2013-08-12

FBS - Preview - ACC

The next conference was (and still is) always a mystery for me.
Somehow I always thought the teams did not fit the right way.
There are very heavy teams and there are those "always losing" teams, but that picture is only one dimensional if you only look at football. The powers do shift if you look at other sports like Basketball.
So I accept the differences as they are in football and might just wonder from time to time regarding the odd constellation.

Atlantic Coast Conference
The ACC was stable since 2005, but now some changes did happen or are coming.
Syracuse and Pitt did join for 2013 and the conference has now 14 teams.
Next season will Maryland join the Big 10 and Louisville will join from the AAC to keep the team amount at 14.
Let's hope this will be all. But I doubt it, since the Big 12 is still a few teams short (for a championship game) and they will for sure recruit not from the bottom.

Teams added 2013:
Syracuse (from the Big East (now the American))
Pittsburgh (from the Big East (now the American))

Teams lost 2013:
NONE

The 14 teams are:

Atlantic Division:
Boston College Eagles
Clemson University Tigers
Florida State University Seminoles
University of Maryland Terrapins
North Carolina State University Wolfpack
Syracuse University Orange
Wake Forest University Demon Deacons

Coastal Division:
Duke University Blue Devils
Georgia Institute of Technology Yellow Jackets
University of Miami Hurricanes
University of North Carolina Tar Heels
University of Pittsburgh Panthers
University of Virginia Cavaliers
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University Hokies

Now let's get a bit into the details:
Atlantic Division

Boston College Eagles
The Eagles did suffer a bit the last four years.
Frank Spaziani did coach it to the ground.
He took over a back to back Division champ (which had 9 wins in his last season) and in his first year it looked OK. 8-5 and a 2nd place in the Division.
Then came 7-6, then 4-8 and at last 2-10!
No wonder he was let go and Steve Addazio was hired away from Temple.
If this will solve the issue has to be seen, Addazios last season was a 4-7 season at Temple.
This team will definitely NOT compete for anything in this season.

Non-Conference games are against: Villanova (FCS), @USC, Army and @New Mexico State.
They team might win all of those except the USC game, but that's no guarantee.
I assume a 3-1 here, since the Eagles should be a bit better on paper.

The problem is the rest of the schedule will likely be all losses.
If we only concentrate on the not too tough teams we have Wake Forest on the 2nd day at home and Maryland and Syracuse both on the road at the end of the season.
They also got North Carolina and Virginia Tech from the other Division.

A bottom team and no Bowl in sight.

Clemson Tigers
Many do see Clemson already as the division champ, maybe even as Conference Champ.
That scenario is not unlikely, but Florida State will probably have a say in that.
Still, Dabo Swinney is in his 5th season and Clemson is doing fine.
Back-to-Back double digit win season are very good.
And they will do it again this season, there is no doubt from me, but I'm not sure about the "that's enough to win it all part".

Non-Conference games are against: Georgia, South Carolina State (FCS), The Citadel (FCS) and @South Carolina.
I'm can't understand how this schedule did happen ...
Two SEC teams are sandwiching a complete season and in the middle are two cupcakes to boost the win record?
Both SEC games will be tough, but if Clemson does back up the hype, they will win at least one of them, maybe even both.
I'm expecting 3-1 here.

The rest is very favourable for Clemson to win the Division.
They got FSU at home, NC State as an away game, but after a bye week, Georgia Tech and Virginia from the Coastal. It could have been much tougher.

Favourite for the Division title and for the conference championship.

Florida State Seminoles
Clemson might win it all this season, but not without a fight against the Noles.
Jimbo Fisher is in his fourth season and unfortunately he is in some kind of rebuilding season.
So he will need all his coaching skills if he wants to repeat last season as conference champions.

Non-Conference games are against: Nevada, Bethune-Cookman (FCS), Idaho and @Florida.
Well, you never know how the rivalry game against Florida will turn out, but I assume a loss for the Noles this season.
The rest is winnable or a sure win.

