The Pi-Rate Ratings

August 24, 2012

2012 Atlantic Coast Conference Preview

The Atlantic Coast Conference has not had a National Champion since Florida State won the title in 1999 (defeating future ACC rival Virginia Tech).  The league suffered through several down years with teams playing in the conference championship game and finishing with three, four, and even five losses.  Just last year, conference champion Clemson gave up 70 points in the Orange Bowl.

 

Prospects look brighter this season as the sports “experts” believe Florida State is a strong national title contender once again.  Clemson and North Carolina State are improved enough to reach double digit wins.  The other three Atlantic Division teams will compete for bowl eligibility.  In the Coastal Division, North Carolina is not bowl eligible this year, and the Tar Heels could finish in first place in the division.  There is a chance a 5-3 and definitely a 6-2 team could face the Atlantic Division winner at the end of the year.

 

Here is the league’s official preseason media poll.

 

 

 

ACC Atlantic

Votes

 

 

Rank

Team

1st Place

Total

 

1

Florida State

72

543

(60)

2

Clemson

17

470

(13)

3

North Carolina State

5

402

(1)

4

Wake Forest

0

241

 

5

Boston College

0

181

 

6

Maryland

0

148

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ACC Coastal

 

 

 

Rank

Team

1st Place

Total

 

1

Virginia Tech

83

558

(18)

2

Georgia Tech

10

421

(3)

3

North Carolina

2

341

 

4

Virginia

0

326

 

5

Miami (Fla.)

0

245

 

6

Duke

0

104

 

 

 

 

 

 

Numbers in ( ) are votes to win ACC Championship Game

 

 

The PiRate Ratings and PiRate Vintage Ratings vary only slightly from the media poll.

 

PiRate Ratings

Rank

ACC Atlantic

PiRate

1

Florida State

120.0

2

Clemson

115.0

3

North Carolina State

103.1

4

Boston College

102.9

5

Wake Forest

98.6

6

Maryland

95.6

 

   

Rank

ACC Coastal

PiRate

1

Virginia Tech

111.8

2

North Carolina

109.0

3

Georgia Tech

107.4

4

Virginia

100.0

5

Miami (Fla)

99.3

6

Duke

98.4

 

   

 

   

 

Vintage Ratings

 

Rank

ACC Atlantic

Vintage

1

Florida State

115

2

Clemson

113

3

North Carolina State

110

4

Boston College

107

5

Maryland

100

6

Wake Forest

99

 

   

Rank

ACC Coastal

Vintage

1

Virginia Tech

109

2

Georgia Tech

109

3

North Carolina

108

4

Virginia

105

5

Miami (Fla)

103

6

Duke

103

 

 

Team

Boston College Eagles

               
Head Coach

Frank Spaziani

               
Colors

Maroon and Gold

               
City

Chestnut Hill, MA

               
2011 Record              
Conference

3-5

Overall

4-8

               
PiRate Rating

102.9

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

54

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Rating

107

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

39

               
2012 Prediction              
Conference

3-5

Overall

5-7

 

Last year, the Eagles suffered through their first losing season since 1998, and it continued a pattern that has been developing for four years.  BC’s win total has decreased four years in a row from 11 to nine to eight to seven to four.

 

Fourth year coach Frank Spaziani will get a pink slip if this trend continues in 2012.  The pattern should end this year, because of the 22 starters that should take the field for the opener against Miami, 20 of them started at least one game last year.

 

Expect big changes on the offensive side, even though all 11 positions will have a player with starting experience.  Spaziani hired Doug Martin as his new offensive coordinator.  Martin is a passing specialist.  He couldn’t turn the corner as head coach at Kent State, but the Golden Flashes moved the ball through the air.  In Martin’s one season as the OC at New Mexico State, the Aggies improved by nine points and 100 passing yards per game.

 

Whether quarterback Chase Rettig is up to the chase is another story.  In two seasons, Rettig has thrown as many interceptions as touchdown passes, and his completion percentage has been just a tad over 50%.  Rettig is not a running threat, so the Eagles need a major jump by the junior this year if they are to challenge for a winning record.

 

All the key personnel returns at the receiver positions, but one key piece will be sidelined until late October.  Bobby Swigert led in receptions as a possession receiver, and Colin Larmond led in yards as more of a breakaway threat.  Alex Amidon is another deep threat, while tight end Chris Pantale continues the tradition of excellent play at that position by Eagle tight ends.  This quartet was responsible for about 70% of the pass receptions last year.  Pantale will miss the first half of the season with a broken bone in his foot.

 

Deuce Finch and Andre Williams return to share the running back position after Montel Harris was dismissed from the team in the early part of last season.  This duo combined for 1,222 yards and seven touchdowns, but they cannot match what Harris did.  With the new emphasis on the passing game, expect BC’s rushing numbers to stay around 100-120 yards per game.

 

Four full-time starters return up front, and the fifth started a game last year.  The left side of the line is strong and talented with guard Bobby Vardaro and tackle Emmett Cleary.  Ian White moves from guard to center.

 

We expect the Eagles to increase their points and yardage this season.  Of course, they have easy marks to better, as they scored 18 points and gained less than 300 yards per game in 2011.  Expect a jump by five points and 50-75 yards.

 

The defense would have been better if it didn’t have to stay out on the field so long.  BC’s opponents averaged seven more scrimmage plays per game than the Eagles averaged.

 

The strength of the 4-3 alignment is at linebacker, where weak side linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis returns after finishing second on the team with 74 tackles, including six for negative yardage.  Steele Divitto returns to the other outside position.  He finished third with 72 tackles and picked up a couple of sacks.  Sean Duggan started a trio of 2011 games as a true freshman, and he finished with 39 stops.  He has to replace Luke Kuechly, a first-round NFL draft pick.  Even without their all-American, BC is solid here.

 

The defensive front four suffered with injuries last season, and several youngsters saw extended playing time.  End Brian Mihalik was pressed into duty as a true freshman and now has game experience.  He will team with Kasim Edebali at the opposite terminal position.  The Eagles made just 11 sacks all season, and these two anchors need to approach that number by themselves for the Eagles to compete for a bowl bid.  Tackles Dillon Quinn, Dominic Appiah, and Kaleb Ramsey give the Eagles three quality players at the inside position.

