Wednesday, August 10, 2016

College Football Preview: The B1G.

I save the B1G for last because I'm a Michigan fan and it's really the conference I care about the most. Unfortunately, I still think Ohio State is the best team in the conference but the gap is getting narrower.

The numbers:

East W L
Ohio State 12 0
Michigan 11 1
Michigan State 9 3
Maryland 8 4
Penn State 6 6
Indiana 4 8
Rutgers 1 11

West W L
Nebraska 10 2
Minnesota 9 3
Wisconsin 8 4
Iowa 6 6
Illinois 5 7
Northwestern 4 8
Purdue 1 11
Conference Championship:
Bowl Teams: 9 (Not including 5-7 team bids)
CFP: Ohio State
Big 6: Michigan
CFP 2: None
Others: Michigan State
Maryland
Penn State
 Nebraska
Minnesota
Wisconsin
Iowa
Most Underrated: Maryland
Most Overrated: Iowa
Coaches on Hot Seat: Indiana
Illinois
Purdue


The teams:

1. Ohio State - I still think that that damn school down South has the team to beat. I think Urban Meyer is a fantastic coach and I think he'll get his offensive issues sorted. I don't think we understood just how big of a loss then OC (now HC at Houston) Todd Herman really was to the Buckeyes but I think we do now. I see an undefeated run for the Buckeyes and a return engagement into the CFP. (More on that later).

2. Michigan - I place them number 2. in the conference because I think they are better than Nebraska. There's a LOT of CFP betting interest in the Wolverines this year but I'm not buying in, yet. I think Michigan is going to be very, very good defensively, and struggle a little bit on the offensive side of the ball early on.  That said, I think Harbaugh is amassing insane amounts of talent at the school and. if (hopefully) he and Meyer decide to stick around, we could be in for a new 10 years war. (fingers crossed).

3. Nebraska - Here's the thing, I don't think the Cornhuskers are going to be all that great this year. What I do think is that they are going to ride a pretty favorable schedule into the conference championship game where they are going to take a drubbing from Ohio State.  Still, given their recent woes this is a good result for the Cornhuskers and represents an improvement.

4. Michigan State - There will be no "kick-six" this year to bail Sparty out, and I think they will take a step back this year but will still be able to beat everyone in the conference save Michigan and Ohio State. State also has to travel to South Bend to play Notre Dame which I think is going to trip them up. Dantonio's team is going to be solid on defense, but not so solid on offense again this year.

5. Minnesota.  - Last year was brutal for the Gophers with the mid-season retirement of Jerry Kill. I think that obscured some talent on the roster that will fully reveal itself this time around. I like the Gophers offensively and expect them to run the hell out of the ball. On defense they have decent, but not great, speed which should hold up except against the top teams in the conference. 

6. Wisconsin. - Poor Wisconsin. I don't think they are a bad team but they're slated to play a potentially great team in LSU to open the season and I think that's going to be a bridge too far. There are teams in the B1G that I think can hold up to, and beat, the top SEC teams this year (more on that later) but I don't think Wisconsin is one of them.

7. Maryland.  - Ugly helmets, pretty good team. Last year I thought Maryland under achieved but this year I think they can put it together due to experience and, to be honest, a better all-around team. They also have a pretty favorable schedule catching Ohio State and Michigan State at home. Tough games include Minnesota on the road however which could be their biggest surprise of the season.

8. Penn State.  - The rebuilding from the Sandusky disaster continues, and head coach James Franklin is still trying to work against negative perceptions in recruiting.  Gone is QB Christian Hackenberg, In is SO Trace McSorely who will be more mobile. To be fair, a kitchen counter would be more mobile than Hackenberg. The Lions are harping on their Sr laden O-line, but people forget that the returning players haven't been that good. Mediocrity this year, maybe better down the road if they can recruit some linemen.

