- Wake Forest Demon Deacons (0-8 conference, 1-11 overall) – Every year there are the best and the worst in various things. When it comes to Power Five conference teams, Wake Forest, in my estimation, will be the worst this year. I would feel sorry for Dave Clawson but he chose to come here so no dice. It will take a few years and some Jim Grobe-like luck to bring this team back to bowl contention as the rest of the teams in this division at least are light years better than the Deacons.
- Miami Hurricanes (6-2 conference, 9-3 overall) – You could make a case that FSU, Clemson, and UL are the three best teams in the ACC. But in the end it doesn’t matter since one team from each division goes to the ACC Championship. It won’t be easy with 5 contenders in a 7-team division but when it’s all said and done, Al Golden and Al Golden’s tie should lead the U to the title game…to be squashed by the Noles for a second time this season.
- Duke Blue Devils (6-2 conference, 10-2 overall) – Hey, a Duke team you can cheer for! Don’t get me wrong, I respect everything Coach K has done. I just can’t stand the basketball team and love it when they lose (like many, many people). Plus, Coach Cutcliffe is pretty awesome so you have that. Unfortunately for Duke this season, it’s the fact they travel to Miami and don’t get the Canes at home that will probably keep them out of the ACC title game for a second straight season (that sentence still looks odd in the Duke section).
- North Carolina Tar Heels (6-2 conference, 8-4 overall) – So Larry Fedora (who I still wish would wear a Tar Heel-blue fedora just to one game…doesn’t matter which one) and his Heels are the chic pick to win the Coastal. They will be better than last year because I assume they won’t start 1-5 this season…more like 3-3. They play on the road against Miami and Duke which, in my opinion, makes it so they won’t win the Coastal although they are on the rise and next season we may be looking at a dark horse CFPMania contender.
- Pittsburgh Panthers (5-3 conference, 9-3 overall) – Great Dave Wannstedt’s ghost! The Panthers will be players this year for sure. Actually, Paul Chryst should make his team a trendy pick to do some damage as they have a great chance to start 8-0 which should get a lot of people talking. The last stretch of four games is difficult by ACC standards and should knock them out of contention for a division title but watch for this team. The only issue may be the loss of Aaron Donald so if they can make up for that, it could be interesting (for once) in western Pennsylvania.
- Virginia Tech Hokies (4-4 conference, 7-5 overall) – This will be a very unpopular pick as everyone loves Frank Beamer and everyone loves Beamer Ball (or is it Bud Ball?). I can’t see how they lose Logan Thomas and improve from last season when they were just above-average and nothing more. Plus their schedule is less than favourable with the Hokies travelling to the four teams above them in this division. I mean they will make it to a bowl (again) but it sure won’t be a Big Boy Bowl.
- Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (3-5 conference, 6-6 overall) – Another unpopular pick I am sure. Look Paul Johnson coaches a good game. A good option offense. I would never want to see a game between the Ramblin Wreck and a military team. No time to get a snack or have a bathroom break. The game would be over in about an hour forty-five. I think many other teams are catching up and are able to defend the option much better. Plus, unless you have the athletes specifically for this type of offense it can’t work to the point where you’re a contender. Just a middle-of-the-road (albeit bowl-bound) ACC team.
- Virginia Cavaliers (0-8 conference, 2-10 overall) – And now to a team that seems like a minor-league outfit compared to every other team in their division. I feel sorry for Mike London I really do. It looked like things were looking up for the program but after last year, it is painfully obvious they are in need of an overhaul. And target numero uno will be London, followed by his staff. I don’t know many coaches who would be able to thrive in Charlottesville but expect a good Conference USA or MAC coach (or maybe Louisiana’s Mark Hudspeth) to take a crack at it and hopefully become the next Al Golden and not the next Darrell Hazell (sorry Darrell, I had to come up with a quick example).
Just like the pick for the Atlantic division, this one is a no-brainer. You could put any Coastal division team up against this year’s Noles and there is no hope in hell for them to win. Florida State should win easily, meaning they get to cement their place in the first College Football Playoff Semi-Final Fun-time Extravaganza. Also too, the Noles dominance will probably prevent any other ACC team of even getting into the major bowls as well. Such is life in the conference that is still at the bottom of the Power Five pecking order (but at least they’re in the Power Five…ask the American conference how they feel).
Finally, on a completely unrelated note, Sportsnet has SHOCKINGLY dropped OUA football from their schedule. And by shockingly, I mean not shocking at all since they paid an arm and a leg (and probably sold some souls as well) to get the NHL package. They have no time in their schedule for OUA football. If they have no time for NCAA football, they sure as shit weren’t going to show anything OUA or CIS-related. Could this be the beginning of more schools looking at the NCAA (at least for football)? Simon Fraser is now D-II and I know UBC has been looking into that. There are a few schools who could actually do well at the FCS level (Laval, Western, Saskatchewan) so it wouldn’t surprise me by the end of the decade if more schools moved in that direction.