 

The secondary never had a chance last year due to the weak pass rush.  The Eagles were repeatedly exploited in the underneath zones.  Two starters return this season, but the two new starters saw a lot of action as freshmen.  None of these four players will challenge for all-ACC honors, and if the pass rush is morbid again this season, BC’s defense will suffer through another long season.

 

Boston College has a history of producing some excellent kickers, but even this phase of the game suffered last year.  Nate Freese connected on a 52-yard field goal, but he was just 10-16 for the season. 

 

The schedule presents another obstacle in the Eagles’ path to bowl eligibility.  Outside the ACC, BC has just one guaranteed win, and that is against a really good FCS team in Maine.  The Eagles face Northwestern and Army on the road and host Notre Dame.  We can see BC winning two of the four non-league games.  The Eagles draw Miami, Georgia Tech, and Virginia Tech from the Coastal Division and of course must face the big three out of the Atlantic.  3-5 in league play looks like the ceiling, so BC could very well come up one game short.

 

 

 

 

Team

Clemson Tigers

               
Head Coach

Dabo Swinney

               
Colors

Orange and Purple

               
City

Clemson, SC

               
2011 Record              
Conference

6-2

Overall

10-4

               
PiRate Rating

115.0

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

20

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Rating

113

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

11

               
2012 Prediction              
Conference

6-2

Overall

9-3

 

A season that included Clemson’s first ACC Championship in 20 seasons plus two wins over Virginia Tech and wins over Florida State and Auburn were almost forgotten after the debacle at the Orange Bowl.  CU lost to Geno Smith and West Virginia 70-33!  After an 8-0 start, the Tigers limped home at 2-4, and the fans in Clemson were not all that happy.

 

Coach Dabo Swinney took immediate action to improve the defense by luring away Oklahoma defensive coordinator Brent Venables.  Venables is going to make as much as some mid-major head coaches this year, and he will earn that if he can turn this defense around.  Defense is the definite Achilles ’ heel of this team.

 

CU gave up close to 30 points and 400 yards per game in 2011.  In the final eight games, they gave up 36.6 points per game and 423 yards per game.  Venables has not been all too pleased by what he has to work with so far.  He told the media that he was only comfortable with about a dozen players, and a defense cannot get by on that many.

 

The defensive line lost its top three players from last year, and it is the reason CU will not repeat as Atlantic Division champions this season.  End Malliciah Goodman is the lone holdover here.  He made 59 tackles and just two sacks, and his sack total should triple or even quadruple this year with the losses of Andre Branch and Brandon Thompson.

 

The second line of defense returns all three starters from a year ago.  Corrico Wright recorded 80 tackles with five for loss.  Jonathan Willard added 75 tackles.  Quandron Christian contributed 36.  Tony Steward is trying to come back from two torn ACL’s, and he had the potential to be an All-ACC player.  It looks like he could be forced to miss this year rehabbing the knee.

 

Rashard Hall led CU in tackles with 89.  It is never a good thing when your leading tackler is a safety, unless your team leads every game 14-0 after seven minutes.  Hall only recorded three defended passes.  Xavier Brewer starts at the other safety position.  Brewer picked off one pass and knocked away seven others.  There isn’t much depth in the secondary, and injuries will be a major problem here.  Hall had a minor surgery after last season.

 

The Clemson offense is in much better shape, and the Tigers can still win games in which they give up four touchdowns.  Tajh Boyd completed 60% of his passes with 33 touchdowns in his first season as a full-time starter.  He added five more on the ground.  Boyd quickly picked up offensive coordinator Chad Morris’s offense, and CU made a jump by almost 10 points and more than 100 yards per game.

 

Two of the ACC’s top receivers (possibly the two best) return this year, but one will miss the first two games of the season following an off-season arrest.  Sammy Watkins will be missed against Auburn.  He led CU with 82 receptions, 1,219 yards, and 12 touchdowns.  DeAndre Hopkins finished with 72 catches and 978 yards.  Tight end Dwayne Allen must be replaced, but the Tigers have a couple of talented replacements in Brandon Ford and Stanton Seckinger.

 

Clemson is not a one-dimensional team.  The Tigers can do damage on the ground as well.  Andre Ellington returns after gaining 1,178 yards and scoring 11 touchdowns.  A concern is the loss of backup Mike Bellamy who failed to stay academically eligible.

 

Rebuilding is needed on the offensive line, the one possible liability on this side of the ball.  The Tigers must break in three new starters in the trenches.  Center Dalton Freeman has NFL potential.  He earned 1st Team All-ACC accolades last year.  Brandon Thomas returns at one tackle position, while the new starting tackle figures to be Shaq Anthony.  The two new starters at guard are Tyler Shatley and David Beasley.

 

Chandler Catanzaro is one of the best placekickers since “Iggy kicked the piggy” back in the 1980’s.  He hit on 22 of 27 field goals, including 9 of 12 from 40 yards and out.

 

Clemson has seven sure wins on their schedule.  How well they perform in five key contests will determine if the Tigers can win 10 games again.  We think they can, but only if they win their bowl game this year.

 

 

Team

Florida State Seminoles

               
Head Coach

Jimbo Fisher

               
Colors

Garnet and Gold

               
City

Tallahassee, FL

               
2011 Record              
Conference

5-3

Overall

9-4

               
PiRate Rating

120.0

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

9

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Rating

115

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

8

               
2012 Prediction              
Conference

7-1

Overall

12-1

 

The Seminoles have not competed for the national championship since 2000, when they fell to Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl.  The Seminoles are the media darling this season, as multiple media personnel are picking FSU to win all the marbles.

 

Third year coach Jimbo Fisher returns a load of talent, and the Seminoles have the horses on both sides of the ball to make the media look like geniuses.

 

On the defensive side of the ball, the Seminoles may begin to resemble the great units produced by Mickey Andrews in the 1980’s and 1990’s.  FSU is loaded on this side of the ball, possibly the top line and set of linebackers in the league.

