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Fearless Football Predictions 2007

With another football season right around the corner, all reputable media outlets are filling space with their predictions. I figure I might as well do it, too.

The main thing that jumps out of the media’s forecasting in which order teams will finish is that they are invariably wrong. The most famous example of this was last year when the media covering ACC football confidently picked Wake Forest as the worst team in the Atlantic Division. The Deacs did just a bit better.

It would also seem that the same media that somehow missed Wake’s ascension to the ACC throne room have doomed Tech’s chances at an ACC football championship by picking the Hokies to win the ACC football championship. That remains to be seen, but Tech starts the season with a much more cumbersome handicap than the offensive line or depth at running back.

I now present my fearless predictions for the 2007 ACC football season. As to whether I join the media in picking Tech will have to wait, as I am selecting the Atlantic Division first. It is the more difficult one. I considered simply pulling the teams out of a hat, which, considering how closely the Atlantic teams are skill-wise, would probably be as good a way to determine the outcome of all of the close games likely to be seen.

But, I decided, in the interest of that excellent tradition of Internet journalistic integrity, to take a stab at who would actually win all of those close games. As always, these predictions are guaranteed to be correct unless they are not.

6] NC State- Much to the chagrin of those who take great pleasure in making fun of coaches [such as me], the Pack ended the Bozo the Clown run of Chuckie. State AD Lee Fowler seemed to have ending my possibilities for ridicule in mind when he hired Tom O’Brien to take over. At least those of the State coach. TOB qualifies as the anti-Chuckie in more ways than one. His stolid demeanor, bringing to mind the Marine Corps officer he once was, stands in stark contrast to the antics of Mr. Cheap Sunglasses. So will the Pack’s play on the field.

O’Brien built a solid program at BC, but one that he had taken about as far as he could. The overall team speed necessary to compete at the top of the football food chain on a consistent basis was made very difficult by both Fredo’s admissions policies and the lack of a solid New England talent base. That won’t be a problem at State.

TOB is likely to experience a bit of culture shock when he first takes the field at Carter-Finley. He will ask OC Dana Bible, who accompanied him to Raleigh from the Corleone compound, “What is all that red in the stands and the noise coming from it?”

“They are called fans, Tom. I believe that noise is referred to as cheering.”

“No kidding?”

Once TOB gets past that and down to work, he will put together a very solid program for State and in about four years will be considered a much more inspired hire than the one made on the other side of the RTP. However, that is likely down the road.

Chuckie won some games at State. Unfortunately for Pack fans, most were won with players recruited by Mike O’Cain. Once Chuckie began competing with his own players, the record plunged off a cliff. TOB has the unfortunate circumstance of following Chickie instead of O’Cain.

5] Maryland- The Terps surprised many last season by being a factor in the Atlantic race, coming within a home loss to Wake of winning the whole thing. That Maryland and the Deacs ended up playing for the Atlantic title gives you an idea of how screwy was that division last year.

Maryland won a lot of close games, the kind that had eluded Ralph Friedgen the previous two, a period of time following ACC expansion when the Fridge’s bowl run came to an abrupt end. Can the Terps do that again? The odds would seem to be against it.

While the Fridge is entering his seventh year at Maryland, which history teaches us is about how long it takes to build a contending program, there is precious little evidence that has been done at College Park. Freidgen is also, like Chuckie, a coach whose best results so far have come with somebody else’s players.

The Terps may astound everyone again, but it seems more likely that the closest Freidgen will get to the big time is listening to Frank talk about it during summers at the lake.

4] Boston College- The announcement that Tom O’Brien would be leaving BC was greeted with wild celebration by the loon element of Fredo’s miniscule fan base. Be careful what you wish for.

When a program has been taken as far upwards as it is likely to go, there is only one direction in which to head. Bringing in a new head guy will do nothing about addressing the structural problems facing Fredo’s football, such as inherent private school problems, his location as the ACC’s northern outpost well away from everybody else and lousy fan support that causes the Eagles to always be the last bowl team chosen in whatever league in which they happen to be competing. At least they haven’t cost the ACC a bowl, yet, as happened more than once in the Big East.

Fredo’s AD Gene ‘Where’s my statue, Donna?’ DeFilippo brought in somebody named Jeff Jagodzinski as the new coach. ‘Jags’ was formerly the OC for the Green Bay Packers. How did hiring a former NFL assistant work out for Carolina and the Hoos?