9. Iowa. - Last year was a dream season for the Hawkeyes, this year I think they come crashing back to Earth. They won't be bad, they have too many winnable games on their schedule, but they won't run the table as they did last year either. I think we're going to see that they lack enough overall team speed to really compete with the big guys this year. They make a bowl, but they won't get as lucky. No one can.

10. Illinois. - Hardee, Turner and Cain might be the best WR grouping in the conference. The question is will transfer QB West Lunt be able to get them the ball? The Illini are relying on a SO and true FR to man the guard positions this year so running the ball and pass protection will be key. I don't think the Illini have sufficient talent on this roster to be all that competitive in an improving league. I'm also not sold that HC Lovie Smith's transition to the college game is going to be seamless either.

11. Northwestern.  - Coach Pat Fitzgerald has always gotten the most out of his players, and he always seems to be hanging around fringe bowl contention. I don't think so this year however because I think the Wildcats are rebuilding. Yes, they have a roster full of Jr's and Sr's but those are, in large part, guys who have been behind more talented starters for a couple of years now. Still, they are a well coached team and could pull an upset or two and squeak into a Bowl, I'd never put that past them.

12. Indiana. -  I think this is the year that HC Kevin Wilson's run with the Hoosiers comes to an end. The former OU offensive coordinator has never really seemed to be able to recruit the type of player that he needs to run his offense, and defensively they just haven't been all that good. Couple that with an unfavorable schedule and I think you have a recipe for an off-season coaching search. Houston HC Herman will be at the top of their list of course, but I think Herman should stay far, far away from this mess.

14a. Purdue. - This place is a mess. The only reason I place them before Rutgers is because P comes just before R in the alphabet. In truth, both Purdue and Rutgers are dumpster fires of athletic programs. This is coach Hazell's 4th year and I think it's his last.  There are so many holes on this team it's hard to find too many strengths.

14b. Rutgers.  - This place is, also, a mess. New HC Chris Ash has inherited a program with little talent or morale right now. I think Ash is a good coach, but I'm not sure if he can overcome the structural deficiencies at the State University of New Jersey right now. To be honest, the B1G should have tagged UConn for expansion over Rutgers. This is not a power 5 program and I don't think it will ever grow into one.


Monday, August 8, 2016

College Football Preview: The American Athletic Conference (sort of)

I bring the American in at this point because I want to discuss two teams.

The numbers:

East W L West W
South Florida 11 1 Houston 12-0
Cincinnati 10 2 Navy 8-4
Connecticut 8 4 SMU 5-7
Temple 7 5 Tulsa 5-7
East Carolina 5 7 Memphis 4-8
UCF 2 10 Tulane 2-10




Conference Championship:
Houston defeats South Florida
Bowl Teams: 6 (Not including 5-7 team bids)
CFP: None
Big 6: Houston
CFP 2: None
Others: South Florida
Cincinnati
Connecticut
Temple
Navy
Most Underrated: Houston
Most Overrated: Memphis
Coaches on Hot Seat: East Carolina
UCF
Tulsa
Memphis
SMU

1. Houston - Here it is:  I think the Cougars beat OU in the season opener, beat Louisville and run through a tough conference, winning the conference title game against USF and finish the season 13-0. And I STILL think they get boxed out of the CFP. If coach Herman is smart (and I think he is) he'll hang on here until a big, big name comes knocking. Not Purdue or Washington State or someone like that. I mean USC or LSU or Auburn. IMO he can accomplish more at Houston than he can any tier-two team at a power 5 conference.  The only thing he cannot do at UH is get into the CFP, but he's not likely to be doing that at a less than blue-blood program anyway so......

2. South Florida: I think they beat every team on their schedule, except Florida State but I think they make that game close. They won't get enough credit for being as good as they are because the National media is underrating the entire conference.  The AAC is just as good, if not better, than the Big XII (currently X) and the ACC and South Florida is one of the main reasons why.