 

The defensive line is as strong as LSU’s or Alabama’s.  Ends Bjoern Werner and Brandon Jenkins remind us of Eric Curry and John Copeland at Alabama in 1992.  These two bookends teamed up for 15 sacks and 23 total tackles for loss.  Werner can drop back in pass coverage and defend like a linebacker.  Three excellent tackles return in the inside with Everett Dawkins and Anthony McCloud starting and ACC Defensive Player of the Year Timmy Jernigan backing them up.  FSU may actually see their excellent sack total of 41 going up this year.

 

Nigel Bradham led the ‘Noles in tackles for three years in a row, and he will be hard to replace.  However, Vince Williams and Christian Jones return after teaming for 110 tackles.

 

Safety Lamarcus Joyner led FSU with four interceptions and he joins cornerback Xavier Rhodes as the holdovers in the secondary.   If there is a concern, it is in the secondary, but FSU will have three games to break in the new starters before they face a quarterback that can exploit them. 

 

The offense was not quite up to standard at times last year, but numerous injuries made it difficult to stay consistent.  Quarterback E. J. Manuel was one of those players needing medical attention.  When healthy, Manuel completed 65.3% of his passes for 2,666 yards and 18 touchdowns.  He averaged better than 8.5 yards per attempt.

 

All of Manuel’s key receivers return this year.  Rodney Smith, Rashad Greene, and Christian Green teamed for 100 receptions and 1,607 yards; all three can take a five-yard pass and turn it into a 50-yard gain.

 

Devonta Freeman led the Seminoles with 579 rushing yards last year, but he will back up Chris Thompson this year.  This is one area where there is need for improvement.  A good pass defense may be able to slow the FSU offense down and produce an upset.

 

Several players saw time in the offensive line last year due to injuries.  Center Bryan Stork was the regular when he was healthy.  He can play anywhere on the line.  Tre Jackson and Josue Matias will start at guard, while Daniel Glauser and Cameron Erving get the nod at tackle.  If Jacob Fahrenkrug can return from an ankle injury at some point this year, he will provide a major boost.

 

Don’t get us wrong:  Florida State has its best team in a decade, and they can run the table with the talent they have.  However, we are not ready to coronate this team as the top team in the land.  Our ratings show the ACC Atlantic Division to be much improved overall this year.  The top three teams could possibly split the three games.  Outside of conference play, the ‘Noles begin the season against Murray State and Savannah State, so their Strength of Schedule will suffer.  Their other two non-league games are in-state, at South Florida and home with Florida.  If they have one loss, their SOS will not hold up against a one-loss Alabama, LSU, Oklahoma, USC, or Oregon team.

 

 

 

Team

Maryland Terrapins

               
Head Coach

Randy Edsall

               
Colors

Red, White, Black, and Gold

               
City

College Park, MD

               
2011 Record              
Conference

1-7

Overall

2-10

               
PiRate Rating

95.6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

74

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Rating

100

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

66

               
2012 Prediction              
Conference

1-7

Overall

4-8

 

As so often happens, a school’s fan base and athletic administrators frequently believe they can do better and deserve better than they have.  They rush to making inaccurate decisions based on faulty logic by looking at their product through rose-colored glasses.  Such was the case with Maryland. 

 

Ralph Friedgen had just guided the Terrapins to a 9-4 season and 31-point win in the Military Bowl.  It wasn’t enough for the Terps.  They expected the ACC title in 2010, but they lost by 14 to Florida State.

 

Friedgen was probably only going to coach another season, and Maryland had a budding superstar coach-in-waiting.  The athletic administration not only dropped the ball when they dismissed Friedgen, they bungled the timing as well, allowing James Franklin to slip to Vanderbilt.  Maryland suffered through a 2-10 season with one of those wins coming against Towson State, while Franklin turned Vanderbilt into a bowl team in one year.

 

Coach Randy Edsall came to College Park with a solid reputation.  He turned Connecticut into the Big East Champion and Fiesta Bowl participant.  It took him 12 years to do it, and it he will not be given nearly that long to turn the trick here.  He faces an uphill climb, because there isn’t enough football talent in this general area, and there are many competitors from the Big Ten and SEC, as well as other ACC schools vying for said talent.

 

Edsall was further put behind the eight-ball with a major blow at the most important position.  Former quarterback Danny O’Brien did not mesh with Edsall’s philosophy of moving the ball.  After a subpar year in which O’Brien suffered a broken arm and missed the last two games, this after he had been previously benched for runner C. J. Brown.  O’Brien thus became the next Russell Wilson.  As a college graduate, he became eligible to transfer to another school and play immediately.  His first choice was to follow his former offensive mentor Franklin to Vanderbilt, but Maryland charged that Vanderbilt had illegally talked to O’Brien and filed a complaint against the Commodores.  O’Brien decided to pull a Wilson and ended up as the new starter at Wisconsin.

 

That left Brown as the obvious starter and only experienced quarterback on the roster.  Last week, Brown suffered a knee injury that forces him out of action for this season, and that leaves the Terps with two true freshmen to share the quarterback spot.  Perry Hills and Caleb Rowe have potential to be decent quarterbacks, but maybe not until 2014.  Starting in the much improved ACC in 2012 is not going to get the job done, and opposing defenses will crowd the box with the intent to stuff the run and force the rookies into throwing mistakes. 

 

Maryland has some talent at receiver.  Kevin Dorsey could start for any ACC team other than Florida State. He led the Terps with 45 receptions, 573 yards, and three touchdowns last year as the one of two bright spots on the offense.  Tight end Matt Furstenburg is one of the top two or three ACC players at his position.  He should become an even more important target this year (31 receptions 348 yds. 2 TD) because inexperienced QBs tend to throw to the biggest target they can find. 

 

Justin Pickett is a step down from Davin Meggett at running back, and he is going to find it hard to locate many running lanes if opponents bring an eighth player into the box and do not respect the quarterbacks’ throwing ability.

 

Maryland’s interior line is strong inside and mediocre on the outside.  Center Sal Conaboy and guards Bennett Fulper and De’Onte Arnett are credible, but tackles Justin Gilbert and Nick Klemm are not going to give the frosh QBs ample time to set up in the pocket and not get nervous feet.

 

Expect Maryland’s offense to stall at several times against the better teams.  Having three not-so-tough non-conference games and a home conference game against Wake Forest will allow the attack side to pad their stats and come close to replicating or even topping last year’s final numbers.

