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Fearless Predictions 2008

With the football season right around the corner, this seems like as good a time as any to make my annual football predictions. As always, these predictions are guaranteed to be correct unless they are not.

Atlantic Division

1] Florida State- For 16 years the Noles have resided atop ACC preseason forecasts. For most of that time, they delivered the predicted goods. The last few years, however, St. Bobby’s crew has hit a general dry spell. This run of football mediocrity, including last year’s ho-hum 7-6 mark, has now caused ACC scribes to drop their expectations of FSU to the middle of the ACC pack. Which probably means a return to greatness.

For the first time in a while, Pa Bowden will have an experienced senior quarterback in Drew Weatherford. Few things mean more in college football. Downsides include an inexperienced o-line along with the early-season scandal-induced suspension of large numbers of Noles.

If Bobby and heir apparent Jimbo Fisher can engineer a short-handed negotiation of that brutal early I-AA portion of the schedule plus an opening conference home game against Wake, the rest of the schedule sets up quite nicely for FSU. Certainly Little Johnny is hoping for an FSU return to prominence- attendance in Tampa demands it. Winning a few more games would also do wonders for Bobby’s continued employment.

2] Wake Forest- The Deacons return the ACC’s best coach in Jim Grobe and a ton of experience. That should bode well for Wake and all of those high-dollar Deacon Club folks who have snapped up all of the luxury boxes in the new Deacon Tower.

Possible downsides to another dream season for the Deacs is the early-season journey to an FSU squad that is bound of be getting sick and tired of losing to Wake and a talent level that still doesn’t quite measure up to the best of the ACC. If Grobe’s coaching can continue to make up for that talent differential, Wake could have a very good run.

3] Clemson- If not now, when? The Tigers find themselves picked to win the ACC. A lack of lofty expectations has never been a problem for Clem; Tommy Bowden figuring out how to meet them has.

There is a terrific amount of top-shelf talent running around Death Valley, certainly enough to justify predictions of a championship season. However, there has been a lot of talent there before, but it has never translated into a great year.

Impediments to a big season for the Tigers include a suspect o-line, a brutal conference road schedule that includes Wake plus back-to-back games at Florida State and Fredo and the nagging suspicion that Tbowden will, again, find some way to screw it up.

4] Boston College- Adios, Ryan. The quarterback primarily responsible for Fredo’s 2007 first place Atlantic finish has left the Corleone compound for the NFL. Left behind are a very good defense and the bragging arrogance of Coach Jags [“We will beat Tech worse in the ACC championship game”].

The back-loaded schedule sets up very nicely for another good season. What look to be the tougher games all come from October on, giving QB coach Steve Logan ample time to develop a replacement. Still, teams with rookie quarterbacks generally do not win conference championships.

5] Maryland- Ralph Friedgen won big early in College Park. This enabled him to Frank the Terps big time before ACC expansion brought the ten-win seasons to a screeching halt. Since 2004, the Fridge’s only connection to double-digit victory campaigns has been listening to Frank talk about them at the lake.

After winning big with the players of fired predecessor Ron Vanderlinden, Friedgen hasn’t been able to entice to Maryland enough top-flight talent to contend at the top of the conference standings. While the Terps will be a dangerous team fully capable of beating anybody on their schedule on a given Saturday, chances are that, once again, they won’t do it enough to do much more than once again hover around .500.

6] NC State- Well, somebody has to be picked last in the rugged Atlantic. Once again, it is the Wolfpack and second-year coach Tom O’Brien. Captain Tom continues to pick up the scattered pieces left behind by fired coach Chuckie and assemble into something akin to a good football team. While O’Brien’s track record is pretty good at that sort of thing, it will still take a bit more time.

Coastal Division

1] Virginia Tech- Of the six BCS divisions in college football, there is only one this Tech team could possibly be picked to win. Luckily, that just happens to be the one they are in. This likely will not be a banner year for the Hokies- the first-place predictions come more from reputation and the overall lousiness of the rest of the Coastal than any feeling the 08 edition of Tech football will accomplish great things.

