2005 ACC Football Preview – Team by Team ]]> include($base_url . “/includes/header.htm”); ?>
|2005 ACC Football Preview|
Jimmy Boyd brings you his 2005 previews and predictionsfor the teams of the Atlantic Coast Conference. This year theACC adds Boston College to complete the conferences expansionto 12 teams and for the first time the ACC will be divided intotwo divisions of six teams (The Coastal & Atlantic Divisions),similar to what the Big 12 and SEC have done with their conferences.The Coastal Division features Virginia Tech, Miami, Georgia Tech,Virginia, North Carolina, and Duke, while the Atlantic Divisionwill include Florida State, NC State, Boston College, Maryland,Clemson, and Wake Forest. Last year, in their first season asmembers of the ACC, Virginia Tech edged out Florida State forthe ACC Championship and the conferences BCS Bowl Bid. This yearsexpansion should provide another great season of football in theAtlantic Coast Conference.
Miami will play their second season in the ACCsince coming from the Big East in 2004. The ‘Canes always haveplenty of talent, but they will have inexperienced starters atkey positions this year. The Hurricanes return 15 starters fromlast years 9-3 team, but Miami fans will see new faces at quarterback,tailback, center, wide receiver, tight end, fullback, and cornerbackthis season. Defensively the teams entire defensive line returnsintact, their entire core of starting linebackers will still bestaring down the opposition, and three of their elite defensivebacks return to smother opposing receivers. Special teams willagain be a strong point for the Canes as they have a strong kickinggame and one of the most athletically talented rosters in thenation.
The key for the Hurricanes in 2005 will be establishingregular, effective starters at the 7 key positions which theyneed to fill. There is no clear-cut leader of this team, whichis something that has plagued Miami in the past because they loseso many of their 2nd and 3rd year players to the NFL Draft. Talent-wisethis team is above the curve, but to contend for the ACC Conferencetitle or the National Championship they will need to improve onteam cohesion and leadership.
Virginia Tech Hokies
Virginia Tech returns 14 starters, 8 on offenseand 6 on defense, from last years 10-3 ACC Championship team.Skill positions like running back and wide receiver have neverbeen a problem for the Hokies, who are deep at those places ontheir roster. They do have Mike Vicks brother, Marcus Vick tofill in for ACC Player of the Year Bryan Randall, but those aresome very big shoes to fill. The offensive line is also an issueand they will need to address that problem as soon as possible.Defensively, the Hokies are strong once again, putting togethera superb mix of speed and power. Special teams are always a strongpoint for Frank Beamer coached squads and this year should beno different.
Expectations will be high for Virginia Tech in2005. There is a ton of hype around this team, coming off of ayear in which the school won the ACC Championship, had the ACCPlayer of the Year, and the ACC Coach of the Year. There is alsothe matter of Marcus Vick who, assuming he stays out of troubleoff of the field, will have as high of expectations on the fieldas any other player in the nation. This team has as many questionsas any other in the conference, but they also have a lot of talentand excellent coaching. A repeat Championship wont be a gimmeby any means, but expect the Hokies to be around the top of CostalDivision and once again contend for the ACC crown.
Georgia Tech The Georgia TechYellow Jackets should be a competitive force in the ACC this season.They return 17 starters from last years team including one ofthe top rushers in the conference, P.J. Daniels, and last yearsACC Rookie of the Year, wide receiver Calvin Johnson. The offensiveline is the biggest question on the offensive side of the ball,where the Yellow Jackets will need to almost completely rebuild.Georgia Tech returns 10 starters on a defense that ranked 12thin the entire nation in yards allowed last season and is led byreturning all-ACC middle linebacker Gerris Wilkinson.
With many key players returning, including startingQB and 2003 Rookie of the Year Reggie Ball, the Yellow Jacketsare poised to have a very good season. They dont have the recruitingclasses or the NFL talent of the Miamis or Virginia Techs of theconference, but they do have a great defense and core of leadersreturning, something that many teams in this half of the conferenceare lacking.
Virginia Cavaliers Virginiais coming off of another successful season ending up 8-4 overalland 5-3 in 2004 despite a tough schedule. 2005 wont be much easierfor the Cavs, who again have drawn a difficult conference schedule.They lost 7 quality starters to the NFL Draft, but return thebest overall backfield in the conference. The ACC, however, isnot a conference in which a team can rely solely on their rushinggame and be effective. Starting QB Marques Hagans will also haveto produce in 2005, and he has less quality receivers than lastseason, and is also going to miss the nations top tight-end,Heath Miller, who was lost in the off-season to the NFL. Thereis no shortage of talent on Virginias defense, but that has beenthe case in the past 2 or 3 years, and their talent has not translatedinto on-the-field success.
