2009 ACC Football Predictions


The ACC is a lot like the Big East in that they lack a true national title threat, but the competition within the conference will be fierce. Now, unlike the Big East, the ACC has several teams worthy of top 25 consideration and a couple that could crack the top 10. But the real competition within the ACC will be in the middle of the pack. We are pretty set on our top 3 and bottom 3, but there are 6 teams that could finish anywhere in the 4th-9th range. Read on for our breakdown of each team.


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ATLANTIC

1. Florida State (5-3) Coach: Bobby Bowden (34th year) – All of the news surrounding the Seminoles this offseason has focused on the school’s academic scandal and the possibility that Bobby Bowden will have to surrender up to 14 wins, which would leave him 15 back of Joe Paterno for the most wins all-time (Bowden is currently 1 behind Joe Pa). On the field, however, FSU has some work to do. For a team formerly spoiled by conference titles and BCS bowls, last year’s 9 wins was a welcome improvement from the 7 wins in ’06 and ’07. This year Coach Bowden returns starting QB Christian Ponder, who needs to keep improving or will face heat from former mega-recruit EJ Manuel. The Seminoles return 8 starters total on offense, including the entire offensive line; a unit that still doesn’t have any seniors. Last year’s leading rusher, Antone Smith, is gone, but Sophomore Jermaine Thomas could be better than Smith. The defense loses 6 starters, including All-ACC end Everett Brown and Rhodes Scholar Myron Rolle, but LB Dekoda Watson and CB Patrick Robinson will lead a D that should be good enough to keep the Seminoles near the top of the conference. The strength of the team will the offensive line, and if Ponder can improve the ‘Noles 82nd ranked passing game, FSU could find themselves in Tampa battling for the ACC crown. But the Seminoles have just 6 home games this year, and all 6 road games will be tough, which could delay their return to glory and cause Bowden to fall even further behind Joe Pa.

2. Clemson (5-3) Coach: Dabo Swinney (2nd year) – The story with the Tigers for years has been unfulfilled expectations. They have entered each of the last 3 years with the talent to win the conference, yet have seen their wins drop from 9 to 8 to 7. Expectations are lower this year after the departure of QB Cullen Harper, RB James Davis and WR Aaron Kelly. Star RB CJ Spiller passed up the NFL to return for his senior season, and will pair up with WR Jacoby Ford to form a dynamic offensive threat. The offensive line struggled last year but returns all 5 starters and had great depth this year. Freshman Kyle Parker will battle Sophomore Willy Korn for the QB job, and whoever wins will be given the keys to an offense that is brimming with potential. 8 return from a top 20 defense, and will again be among the best in the conference. Despite the losses suffered on offense, Clemson again has the talent to win the division, and misses both VT and UNC this year. If Dabo Swinney can keep the Tigers focused and playing to their potential this year (something former coach Tommy Bowden was often criticized for), the Tigers could contend for the ACC crown.

T-3. NC State (4-4) Coach: Tom O’Brien (3rd year) – QB Russell Wilson burst on the scene last year to win freshman of the year in the ACC and be named first team All-ACC. Wilson had an outstanding 17/1 TD/INT ratio last season, and is only 21 passes short of the ACC record for consecutive passes without a pick. The Wolfpack returns 6 other offensive starters, including all of Wilson’s top targets in the passing game. The defense also returns 7, including 5 of the front 7. If the defense can play in 2009 the way they did late in ’08 (allowed 18 points per game in the final 4) then the Wolfpack have the potential to shoot to the top of the Atlantic Division. Coach O’Brien’s team gets 8 home games, but the 4 road games (Wake, BC, FSU, VT) are all difficult tests. If Wilson can stay healthy and the skill players can be more dependable this year, and the defense can play at the level they did to close out 2008, the Wolfpack could surprise some people and steal the top spot in the weak Atlantic Division.