With seemingly half of last year’s roster now in NFL training camps, there are a lot of holes to plug. Most glaring is at wide receiver, where nobody has any experience and the numbers on hand keep getting whittled down due to injury and the combination of teen-aged boys, car keys and whiskey.

While Tech likely will lose enough to keep the message board loons screeching about Frank’s steadfast refusal to draw and quarter Stiney, yelping that the game has passed Frank by and claiming what they did the last time they lost a few games, that Bud has forgotten how to coach, this team should still be fairly decent. It doesn’t hurt that trying to figure out who might beat them in the Coastal produces much head-scratching.

2] Virginia- The Hoos are coming off a pretty good season by Hoo standards, as algroh confounded all of those in Hooville that want him gone. What followed was a tumultuous off-season, to say the least, as local police and the irksome demand from Jeffersonian academics that Hoo football players actually pass a few classes created algroh and his Incredible Shrinking Roster.

The problems continued during August practice, as new Defensive Coordinator and Academic Advisor Bob Pruett, brought in after Mike London’s escape from Hooville, has been accused of academic fraud and paying players back during his Marshall days. That should sit well in Dr. Casteen’s office.

Then, with many holes to fill, the Great NFL Legend lost valuable practice time by having to delicately answer the question posed by an inquistive boygroh, “Daddy, what’s gay bar?” The life of a Great NFL Legend is not an easy one.

Still, the Hoos seem to have the makings of a decent running game and the defense should be pretty good. That is a combination for close games and the Hoos have demonstrated a penchant for winning them. While the noose continues to tighten around algroh’s neck, his survival instincts should enable him to again win just enough to keep the trap door from being sprung.

3] North Carolina- Does anybody really believe that Butch Davis, the guy who turned Miami sidelines into a comedy zone with his goofy decisions and then proved totally in over his head in the NFL, can turn around the Tar Heels in just one season? With all of the talent available in Miami, it still took seven years and somebody else coaching the Canes, even after Butch took over a program that the year before had played for the MNC. It does not appear that Big John left behind that good of a team in Blue Heaven.

Maybe Butch, one of the few coaches to ever receive a substantial raise in reward for winning four games, has suddenly learned how to coach. Maybe the Coastal is indeed bad enough to justify the incredible hype being generated on behalf of the Heels, not seen from the good old N&O since Tudor was pronouncing Carolina unbeatable at the Final Four. Maybe Butch, who couldn’t win big with scads of talent at Miami, can do so at UNC with lesser amounts. Perhaps Carolina will indeed be that good. It still has to be seen to be believed.

4] Miami- The Canes in 07 suffered through their first losing season since Butch coached them. The good news was that they managed to get out of the Orange Bowl before falling debris hit anybody.

The annual cries of Backness abound in South Florida. They perhaps should be tempered just a bit by coach Randy Shannon, hired when nobody else would take the job, spending a lot of last year looking very much like a guy utterly lost at this level of coaching.

5] Georgia Tech- The Jackets had grown very weary of the near-constant 7-win seasons and annual minor bowl trips turned in by fired coach Chan Gailey. Well, that shouldn’t be a problem this year.

Exit Gailey and enter former Navy wunderkind coach Paul Johnson, who was the first coach to win in Annapolis since George over twenty years ago. Johnson spent Spring Practice trying to install an option offense with the players left behind by Gailey, who ran a completely different pro style. Throw in the departure of mastermind DC Jon Tenuta and it could be a tough year on the Flats. While Johnson insists his gimmick offense can win in the ACC, it might take a while to find out.

6] Duke- And this surprises whom? Another year of utter gridiron futility caused coach Ted Roof to be goldsmithed. Enter David Cutcliffe, known primarily for developing the Manning boys. Cutcliffe hit the ground running in Durham, creating a buzz around Duke football not seen since Roof was hired, or before that the hapless Carl Franks. The coaches come and go in Durham, the losing remains constant. Maybe Cutcliffe will astound all and win a few games, or even one or two. Maybe he won’t. Either way, what is likely not to change at Duke is that nobody much cares.

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