The rest: Cincinnati will be good, as will Navy UConn and Temple. And the middle tier teams could expand the bowl roster for the conference beyond 6 if they pull an upset. Yes, UCF, Tulane and Memphis will probably not be very good, but they're probably not any worse than the bottom of the ACC, and most of these teams could probably beat Kansas.

The media, with their conference affiliations, does it's level best to help the power 5 conferences maintain the status quo. This is good for business (money). In everything from recruiting ratings (player star ratings have been known to move up or down depending on the school with which they sign their ROI), stupid early season top 25 polls (we don't pay any attention to early polls here at The Public $$$) and coverage.

If you don't believe me, watch ESPN's attitude toward the B1G this year now that they've signed an agreement with Fox Sports.  ESPN will pimp the ACC & SEC, Fox Sports the PAC-12 and B1G, NBC rides Notre Dame and CBS only recognizes the SEC, barely admitting the other conferences exist. The Big XII (Now X) and other conferences will be left with table scraps.

It's a crime because I think two of the better teams in the Country might be playing football in what many consider to be a "minor" conference.

Friday, August 5, 2016

College Football Preview: The Big XII (X for now)

Will they, or won't they?

Expand that is (not kick out Baylor, which I think is currently off the table but shouldn't be).

Whether they do or not, 2016 is the final year of the Big XII(X) in it's current iteration. Starting in 2017 they will return to playing a conference championship game regardless of whether they have 10-12 or 14 teams, the latter two options providing two divisions, the former being...well..odd, contesting for it.

There is one big dog right now in this conference and that is OU. TCU is a solid program, but not spectacular. I also think that their shot at the CFP will come down to when the two play, with OU breaking the conference' heart by winning over the Frogs in Fort Worth.

This will make 2 out of 4 years that the Big XII gets locked out of the CFP in my opinion, which could make for some interesting off-season talk. What I think will be even more interesting is when OU gets snubbed from a Big 6 bowl in favor of Notre Dame.

The details:
Conference Standings:
Overall Conference
Teams (No divisions) W L W L
Oklahoma 10 2   9 0
TCU 11 1 8 1
Oklahoma State 10 2 7 2
Texas 8 4 6 3
West Virginia 7 5 5 4
Kansas State 6 6 4 5
Texas Tech 5 7 3 6
Iowa State 3 9 2 7
Baylor 3 9 1 8
Kansas 2 10 0 9







Bowl Teams: 6
CFP: None
Big Six OU
CFP 2: None
Big Six 2: TCU
Oklahoma State
Texas
West Virginia
Kansas State
 
 
Most Underrated: Texas 
Most Overrated: Baylor
Coaches on Hot Seat: Texas Tech
West Virginia







Now, the teams:

1. Oklahoma - Until someone on the top proves they can consistently knock them off, I don't see how you can exclude the Sooner's from your number one slot. They are the most talented team with (still) the best coaching in the league. Yes, Bob Stoops has lost a little off of us fastball of late, but he's still better than 95% of coaches in the Country. Tough non-conference games against Houston and Ohio State keep them out of the playoff IMO.

2. TCU - I like head coach Gary Patterson and you have to admire what TCU has done since their initial snub from the Big XII back in the dark ages.  The University had a plan and they executed.  Defensively I think they are the best in the Big XII and, while they do have some talent on offense, I question their level of coaching. They have a much easier non-conference schedule than do the Sooners and I think their final record will indicate that. Unfortunately for them, the best I think they can hope for is a Big Six bowl game.

3. Oklahoma State - The Cowboys are a sexy dark-horse pick for the conference crown and, offensively anyway, I think they will be competitive. They have a very solid offensive line, the best WR's in the conference and an offensive backfield that should be excellent. Outside of Tre Flowers however I'm not entirely sold on a defense that has a ton returning, but from a unit that wasn't very good in 2015. Plus, I'm not sold that Gundy is the head coach who is gong to allow the Cowboys to round the corner into national contention. A good season, but losses to TCU and OU (again) will hurt.

