Ugh. Here it is: the dreaded ACC picks. Why bother? Let’s just throw some random 5-3 and 4-4 records around, see where they land and go with that. It’d be just as accurate as anything else I can do. But, I know you don’t want to figure this out yourself, so I’ll soldier on, dear readers. First things first: the Coastal.
1. Virginia Tech – This is an easy enough pick. They’ve won the division 3 of the last 4 years and are poised to do it again. Beamer Ball is back in full effect with 7 starters returning on the leagues best D and the special teams always clicking. The O-line has lost some depth, but should be good enough for Tyrod Taylor and Darren Evans to control the big games. When I look at the conference schedule, I don’t see a game they should lose, but it’s the ACC so I’ll throw in an obligatory upset loss in a 7-1 run to the conference title game.
2. Georgia Tech – I’ve railed against and rallied around Johnson’s modern triple option, after watching it blow up teams like Miami and Georgia and seeing it fizzle out against UNC and LSU. Even with 18 returning starters, I think we’ll see more of the same in ’09: up and down, up and down. The defense, especially upfront, will be questionable, but the league’s so unpredictable, the Jackets should coast to a 5-3 record.
3. Miami – The Canes are still a degree or two separated from their old-school domination, but last year was a great step forward. The rebuilding defense was exposed in certain games last season, but could be the conferences best in ’09 with 7 returning starters. If Jacory Harris steps into the QB role and the O-line gels, this spot could be too low of a pick….but I’m not counting on that happening. Look for 4-4 in the conference, with a win at UNC being the deciding factor between 3rd and 4th.
4. North Carolina – I trust what Butch Davis is doing here. His recruiting has been top notch and now we have platoons of starters that he’s brought in and cultivated into a very talented team. While they’re still a season or two away from competing for the division crown, they should make some noise this year. They return 15 starters from an 8-5 squad, including 9 on D. While they win a surprise game or two, they’ll drop the late season game at Miami and finish 4-4.
5. Virginia – I just don’t see Virginia competing this year. With only 11 returning starters and a questionable defense, Al Groh will need a miracle to reach 6 overall wins. While they have a clear advantage over Maryland and Duke, November should see 4 straight losses to wrap up a 2-6 ACC campaign.
6. Duke – Where to start? With both the 2nd worst offense and defense in ’08 and a mere 11 starters, I see little chance for Duke to build any momentum. They do draw a winnable home game with Maryland, but there’s little else to boost the Devils’ confidence. Cutcliffe and company need to use ’09 as a rebuilding year and start trying to find an edge in the in state recruiting wars.
Virginia Tech at Georgia Tech, 10/17 – This could decide the division crown.
Miami at Virginia Tech, 9/26 – ditto.
Georgia Tech at Miami, 9/17 – A game that will most likely be an early gauge on what direction these two teams’ will be headed in.
Miami at Florida State, 9/7 – Always a big rivalry and a great start to the season.
Miami at UNC, 11/14 – This late in the year could see these two teams fighting for a spot in the bowl hierarchy.