For the conference games, they got a short end of the stick this season.
They have Clemson on the road, Pittsburgh and Miami (FL) from the Coastal.
The only better thing is (for positioning as 2nd best in the Atlantic Division) the fact they have to play NC State at home in mid-season.

I see them as contender for the Division title and a sure Bowl team.

Maryland Terrapins
This is the last season for Maryland to play in the ACC.
Randy Edsall is in his 3rd year and did boost the win record from 2 to 4 in last season.
Not enough for many.
This season he has a better team and might get Bowling.

Non-Conference games are against: FIU, Old Dominion (FCS), @UConn and West Virginia.
Mark a 3-1 for those games as possible with only the WV game as too much to get.

Then they have to face the conference teams all afterwards.
The good thing is they have Virginia, Syracuse and Boston College at home.
Those games alone could be the bowl ticket.
Add Wake Forest (but on the road) and you can see why they MIGHT get bowling.
The other teams will have a say in that.

I expect them to compete at mid field level and GET bowling.

North Carolina State Wolfpack
Dave Doeren took over the pack and is coming from a very successful 2-year stint at Northern Illinois.
The situation here is a bit different that the MAC environment, but he will probably bring back some pride into the Wolfpack.
Expectations are sky high!
The predecessor was let go, because 3 consecutive bowls season (but never better than 8 wins) were not enough.

Non-Conference games are against: Louisiana Tech, Richmond (FCS), Central Michigan and East Carolina.
Yes, all are home games and all are manageable. LT will be a bit of a challenge, as East Carolina, but I’m expecting 3-1 out of this.
At least.

They have North Carolina and Duke from the Coastal and have to play Clemson at home and FSU on the road.
Would have been this (Clemson and FSU) the other way around, I would have given them the edge for 2nd place in the Atlantic.

They will be contenders, and Bowlers but probably not enough for a champion season.
Wait 1-2 seasons, please.

Syracuse Orange
The Orange promoted Scott Shafer to Headcoach after Doug Marrone was hired as new Headcoach of the Buffalo Bills.
He takes over a squad which had won a share of the Big East title last season with 8 wins in total.

Now Shafer has to adjust to the ACC in his first season with a lot of strong team next to him.
It will be interesting to see, how the team will perform, but don’t expect too much for the start.

Non-Conference games are against: Penn State, @Northwestern, Wagner (FCS) and Tulane.
This will be a not so easy start facing the two Big 10 teams. The rest should be wins.
2-2 sounds OK.

With Georgia Tech and Pittsburgh they did not get the easiest opponents from the Coastal but do have to play BC and Wake Forest at home which should help them to keep a mid-field position.
But don't expect them to climb much higher. They have to face Maryland on the road, which might be the key game for better standings or even a Bowl.

Mid-field team.

Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Wake Forest is never a powerhouse.
Since 13 seasons (including the upcoming) Jim Grobe is the Headcoach and he did the most out of the program, the best he got was a conference title (OK, that's very good!) and 5 Bowl seasons.
Last season they had a 5-7 record.
This season might get worse.

Non-Conference games are against: Presbyterian (FCS), Louisianaâ€"Monroe, @Army, @Vanderbilt.
The FCS game should be a sure win, but don't expect much from the rest.
Yes, LMU is a SBC team, and Army is also not that good, but the Deacons are also not that good.
Every game will be tough and if they are lucky the get 3-1 out of it.

Inside the conference they probably will also battle every game and will probably lose most of them.
They have to play BC and Syracuse on the road, which will make those games not easier.
But they will need those wins to get a better record than last season.
They got Miami and Duke from the Coastal and this time they have the winnable game (Duke) at home.
I'm not expecting a better season than last year; more likely it will be a worse one.

They will fight against the bottom and the BC game (2nd gameday) will probably be the difference maker.

