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1) The five
games that will shape the ACC race (in order)
Sept. 4, Florida State at Miami
Because these two are in separate divisions, this has bigger
implications for the national title picture than the ACC race.
Sept. 9, Clemson at Boston College
It might be the ACC opener, but the loser will be in big trouble in
the Atlantic Division battle.
Sept. 16, Clemson at Florida State
Florida State likely can’t lose to Miami and Clemson and play for
the ACC title. The Tigers can set the tone to be the Atlantic Division
favorites with a big win.
Oct. 28, Miami at Georgia Tech
The Yellow Jackets won a 14-10 stunner over the Canes last year.
This season’s battle will go a long way to deciding the Coastal Division
Nov. 4, Virginia Tech at Miami
The road team has won the last two meetings.
Five non-conference games that ACC teams had better take very, very
NC State at Southern Miss, Sept. 16
The Golden Eagles believe in playing anyone, anywhere, anytime. Now
they get a big name in their house.
2. Louisiana Tech at Clemson, Sept. 30
The Tigers will already have played three ACC games with road tests
at Boston College and Florida State and could look past the Bulldogs.
Tech is strong on the road.
3. Boston College at Central Michigan, Aug. 31
Who wants to go on the road to Central Michigan to start the season
a week before facing Clemson? While BC is hardly Indiana, CMU gave the
Hoosiers all they could handle in last year’s season opener.
4. Houston at Miami, Sept. 30
Miami will be coming off what’ll certainly be an emotional battle at
Louisville. Houston QB Kevin Kolb is just good enough to get red hot for
a game and give the Canes some big-time problems.
5. South Florida at North Carolina, Oct. 14
Sandwich game. The Tar Heels have to face the brutal USF defense in
between battles with Virginia Tech and Clemson.
Five best ACC pro prospects
Clemson DE Gaines Adams, Sr. - 55 tackles, 9.5 sacks, 15 TFL, 9
broken up passes, 29 quarterback pressures
He should probably be off to the NFL. The starter at the Bandit end
plays a little bit of defensive end and a little bit of linebacker with
the size at 265 pounds to be a top run stopper and the speed and
quickness to be a great pass defender. He does a little of everything
very well with a great talent for getting into the backfield on a
2. Georgia Tech WR Calvin Johnson, Jr. - 54 catches, 888 yds,
16.4 ypc, 6 TD
While his numbers slipped after a record-setting freshman season, the
6-4, 235-pound Johnson became a more complete receiver and stopped
relying solely on his ridiculous talents to get by. He figured out how
to be more physical and use his strength and size more to his advantage
and showed better route running ability. Now he has to be an even more
polished route runner and do a better job of being open despite being
the focus of every defensive gameplan. If he's the be-all-end-all pro
prospect he's supposed to be, he has be a 7-10 catch per game receiver
no matter what.
3. Miami SS Kenny Phillips. Soph. - 88 tackles, 3 TFL, 1
interception, 4 broken up passes
He was as good as advertised. One of 2005's top recruits stepped and
starred from the start showing off the 4.4 speed to be in on seemingly
every play and the smarts of a long-time veteran. He's a good-sized
hitter at 6-2 and 200 pounds with moves like a cornerback.
4. Miami DE Baraka Atkins, Sr. - 50 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 5 TFL, 4
broken up passes, 6 quarterback hurries
Able to be used as a small, quick tackle or a big, run stopping end, the
6-4, 264-pound senior is a versatile player with 35 games of starting
experience. Tough as nails, he fought through a knee injury to have a
great season. While not a pure pass rusher, he's effective at getting
into the backfield on a regular basis with 13 career sacks, 20.5 tackles
for loss and 41 quarterback hurries.
5. Miami TE Greg Olsen, Jr. - 31 catches, 451 yds, 14.5 ypc, 4 TD
The sky's the limit for the soon to be first round draft choice. Olsen
has it all from fantastic hands to good deep speed to good blocking
ability in a 6-5, 252-pound frame. There are few better route runners
and few tight ends in college football that can match what he can do in
the open field. He'll likely be the team's leading receiver and the
number one option on third downs.