4. Texas - I think the Longhorns are an underrated group this year, IF their offense can make some improvement. Highly touted recruit Shane Buechele is the starting QB, and he's surrounded with talent. The defense is young, and very talented. I think this is the beginning of Texas' return to prominence on the National Stage. If it's not, then you can add his name to the top of my "coaches on the hot seat" list.

5. West Virginia - For all of the talk of Head Coach Dana Holgorsen being "cool" and "hip" the question of whether or not the guy can coach is frequently not asked. I'm not sold. He does trot out an experienced, Senior-laden, starting group this year who should be similar to a poor-man's Oklahoma State. They're going to score (a lot) and give up (a lot of) points. I feel that we'll be hearing more about whether or not Holgorsen is going to keep his job near the end of the year than about which bowl they're going to.

6. Kansas State - This is it (again I guess) for long-time head coach Bill Snyder. And in true Snyder fashion, I think he gets an upset or three in his last year.  On paper this team doesn't appear to have much talent, much like almost every other team Snyder has coached over the years. But with a Bill Snyder coached team the sum is always greater than the parts. Last year we saw some very un-Snyder like mistakes from the Wildcats. I've a feeling they clean those up this year and get Snyder one last bowl game before he rides off, and K-State rides back to the bottom.

7. Texas Tech - The publications are wild about him, the media outlets love him, his bae is Beyonce and he looks a little bit Hollywood.  All Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury hasn't done is win games. He's probably got the best QB in the conference in Patrick Mahomes. And Tech will put some pretty talented pieces around him on offense. What they don't have, and have not had in a while, is a workable defense. Of all the coaching hot-seats out there I think Kinsbury's is the hottest. I don't think he'll be coaching this team next year.

8. Iowa State - The bottom of the Big XII(X) is pretty bad. And with Iowa State the news is going to be 'New uniforms, same bad result'. Talent-wise they lack the size and speed to compete with the bigger schools, and I'm not sure new HC Matt Campbell can rebuild to credibility in year one considering the hole they are in.  The Cyclones haven't had a head coach with an overall winning record since Earle Bruce in the 70's. New coach, same old long year. Future could get better though.

9. Baylor - A lot of people are saying that Baylor is still going to be pretty good this year. I don't see it. Most of their good players are gone, either due to graduation or transferring out, and what's left is just OK with the possible exception of RB Shock Linwood. Interim HC Jim Grobe is a nice man, but he doesn't have the personality to run anything resembling Art Brile's run-n-gun, run-up-the-score (and let the other team score) offense. On defense I think the Bears are going to be one step south of pathetic. If QB Seth Russell gets injured early it could be a very long year.

10. Kansas - Is it basketball season yet? Head coach Dave Beatty is trying to rebuild from ground zero. Kansas as a football program has no talent, bad facilities and no prospects. They have a pillow-soft non-conference schedule but, even then, I pick their two wins with trepidation. This is, quite probably, the worst Power conference school in the country.



Wednesday, August 3, 2016

College Football Preview: The Pacific Athletic Conference 12.

The biggest news to come out of Palo Alto, CA this year was that the outstanding late-night (on the East Coast and in Middle America) football known as PAC-12 After Dark will be greatly diminished this year, and in the coming years.

And that's too bad.  Because staying up until Midnight or 1AM on Saturday's during the college football season is only worth it if you have meaningful, entertaining games to play.  And the 7PM Pacific Time Zone kick offs were exactly that.  Still, it's understandable why the Conference would go away from this, both in terms of television dollars, and national exposure for their member schools.

Still.

This year I think the PAC-12 makes it's return to the CFP, after taking last year off, and we also see the return of a big name to National prominence.