 

If the defense does not find itself on the field for 33-35 minutes a game this year, the Terps should be quite improved on the stop side.  Most of the key contributors return from a unit that gave up 34.3 points and almost 460 total yards per game, so improvement should be a given.

 

Up front in the 3-4 alignment, Maryland has one of the top tackle/ends in the nation.  Joe Vellano is not your typical defensive tackle.  He doesn’t just occupy blockers so his linebackers can make the headlines.  Vellano makes the tackles, and he did so 94 times last year including 7 ½ for losses.  He will be joined by nose tackle A. J. Francis and end Andre Monroe, the sack specialist.  As a freshman, Monroe led the Terps with five sacks.  If this group doesn’t have to stay on the field all day, they should give make new defensive coordinator Brian Stewart look like a genius.

 

The quartet of linebackers is led by the league’s leading returning tackler.  Demetrius Hartsfield was one of two Terps to top 100 tackles last year, coming in at 108.  Seven of those stops produced a loss of yardage.  Darin Drakeford, Kenny Tate, and L. A. Goree give the Terps four returning starters here.  Goree is imposing as a blitzer.

 

It’s the back line of defense that will keep this defense from shaving 10 points off the scoring average allowed.  Safety Eric Franklin recorded 106 tackles last year, but he picked off nary a pass.  Dexter McDougle is the top cover corner on the team, and he led the Terps with three interceptions and nine passes defended.  An untested Jeremiah Johnson is set to start at the opposite corner.

 

Maryland’s kicking game needs improvement as well.  Nick Ferrara handled both kicking and punting duties, and he tired during the season.  He only connected on 12-20 field goals, just 1-4 from 40 yards and out.

 

The only reason the Terps should improve in the win column is the easier schedule.  They open with William & Mary at home, Temple on the road, and Connecticut at home.  This gives them a legitimate shot at starting 3-0, but then the only real winnable game the rest of the way is a home tilt against Wake Forest.  We expect them to lose their final seven games.

 

 

Team

North Carolina State Wolfpack

               
Head Coach

Tom O’Brien

               
Colors

Red and White

               
City

Raleigh, NC

               
2011 Record              
Conference

4-4

Overall

8-5

               
PiRate Rating

103.1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

52

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Rating

110

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

23

               
2012 Prediction              
Conference

6-2

Overall

10-2

 

Tom O’Brien has been waiting eagerly for this season.  His Wolfpack appear to be better than the last two teams that finished 9-4 and 8-5 with back-to-back bowl wins.  In fact, North Carolina State may be one upset away from playing in the ACC Championship Game this year.  Fans in Raleigh anxiously await the big home game on October 6 against the Seminoles.

 

The offense is in capable hands with Mike Glennon at quarterback.  Glennon took over for Russell Wilson and by the end of the year, he was possibly the equal of Wilson.  O’Brien states that he has taken another step forward since the end of last year and could be primed for a season reminiscent of Phillip Rivers.  Glennon completed 62.5% of his passes for 3,054 yards and 31 touchdowns, and we expect him to approach 3,500 this year.  The question here is what happened should Glennon get injured, because it appears that a true freshman will back him up.  Manny Stocker is not the answer if he is forced into action in league play.

 

The Pack took a hit in the receiving corps with the loss of its top two pass catchers, including T. J. Graham who went in the third round of the NFL Draft.  Tobias Palmer will become the new top threat after catching 37 passes and scoring five touchdowns.  State has two quality tight ends in Mario Carter and Anthony Talbert, and O’Brien could use some two tight end formations in passing downs.

 

James Washington and Tony Creecy will split the running back duties, with Washington probably getting ¾ of the rushing attempts.  He could approach the 1,000-yard mark this year after gaining almost 900 last year.

 

Having a talented offensive line that can protect a quarterback can make an average passing game good and a good passing game great.  NCSU has a talented offensive line.  Center Camden Wentz is another great ball-snapper in a league full of great centers.  Zach Allen is set at one guard, and R. J. Mattes slides inside from tackle to man the other guard spot.  Rob Crisp and Andrew Wallace will be the new starting tackles.

 

Defensively, it all starts with the secondary, where the best pass defender not getting a paycheck resides at cornerback.  David Amerson is the NCAA’s Nnamdi Asomugha.  He ran away with the national interception title with 13, and he got his paws on five others.  The starting safeties, Brandan Bishop and Earl Wolff teamed up for eight interceptions and 172 tackles.  Some opposing quarterbacks will be apprehensive about throwing into this secondary and even intimidated, just like many batters are scared to dig into the batting box against Aroldis Chapman.  It will make the pass defense even better.

 

One reason the pass defense is so good is the pass rush up front.  As a redshirt freshman, end Art Norman posted seven sacks and an incredible 30 QB hurries.  Some of those rushed passes ended up producing a sudden change of possession.  The talent at end is so good, Norman will not start.  He will be used as a designated pass rusher.  Brian Slay and Darryl Cato-Bishop are the two starters, and both are excellent run-stoppers.  Cato-Bishop is almost the equal of Norman as a pass rusher. 

 

Linebacker is where State has troubles.  All three starters and the top reserve from a year ago are gone.  The three projected starters played in just one game last year, but two of the players missed the season.  Still, it figures to be the one reason why NCSU may not win the ACC Atlantic Division.

 

The Wolfpack open the season in Atlanta against Tennessee, and this game will be an excellent gauge of their improvement.  The Vols are now beatable thanks to the recent loss of their top offensive player.  If State gets by Tennessee, they should be 5-0 when the Seminoles invade Carter-Finley Stadium.  If they can pull off the upset, they get a week off to come down from the high before resuming the conference schedule.  Only a November contest at Clemson would stand in their way of maybe doing something memorable. 

 

We tend to believe that beating Florida State and Clemson is asking a bit too much for a team that will have three new linebackers.  However, this looks like a solid 10-win team.

