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2005 Atlantic Division Predictions

logo-floridastate1. Florida State– Year One of ACC expansion saw the Seminoles slide from their customary position atop the ACC standings. There is certainly evidence that the program has slipped. Aside from the screeching halt to the string of ACC football championships that was only broken by Maryland in 2001, the ‘Noles haven’t played for the MNC since 2000 and have mostly not been a factor in the national picture. There are the inevitable whispers that Bobby Bowden has gotten too old for the job.

On the other hand, FSU keeps winning, nine times last year. They were only a Fourth Quarter meltdown against Miami from tying for the ACC championship and likely playing Auburn in the Sugar Bowl. There is serious talent on hand. These are guys that are used to winning and know how to do it.

There is a problem at quarterback, where Wyatt Sexton’s God complex turned out to be Lyme Disease. The position will be entrusted to a couple of untested red-shirt freshmen, always a sign of trouble. There is, however, a solid running game and longtime Defensive Coordinator Mickey Andrews always fields a very good unit. In a balanced Atlantic Division, that should be enough. If Bowden can ever figure out how to finally beat Miami again and avoid the pitfall looming in Boston, the schedule is conducive to this team running a very long way.

Watch for: University President T. K. Wetherell to lead a war party to the NCAA’s Indianapolis headquarters. A nice touch would be Chief Osceola riding Renegade into the front yard of Myles Brand and planting a flaming spear.

Watch out for: Virginia. The ‘Noles got caught napping at Maryland last year. To do the same in Hooville in a game algroh really needs to win could be trouble.

logo-clemson2. Clemson – The Tigers have the experienced quarterback in Charlie Whitehurst. That means a lot. They are also coming off a 6-5 season, which generally is a cause for a riot in Tigertown. Head Coach Tommy Bowden, operating under the ‘Better them than me’ philosophy, reacted by firing both of his coordinators. It probably couldn’t hurt.

Whitehurst had a sub-par junior year in 04, not helped one bit having to operate behind a lousy line. The line will again be key for Clemson’s 05 prospects. The defense looks to be pretty good.

Tommy Bowden’s last four years at Clemson have produced bowl bids to Boise, the Tangerine and the Peach before last year’s game-ending brawl with the Cocks kept the Tigers from knocking the Hoos out of the Potato Bowl. These kinds of results are not satisfactory to large portions of the Clemson fan base that remembers when Danny Ford led the ACC in wins, championships and probations. They very much desire a return of at least the first two. There is also the little matter of Visor Boy setting up shop and drawing attention over in Columbia. If the ACC’s younger Bowden doesn’t want to risk being stoned with Howard’s Rock, upping the win totals would seem to be in order. There are few things more important in football than having an experienced senior quarterback and with Whitehurst, Bowden should.

Watch for: The lynch mob forming at the Esso Club if Tommy Bowden again loses five.

Watch out for: Wake Forest. You can just about see this one coming.

logo-northcarolinastate3. NC State– The bowl bids left Raleigh along with Phillip Rivers. Nobody seems to concerned about it, not the Wolfpack fan base who continues to lay out big bucks to purchase football tickets and not Chuck Amato, who shrugged it off as just one of those things. It was one of those things Chuckie certainly did not see during all of those years as Bobby Bowden’s right-hand man.

The Pack still doesn’t seem to have much in the way of a quarterback; Jay Davis was impressive only by his un-impressiveness. Running back TA McClendon has taken his many talents and injuries to NFL Europe, likely a good thing for State. There are a number of highly touted backs around State and like a lot of teams in the ACC the defense should be very good. A strong running game and a stout defense means the Pack will be in most games and should win their share.

There are some questions surrounding Chuckie’s program. First and foremost is his striking inability to hold onto staff. The latest in a long line of defections was Houston Nutt’s cry of “Bring me a Herring” resulting in Pack DC Reggie heading to Arkansas. This was the guy who in one year turned one of the ACC’s worst defenses into the nation’s best. Ask Bryan Randall about going against it. Herring will be missed.