T-3. Wake Forest (4-4) Coach: Jim Grobe (9th year) – Coach Jim Grobe has turned Wake Forest from doormat to perennial bowl contender. The Deacons have relied on a stingy defense and tremendous secondary to reach the postseason the last couple of years. But after losing top 5 draft pick Aaron Curry and draftees Alphonso Smith, Stanley Arnoux and Chip Vaughn, Wake will have to rely on an experienced offense to carry the team this year. 4-year starter Riley Skinner returns at QB to lead an offense that loses only 2 starters and returns the entire offensive line. That veteran o-line will be the key to the Deacons’ season this year. Last year they ranked 10th in the league in sacks allowed and 11th in yards per rush. The line needs to give Skinner time to pick apart defenses and open up more holes for the running game. If the line clicks early on, the offense should be much better than the 101st in total yards they were in ’08. We think Wake’s offense will be much improved, but the defense will miss the 7 starters it lost, and Wake will continue to struggle against the top teams in the conference, leading to another average finish.

T-3. Boston College (4-4) Coach: Frank Spaziani (1st year) – The defending division champs are getting no love in the preseason this year. Former coach Jeff Jagodzinski left after interviewing for the New York Jets job, and now former Defensive Coordinator Spaziani is in. The QB situation could be rocky, as early favorite Dominique Davis has been less than impressive in his 3 starts and in spring ball. The Eagles do return a solid running game and 4 starters along the offensive line, so Davis won’t have to carry the offense. On defense, the Eagles return an All-American candidate at LB in Mark Herzlich, but lose the big boys up front (1st round pick BJ Raji and 2nd round pick Ron Brace). We think the loss of those tackles will have a huge impact on what was a top 5 defense last year, but this year the secondary is more experienced and should be able to pick up some of the slack. The Eagles fate in 2009 will depend on 3 things: finding a QB who can be a solid game manager, how the defense replaces the loss of both DT’s, and how well Coach Spaziani can prepare this team to defend the division title.

6. Maryland (3-5) Coach: Ralph Friedgen (9th year) – The Terrapins struggled on offense last year under first year coordinator James Franklin and his West Coast system. This year however, the Terps return starting QB Chris Turner and a deep group of running backs led by All-ACC performer Da’Rel Scott. Despite the loss of 1st round pick Darrius Heyward-Bey, Maryland will boast one of the deepest and fastest set of WR’s in the conference. Turner and his weapons will need to progress in year 2 of Franklin’s system, because the offensive line will be breaking in 3 new starters and the defense returns just 4. The Terps will make the switch to a 4-3 defense, where DT Travis Ivey and LB Alex Wujciak should be deadly. There is a lot of youth with this team, and Friedgen should have Maryland back challenging for the top of the division soon, just not this year.

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COASTAL DIVISION

1. Virginia Tech (7-1) Coach: Frank Beamer (23rd year) – All the Hokies have done since joining the ACC is produce 10-win seasons each year and win a pair of conference titles (falling just short of another). Coach Frank Beamer’s team is again the favorite to win the ACC, with dynamic Junior QB Tyrod Taylor leading an offense that returns 9 players, including all of the skill position guys. Sophomore RB Darren Evans ran for over 1200 yards as a freshman, and the top 4 WR’s are all underclassman. The line does need to replace 2 starters, but returns both tackles and a ton of experience. The defense should again be dominant, led by a secondary that will be one of the best around, even with the departure of Macho Harris. The Hokies have a tough nonconference schedule, with games @ Alabama and ECU and home dates with Marshall and Nebraska. Despite the tough slate, the Hokies should again approach 10 wins and be at the top of the ACC. In fact, if they can somehow go 4-0, or even 3-1 if the loss is the ‘Bama, the Hokies will be a darkhorse for the Nation Championship.