 

 

Team

Wake Forest Demon Deacons

               
Head Coach

Jim Grobe

               
Colors

Black and Old Gold

               
City

Winston-Salem, NC

               
2011 Record              
Conference

5-3

Overall

6-7

               
PiRate Rating

98.6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

66

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Rating

99

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

69

               
2012 Prediction              
Conference

2-6

Overall

4-8

 

After going 28-12 between 2006 and 2008, Wake Forest has now suffered through three consecutive losing seasons, but at least they met that fate last year after losing their bowl game.  Coach Jim Grobe faces a minor rebuilding project in Winston-Salem this year, and the Demon Deacons must deal with a tougher Atlantic Division as well.  The non-conference schedule features the same two bowl teams that handled Wake last year, and both of those teams look to be better.  This does not look like a stellar year for Grobe and his Deacs.

 

Usually when a team returns its starting quarterback, there is a strong chance that the offensive numbers will improve.  However, we suspect that it will not happen here this season.  Tanner Price topped 3,000 yards passing last year with 20 touchdowns and just six interceptions.  He is saddled with an offensive line that suffered major graduation losses, as well as the loss of an NFL draft pick and the team’s best running back.  Opposing defenses are going to disrupt his rhythm this year, and Tanner will see his numbers regress.

 

The loss of Chris Givens is going to hurt more than just replacing his 83 receptions and 1,330 yards.  The other receivers found looser coverage on them because defenses had to devote two defenders to Givens.  Michael Campanaro will be the new go-to guy, but he will not command the same respect as Givens.  So, defenses will be able to play all the receivers a little tighter.  Redshirt Sherman Ragland has the potential to emerge as a starter and contribute.

 

Joshua Harris and Orville Reynolds will try to replace Brandon Pendergrass at running back.  The duo combined for 541 yards and an average of 4.2 yards per carry.  Don’t look for a major rushing average this year, as the offensive line will have to learn on the fly.

 

The only returning regular in the trenches is center Garrick Williams, and the best of the reserves from last year is tackle Colin Summers.  So guess which two offensive linemen were hurt and missed the Deacons most recent scrimmage?  You guessed it.  Williams is nursing a hamstring injury, and Summers sustained a calf injury.  Leg injuries to an offensive lineman is like an elbow injury to a pitcher.

 

Things are not dire on the defensive side of the ball, but then again, they are not peaches and cream either.  Wake gave up 27.4 points and 397.8 yards per game last year, and we do not expect those numbers to be much better if at all this season.

 

The Deacs are strongest in the secondary, thanks to two exceptional cornerbacks.  Bud Noel was the top defensive newcomer in the ACC last year.  He led the league in passes defended with 21, although unlike Amerson at NCSU, 19 of those were broken up passes and just two were interceptions.  Kenny Okoro had 10 passes defended, but like Noel, 90% of those were batted away passes and just one was an interception.

 

Three starting linebackers return, but none of them are stars, and two could be replaced by new starters.  Only Riley Haynes is guaranteed to keep his spot in the lineup.  Ziggy Allen and Mike Olson have apparently moved to number one on the depth chart ahead of Joey Ehrman and Scott Betros.

 

The Deacons play their 3-4 defense a little differently than most teams.  Usually the nose guard has to be big enough to blot out the sun in a day game, but Nikita is svelte for a 3-4 nose.  He is not a boulder that ties up space.  He is a disrupter who can get in the backfield and destroy an offensive play before it can develop.  Last year, he led Wake with 14 tackles for loss.  On either side of him are Kris Redding and Zach Thompson, two ends that will not show up on any media voter’s all-ACC teams.

 

Wake Forest has four winnable games at home this year (Liberty, Army, Duke, and Boston College, as well as another on the road (Maryland).  We may be generous in believing that they can win four of these five games, but Grobe always seems to find a way to get his teams to outperform.  

 

 

Team

Duke Blue Devils

               
Head Coach

David Cutcliffe

               
Colors

Royal Blue and White

               
City

Durham, NC

               
2011 Record              
Conference

1-7

Overall

3-9

               
PiRate Rating

98.4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

67

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Rating

103

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

56

               
2012 Prediction              
Conference

2-6

Overall

5-7

 

The Blue Devils have been much more competitive under David Cutcliffe than they were for the last several years prior to his arrival in Durham.  His four years at Duke show a 15-33 record compared to a 4-42 record the previous four years.  His 3-9 team lost four close games last year.  In 2010, Duke also lost four close games and finished 3-9.  The year before that, they needed just one more victory to become bowl eligible and lost two close games.

 

That is the problem with a team that never has enough depth.  They can get up and play close games with several opponents but come up short when they tire.

 

The same fate may strike Duke again this year.  The Blue Devils have several talented players, just not enough to win the close games in the final quarter in the sunny South, where heat and humidity demands teams to have depth.

 

The Duke offense is the better of the two sides, but unless a better running game emerges, the Devils will not be strong enough to beat three ACC opponents and contend for Bowl Eligibility.

 

Duke rushed for just 94.1 yards per game on 30.4 attempts for an average of just 3.1 yards per try.  Factoring out the 19 sacks, the Blue Devils still failed to reach 100 yards per game.

 

Juwan Thompson and Josh Snead will be called upon to take some of the heat off the Duke passing game.  Thompson rushed for 457 yards to lead the team, but it is Snead that holds the key to whether Duke will improve on the ground.  He has breakaway speed.  His development allowed Cutcliffe to move Desmond Scott to receiver.

 

Scott immediately solves a problem that was facing the Duke offense.  In the off-season, a tragic accident almost took the life of receiver Blair Holliday.  Holliday’s amazing recovery from a terrible accident will inspire his teammates this year.  Scott will be the starting wideout in Holliday’s place.  He will team with Jamison Crowder and Conner Vernon to give Duke three quality receivers that should team for 130 receptions.  Garrett Patterson moves over to the offensive side and teams with Nick Hill to be the principle reserves.

 

Throwing the ball to these receivers is an experienced senior with more than two years served as a starter.  Sean Renfree completed 65% of his passes for 2,891 yards last year.  His 11 interceptions were a bit high, and his 14 touchdown passes were a tad low.

 

One star does not make an offensive line exceptional, but at least it is better than no stars.  Guard Laken Tomlinson leads an offensive line that provides excellent protection for their quarterback but has trouble opening holes for their running back.  However, if the line can push the defense back just long enough to gain two yards on third and one, it will make this offense work.

 

This could be the year where Duke’s defense begins to show improvement.  The last time the Blue Devils had this much experience returning from the season before, they gave up 10 fewer points and almost 70 less yards per game and improved the won-loss record by three games.  Of course, improved does not necessarily mean dominant.  This is still probably the weakest defense in the league with no players on the all-conference radar screen.