The predictions:

North W L
Washington 10 2
Oregon 7 5
Stanford 7 5
Washington State 7 5
California 3 9
Oregon State 1 11


South W L
UCLA 12 0
USC 10 2
Utah 9 3
Arizona 8 4
Colorado 5 7
Arizona State 3 9


Conference Championship:
UCLA over Washington
Bowl Teams: 8 (Not including 5-7 team bids)
CFP: UCLA
Big 6: USC
CFP 2: None
Others: Washington
Oregon
Stanford
Washington State
Utah
Arizona
Most Underrated: Utah
Most Overrated: Stanford
Coaches on Hot Seat: Arizona State
Oregon State
Colorado
Washington State
The Teams:

1. UCLA: I know what you're thinking. 'Here he goes again picking the Bruins to make a run'. And you're correct. Last year I picked the Bruins to win the conference and I think that pick was a year away. Wile Miles Jack might be gone, QB Josh Rosen is probably the best signal caller in the Nation and he has a host of talented skill players to distribute the ball.  Defensively this team is packed with experience, and talent. While they don't have the monster that is Jack they do have Sr's and Jr's loaded at every position and head coach Jim Mora Jr. seems to understand what it is his team does well. The good thing is we'll know a lot about this team after week one when they face the Aggies of Texas A&M, who ended the myth of Arizona State last year. Another plus: They get Stanford and USC at home.

2. USC: The Trojans are the sexy pick to win it all in the Pac-12 this year by the pundits.  But I think they have it against them due to scheduling, and I have questions about HC Clay Helton's ability to win at the highest levels. The Trojans are loaded on offense but they don't have a single Sr starting on defense and I think that unit might struggle against the top teams. I think the twin hurdles of  UCLA at home, and Alabama prove too tough for this team this year. Still, they make it back to the Rose Bowl and a possible dream match-up that I'll discuss in a future post.

3. Washington: Former Boise State head coach Chris Peterson is entering his 3rd year and we are finally starting to see his first full recruiting class get some meaningful playing time. The only problem for the Huskies is that expectations are sky-high and this is a team that doesn't have the best track record of living up to those. Pettis, Lenius and Ross might be the best starting WR group in the conference. Possibly the entire country.  On defense I expect the Huskies to be quick to the ball and attacking. Regardless of whether they live up to my expectations, this will be a fun team to watch this year.

4. Utah: Head Coach Kyle Wittingham has looked to transfers to restock what was a depleted roster. He's brought in some good talent but time will tell if they can gel or no. I like QB Brandon Cox but will he be on the same page as Transfer WR's Cory Butler-Byrd and Tim Patrick?  Running back Joseph Williams fills some huge shoes, is he up to it?  On defense the Utes are a mix of experience and youth, but they have depth problems, especially on the left side of the o-line. Injuries to the wrong players could derail them pretty quickly.

5. Arizona: When healthy, Wildcat's QB Anu Solomon is a great fit into HC Rich Rodriguez' system. He has talent to distribute the ball to and an O-line that should be much improved from last year. To my mind, the Wildcat's questions lie on the defensive side of the ball. Coach Rodriguez is going to rely on a youth movement, and Sr transfers to try and plug some huge gaps. They need to find another CB to man the opposite side of De'Vonte Neal and replacing the defensive presence of Scooby Wright is gong to be almost impossible.

6. Oregon: Are the Ducks a program in decline?  My initial thought is yes but I think they still have enough talent to make it to a bowl. To move any higher they're going to need to pull some upsets, but they do have a favorable schedule so they get some big games at Autzen. The problem for the Ducks is that they're relying (again) on a Sr transfer QB who's going to have to learn the system quickly. WR Carrington is a stud, but he's also an off-the-field risk. Can he stay out of trouble?  Ducks fans had better hope so or it's going to be a LONG year.

7. Stanford: The bad news for Stanford HC David Shaw is that this is a rebuilding year. The good news is there's still talent on the field and young talent on the bench, which is an improvement from the old days of the Stanford program. QB Keller Chryst has 'great QB' written all over him but so far has been a mix of "could have been" and untapped potential. For Stanford to have a chance he's going to need to take the next step. Defensively I think Stanford will be weak, for them, but still OK in terms of overall PAC-12 defenses. The problem, as I see it, for Stanford is schedule. They play USC, UCLA, Washington, Washington State and Notre Dame in consecutive weeks. Brutal.