Five biggest ACC shoes to fill
Tech QB Sean Glennon for Marcus Vick
Glennon redshirted last year when it became obvious that Marcus Vick was
going to be the main man. At 6-4 and 215 pounds, he's a good-sized
passer with decent skills and a good command of the offense. He's not
going to run much, if at all, but he should be a more consistent passer
than Vick. He saw time in four games completing 8 of 11 passes for 137
yards and two touchdowns, but he’ll have to battle with Cory Holt and
Ike Whitaker for the starting gig.
2. Maryland TE Dan Gronkowski for Vernon Davis
The former quarterback is still figuring out how to play tight end.
He's 6-6 and 262 pounds with decent hands and emerging blocking skills.
He won't be an every down tight end with several options being moved in
and out depending on the situation.
3. Virginia OT Eugene Monroe for D'Brickashaw Ferguson
Monroe will get the first shot at trying to replace Ferguson on the
left side, but he'll have to return healthy after having problems with a
dislocated kneecap this spring. While he's not close to being Ferguson,
he's bigger at 6-6 and 318 pounds and should grow into being a decent
all-around blocker over the next few years.
4. NC State DE Willie Young for Mario Williams
All Young has to do is replace the number one pick in the 2006 NFL
Draft, Mario Williams. While he's not the physical freak of nature that
Super Mario is, He's 6-5 and 230 pounds with decent speed and pass
rushing skills. He was ready to play last year, but got banged up in
spring ball and ended up redshirting. He's not going to put up 14 sacks
and 23 tackles for loss, but he'll be a good one.
5. Boston College DE Jim Ramella for Mathias Kiwanuka
Ramella turned into a surprising performer as a true freshman showing
good promise on the outside in a reserve role. He's a tall, quick pass
rusher who'll have to stake a claim to a spot after missing time this
spring recovering from surgery.
Five ACC breakout players
Florida State SS Myron Rolle, Fr.
Call it an educated projection that Rolle will start the season
despite being listed behind Anthony Houllis. One of the nation's
top recruits was the talk of spring ball proving to be every bit
as good as his prep hype. He's 6-2 and 214 pounds with
phenomenal speed that'll get him next-level notice right off the
bat. What'll get him the most recognition right away is his huge
hitting ability. It's not insane to consider him the team's best
pro prospect even though he's a true freshman.
2. Virginia DE Chris Long, Jr. - 46 tackles, 1 sack, 10
TFL, 7 broken up passes, 26 quarterback hurries
Long turned into a top producer on the line with enough
quickness to be a presence in the backfield and the strength to
be a good tackler against the run. While not a pure pass rusher,
the 278-pound junior is good at pressuring the quarterback
thanks to a great motor, as evidenced by a brilliant performance
against Minnesota in the Music City Bowl. Expect an All-ACC
3. Wake Forest Micah Andrews, Jr. - 110 carries, 621 yds,
5.6 ypc, 1 TD, 7 catches, 71 yds
With Chris Barclay out for the 2005 season opener, Andrews
showed off what he can do by ripping off 254 yards and a
touchdown in the loss to Vanderbilt. He followed it up with a
64-yard day against Nebraska and a 142-yard effort against East
Carolina, but then he was pushed out of the spotlight when
Barclay got back in the mix and finished his season up with an
ankle injury before the Miami game. Now the job is all his and
he should shine. He's not as fast as Barclay and doesn't have
the same receiving skills, but he's more powerful and should be
4. Duke NG Vince Oghobaase, RFr.
The star recruit of last season should quickly become one of the
defense's best players now that he's back from the knee injury
that cost him all of last year when he was supposed to start
from day one. At 6-6 and 310 pounds, he's the team's biggest
lineman as well as, arguably, the most heralding incoming
lineman in the school's history.
5. Clemson NG Jock McKissic, Soph. - 18 tackles
McKissic had a good freshman year growing into a solid anchor on
the nose. He's a strong 295 pounds and getting even stronger
with room on his 6-6 frame to be a rock-solid 310 pounds. He was
a key reserve last season and should be the teams top run
stopper as the season goes on.