 

Up front, Justin Foxx and Kenny Anunike are serviceable ends.  They teamed for six sacks and 9 ½ tackles for loss, but they were the top pass rushing threats.  Most teams third and fourth best pass rushers team for six sacks and 9 ½ TFL.

 

The expected best linebacker on the team would have been Kelby Brown, but he will not play this year because he never fully recovered from an ACL injury from last year.  David Helton was the leading candidate to replace Brown, but he was knocked senseless in practice and will miss some time with a concussion.  Remember, Duke cannot afford to go deep into their depth chart to find new starters, so this is a major concern.

 

Cornerback Ross Cockrell could be the best defender on the team.  He broke up nine passes and picked off another last year, and he finished the season with 56 tackles.  Safety Walt Canty had 87 tackles and defended six passes.

 

The non-conference schedule includes a trip to Stanford and three winnable home games against Florida International, North Carolina Central, and Memphis.  Duke tends to stub its toe in these “winnable games” every year.  Richmond beat them last year for the second time in three years (they didn’t play Duke in 2010).  The Blue Devils must go 3-1 outside of the ACC to even begin to think about finding three more wins.  As the injuries pile up, so goes the chances of finding those three wins.  We don’t see it happening this year.

 

 

Team

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

               
Head Coach

Paul Johnson

               
Colors

Old Gold and White

               
City

Atlanta, GA

               
2011 Record              
Conference

5-3

Overall

8-5

               
PiRate Rating

107.4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

39

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Rating

109

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

27

               
2012 Prediction              
Conference

5-3

Overall

8-4

 

Here is a team that may be getting overlooked by the media.  Georgia Tech finished in a tie for second in the ACC Coastal Division last year, and the Yellow Jackets should field their best team in three years with an experienced quarterback and group of ball carriers.

 

In Coach Paul Johnson’s option offense, a cerebral quarterback who can think quickly on the run is as important as a passing quarterback having multiple years passing in the same offense.  Tevin Washington is not the best passer in the league or even on this team, but he knows how to operate the veer and all its sister plays.  Washington led Tech with 986 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns last year.  He completed just 49.3% of his passes for 1,652 yards, but he averaged 11 yards per attempt!  That is because when Tech throws, a majority of those passes are deep routes off play-action.  Just the threat of having four receivers spread wide that can run deep, forces defenses to play the option with seven in the box.  When they did not respect it, Tech made them pay, as Washington threw a touchdown pass every 13.6 attempts.

 

The top two running backs return from last year.  Fullback David Sims forced defenses to assign more than one defender to bring him down, and he gained 698 yards and averaged 5.2 yards per attempt with seven scores.  Slotback Orwin Smith was even more deadly as the pitch back than he was as a receiver.  He took pitches off the option and made many of them long gainers.  Smith averaged better than 10 yards per carry, but he usually only received a pitch out when he had open space in front of him.

 

Smith is the leading returning receiver this year.  He caught 13 passes but averaged 23.5 yards per reception.  The rest of this unit will be used more for blocking ability than route running, as the playbook leads to their big play potential.

 

When this offense returns a lot of experience in the interior line, it spells trouble for opposing defenses.   Four starters return this year, and the new starter was headed toward cracking the lineup last year before he was lost to injury.  Guard Will Jackson and center Jay Finch have all-conference potential, while guard Omoregie Uzzi and tackle Ray Beno are better than average.  Morgan Bailey will slide into the vacant tackle position, and Tech will be off and running in 2012.

 

Critics of this offense say that these teams are too one-dimensional, but they are wrong on this.  How can you call a team that averages better than 11 yards per pass attempt not a passing threat?  Just put eight men in the box against this offense and watch how quickly Tech can pass the ball for six points.  You won’t see it happen, so there is your answer.  Look for the Ramblin’ Wreck to top 325 yards on the ground and 35 points per game for the first time in Johnson’s tenure.

 

The defense has slipped here the last few years.  From 2008 to 2011, Tech gave up 20.3, 24.8, 25.2, and 26.1 points per game.  If that trend continues this year, then GT will continue to fall short in the standings by a game or two.  However, if the numbers improve back to 24 points or less, the Yellow Jackets might sting the rest of the division and head to the conference title game.

 

No unit really stands out on this team, but the secondary is its top piece of the puzzle.  Unfortunately, one of the key starters here will be unavailable for the opener.  Louis Young is suspended for the first game, but he also has an arm injury.  He and fellow cornerback Rod Sweeting form a formidable tandem on the outside.  Safety Isaiah Johnson is equally talented at stopping the run and the pass.

 

Jeremiah Attaochu leads the four-man defensive line.  He led Tech with six sacks and 11 ½ tackles for loss last year.  The Jackets need a better showing from the opposite end.  Izaan Cross did not record a sack.

 

The middle of the defense has its opening game issues as well.  Expected starter Daniel Drummond is suspended the first game and one half of the second following his arrest for piloting a boat while intoxicated.  That leaves Quayshawn Nealy as the only truly experienced linebacker for the first game.

 

The first game is not your typical opener for a team in the ACC.  Georgia Tech does not play an FCS school in a guaranteed win game.  No, the Jackets play the one team that they have to beat in order to win the Coastal Division or at least finish second behind ineligible North Carolina.  Georgia Tech opens with Virginia Tech on the road on the Monday night game that substitutes for Monday Night Football.  They also have road games against Clemson and North Carolina as well as at rival Georgia.  So, it is a tough pill to swallow that they will not be at full strength for their most important game.  Also, Virginia Tech has had all year to prepare for stopping the option.  It puts Georgia Tech at a great disadvantage, and it gives Virginia Tech a great leg up.

 

 

Team

Miami Hurricanes

               
Head Coach

Al Golden

               
Colors

Royal Purple and Gold

               
City

Coral Gables, FL

               
2011 Record              
Conference

3-5

Overall

6-6

               
PiRate Rating

99.3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

64

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Rating

103

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

52

               
2012 Prediction              
Conference

2-6

Overall

3-9

 

Here is a program that never seems to stay out of trouble for long.  When they were winning national championships between 1983 and 2001, they had to deal with numerous off the field issues.  Just a couple of years ago, they had additional major issues which forced the school to self-impose a bowl ban and rule multiple players suspended for multiple games.