Virginia isnt ready to contend for any conferencetitles just yet, but they could stir things up and knock off oneor two of the powerhouses in the ACC. The Cavs have a solid offense,and plenty of it. Much like last season you can expect them toroll over weaker teams, but likely stumble against the defensesof Miami and Florida State. Seven or eight wins for this teamis not out of the question due to a weak non-conference schedule.You will most likely see the Cavs playing in a bowl game comethe post-season.
North Carolina Tarheels TheTarheels were a surprising bowl team last season. They upset Miamiand nearly knocked off Virginia Tech as part of a 6 win season.UNC returns 15 starters from last years squad, but dont expectthem to match last years win total. The Heels have one of thetougher non-conference schedules in the nation including gamesagainst Wisconsin, Utah, and Louisville. North Carolina must replacetheir leader and best player, QB Darian Durant, who accountedfor the majority of UNCs offensive production. This team is stillpretty skilled athletically, but as far as pure football playersgo they are near the bottom in their division.
Its going to be a long year for the UNC faithful.Last years success was embraced because there were really noexpectations for this team. With a bowl-bid under their belt theexpectations will be much higher, however the loss of talent andleadership from this team is simply too much to overcome. Lookingat their schedule it is hard to imagine this team winning morethan 2 or 3 games. If they somehow manage to grab 5 or 6 winsit should be considered a very successful season at UNC, justdont count on it.
Duke Blue Devils Duke has movedpast rebuilding to simply being a poor program. Academics andbasketball reign at this university, and football will continueto take a backseat for a long time. The Blue Devils went 2-9 lastyear, which made it their 10th consecutive losing season. Lastyears team had the worst offensive production in the nation,and theyll see little improvement with a completely rebuilt offensiveline and huge question marks at many of their skill positions.If you arent a Duke Football fan you probably havent heard ofmany, if any, of the players on this team, and theres a reasonfor it; they simply arent very talented.
If the Blue Devils notch any conference winsthis year it will be a surprise. They are the least talented teamin a very good conference. They have too many weaknesses on bothsides of the ball and have a long way to go before theyll beable to contend to be in the middle of the pack in the ACC. Sorry,Duke Fan, but theres little chance your team has any successin 2005.
Hopes are high for the Seminoles in 2005, whichmarks head coach Bobby Bowdens 30th season as the man at FSU.Last years 9-3 overall record and 6-2 (good enough for 2nd inthe conference) ACC record would be considered a great accomplishmentfor just about any team, but when youre talking about FloridaState, anything less than a National Championship is always consideredfalling short. Offensively FSU is coming off one of their leastproductive seasons in a long time. Just 4 starters return on offense,but that shouldnt be a huge concern for FSU fans, this couldbe just the kind of change the Seminoles need to better theiroffensive performance. Florida States defense was one of thebest in nation, especially against the run where they ranked 3rdnationally. Quarterback is the biggest question for this team,which it has been for the past few seasons. Chris Rix is finallygone, which may be a blessing in disguise, for Rix had well-documentedproblems both on and off of the field.
This could be a very special season for the Seminoles.The FSU players would like nothing more than to notch an undefeatedseason for Bowden, and make his 30th season one to remember. Defensivelythis team is going to be one of the most feared in the nation.If they figure out their offense early in the season theyll fastbecome one of the favorites to contend for the National Title.Playing in this division they have a slightly easier road to theACC Championship than Miami or Virginia Tech, but not by much.Another 9 win season is not out of the question, but dont besurprised if they end up even better than that, this is a verytalented squad.
North Carolina State Wolfpack
Last season was a bit of a disappointment forthe Wolfpack, who had enjoyed Bowl births in each of head coachChuck Amtos previous seasons. The loss of Philip Rivers provedto be too much for the Pack, who ended the season just 5-6. Defensewill be another strong point for this team in 2005 as they return7 starters from the nations top-rated overall defense. HopefullyNC State can improve their offense with 7 starters returning asthey finished 68th in the nation in rushing offense last seasonand 71st in passing.
