Starting today, July 7, 2007, I will be creating a preview for the 2007 college football season, one conference at a time. In alphabetical order, I will highlight each of the "Big 6" conferences every Saturday, leading up to Thursday, August 30, when the college football season officially kicks off. Since this will finish roughly two weeks before that time, I will also be doing a special blog involving postseason predictions after I have finished with each conference. In this special preiview, I will break down each conference, analyze all of the teams, and even give you the first look at my predicted standings within that conference.
This week, I will be previewing the ACC. The ACC as a whole will be one of the top three conferences in America this season, largely because it has 10 teams that are capable of having bowl seasons, believe it or not. In this report, I will break down every team in the conference and tell you who will finish where, from first to last. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoy writing it.
2007 ACC Conference Preview
Boston College- Last season, BC finished second in the ACC Atlantic division, tied with three other teams with a 5-3 conference record. They also tied for second in the ACC in overall record with a 10-3 mark. Matt Ryan, the Eagles's Heisman candidate quarterback, had a great season, throwing for a total of 2,942 yards and 15 touchdowns. The team as a whole averaged 359 yards and 26 points per game, holding opponents to only 11 points per game. Matt Ryan passed for over 240 yards per game on average, a great season by any standards. This year, they will look to compete with some of the top teams in the league, including Virginia Tech, Florida State, and Clemson, who will all be ACC title contenders. As long as Ryan stays healthy, combined with an easy non-conference schedule outside of Notre Dame, the Eagles should have another good season, although I don't think they will get to 10 wins. An 8 or 9 win season should be a reachable goal for this team in 2007.
Clemson- Clemson will be one of the most talented team in the nation, but what will they do with all that talent? Last season, Clemson fell from being #10 in the nation to losing to Kentucky in the Music City Bowl. They finished tied for second in the ACC Atlantic last season with a 5-3 conference record and 8-5 record overall. Quarterback Will Proctor threw for 2,353 yards and 16 touchdowns, but the real story of this team is the double-back threat of James Davis and C.J. Spiller, who combined for over 2,000 rushing yards and 27 touchdowns last season. Clemson was ranked in the top 10 in both offense and defense last season, so it will be interesting to see what they do with a boat-load of talent this season. A 10-win season wouldn't be out of the question for the 2007 Tigers.
Duke- Duke, who finished last in the ACC and in the nation last season with 0 wins and 12 losses doesn't look like it's nursing its wounds too well right now. They were unable to do anything in the offseason to increase their chances of even winning a single game. The three team leaders COMBINED for 18 touchdowns the entire season. This year, their best chance of a win would be Northwestern, but it's unlikely that they will come out on top. I don't see any luck for the Blue Devils in the upcoming season. Another winless campaign could be the result.
Florida State- The 2007 Emerald Bowl champs had one of the most disappointing seasons that the 'Noles have seen in a while. They finished 7-6, 3-5 in conference play, and fifth in the ACC Atlantic division. Although they had some serious trouble last season, I don't think that troubles like those will continue this season. Technically, by statistics, Florida State should be the favorite to win the ACC. While I don't think that they will come out on top of the entire conference, I will say that Drew Weatherford and the Seminoles could be in for a great season. They don't have the friendliest nonconference schedule, but this team could pick up as many as 9 or 10 wins in 2007.
Georgia Tech- The 2006 ACC Coastal division champions finished last season with a 9-5 record, including a 7-1 record against conference opponents. However, they also lost thier star quarterback Reggie Ball, and their NFL first-round receiver Calvin Johnson. Taylor Bennet and Calvin Booker will both be competing for playing time in '07. This will be a young GT team, but with their infamous, constantly changing defense, they should still be able to rack up some nice wins. However, they may struggle while trying to find a bowl game bid, as I can't see them finishing with over 7 wins, and that might be one too many.
Maryland- Maryland finished tied for second in the ACC Atlantic last season, with a 5-3 conference mark and a 9-4 record overall, but with Sam Hollenbech gone and a schedule that includes opponents such as West Virginia, Rutgers, and the best teams in the ACC, the Terps may be ready for a train wreck. I think that they will start out the season 2-0, but it may be a long while before they get their next win. I can't see them winning over 6 games, but they may only win 3 or 4.
Miami (FL)- Miami, much like their rival Florida State, is a top-tier program in college football who had a disappointing season last year, by their own standards. They finished 3-5 in conference play and 7-6 overall, earning fourth place in the ACC Coastal, capping off the season with a slum bowl win against Nevada...by one point. One measly point is what seperated a mediocre team and one of the best programs in college football. This year, they will be a young team at many positions, but they also have a pretty good recruiting class. However, experience may be very valuable in the ACC this season, when almost everyone will be tougher than they used to be. Looking at their schedule, I counted up 6 wins, but there are some uncertanties there. They could win as little as 5 games or as many as 9.
