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2008 CFN ACC Preview
Posted Aug 6, 2008

The ACC might not seem to be that strong from top to bottom, but it's improving. Is this Clemson's year, or can Virginia Tech repeat? Has Boston College reloaded? Is North Carolina ready? Check out the predictions, All-ACC team, unit rankings and more in the 2008 CFN ACC preview.

2008 CFN ACC Preview

Team Previews & Predictions
Boston Coll | Clemson | Florida St | Maryland | NC State | Wake Forest
Coastal Duke | Georgia Tech | Miami | North Carolina | Virginia | Virginia Tech

- CFN All-ACC Team & Top 30 Players
- ACC Team-by-Team Capsules

ACC Unit Rankings

- ACC Schedules & Predictions

By Richard Cirminiello 

Opportunity is knocking, Clemson. You better capitalize now because the path to an ACC crown may never be this smooth again.

The Tigers are the storyline of the 2008 season in the ACC. While they’ve got the league’s best quarterback, Cullen Harper, and as much talent as anyone in the conference, the rest of the ACC is down. Way down.  Florida State and Miami remain weak facsimiles of the programs that used to collect crowns faster than anyone else in the country. Boston College was built for last year. Georgia Tech and Virginia are about to undergo some serious growing pains. Virginia Tech is a shell of last year’s squad. Wake Forest? Well, the Deacons are still a feisty group that’s capable of getting to a second BCS bowl game in the last three years. The rest of the league, however, is a cut or two below the contenders.

That brings us back to Clemson, that unpredictable program which hasn’t been able to fully break through under head coach Tommy Bowden. In almost a decade with the Tigers, he’s yet to win 10 games or play in a major bowl, making this a pivotal season in his coaching career. The Chick-Fil-A Bowl isn’t going to cut it. Nine wins will be a disappointment. Anything less than an ACC Championship will be labeled underachieving for a program deep enough to finally get over the hump. The bar is set high, Clemson. Get used to it.

In the Atlantic, Florida State is certainly capable of winning the division, but it won’t happen unless Jimbo Fisher’s offense does an about-face from a year ago. The pressure is on QB Drew Weatherford to finally play up to his potential. Wake Forest is dangerous under Jim Grobe. Again. If the lines can be retooled, it’ll be in every game.

The Coastal Division is a mess. Virginia Tech is the measuring stick, but it has gaping holes on offense and defense that need to be addressed. Miami’s best talent is very young, meaning championship contention might still be a year away. Pay close attention to North Carolina, which has the improving talent and right coach to make a quantum leap.         

Team That'll Surprise
North Carolina – The Tar Heels aren’t quite all grown up under Butch Davis, but after using a ton of underclassmen a year ago, they’ll be far better prepared to compete in the ACC. And far less intimidated by the surroundings. Davis, and John Bunting before him, has helped upgrade the talent level in Chapel Hill, which will become apparent this fall. If Carolina gets more consistency out of the quarterback, look out. The program has the potential to be one of this season’s bigger upstarts.

Team That'll Disappoint

Virginia Tech – Yes, Tech will win plenty of games and be the favorite in the Coastal Division, but there are too many holes on both sides of the ball to anticipate a repeat ACC title.  In fact, even in a division that’s short on viable contenders, the Hokies might struggle to land a spot in the title game. The chief concerns are a dearth of skill position players and a defense that’s replacing seven starters.

Game of the Year … Clemson at Florida State, Nov. 8.  Although the so-called Bowden Bowl has become increasingly passé, this year’s game could have a lot more than just familial bragging rights at stake. The Tigers have won the last three in this series, but will be wearing a fat target on their chests all year as the ACC favorite.     

5 Big-Time Players Who Deserve a Bigger Spotlight ...
1. QB Cullen Harper, Sr. Clemson
2. CB Alphonso Smith, Sr. Wake Forest
3. DT Vance Walker, Sr. Georgia Tech
4. WR Hakeem Nicks, Jr. North Carolina
5. DE Everette Brown, Jr. Florida State

Coach on the Hot Seat
Randy Shannon, Miami – Barring a disaster, Shannon isn’t losing his job after just two years. In fact, it’s likely that no ACC coach will be shown the door at the end of the year. Still, after leading the once-mighty ‘Canes to their worst season in three decades, Shannon needs to show tangible signs of progress, or else the temperature will be soaring a year from now. After cleaning up in February, he needs to prove he’s more than just an ace recruiter.           

5 Non-Conference Games the ACC had better take very, very seriously
1. Colorado at Florida State, Sept. 27
2. Wake Forest at Baylor, Aug. 30
3. UCF at Miami, Oct. 11
4. Delaware at Maryland, Aug. 30
5. East Carolina at NC State, Sept. 20

Bold Prediction … North Carolina will win the Coastal Division. What do you get when you combine one of the league’s young, upwardly-mobile programs with a division that’s flush with turnover and uncertainty? A major surprise out of the Tar Heels in Butch Davis’ second season in Chapel Hill.

5 Best Pro Prospects
DE Michael Johnson, Sr. Georgia Tech
2. OT
Eugene Monroe, Sr. Virginia
3. WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, Jr. Maryland
DT Vance Walker, Sr. Georgia Tech
CB Victor “Macho” Harris, Sr. Virginia Tech

5 Biggest Shoes to Fill
1. QB Chris Crane for Matt Ryan, Boston College
2. DE Alex Field for Chris Long, Virginia
3. RB
Jonathan Dwyer for Tashard Choice, Georgia Tech
4. LB
Dave Philistin for Erin Henderson, Maryland
5. LB
Purnell Sturdivant for Xavier Adibi, Virginia Tech

Click for Team Previews & Predictions
Boston Coll | Clemson | Florida St | Maryland | NC State | Wake Forest
Coastal Duke | Georgia Tech | Miami | North Carolina | Virginia | Virginia Tech