8. Washington State: Was last year the beginning of the Mike Leach slow-build toward excellence? Or was it an aberration brought on by good scheduling and a team that finally brought it all together? I think some of both. I don't think the Cougars are going to sneak up on anyone this year, nor do I think they are going to lay an egg like they did in week one against Portland State. That said the check-scratchers are losing patience with Leach (and his pirate ways) and I'm unsure whether or not 7-5 is going to be enough to save him.

9. Colorado: First, the good news: the Buffalo are getting better. Now, the bad news: They still have a long way to go. HC Mike MacIntyre is trying, but the cupboard is barren after the Hawkins/Embree disasters and I'm unsure whether or not he's going to be able to fully turn it around. This is year four of the MacIntyre era and I'm not sure another non-bowl season is going to get the job done. Still, he'll be leaving the program in much better shape than he inherited it so that counts for something.

10. California: Life without Jared Goff is going to be a problem. I say this considering that life WITH him was closer to average for the Bears than spectacular.  This team is going to be exposed as bereft of talent and will struggle to compete against a conference that's got all of it's traditional power names back at the top again. I don't think the Bears SHOULD fire coach Sonny Dykes after this year, but I'm not sure they won't either.

11. Arizona State: Maybe now we know why Coach Todd Graham didn't stay for long at his previous stops? Last year this team stumbled out of the blocks against an average Texas A&M squad and never really got it going. This year they start off easier, but I don't think they have the fire-power or the talent to compete in the PAC-12.  Graham has made a career winning off of other coaches recruits, what we haven't seen yet is if he can win with his. Much like Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin I'm starting to really doubt it.  I also think 3-9 puts him squarely on the hottest of seats.

12. Oregon State: Head Coach Gary Anderson could be 2 and done. After finishing the season 2-10 (and 0-9 in conference) last year I only have them winning one game (against Idaho State) this year. There is no talent to speak of one this team that would suggest anything better is in the offering. They have a Jr transfer QB in Daryl Garretson that they are hoping can make the engine run, but they are under-talented at every other offensive position. On defense they are desperately searching for depth behind a line that doesn't generate all that much pressure, an LB corps that's slow, and a defensive backfield that can't cover, tackle or work together all that well. Plus: The Beaver's are hated by Nike, who gives them some of the ugliest uniforms in College Football.  It's going to be a long Fall in Corvallis.

Monday, August 1, 2016

The Shield: Yup, it's the silly season.

Tony Romo is FAT!!! - Except, really, he isn't.  And most of the sports "reporters" poking fun at him are in way worse shape than him.

DeAndre Hopkins with the worst hold-out ever. - Poor Texans, they can't even get that right.

Fans (and Media) still don't understand what training camp is for. - Nor what should be worried about vs. what shouldn't.

Those are dispatches from what was mostly "Day 1" throughout the NFL of Summer Training Camp. It's the silly season of the NFL when sports writers, desperate for content after basically having the Spring and Early Summer off (I don't count draft writing, which is garbage) write columns about just about anything that happens, despite the fact that, outside of injuries, actual real news rarely happens.

The same thing is true of pre-season games. Which are little more than glorified scrimmages whose sole purpose is to provide teams with two things: 1. Game film for coaches to use in teaching. 2. An aid in deciding the bottom of the roster. In fact, the most important part of any pre-season game is largely the special teams plays.

Most decisions are made on the practice field, and fans only get a limited peek at that. What they do get to see is controlled.  For everything else you're relying on credentialed media, and in many cases they're so close to the team that their reports are all but useless anyway.

The NFL pre-season is the 2nd worst part of the football season. The worst part being the NFL Pro-Bowl.

They're never eliminate either, of course, because the former is a cash cow while the latter give players, coaches and NFL executives a Hawaii vacation.

