We’re less than a month from college football!!! WOO!! Since we’re so close, we figured it would be fun to have a preseason panel with some great folks from Twitter. We’re happy to have @RNR_NCSU, @BCHysteria, and @CUBOSCO give their thoughts on the upcoming 2011 ACC football season. @hokieguru is the moderator here today at @SCACCHoops for this great panel.
First up is @RNR_NCSU. He has been a North Carolina State University (NC State) blogger since 2008; his current website is www.riddickandreynolds.com, featuring a weekly podcast on NC State sports recorded each week from Amedeo's Italian Restaurant, a State haunt for nearly 50 years.
Next, we have @BCHysteria. Here’s his bio verbatim: “Writer for the blog BC Interruption. BCI’s founder Brian@BCI decided that he needed to bring upon new writers into the fold, and even after repeated warnings he decided to bring me aboard. Big time BC fan, season ticket holder for 10 years, almost thrown out of Alumni Stadium last year (DM me and I’ll tell you the story). I hate Duke.”
Last, but not least, we have @CUBOSCO. Here is his bio: “Hi I’m James. The only thing I have ever known is the color Orange. The son of a Clemson Alum, I grew up with orange in my blood. I am a 2005 Clemson graduate in Communications and History. While a student I was a student manager on the football team. My Sports highlight was fulfilled on November 8, 2003 when Clemson took on #3 FSU. It was the night I ran down the hill something managers can do only once during their tenure. That Saturday had been one of those days in college football with several high ranked teams going down. It was an electric night that saw Clemson defeat FSU 26-10 for the first time since 1989. The only negative was that started a run that saved Tommy Bowden’s job which at the time was in serious jeopardy after getting smacked by Wake the week before. I live in Alexandria, VA with my wife and cocker spaniel. I am graduate student at Johns Hopkins and still trying to figure out what I want to do when I grow up.”
Which team will win the ACC Atlantic Division?
@RNR_NCSU: I think the Jimbo Fisher era is starting to hit full stride, so I'm going to fall in line with the ACC media pundits and say Florida State.
@BCHysteria: Florida State. Too much talent, great coaching staff and I buy in that EJ Manuel will be a serviceable starter for them this year. They have a tough out of conference schedule, but I still think they wrap up the ACC Atlantic and face off against VT in the ACC Championship Game.
@CUBOSCO: Florida State. They have a lot of good players on their roster but secondly if you are a FSU fan, you have to be flat giddy about the way the ACC docket plays out. The Seminoles have cross over games at Duke, home against UVA, along with yearly opponent Miami. You compare that to the media’s second place choice Clemson who will travel to Blacksburg, host North Carolina and travel to Atlanta for their yearly cross over matchup. That is not to take anything away from Florida State but I think schedule does play a significant role in many situations.
The 2011 FSU team is a team that is brimming with confidence. They closed out 2010 in spectacular fashion, though in my mind there are still some question marks. Is EJ Manuel ready to lead? He is talented, he has seen live bullets flying around him and has performed well. At receiver I really like Willie Haulstead, he had at least two big time catches against Clemson last year in Tallahassee. I know Reed gets a lot of the pub but I like Haulstead as a physical sure handed presence in the FSU passing game.
Their offensive line should continue to improve, keeping Manuel upright is going to be important along with establishing a strong running game. I think this is the area that could be an area of concern for FSU. It is not a talent issue but can Coach Fisher remain committed to the running game? In a few games last year, I felt he would get frustrated and go away from the run game. This will be important to watch, especially early in the season against Oklahoma and Clemson. As talented as Manuel is, I am not confident at this point to confidently say that he is a guy that can drop back 30 times and win a football game. FSU has some guys who can tote the mail. James Wilder the young freshman is getting a lot of pub but they have some guys on campus who have shown they are capable.
Defensively, the Noles are ready to make another big jump. They struggled at times last year under first year Defensive coordinator Mark Stoops. The transition from a man scheme to a zone-based scheme was ugly at moments but you saw that unit grow up and mature as the season progressed. Greg Reid is my new favorite FSU football player after his bone crushing hit on Marcus Lattimore in the Chik-fi-la Bowl.
Dustin Hopkins is back at kicker, as a Clemson fan there is not much else to say about that.