 

Miami is once again eligible to go to a bowl game, but the Hurricanes will not be bowl eligible in the won-loss record.  This could be their worst team since the 1977 went 3-8.

 

Second year coach Al Golden lost a lot of talent on both sides of the ball, and Miami will be weaker on offense and defense.  The offense returns just four starters, but one of those four has been displaced on the depth chart.

 

Quarterback Stephen Morris started last year against Maryland, but he was benched in favor of Jacory Harris.  Morris completed a touchdown pass in the final minute of that game, but it was to the wrong jersey, as the interception led Maryland to victory.  Since Harris finished up his career with a decent season, look for UM to regress in the passing game this year.

 

Miami’s two outstanding receivers from 2011 are now playing in the NFL.  Tommy Streater and Travis Benjamin combined for 1,420 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns.  That leaves Allen Hurns and Phillip Dorsett as their replacements.  This duo gained just 562 yards in receptions.  Miami should rely more on its tight ends this year, as the Hurricanes have two (Asante Cleveland and Clive Walford) that can get open over the middle.

 

The running game has to replace a game-changer as well.  Lamar Miller rushed for 1,272 yards last year and left early for the NFL.  Mike James and Eduardo Clements will not be able to make up the lost yards.  Look for UM’s rushing numbers to fall by at least 20 yards per game and possibly as many as 35-40.

 

The Hurricanes have issues in the offensive line, where two starters return.  Seantrel Henderson is not one of those starters, but he is without a doubt the best lineman on the team when he is healthy and not having to deal with personal issues.  He just was cleared to practice this week, and he spent time away from Miami dealing with two funerals.  He will not be ready for the start of the season, and Miami starts out with two tough road games.

 

Miami has further issues clouding its defense.  The best player on the team, safety Ray Ray Armstrong was dismissed from the team for the rules violations that forced Miami to sanction itself.  Expected starting tackle Curtis Porter has health issues and may not play following an appendectomy.  Linebacker Eddie Johnson was supposed to platoon with converted safety Thurston Armbrister at the Will linebacker spot, but he has been absent in practice.

 

The Hurricanes still have some quality talent on this side of the ball; they just don’t have enough.  End Anthony Chickillo returns after leading UM with five sacks.  Middle linebacker Denzel Perryman has the ability to record 100 tackles.  Safety Vaughn Telemaque has started 36 games in the secondary. 

 

The schedule does Golden and his team no favors.  They open with consecutive road games against Boston College and Kansas State and should be 0-2 when they face Bethune-Cookman in their home opener.  BCU will not be a pushover in this game, but you have to figure Miami will win.  It is the only game we are confident in calling a sure win for the Hurricanes this year.  If they get all the breaks (the healthy return of Henderson/Morris has a breakout season/defense gels), Miami could win four or five games.  If UM has to struggle to beat BCU to win its first game, it isn’t impossible that they could go 1-11.  We will split the difference and call for three wins.

 

 

Team

North Carolina Tar Heels

               
Head Coach

Larry Fedora

               
Colors

Carolina Blue and White

               
City

Chapel Hill, NC

               
2011 Record              
Conference

3-5

Overall

7-6

               
PiRate Rating

109.0

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

35

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Rating

108

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

32

               
2012 Prediction              
Conference

6-2

Overall

9-3

 

The Tar Heels are in timeout.  There will be no bowl game for them this year due to multiple infractions.  Too bad for UNC; this is their best team since Mack Brown guided the Heels to an 11-1 season in 1997. 

 

New head coach Larry Fedora guided Southern Mississippi to the CUSA Championship last year.  He brings along his spread offense and 4-2-5 defense, and he believes he has the pieces in place to make both formations work immediately.

 

Bryn Renner led the ACC in passing efficiency last year.  He completed 68.3% of his passes for 3,086 yards and 26 touchdowns and averaged 8.8 yards per attempt.  He is not much of a runner, so it remains to be seen how well he will fit into the spread.  Fedora’s quarterback at Southern Miss ran the ball five or six times per game last year.

 

One player that should thrive in the new offense is running back Giovani Bernard, the league’s Rookie of the Year and a 1st team Freshman All-American after he rushed for 1,253 yards and 13 touchdowns and caught 45 passes.

 

The receiving corps took a major blow when T. J. Thorpe broke his foot earlier this month.  Thorpe was a major weapon as a kick returner, and he was expected to be the Devin Hester of this team in 2012.  Still, UNC has two quality pass catchers in Erik Highsmith and Jheranie Boyd.  Boyd can take it to the house on just about any catch where he sees daylight.

 

The offensive line returns four starters, and they take up a lot of space, averaging almost 320 pounds.  The spread offense really needs more quickness than size, but you cannot go wrong with guards Travis Bond and Jonathan Cooper as well as tackle James Hurst.

 

The defense is not as strong and talented as the offense, and it could become a liability if the offense does not hold onto the ball for sustained drives.  Fedora’s USM team had to defend for an averaged of 74 plays last year, which is about eight more than average.

 

Up front, end Kareem Martin tries to make up for the loss of All-American Quinton Coples.  Martin finished third behind Coples’ 7 ½ sacks and 15 Tackles for loss (and All-American linebacker Zach Brown’s 5 ½ sacks and 13 ½ TFL) with four sacks and seven stops for loss.  Tackle Sylvester Williams is an excellent inside-out pass rusher, so the Tar Heels should still be able to pressure quarterbacks this year.

 

Brown was the top tackler on the team as well as top pass interceptor.  Middle linebacker Kevin Reddick now takes on the role of top defender.  He made 71 stops last year.

 

The new position in the defense is the “Ram.”  It is a hybrid linebacker/safety which will call on the player to blitz, provide extra run support, and play pass defense.  Gene Robinson will wear the horns this year.  Tre Boston and Tim Scott give Carolina two additional standouts in the secondary.

 

If Carolina was using the same offense and defense as last year, we might have been inclined to select this team as a surprise dark horse to run the table this year.  All the tough games are at home, and the non-conference slate is not that difficult with just one game against anybody good.  However, because they are on probation and must break in new formations on both sides of the ball, we expect UNC to lose three times, twice in the ACC.  They may still finish in first place in the Coastal Division.