The ONLY way that fans could bring an end to this atrocity is to stop attending, and stop watching pre-season games and activities.  But, we cannot do that because we think we are "starved" for football (which, as a sport might not be around 20 years from now anyway if they don't get serious about concussions) so on and on it will go.

Call me when the College season starts. That's the REAL beginning of the football season.



(And those "Football is Family" commercials are hot garbage to boot)

Friday, July 29, 2016

2016 College Football Preview: The Atlantic Coast Conference.

Continuing our 2016 guess as to how the major conferences turn out, I give you the ACC, who I think will (again) get a team in the CFP who will, again, have a chance at winning the entire damn thing.

Often poked fun at as the SEC's (S.E.C!!!) little brother, the conference is loudly coming of age with the return of Florida State and the ascension of Clemson to top tier status. Yes, the underbelly of this conference is pudding soft, but the same can be said of most major conferences.

So, without further ado....

Atlantic W L
Florida State   12 0
Clemson 11 1
Louisville 9 3
NC State 7 5
Wake Forest 6 6
Boston College 3 9
Syracuse 3 9

Coastal W L
North Carolina   11 1
Miami 8 4
Pittsburgh 8 4
Duke 6 6
Georgia Tech 5 7
Virginia Tech 5 7
Virginia 2 9
Conference Championship:
Florida State over North Carolina
Bowl Teams: 9 (Not including 5-7 team bids)
CFP: Florida State
Big 6: Clemson
CFP 2: None
Others: Louisville
NC State
Wake Forest
North Carolina
Miami
Pittsburgh
Duke
Most Underrated: North Carolina
Most Overrated: Boston College
Coaches on Hot Seat:
Boston College
Georgia Tech

Team by team:

1. Florida State: I see the Seminoles having another good, possibly great year. Making the College football playoffs before ultimately losing in the Semi-final game. The Seminoles should be loaded for bear on defense, and they have some of the better skill players on offense in the Nation. All in all I think it's a return to the Top 4 for the Seminoles, and a return visit to the ACC Championship game and an ultimate title.

2. Clemson: Call the Tigers "1B" if you like. I think that in terms of player talent they stand toe-to-toe with Florida State, and possibly have even more to offer.  In fact, the only reason I place Florida State over them is because their match-up this year is played in Tallahassee.  Granted, I've questioned head coach Dabo Swinney in the past, but his "rah rah" cheerleader style seems to be working, and he has quality assistants who come up with great game plans to take advantage of their strengths.

3. North Carolina: I give the Tarheels my "most underrated tag for the ACC because I think they are clearly the 3rd best team in the conference. Head coach Larry Fedora has the offense rolling and there's a suspicion (by me) that their defense is going to be much improved. It's going to be weird for UNC fans to still be paying attention to football in late-November/early December, but I think that's where this team is heading.

4. Louisville: I will admit my bias here. I think Louisville has almost as much talent as anyone, but they are perpetually hamstrung by all-around bad guy Bobby Petrino at Head Coach.  I also question whether or not they have a quarterback that can get their great receivers the ball consistently. They also have a very, very suspect defense. People are basing their high rankings on the last 5 games of last season.  I still think that had more to do with who they played (Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Kentucky, Virginia, Texas aTm) than how good they were. We'll see.

5. Miami: What can new HC Mark Richt do with the Hurricanes? I think he'll do OK in year one for two reasons: 1. There is still a ton of talent on the Miami roster 2. He's a good coach and a definite upgrade over Golden.  That said, they have questions.  QB Kaaya has been hit/miss and they have athletic ability at the WR and RB positions, but are they PLAYERS? On defense they have two Sophomores on the D-line and 2 true freshmen at LB. I still don't think they have enough to beat the big guys in a league this stacked.