FSU has the most complete team in the Atlantic flat out. They are heading in the right direction and barring major injury at QB or any head scratching losses, FSU fans can plan to book their hotel rooms in Charlotte.
Who is the best player in the ACC Atlantic Division?
@RNR_NCSU: BC's Montel Harris has a chance to break the all-time ACC rushing record this year, and given the fact he's been as consistently great as he has over the last three years, I can't think of a better person to assume would be in line for a year of tremendous production.
@BCHysteria: Dave Shinskie. Kidding...kidding (@HokieGuru note: LOL). I have to agree with @BCMike22 (http://twitter.com/BCMike22) here and say Luke Kuechly. He has the instincts of a lion, and the power of a bear. Last season he was the difference maker in many of the BC wins, and without him they would have definitely finished well below .500. I fully expect him to win the Butkus Award this season.
@CUBOSCO: Luke Kuechly is a consummate throwback. He came in as a freshman and anchored the BC defense while Mark Herzlich was sidelined. I saw him in person last year when Clemson traveled to Chestnut Hill and he is all man. He may not have all the sexy measureables that will make Mel Kiper go gah-gah, though at 6’3” 237 lbs he just might bring a twinkle to Kiper’s eye. He is physical, he is always in the right place. Watching Kuechly play, there is no doubt in my mind that in his locker he has the famous Patton quote, “As I walk through the valley of death I fear no one, for I am the meanest #$%@! in the valley!” He goes out and does his job and is effective. He gets lost in the shuffle playing in Chestnut Hill but is as good as any LB on this side of the Mississippi. We can all agree that Boston College is not the sexiest team to watch on TV but if you get a chance this fall, look for #40 when the Eagles are on defense, you will not be disappointed.
Who is a dark horse team that could win the ACC Atlantic Division?
@RNR_NCSU: I'd say the Atlantic is comprised of a clear favorite (FSU), a clear basement (Wake Forest) and four darkhorse contenders in the middle. Picking one is tough, but if I can make the case for NC State, I'd say the Pack could represent the Atlantic in Charlotte if it gets solid play from Mike Glennon almost immediately and if it avoids any (more) major injuries. State lost cornerback Jarvis Byrd for the season before fall practice even began, but there's just enough depth to feel like the defensive backfield can weather his loss (assuming there are no more DBs go down for significant stretches during the year). The non-conference schedule is ice-cream soft and our first ACC game in week two is against a beatable Wake Forest team, so the real tests won't come until after Glennon and the extremely green kicking game (punter, place-kicker and long snapper are ALL true freshmen) get four games worth of snaps under their belts.
That said, if State is to show up in Charlotte at the end of the year, they'll need help from the rest of the conference. Our game against Florida State is in Tallahassee, and after we held on for dear life last year for the win, I think it's fair to assume the 'Noles will be fired up and eager for payback. I don't see us winning that game, meaning State will need to finish 7-0 against the rest of their league schedule AND have FSU lose twice in their remaining seven conference games.
@BCHysteria: It would be a sin if I didn’t say Boston College right? Well tough, I’m not going to. My dark horse for the season is Clemson. With new Offensive Coordinator Chad Morris taking over their putrid offense, and years of good recruiting, I see this as an up year for the Tigers. Maybe this will be the year that critics finally lay off of Dabo Swinney.
@CUBOSCO: Since I am in love with schedules as a means of determining success, I am going to have to go with Maryland. I did give Boston College and NC State serious consideration. Boston College has a terrible stretch of road games in October and NC State’s second half schedule could prove difficult.
Maryland did the Fridge wrong. The big man finally found the quarterback he had been searching for in Danny O’Brien. The Terps acquitted themselves surprisingly well last year. I know Coach Friedgen felt like his guys let two games get away last year at Clemson and Miami. We easily could have had a Maryland-VT matchup in Charlotte last year.
Though Maryland losses Torrey Smith, LB Alex Wujciak and a couple others, even before the coaching change last year, I felt that the Terps could make a run at the division. Randy Edsall inherits a pretty full cupboard and a favorable schedule. We will learn a lot on Labor Day night when Miami comes to town. Offensively I don’t expect much difference for Maryland. They are going to be physical in the run game and throw high percentage passes. I am interested to see what the Maryland defense looks like as they break in a new coordinator. The last two seasons the Terps had gone to a scheme that sent a lot of blitzes and stunts. If Coach Edsall does what he did at UCONN defensively, I expect Maryland to be more vanilla from a scheme perspective but solid overall. Lookout for October with trips to the ATL, host Clemson, at Florida State and host BC. I think most Maryland fans would expect them to go 3-1 in that stretch and potentially have a chance for a trip to Charlotte.