Perhaps more damaging in the long term was recruiting wunderkind Doc Holliday leaving for Urban Meyer’s new Crocs staff. Amato’s program has been based in large part on recruiting the talent-rich Sunshine state and Holliday was the big gun in that effort. A legitimate question is: what will happen to Wolfpack recruiting?

Chuckie pooh-poohs his constant staff upheavals, but it is not a good thing. Programs that are consistent winners almost always have much staff continuity. State has none.

Watch for: The ‘Amato’ line to appear in Raleigh. The well-dressed Wolfpacker will want to stock up at their nearest shoe, sunglass and fine lingerie retailer.

Watch out for: Southern Miss. This is a classic trap game. The Golden Eagles have a history of winning games such as this. If Chuckie still hasn’t found an offense, watch out.

logo-bostoncollege4. Boston College – And then there were twelve. The ACC’s final new member has finally finished that year of Li’l E purgatory and is ready to stir in some clam chowder into the barbecue cooker. Welcome to the Show, Fredo. Tom O’Brien also brings into the league another solid program, one that won in its former conference to the tune of six straight bowl games. The ACC has now commandeered all of the BE’s stability of this century.

The Eagles are a fashionable pick to win right away in the ACC the same as did Virginia Tech and Miami last year. O’Brien certainly brings an impressive cast of talent to the conference. BC looks to be solid most everywhere, starting with what looks to be the ACC’s best combination of lines. That generally bodes well for any team’s prospects.

On the other hand, O’Brien’s BC teams for the most part never had the overall team speed to compete at the very top of the BE. Virginia Tech and Miami pretty much always had quicker players, at times much quicker. Tommy O’B has addressed this deficiency, but he is moving to a league that has more quickness than his old one. He is likely going to have to address it some more.

Watch for: Loud squawking from Chestnut Hill to Boise after an 8-3 BC squad is passed over by bowls in Orlando and Charlotte for 6-5 ACC teams. Get used to it.

Watch out for: NC State. Last year Fredo blew a BCS bowl by ending their season with a home loss to a Syracuse team that a week before had been manhandled by Temple, of all people. O’Brien’s teams are usually good for one stink job at home each year. If it is this one this year, the fishing trip to the lake in II will seem like a pleasure cruise in comparison.

logo-maryland5. Maryland – Ralph Friedgen won like the 1927 Yankees when he was fielding a team recruited by fired coach Ron Vanderlinden. As soon as the last of those players left, so did the ten-win seasons. The Fridge found himself without a decent quarterback, a situation that rarely occurred during all of those years he worked for Bobby Ross and George O’Leary. The claims at Maryland is that the talent has never been higher, but a team going from 10-2 to 5-6 is generally not an indication of an improving level of talent.

Maryland has some weapons, including what should be a pretty good o-line and some defensive speed. But, until Friedgen can dig up a competent quarterback, there will be questions as to whether he can win with his own players.

Watch for: The number of F-Bombs thrown by Maryland students when both Virginia Tech and ESPN show up.

Watch out for: Wake Forest. This game is at Groves in October. The Terps most definitely will not see the group of dispirited Deacons playing out the string that ended their season last year at Byrd.

logo-wakeforest6. Wake Forest – The team nobody wants to play. Jim Grobe has done the unthinkable in turning the Deacons into a very tough opponent. His gimmick rushing offense gives opposing defensive coordinators fits. Although they only beat Duke in the ACC last year, Wake scared the dickens out of a lot of people.

This year looks to be more of the same. Grobe will field a very good running team, but passing will be an adventure and the defense is mediocre. There are serious questions as to whether Grobe has taken this program as far as he can. Is 5-6/6-5 the best that can be hoped for at a place with limited fan support and budgets? If Grobe can squeeze out seven wins or maybe even six, expect him to bolt for someplace where it will be a bit easier to win.

Watch for: Wake to beat Nebraska, making the Deacons and Grobe Gameday stars until reality sets in.

Watch out for: Duke. This has been Wake’s one sure win, but the Devils are getting better.

The Coastal Division preview will be coming soon. To all of those Hokies who fast-forwarded to here: Gotcha!

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