6. Pittsburgh: Pitt fans believe, in their hearts, that this is their year.  The Panthers are probably the most Sr laden team in the ACC and hopes are high.  The problem that I have is that the talent that is returning really wasn't all that good to begin with last year. I don't see room for much upside this year. Head Coach Pat Narduzzi is a defensive-minded guy by nature, and I expect them to be pretty good there. Where I see Pitt struggling is against the much-faster defenses that their offense is going to face in conference play.

7. NC State: North Carolina State was supposed to be a contender in the ACC, last year. Instead they went 7-6 and 3-5 in the conference. Granted, they are recruiting well (for them) and head coach Doeren appears to be moving the team in the right direction but I think there's too much headwind blowing against them in teh fairly stacked ACC Atlantic. On offense I expect them to try to run too much but on defense they might have one of the better LB corps in the Conference. Still, I have them with the same record prediction as I (correctly) had last year. They'll need to outplay their talent if they want to do better.

8. Duke: For a couple of glorious years, Duke was a force in the ACC Coastal division. I don't see this happening this year as HC David Cutcliffe's team reverts back to the mean due to talent attrition and recruiting reality.  Granted, the Blue Devils will be tough outs for anyone, and I think they keep it close in most.  But the Duke Blue Devil football players are similar to Wooderson's high school girls. To paraphrase: "The rest of the conference keeps getting better, and they stay just the same."

9. Wake Forest: This is a rebuilding campaign for the Demon Deacons, and I think their record is gong to show it.  That said, I think they have just enough talent, and the rest of the conference is weak enough, that they should skid in right at the 6-6 mark to (lose in) make another bowl.  Wake Forest is well coached, and offensively inept. They are seemingly becoming old hat at no-touchdowns-scored games. They're going to need more than they have to contend in a division with Florida State, Clemson and Louisville looking at them.

10. Georgia Tech: That Paul Johnson is still coaching the Yellowjackets this year is, admittedly, a surprise to me. On offense the best thing they have going for them is returning starter Justin Thomas. Where they're going to struggle is with three Sophomore RB's. The fact is the team wasn't very good (3-9) last year and I only see marginal improvement this year. They start off the season light, against Alcorn State and Tulane, so they should be a *yawn* 2-0 before facing off against Notre Dame and getting their hats handed to them. I think Johnson will be hard pressed to have this job next season.

11. Virginia Tech: Frank Beamer, gone. And while new head coach Justin Fuente is inheriting some talent he's also coming in as the "man who is replacing the man" which is never a good thing. I don't think Virginia Tech will be awful, but I don't think they will be that good either. To me their best hope is to sneak in a win they shouldn't and make it to a bowl game so that they can get extra practices. On plus: Defensive Coordinator Bud Foster is still around, so the defense should be a strong suit.

12. Boston College: Another year, another overrated Boston College team. Look, I get it. The East Coast media DESPERATELY wants them to be good. And head coach Steve Addazio is the type of coach you want to succeed. The problem, as I see it, is that BC just doesn't have the talent to compete with many ACC teams. They're going to be OK on defense because of coaching but they're going to struggle because of lack of speed. For the life of me I cannot figure out how they're going to score any points. It's going to be a rough year and I have Addazio on my list of "coaches on the hot seat".

13. Syracuse: Former Bowling Green HC Dino Babers is taking over a program that is listing, underfunded and bereft of talent. Other than that Mrs. Lincoln how was the play? Fully half of the starters are underclassmen, and the experience much of it is "meh". They should have a pretty decent right side of the O-line which could mean a strongly right-handed (read: predictable) offense. On defense I just think they're going to struggle to stop opposing teams. I think Babers is the kind of coach that can turn it around, just not this year.

14. Virginia: The Cavaliers are the football dumpster fire of the ACC. The team on the schedule that the other teams view as a win. They are your ideal homecoming opponent. Head coach Bronco Mendenhall doesn't have much in the way of talent, speed or anything approaching the level of competing in the ACC. I only have them beating FCS Richmond, and a Horrible CMU team. Maybe Mendenhall can turn it around?  But he's got a LONG, long way to go.  Looks to be a tough first year.

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