 

 

Team

Virginia Cavaliers

               
Head Coach

Mike London

               
Colors

Blue and Orange

               
City

Charlottesville, VA

               
2011 Record              
Conference

5-3

Overall

8-5

               
PiRate Rating

100.0

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

62

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Rating

105

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

48

               
2012 Prediction              
Conference

3-5

Overall

6-6

 

Mike London turned around the fortunes of Virginia in rapid time.  The former coach of the FCS National Champion Richmond Spiders, proved that he was ready to step up to the big time.  He must do a lot of reclamation work with his defense, but we believe he will keep the Cavs in contention for a repeat trip to a bowl.

 

Returning starting quarterback Michael Rocco may not be the best passer in the ACC, but he must be vastly improved this year.  That’s because he is expected to hold onto his spot after the Cavs landed former top high school recruit Phillip Sims.

 

There will be a two-man platoon at running back with Perry Jones and Kevin Parks form an impressive tandem.  The two men combined for 1,624 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns.

 

Replacing Kris Burd at wideout won’t be easy.  Burd led the Cavs with 66 receptions, twice as many as the next guy.  That next guy, Tim Smith, returns and looks to add on to a season where he caught 33 passes for 565 yards.  No other receiver on this roster caught more than 20 passes.

 

Three starters return up front, and one of them, Luke Bowanko, is making the switch from guard to center.  Tackle Oday Abousji is a mountain at 6-6 and 310 pounds, and the NFL scouts are gushing at his ability.  Morgan Moses gives UVA high quality at this position.

 

Virginia may score more points this year, but they are going to give up more points as well.  London has a lot of holes to fill with the loss of eight players that saw multiple starts in games.

 

One position that has experienced talent is at end, where Jake Snyder and Bill Schautz return.  The two were much better run stoppers than pass rushers, and London used designated pass rushers in obvious passing downs.  Cam Johnson led the Cavs with four sacks and 11 TFL, but he does not return.  Four players will share reps at the defensive tackle positions, but combined they bring one career start.

 

The top two tacklers return to the next unit.  Linebackers Steve Greer and LaRoy Reynolds teamed up for 191 tackles with 14 going for negative yardage.

 

It is the back line of defense that makes this team so vulnerable this year.  Only one regular returns to the secondary, and depth is a major issue here.  True freshman may be called on to play the nickel and dime backs.

 

Virginia opens the season at home against Richmond and Penn State.  They could be 2-0, but they could fall to 2-2 with back-to-back road games against Georgia Tech and TCU.  That’s the way we see this season going.  There will be happy days half the time and sad days the other half.  Of course if you win half your games, you get a bowl bid.

 

 

Team

Virginia Tech Hokies

               
Head Coach

Frank Beamer

               
Colors

Maroon, Orange, and White

               
City

Blacksburg, VA

               
2011 Record              
Conference

7-1

Overall

11-3

               
PiRate Rating

111.8

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

26

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Rating

109

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

26

               
2012 Prediction              
Conference

5-3

Overall

9-4

 

Hokie coach Frank Beamer has been in this situation before.  He had to start over on offense with a team that returned the bulk of his defense back in 2006.  Tech’s offense struggled at times and scored more than 100 fewer points than in 2005, but the Hokies still finished 10-3 thanks to having the best defense in the nation.

 

Beamer’s offense returns just three starters, but fortunately one of them is his outstanding quarterback.  Logan Thomas is one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in college football.  He is built like a defensive end, the modern day Joe Kapp if you will.  At 6-6 and 260, he could mow linebackers and safeties over.  Last year, Thomas passed for more than 3,000 yards and completed almost 60% of his tosses, and he rushed for 469 yards and 11 touchdowns.

 

Receiver Marcus Davis is the only other returning starter at a skill position.  He was just number three in receptions last year, but he was number one in yards per catch.  He provides a big target for Thomas at 6-4 and oftentimes, he could jump higher than defenders for the ball.  D. J. Coles and Dyrell Roberts should both see their receptions increase this year.  Both have size and quickness, and opposing teams will have a hard time playing cover two zones on this team.

 

Perhaps the biggest shoes to fill in the entire league are those worn by departed 1st Round Draft choice David Wilson, who led the ACC with 1,709 yards rushing.  Redshirt freshman Michael Holmes will begin the season as the starter.  When VT uses a fullback, Joey Phillips is a bull as a lead blocker.

 

Andrew Miller is the only holdover in the offensive line.  This could be a problem early in the season, especially since the Hokies open with their most important game of the season.

 

The biggest and most important holdover on defense is coordinator Bud Foster.  Since he arrived in Blacksburg in the mid-1990’s, Tech has given up an average of 16.4 points per game and has made it to a bowl every year!

 

Having to replace six starters last year, VT gave up just 17.6 points and 304.6 yards per game.  12 of the top 15 tacklers return from that squad this year, so it is easy to surmise that this might be the top defense in the nation this year that isn’t a member of the Western Division of the Southeastern Conference.

 

One of those top defenders will not be ready for the season opener.  Short-side linebacker Tariq Edwards just had a pin removed from his leg, and he is not expected to be ready for the important first game.  Edwards is a force against the run, as a pass rusher, and as a pass defender, and the Hokies are not as strong without him.

 

Everywhere else on the front and second lines, Tech is loaded with experienced players.  Ends J.R. Collins and James Gayle teamed up for 13 sacks and 49 QB hurries.

 

The back line is the only possible liability where two starters must be replaced.  The two returnees, Antone Exum and Kyle Fuller could both earn all-league honors. 

 

That first game is the Monday night opener at home against Georgia Tech.  It could be more exciting than any other Monday night game this year.  The winner will become the prohibitive favorite to represent the Coastal Division in the ACC Championship Game.  We know Tech will most definitely win this game (but which one?)  Tune in next Wednesday, August 29 to see our PiRate picks.

 

Coming Saturday evening, August 25: The Big Ten Conference Preview.  With 1/3 of the Leaders Division ineligible for the Big Ten Championship, can any team challenge Wisconsin?  The Legends Division race shapes up to be a spectacular three-team competition.

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