North Carolina- Believe it or not, you heard it here first. North Carolina will be a bowl team next season. I've been high on the Tar Heels ever since Butch Davis was highered to coach there late last season, and I have been a spokesman for them everywhere since. If there was a team that I had to choose to be next year's Kentucky, it's North Carolina. Mike Paulus, the freshman quarterback that NC recruited to lead their offense right away, is a special player. Also, since neither runningback returning from last year's four win squad made a huge impact, he will likely get a chance to show his stuff quickly and often. Sophmore receiver Hakeem Nicks will be a major part in the Tar Heels's success. They picked up 7 ESPN "150 to watch" players and 3 JuCo players. This North Carolina team will be a scary game for some of the ACC's top teams. A 7 win season isn't completely out of the picture at all, give or take a win.
North Carolina State- The 3-9, last place in the ACC Atlantic Divsion team from 2006 may not get much better. Their starting quarterback, Daniel Evans, is back for his senior year, but only threw for 1,843 yards last season, and only 6 touchdowns. They were outscored by their opponents 18-22 last season, but did gain over 300 yards per game. I think that in last year's ACC, this team might have some room for improvement and could have gained a few games, but this year's ACC is brutal and it's not fair to expect a team like this one to win more than 4 games, and I only see one gimme on their schedule. One of the worst team in the conference has one of the toughest schedules in the conference. That's a deadly combination.
Virginia- I kind of like this Virginia team. They won five games last season with a sophmore quarterback, although he only threw for just over 1,300 yards and 5 touchdowns. They were able to go 4-4 in their conference and finish third in the ACC Coastal division. Sewell, the quarterback, was mainly a scrambler last season, with 98 carries for 200 yards and 4 touchdowns, just one less than he had passing the football. We can only assume that he will get better. The story here is that they lost their star player, Jason Snelling, who led the team in rushing and finished second on the team in receiving. Their defense wasn't so bad though. They held opponents to 17 points per game. The bad news was that the offense only averaged 15. With a fairly easy schedule, a .500 season should be possible, but they would have to play up a notch while facing some teams.
Virginia Tech- Barring injuries, these guys are the best team in the ACC. I can think of two great reasons why Virginia Tech should be title contenders...national, that is. Sean Glennon threw for 2,191 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. Even more impressive was Branden Ore, who rushed for well over 1,000 yards, at 1,137 and 16 touchdowns. Those are great numbers for a senior, right? Well, guess what....he was a SOPHMORE! Now Ore is back for what could be his last season in college football with the kind of talent that he possesses. Needless to say, Virginia Tech is my pick to win the ACC, and also holds 50% of my top game to watch for in 2007, when they travel to LSU. An undefeated season is mildly possible, but I'm thinking that LSU may get the best of them down in Baton Rouge. A one or two loss season will likely be the result of this season for the Hokies.
Wake Forest- One of the best feel-good stories of last season, along with Rutgers, Arkansas, and Kentucky, Wake Forest was the 2006 ACC Champions last season, blindsighting the competition with quarterback Riley Skinner, who was only a sophmore. He wasn't even scheduled to start, but was called in as a backup when their starting QB went down. He played for nearly all of the season, throwing for 2,051 yards and 9 touchdowns. Wake Forest's defense held opponents to an average of 14 points, and the offense put up 22 per game. Although Wake Forest didn't lose that much talent from last year's championship team, I don't think that they will repeat. My two main reasons for this are 1.) The competition is a lot tougher, and 2.) They won't have the advantage of the element of surprise. However, that doesn't mean that Wake Forest won't have another great season, but I don't think that they will be breaking another school record for wins (11, set last season). A 7 or 8 win season may be the result.
Atlantic Divsion Record (Conf.)
- Clemson 9-3 (6-2)
- Florida St 8-4 (5-3)
- Wake Forest 8-4 (5-3)
- Boston College 7-5 (4-4)
- Maryland 4-8 (2-6)
- NC State 2-10 (0-8)
Coastal Division Record (Conf.)
- Virgina Tech 11-1 (8-0)
- Miami (FL) 7-5 (5-3)
- North Carolina 7-5 (5-3)
- Georgia Tech 6-6 (5-3)
- Virginia 6-6 (3-5)
- Duke 0-12 (0-8)
Now, I know that there will be tons of people who completely disagree, but please keep in mind how difficult this was. I analyzed and broke down schedules, matchups at different postions, and each game in general. This took me all of seven hours to write spread out throughout the day, a team here and a team there, so please keep all of that in mind while commenting. I will be back next Saturday with the Big East preview. Until then, good luck to all of the teams in the ACC this upcoming football season.