The Pack gets a bit of a break playing in theslightly less difficult Atlantic Division of the ACC, plus theydont have to play Virginia or Miami from the Costal Division,but they will have to fight for the second spot in this side ofthe division with newcomer Boston College. Their defense willkeep them in games against most of their opponents, but offensivelythey just cant compete with a high powered offense like FloridaState.
Boston College Eagles
Boston College finished out their last year inthe Big East with a couple of poor performances. They lost theoutright Big East conference title, followed by a very poor showingagainst Syracuse in their bowl game. This season the Eagles couldvery well be in for a rude awakening in the more competitive andtalent-rich ACC. BC returns 14 starters in all from last yearsteam (7 on both sides of the ball), but with a much weaker scheduleof opponents last season this team put up some pretty mediocrenumbers. To contend in the ACC they are going to have to put togethermore of a consistent effort on offense, which may be easier saidthan done with new faces at quarterback as well as their #1 wide receivers. Defensively they will likely be weak againstthe pass once again with new faces in the secondary, which willspell nothing but trouble for this team in the pass-heavy ACC.
Boston College, unlike Miami last year, willhave some growing pains coming into this talented ACC field. Theyopen up their ACC schedule at home against Miami followed immediatelyby a trip to Clemson to battle the Tigers. In the long run itwas probably a good move for this team to make a move to the morepublicized conference, but for the Eagles in 2005 it could bea very long season. They may compete for the second or third spotin the Atlantic Division of the conference, but anything morethan that would be considered miraculous.
Maryland had high hopes for the 2004 season,but fell drastically short of their goals finishing last in theACC and missing out on a bowl game for the first time in fouryears. Head Coach Ralph Friedgen has built a reputation for beingable to turn things around after a team has fallen on tough times.When he first came to Maryland the Terps were in the midst of5 consecutive losing seasons, but Friedgen stepped in to leadthem to three consecutive bowl appearances. The task will be muchmore daunting this season, however, with a ton of question marksat key positions, most notably QB, where reportedly three inexperiencedsignal-callers are still slugging it out for the starting spot.
Theres definitely some hope for Maryland thisseason, a repeat performance from last year certainly shouldntbe expected. Maryland is still strong on defense and special teams.This is a very young team, which means the season could eitherbe a great accomplishment or a huge disappointment. They caughta lot of tough breaks in games that could have gone either waylast season. If the ball bounces their way once or twice theycould very well end up playing in a bowl game in 2005.
Clemson got off to a slow 1-4 start last year,but played much better in the second half of the season, makingthe outlook for this season seem pretty bright. The Tigers return7 offensive starters, most notably experienced quarterback CharlieWhitehurst, who the Tigers are expecting a monster year from.Whitehurst will have his core of receivers back as well, plusthe bulk of the offensive line to protect him. This defense lostsome very key pieces to their puzzle. Although they return 6 playerson the defensive side of the ball, Clemson still must replacetheir best linebacker and best corner (who also happened to beone of the best return men in the nation).
Coach Tommy Bowden believes that his team hasthe talent to win in the ACC, and he may be right. Bowden firedboth his offensive and defensive coordinators from last seasonin hopes that some new faces and styles of play would better fitthe talent of his Tigers. A lot has to go right for the Tigersto compete in the ACC as they have another difficult schedule,particularly early-on.
Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Wake brings plenty of experience into this seasonwith 15 starters returning (9 on offense, 6 on defense). Whetheror not these players coming back are a good thing or not remainsto be seen. The Deacons were awful last season earning just a1-7 record in the ACC and a 4-7 record overall. Wake is comingoff of a terrible season offensively with a pass offense rankednear the bottom of the nation, though their rushing offense waseffective at times. Mixing it up will be difficult for this teamwith new players at skill positions. The good news is that almostthe entire offensive line is back, which should help solidifythat running game again this year.
The Demon Deacons get a bit of an advantage inthe early part of the season with four of their first five gamesbeing at home. The trouble is that their one road game is at Nebraskaand two of the games are against very tough conference opponents.There are flashes of good in this team, they have better speedthan in years past and more experience on the offensive line,but they are still below the curve as far as passing offense andstopping much of anything on defense. This is probably the weakestteam in this half of the conference, though they may pull offan upset or two before the year is over.
Check back for more conference previews fromcollege football handicapper Jimmy Boyd and his Locksmith Sportsteam.