Most teams in the conference are about to begin fall practice, and for almost all, optimism abounds with every team having a reasonable shot at reaching this year?s ACC title game. Well, everyone except Duke. In an effort to be fair, the ACC is allowing them to compete for the North Carolina 4A State High School Championship. Sadly, they aren?t even favored to win that. Without further ado, here?s the expected finish of all teams within the ACC.
Miami Hurricanes: expected finish 11-1
Hurricanes? head coach Larry Coker suspended four players, including two starters, for the first two games of the season for violations of team policy. Sophomore Willie Williams has been arrested 11 times in his life. Senior Brandon Meriweather shot at a man in his home two weeks ago. And there?s a litany of Hurricanes in the NFL who have been arrested. Coker, a realist, isn?t just prepping his kids for a NFL job. He wants to give them a little more security when they get of school. Prison perhaps?
Virginia Tech: 11-1
Redshirt sophomore Sean Glennon is at the top of the Hokie depth chart as preseason practices begin. A confused Ike Whitaker noted that he put in all the offseason requirements to start at Tech, even getting suspended before the start of spring practices. Meanwhile, experts have noted that the soft schedule the Hokies play could affect their Bowl Championship Series rating. Tech officials scoffed at this notion, reminding everyone that the only thing that hurts Tech?s chances at a national title is playing Miami every year.
North Carolina: 9-3
Over the past two years North Carolina is the only school to have teams play in the NCAA Men?s Basketball Final four, the Women?s Basketball Final Four, the Men?s Baseball College World Series and the Continental Tires Bowl. Baby steps for a program that is growing. And growing indeed; three Tar Heel offensive linemen have added a combined 140 pounds since they entered college one year ago. That?s almost 50 pounds a person, or one tenth each of head coach John Bunting.
Georgia Tech: 6-6
The Yellow Jackets are blessed with ACC Preseason Player of the Year Calvin Johnson and cursed with quarterback Reggie Ball, who was the worst in the ACC with a 48 percent completion rate, third in interceptions with 12 and a name that I?m not sure is really weird or really cool.
Head coach Chan Gailey was the first-ever Dallas Cowboys coach not to win a Super Bowl. With four other Georgia Tech coaches having won national titles during their Atlanta tenures, Gailey shouldn?t have a problem repeating his success with the Cowboys
University of Virginia: 5-7
In five short years, head coach Al Groh has completely changed the culture in Charlottesville, getting students to wear orange tee-shirts to games instead of dress shirts and ties. In his sixth season, he will embark on his most ambitious goal yet ? fielding a decent football team.
Eight of UVa?s 24 signees for the 2006 season were ruled academically ineligible or failed to meet UVa?s academic standards. According Groh: ?I wouldn?t say (our program) took a hit, I?d say it followed the plan.? Wait. His plan was for a third of his recruits not to get in to school? Well, I guess all those 8-4 seasons make sense now.
Starting quarterback Zack Asack was suspended for a year after he was caught plagiarizing a term paper, leading many newspapers to creatively headline the story ?Duke sacks Asack.? But really, after being sacked 31 times last season, head coach Ted Roof decided to go with someone with a more promising pedigree ? new recruit Jeff Apocketmanuverability. Former Duke running back Bob Pascal has offered up to $1,000,000 in matching funds to encourage donations to improve Blue Devils football, or infinity dollars per ACC win. Most teams have a countdown to kickoff on their team?s homepage. Duke has a countdown until their final game.
Florida State: 12-0
Recently, the ACC announced guidelines to reschedule games due to impending or recently occurred hurricanes. Florida State lobbied hard to get its game against Miami rescheduled, because at 1-3 in the past four years, these Hurricanes always seem to interfere with the Seminoles? season. The FSU media guide was ranked fifth nationally in aesthetic quality. How?d they do so well? No pictures of Bobby Bowden.
Head coach Ralph Friedgen has lost nearly 30 pounds in the offseason. The Fridge has no one to thank but himself. After a 5-6 season, the Terps? coach wasn?t able to binge on a bowl game buffet. After his quarterbacks? poor play over the last few years, Friedgen invested in a computer simulator that turned his entire playbook into a video game for his quarterbacks to play. Now all they need is something that can turn Sam Hollenbach into a real quarterback.
Boston College: 9-3
The Golden Eagles were one of only six teams to graduate over 90 percent of its football team. Playing in the same division as Florida State, they also fall in an exclusive group ? Boston College is one of five teams with 100 percent chance of never winning the Atlantic Division. In the midst of a brutal stretch: Central Michigan, Maine and Buffalo, BC scheduled some ACC games to give them a break.
North Carolina State: 7-5
NC State didn?t score more than 24 points against any I-A football team last year. The only time they scored over 24 was in a 54-10 shellacking of I-AA Eastern Kentucky. The solution to the offensive woes of last year: more I-AA opponents. Over the past two years, the Wolfpack have defeated the eventual ACC Champions, beating Florida State last year and Virginia Tech in 2004. In the past two years, however, NC State has not finished higher than eighth in the conference. Coach Chuck Amato?s explanation: irony.
The Tigers are returning all five starting offensive linemen from last year?s squad. Twenty-five years ago, they did that and won the national title, which is why the Tigers are the trendy pick by many journalists to win the Atlantic, even though they graduated their starting quarterback of the past four years, Charlie Whitehurst. On a completely unrelated note, journalists have picked Speed 2 to win the upcoming All-Time Action Film Awards despite that picture also having retained backup roles but losing its lead.
Wake Forest: 4-8
The Demon Deacons return 19 starters from a team that went 3-5 in ACC play last year. Whether that?s reason to be optimistic or pessimistic, well, coaches aren?t saying. Wake Forest already announced that tickets for the Meineke Car Care Bowl have gone on sale. That bowl typically picks the fifth place finishers in the ACC. I guess that?s optimism at Wake Forest. A whole lot of optimism.