Jagodzinski does have collegiate coaching experience. He was the OC for O’Brien’s first two BC teams before leaving for the NFL. The year after he left the Eagles began their current bowl streak. Jags is also the second former NFL OC to take over Fredo out of their last three coaches. The first was Dan Henning, whose miserable tenure was remarkable only in that it gave Tom O’Brien his first head coaching job.

The Eagles face a front-loaded schedule that begins with a very tough opener against Wake Forest. If Fredo has any kind of learning curve with the schemes of a new coaching staff that includes OC Steve Logan, they will have problems, especially against the Deacons and Jim Grobe, a guy who has generally treated like Fredo like Michael treated his older brother.

3] Clemson- It took a while for last year’s Tommy Bowden Death Watch, but it eventually came. The Tigers strode into Lane Stadium on a Thursday night last October confidently carrying a loft ranking and media proclamations as the ACC’s best team. By the time Clem picked himself off the turf and wobbled back to Death Valley, his season was done.

Clemson collapsed down the stretch, creating the familiar situation that causes Clemson message boards to be such a joy to read. The younger and still coaching Bowden heads into the 07 season looking a lot like a guy who missed his best chance.

This year’s schedule is tough, but most of the tougher games are at home, including the opener against Daddy along with Fredo, Wake and the chance for payback to Tech. The opportunity for TBowden to finally put together that great season is there, but the history is that Tommy will find a way to screw it up. Besides, the Tommy Bowden Death Watch is loads of fun to observe.

2] Wake Forest- How about those Deacs! It was the best of times around Reynolda as RJ’s school pulled off an improbable run to the ACC football championship. So much for expansion.

Almost as equally improbable is that coach Jim Grobe is still there. If ever a coach had a golden opportunity to cash in and move to where winning football was a bit easier to pull off than at tiny Wake Forest, Grobe had it. He is still around, though.

Now comes the hard part. Having tasted football success, the Wake faithful are now going to want more. While they have the smallest alumni base in the ACC and the rest of the BCS, it is a fan base that doesn’t mind contributing large amounts of cash. The luxury suites that will be in the Deacon Tower that is being constructed atop Groves Stadium have been sold. Duke is considering changing their nick to the Green Devils out of football envy.

The ACC media seemed something other than duly impressed with Wake’s 06 winning ways, as they tabbed the Deacs fourth in the Atlantic. Well, that is better than last year. Nobody much seemed to have been listening to Grobe, who for the last couple of years had been pointing to this year as the one in which his program would make its move.

The Deacons have most everybody back from last year’s championship team. That doesn’t make them unique in this year’s ACC, but it doesn’t hurt. Wake should greatly benefit from a relatively easy schedule. Which ACC teams show up on one’s schedule and which don’t is going to be of great importance as the ACC continues along its post-expansion road. Wake this year does not play either Tech or the Canes. A Coastal lineup of Duke, Carolina and the Hoos looks to be just a bit easier. After the opener at BC, Wake’s toughest road game looks to be the Hoos. That certainly brightens the prospects. Grobe will also get Florida State at home on a Thursday night, when the Noles will be traveling on a short week. History teaches us many things, among them that it is very tough for the road team to win in those circumstances.

Do not be surprised if Wake puts together another very good record in 07.

1] Florida State- Geez, was Jeff Bowden that bad? With one of the ACC’s two experiences in OC nepotism having ended, there is renewed optimism in Seminole land, if nothing else, because Jeff is gone. We’ll see.

Jimbo Fisher was hired away from LSU to run the FSU offense. Chuckie has also returned to Pa Bowden’s coaching fold. It should be noted that Florida State was never quite the same after Chuckie and OC Mark Richt left in the early 20’s for, respectively, NC State and Georgia. A lot of people claimed that the elder Bowden was merely a figurehead at FSU and that Chuckie was actually running the program during the glory years. The evidence in Tallahassee and Raleigh would seem mixed.

What would benefit Florida State more than new coaches would seem to be a season in which everybody stays healthy. The Noles were decimated by injuries last season and even FSU’s vaunted recruiting could not provide the depth necessary to overcome them. A little more experience across the board won’t hurt, either.

The Noles have a very difficult road schedule, trips to Clemson, Wake on a Thursday, BC at a time when TOB’s talent should be acclimated to the new coaches and Virginia Tech. That diesn’t include the season-ender at Florida, which doesn’t count in the ACC picture. If FSU makes it to Jacksonville for the ACC championship game, it will be because they are pretty darned good. However, when in doubt, go with the talent and Bobby has it.

Predictions for the Coastal will be along some time soon unless they are not. Probably Thursday.

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