Here’s the early word on ACC Football from Ross Lucksinger at foxsports.com.
Champion: Virginia Tech
The Hokies have some big holes to fill at skill positions on offense with the loss of RB Brandon Ore and each of their top four receivers from last year, but quarterback Sean Glennon is back for his senior season. On top of that, the strength of Virginia Tech has been its defense and special teams and that’s where the Hokies are strongest in 2008. CB Victor Harris and FS Kam Chancellor lead what could be one of the top secondaries in the country and LB Cam Martin and DE Orion Martin will create havoc up front. The defense will also be assisted by an efficient offense that will protect the football. Glennon threw only five picks last season in 235 attempts and with another year of experience under his belt that trend will continue.
I know, I know, how can I pick a team who’s best option at runningback is guy named Jahre Cheeseman? (Seriously. That’s not a made-up name. Cheeseman.) But Cheeseman is a better running back than most people know. Last year he averaged 6.3 yards per carry (21 attempts for 133 yards), thanks mostly to a 70-yard run against Georgia Tech.
This year will be his time to shine and in 2008 the ACC will behold the power of cheese.
The Terps are buried in the conference preseason rankings behind popular picks such as Wake Forest, Miami and Clemson, but Maryland will end up having a stronger 2008 than most expect. One of the reasons for the lower ranking is the uncertainty at quarterback with Chris Turner, Jordan Steffy and Florida transfer Josh Portis all in the mix.
However, these three will have a senior-laden offense line to work behind and an athletic defense to keep the pressure off the offense. If one of the senior receivers, like 6-foot-3, 200-pound split end Isaiah Williams, can provide a reliable target for whomever wins the QB battle and sophomore running back Da’Rel Scott has a breakout year, quarterback may be the least of Maryland’s opponents’ concerns.
The prediction here is that Maryland surprises by winning the ACC Atlantic and earning a spot in the conference championship game. They’ll lose the ACC championship to Virginia Tech, but it’ll still be a better-than-expected 2008 for the Terps.
The Clemson Tigers are ranked in the top 10 by many publications and are picked to win the ACC by many more. But a team with offensive line issues and question marks all over the place just doesn’t scream “conference champion” to me.
Don’t get me wrong, James Davis and C.J. Spiller are a freakishly good running backs and Cullen Harper’s senior leadership will be invaluable, but talent-wise this is a good team, not a great one.
The running game will suffer from a very inexperienced O-line and the weapons, outside of senior Aaron Kelly, just aren’t there at receiver. There are some bright spots, naturally, like a great group of defensive backs, but they aren’t as solid top to bottom as their main rival for the conference championship, Virginia Tech.
The Tigers will finish 2008 better than they did in 2007 (a loss to Auburn in the Chick-fil-A Bowl), but this is simply a good team with far too lofty of expectations heaped upon it… much like the choice of underachiever over in the Big 12.
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