Final thoughts on the ACC Atlantic Division?
@RNR_NCSU: I think the Atlantic Division could be the stranger of the two divisions this year. It's possible FSU will dominate like we all anticipate, but it's still early in the Jimbo Fisher era. State will likely go as Glennon and the kicking game goes, BC is nearly always underrated, Clemson's got talent to burn but a new coaching staff underneath Dabo, and Maryland's got perhaps the league's best quarterback but a new head coach. And I think highly of Jim Grobe as a coach, so Wake could be a team that spoils a contender's fortune.
@BCHysteria: Honestly with the exception of Wake Forest any of the teams could win this thing. I am not completely sold on Florida State, and you never know a team like NC State, Maryland or BC could sneak right in and win this thing.
@CUBOSCO: One of two things will happen this fall in the Atlantic, FSU will run away with things and wrap things up relatively early or the division will end up another bloodbath as it has in the past where 6-2 or 5-3 wins the conference. The division has several good teams that are capable of beating you on any given Saturday. This reality will likely cause a tremendous amount of consternation among ACC fans.
Clemson just does not have enough proven firepower on offense to seriously challenge FSU in the division. There is going to be a heavy reliance on freshmen on this side of the ball and that is never a recipe for success. Early in the season could be flat out atrocious for the Tiger offense under first year Offensive Coordinator Chad Morris. Unless Tajh Boyd has become more accurate and better in his decision making, I can see numerous 1..2..3 punts where 30 seconds has run off the clock. Simply put the new offense is going to be a work in progress during the season. Ultimately this offense will go as Andre Ellington goes. He is coming off foot surgery that kept him out of spring ball, how healthy he is will go along way in determining if Clemson even has a chance to compete this fall.
Defensively, Clemson will be solid. Coach Steele will be looking for some guys to step up along the front. Baushad Breeland is a name to look out for in the Clemson secondary. The Tigers will miss DeQuan Bowers and two seniors in the secondary. Continued growth from the LB corps is another key where you could see two true freshmen Tony Steward and Stephone Anothony.
Placekicking continues to be an issue so that will surely cost Clemson a game or two during the season. Lastly, a three game stretch that includes Auburn, FSU and at Virginia Tech could leave the Tigers 0-2 in conference play by October 2 and the hot seat in preheat mode on Coach Swinney.
I am excited to see NC State take another step under Coach O’Brien. I am excited to see how lil Glennon does with the keys to the car, along with the running back Greene. I would like to see State continue to make progress on defense. I expect Wake Forest to be much improved, I still believe Grobe is one of the top two coaches in the ACC. Anybody who can win the conference at Wake is a durn good coach. BC has been the bane of my existence since they joined the conference. They are the Shane Battier’s of college football. They don’t do any one thing great but they will bloodied you to the point that you are walking out of the stadium having lost thinking what the heck just happened. Rettig will be improved along with Harris at running back. They do what they do on defense and will find a way to be in the mix.
@CUBOSCO: Overall, we just still are not there yet as a conference. We have a lot of good teams but that translates into people beating everyone up and teams winning their division at 5-3. I would love to see us get lucky and get two teams in the BCS but I think we are still a year away.
Which team will win the ACC?
@RNR_NCSU: While I think it will be FSU in the foreseeable future, I still need to see them unseat Virginia Tech as ACC Champions before I just start handing the 'Noles the league crown solely on potential.
@BCHysteria: Virginia Tech. Frank Beamer has something special going on there, and they are just too consistently good to lose it this year. Logan Thomas is the real deal.
@CUBOSCO: Virginal Tech wins the conference. Until someone proves otherwise I have to go with the Hokies. They are a true model of consistency. What makes the Hokies so good is their ability to win on the road. We know about going into Lane Stadium, especially at night. Look back at VT's success since joining the ACC and their road record jumps out at you. This is not to say that a FSU won't earn the crown but the road to an ACC Title goes through the Hokies.
And that’s a wrap, folks!!! Thanks to the panelists for providing their insight on the ACC’s Atlantic Division!!