Coastal Division

Duke University Blue Devils
The Blue Devils did start 5-1 last season. Everybody did wondering "what's going on?", since this was the team with the longest Non-Bowl-Season-Streak in the country.
They managed to win another one against UNC and did at the end finish 6-6.
David Cutcliffe is in his 5th year and for everyone in the country that last season was more or less a wonder.
But was that a one-hit-wonder or the progress the Duke-fans do wait for since .... ages (well ... almost 2 decades)?

Non-Conference games are against: North Carolina Central (FCS), @Memphis, Troy and Navy.
This looks easy enough to be winnable.
The Navy game might be too much, but you never know.
This might be a 3-1 campaign or a 1-3, depends on Dukes progress (or degeneration).

The conference games will be tough. I can see them positioning somewhere in the middle, but can they really challenge Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and Miami?
Can they win again against a growing North Carolina team?
If they manage to win against Pittsburgh and Virginia, and also against Wake Forest from the Atlantic on the road, this would be a very good season for the Blue Devils of the past.

I expect them to be in mid field with a chance for a Bowl, but not more.

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Georgia Tech is every year a mystery.
They come out of the offseason and do win and lose games they are not expected to win or lose.
This team could do it all if they would just stop being inconsistent.
Now in his 6th season, Paul Johnson has won division titles and even a conference championship but with ups and downs.
Last season they did only win the division (shared) and reach the championship game because Miami and North Carolina were not allowed to play the championship game.
This season will not be that easy.
Miami and North Carolina can compete now (well, not 100% secure for Miami, but very likely) and VT is forced to get back on track.

Non-Conference games are against: Elon (FCS), @BYU, Alabama A&M (FCS) and Georgia.
Well, that Georgia game will be a loss for sure, but the rest can be won or has to be won.
3-1 is possible, but BYU will not be that easy.

The conference will be decided between the big four in that division and here they have 2 home games (UNC and VT) and one on the road (Miami (FL)).
But they have also Clemson and Syracuse from the Atlantic, with Clemson on the road.

I think at the end they will be the worst team of those big four programs, but we will see.
A Bowl is a must.

Miami Hurricanes
Miami is for many the favourite to win the division, or even the conference.
The U is strong, no doubt, but there is still North Carolina, VT and GT.
The key will be the schedule and how they will start into the season.
Al Golden is now the Headcoach since 3 seasons and he did well.
He won the division (shared) last season and did only not play in the conference championship game, because they did withdraw from post season games by themself since the NCAA investigation were still on going.
This year will probably be a season with no sanctions and they WILL compete.

Non-Conference games are against: Florida Atlantic, Florida, Savannah State (FCS) and @South Florida.
Two cupcake games, one very tough one and a probably quite easy one? Consider this as a 3-1 record at least.
Florida will be eventually too much, but you never know.

All the big games are at home except North Carolina. That's a nice help.
But they got Florida State from the Atlantic on the road, which might be a bigger speed bump than wanted.

They look on paper as the favourite, but I can see them easily drop.

I see them as contender for the division crown.

North Carolina Tar Heels
When Larry Fedora came in last season from Southern Miss he changed things immediately.
A 3-5 team in conference play was changed to 5-3 and a share of the conference title.
Because of NCAA sanctions the Tar Heels were not allowed to compete for the championship game or a Bowl, but this year will be different.
No bowl ban, full contender status.
They might get even lucky and Miami will be put out of the picture for contention by the NCAA (even I don't think UNC would like that).
The Tar Heels have all reasons to hope for the big step forward.

Non-Conference games are against: @South Carolina, Middle Tennessee, East Carolina and Old Dominion (FCS).
That Gamecocks game will probably be a cool down game, very unlikely the Heels will win against that very strong SEC team.
The rest should be wins, all home games and against weaker conferences teams.

Now add home games against Miami, Boston College and NC State from the Atlantic and you get a nice schedule.
Concerns are the away games against GT and VT. Those could be early season speed bumps which might make the Miami game meaningless regarding the division crown.
But I expect Fedora to handle this and give UNC the chance for a conference championship.

