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Poll Predictions 2008

Another football season continues to inch closer. Tangible evidence was offered as the ACC held its annual preseason football extravaganza at a Georgia resort. Three days of golf, seafood buffets and heavy drinking certainly put attendees in a football frame of mind.

Little of real substance comes out of these affairs, unless one is an aficionado of stupid algroh quotes. “We like opening with Southern Cal since we put an emphasis on conference games” ranks right up there. Not far behind was “We probably don’t get a lot of respect in this conference.” Gee, why is that, Oh Great NFL Legend?

The most notable nuggets to be gleaned from three days in Georgia, other than Frank’s golf score, is the release of the ACC’s media predictions for the season, generally a good barometer of who will not win the title, and Little Johnny’s State of ACC Football address. More of the poll positions in a bit.

When Little Johnny begins his football remarks by pointing to Carolina’s field hockey national championship as a sign of conference strength and congratulating Tyler the Good and Angela Tincher on being the ACC’s top athletes, you get the feeling the conference commish was trying really hard to avoid talking about football. Given the ACC’s recent results on the gridiron, with good reason.

When he finally ran out of superlatives to heap on Wake for winning the soccer national championship, or even Fredo’s in ice hockey, an achievement that certainly ranked among the biggest sports stories of the year along Tobacco Road, Little Johnny bowed to the inevitable and talked about football.

He quickly glossed over the ACC’s sorry bowl record, claiming, “these things run in cycles,” apparently eight-year ones when it comes to the BCS, and moved on to what really matters, the almost $12 extra-large that flowed to each and every ACC member from the league’s Greensboro, NC offices. Little Johnny noted that the conference’s football cash haul now exceeds the always-hefty basketball one. “Wins don’t always mean everything” certainly apply to the huge checks the boys at Disney are writing to the ACC for football every year.

Those were the dollar signs flashing in Little Johnny’s eyes as he pronounced that he “couldn’t be happier” with expansion. Compared to what those checks would look like if there had been no membership increase, he was exactly right. He was also correct when he pointed out that the ACC was positioned very well for the future, noting that while short -term results have not been altogether positive, at least on the field, in the long run things are going to work out and they will. Engaging in long-term strategic thinking is what league commissioners are paid to do.

Thinking in something other than the short term seemed and seems to have been and be far beyond the scope of the sportswriters attending the speech, many of whom are the same ones continuing to write those ‘expansion has failed’ columns. That those esteemed Fourth Estate journalistic hacks couldn’t see past their nose and their physical afflictions extended to their ears was quickly made apparent.

Little Johnny had spent fifteen minutes explaining in depth that after the football championship’s two year Tampa run and the two after that in Charlotte, the league would evaluate the situation and decide at that time whether to designate a permanent home for the game or continue to rotate it to anybody that will have it. After this extensive discussion, one of the first questions out of the mouth of a sportswriter was whether the ACC planned to name a permanent home for the conference’s football championship game. *Sigh*. That is an exchange worth bearing in mind the next time some columnist goes off on the supposed ‘failure’ of expansion or how the Li’l E, a league with a fraction of the payout or bowl opportunities of the ACC, the league that is re-defining Friday night football, somehow came out the better from the whole business. MichRod ran from the Hills for a reason.

On to the predictions. It should come as no surprise that anybody that would ask a question as stupid as the one above would have so much trouble getting conference predictions correct. Last year was the first time since Tech entered the league that the media’s perceived preseason champion actually jibed with the one collecting the hardware in Jax. Even a blind squirrel occasionally finds an acorn.

That team was Virginia Tech, which happens to be the media’s overwhelming pick to again finish first in the ACC’s Coastal Division. That kiss of death would normally send Tech fans into spasms of despair over the Hokies’ prospects for the upcoming season. A bit of consolation, perhaps, comes from the realization that much of Tech’s regard comes from the overall lousiness of the rest of the Coastal. At least from this perch, it appears to stink. A lot of new starters and overall youth, about as close as Frank gets to a rebuilding year, likely means this will not be one of Tech’s stellar teams. But, compared to the other five Coastal teams they still look pretty good.

Further indication of how miserable is the quality of football in the division looks comes from the team picked second, Carolina. Carolina? Even Butch claimed that the pick was “shocking,” almost as much to him as it is to those who have followed his career. Has there ever been a coach so hyped who has accomplished so little? Certainly none who could pull off the difficult trick of demanding and receiving a huge raise after winning four games.

The Canes checked in at number three. Well, maybe Randy Shannon does indeed know what he is doing and is not as hopelessly overmatched as he so often appeared on the sideline last season. Georgia Tech came in fourth, at least a nod to the problems likely to be faced, at least in the early going, by Paul Johnson as he attempts to graft a ground-oriented option offense onto a team recruited to run Chan Gailey’s pro-style offense.

Hilarity was found with the number five pick awarded to the Hoos. This would seem to stem at least in part from the utter contempt in which algroh is held by members of the state sports media. They probably won’t be all THAT bad. Despite being predicted to be one of the worst teams in a bad division, the Hoos did manage one first place vote. Take a bow, Jerry Ratcliffe. With the passing from the scene of Mac “I Wasn’t Fired” McDonald, Ratcliffe now becomes senior member of the ever-dwindling number of algroh apologists. He certainly seems to be trying his best.

Duke was picked to finish last. Surprise, surprise.

Over in the Atlantic division, Clemson was the selection to win both the ACC’s tougher half and the entire ACC. This despite the unbroken track record of screwing things up compiled by Tommy Bowden. Maybe this will be the year, finally, that the Tigers do indeed accomplish what has proved so tricky. That would be winning the ACC, which also might mean, if the Coastal prediction is correct, the younger Bowden finally getting the Frank monkey off his back.

Wake Forest was picked second. The Deacs certainly do not have the ACC’s best talent, but compensate with the league’s best coach, Jim Grobe. If Clemson behaves like Clemson, it might be enough.

For the first time since entering the ACC sixteen years ago, Florida State was not picked first. They weren’t picked second, either. Bobby can continue to claim, “we ain’t that bad” and “I ain’t retiring” all he wants, but he had best translate some of the brave talk to the field sometime soon, like this year.

If anybody cared, Fredo was picked fourth. Few in Boston do. We shall see how much weauxfing Jags continues to engage in as Tom O’Brien’s players filter out of the program, starting with all-everything QB Matt Ryan. Hopefully he will continue to run his mouth. It certainly added to the high Satisfaction Index of last year’s championship game.

Predictions for fifth and sixth went to Maryland and NC State. Both Ralph Friedgen and Tom O’Brien must gaze longingly at the Coastal and ponder how much easier life would be there. At least the Pack have Duke back on their schedule this year.

With the media predictions in hand, or under foot, given what they are usually worth, we now avidly await the start of another season. Unfortunately, there is still six weeks to go.

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