Also contender for the division crown.

Pittsburgh Panthers
Honestly I don't know how to handle this program.
In my head Pitt is some kind of weak juggernaut hard nose football team, never winning the big games.
Totally twisted.
They moved to the ACC from the former Big East, did win 6 games last season, lost the Bowl.
Paul Chryst was named Headcoach last season, after Todd Graham bolted Pitt after just one season for Arizona State.
All signs are saying "adjustment period" or even "rebuilding".
So no wonder I don't expect much of them.
Make no mistake; I think Chryst WILL get the most out of them, but so many changes in so many years do have an impact.

Non-Conference games are against: New Mexico, Old Dominion (FCS), @Navy and Notre Dame.
This can be a 1-3 to 3-1 campaign.
I doubt a Notre Dame win, and I expect an Old Dominion win, all between is plausible.

They start the season against Florida State from Atlantic and will have to travel to VT and GT.
They also play former Big East rival Syracuse on the road as the other Atlantic game and will have UNC and Miami at home.
If the big 4 would be scheduled the other way around I would give Pitt the edge and the chance to break into that group I expect to finish 1 to 4.
But as it is ... I expect them to finish 5th or 6th.

Lower Midfield and they might have to stretch for a Bowl bid.

Virginia Cavaliers
I'm curious to see, what will happen with the Cavaliers.
I have to say I hate to see them play.
Once I start liking their play, they start losing. Then I start hating them and they play like you would wish to see any team play. Damn.
Mike London came in 2010 and is now in his 4th season.
So expectations are to start winning.
He had an 8-5 season, with a Bowl loss, in 2011 but dived to 4-8 in 2012.

Non-Conference games are against: BYU, Oregon, VMI (FCS), Ball State.
Well ... if you are on a hot seat, you don't want a non-conference schedule like that!
Even if all those games are home games, they can easily be 1-3 (the FCS games should be a win).
BYU is tough, Oregon is faster than its shadows and Ball State is on the rise.
This will be interesting.

Let's assume the Cavaliers will try to compete with Duke, Pitt and maybe GT and VT for a better mid field position.
They play @Pitt but against those other teams at home. So IF they are good enough to compete, they don't have a better chance.
From the Atlantic they got Maryland and Clemson. Could be worse, but those games will also be tough to impossible.

They will probably fight for the bottom and lose.
I doubt they are fit for the fight assumed above and London might be out of a job at the end of the season.

Virginia Tech Hokies
The last time Frank Beamer had a 7 win season with Virginia Tech was? Last season ... right.
But before that? 1997! VT was in the Big East and VT did bounce back with a 9-3 season right after that.
Beamer did raise the expectations for the Hokies to a level which most teams can't handle.
It will be interesting to see, how VT will play this season.
They had more or less an abo for the division title and getting the conference title in every 2 to 3 seasons.
It looks like this is gone, at least many do think that way.
After one 7-5 season.

Non-Conference games are against: Alabama, Western Carolina (FCS), @East Carolina and Marshall.
I expect a more or less copy of the Alabama - Michigan game last season as opener. I big loss for the Alabama opponent.
The rest should be a win, so 3-1 is not unlikely.

Then they have to travel to GT and beside the Miami road game, everything looks like a rebound season for VT.
They still have to beat UNC at home, but got BC and Maryland from the Atlantic.

This might get them to the top, but I expect an upper midfield position.
But at the end the wins should be more than 7.

So my TIP is:

Atlantic Division:
Clemson Tigers
Florida State Seminoles
North Carolina State Wolfpack
Maryland Terrapins
Syracuse Orange
Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Boston College Eagles

Coastal Division:
North Carolina Tar Heels
Miami Hurricanes
Virginia Tech Hokies
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Duke Blue Devils
Pittsburgh Panthers
Virginia Cavaliers

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