2. Georgia Tech (5-3) Coach: Paul Johnson (2nd year) – Coach Paul Johnson brought his option offense in last fall, and the Yellow Jackets used it to rack up more than 270 yards per game on the ground. This year the Jackets return 9 from that offense, including everyone in the backfield and the top two WR’s. RB Jonathan Dwyer is an All-American candidate, and is complemented by Roddy Jones and QB Josh Nesbitt. Nesbitt is always a threat to run (693 yards last year), but will need to improve his passing as teams adjust to Tech’s offense. The defense returns 6 of the back 7, including All-American safety Morgan Burnett, but must replace 3 on the line. DE Derrick Morgan, the lone returner on the line, is a star in the making and needs to build on a season in which he racked up 7 sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss. The fate of Tech’s season in 2009 rests on how well the newcomers on the offensive line can fill in, and if Nesbitt will be ready to improve on his 43% completion rate in case the Jackets need to win a game or two through the air. Despite those who think the ACC defenses will adjust to Johnson’s offense, we see Tech running the ball all over the yard again, and if Nesbitt can provide a legitimate passing threat, the sky is the limit for this team.

3. North Carolina (4-4) Coach: Butch Davis (3rd year) – Butch Davis is building this team in the mold of his Miami teams of the 90’s, and it won’t be long before the ‘Heels are challenging for the ACC championship; it may even be this year. QB T.J. Yates returns, and if he can stay healthy he should be one of the top passers in the conference. The real question for Yates and the offense is how they will fare without top WR’s Hakeem Nicks, Brandon Tate, and Brooks Foster. If Greg Little, Dwight Jones and crew can be dependable as replacements, Yates could be primed for a big season. The real strength of the team in ’09, however, will be the defense. The ‘Heels return 9 starters on D, including the entire line, and safety Deunta Williams is a star in the secondary. With only 6 projected senior starters, this season may just serve as a stepping stone to a big year next year, but expect the Tarheels to make some noise and challenge for the Coastal Division and maybe more if Yates can stay healthy.

4. Miami (4-4) Coach: Randy Shannon (3rd year) – The days when the Hurricanes were perennial nation title contenders seem like ancient history. Coach Randy Shannon brings in new coordinators on both sides of the ball, including the 5th offensive coordinator in as many years, in an attempt to return the ‘Canes to glory. The biggest problem the last few seasons has been the ‘Canes failure to live up to their potential. Miami always has a ton of talent, and that is no different this year. QB Robert Marve transferred out to open the door for Sophomore Jacory Harris, who put up solid numbers last year and has the potential to develop into a top NFL draft pick. Harris will get a lot of help from a deep group of RB’s and WR’s. RB Graig Cooper is a threat in the running game and the passing game, and Javarris James has battle injuries but is great when healthy. The WR position boasts 3 talented sophomores in LaRon Byrd, Aldarius Johnson and Travis Benjamin. The defense returns just one starter on the line from a team that allowed over 150 yards per game on the ground last year. With only 6 returning starters total on defense, new coordinator John Lovett will have to plug in young players and get this defense meshing early if the ‘Canes want to make a splash; the first four games are all against top 25 teams, culminating in a showdown with top 5 Oklahoma. All the tools are in place for Harris and the offense to have a big year, but with so many young starters, especially on defense, Miami may still be a year or two away from returning to the top of the conference.

5. Virginia (2-6) Coach: Al Groh (9th year) – Coach Al Groh survived a rough year last year, but his son and offensive coordinator, Mike Groh, did not. New coordinator Gregg Brandon will replace Virginia’s pro-style offense with his version of the spread. There are reasons for optimism for the Cavs, as former 2-year starter Jameel Sewell returns after sitting a year due to academics. He will be challenged by last year’s starter, Marc Verica, and potentially dynamic defender-turned-quarterback Vic Hall. Whoever ends up starting will be protected by an experienced offensive line that returns 4 stareters. The defense will boast a solid group of lineman and a secondary that has the potential to be great, but loses a lot at linebacker. This team is a bit of a mystery, as there is no telling how the team will adapt to the new spread offense, but either way we don’t see the Cavaliers able to challenge for the top half of the conference this year.

6. Duke (1-7) Coach: David Cutcliffe (2nd year) – The Blue Devils are coming off their best season in five years, but when that season resulted in 4 wins, you know you have some work to do. Coach David Cutcliffe has a no-nonsense attitude, and will give Senior QB Thaddeus Lewis full reign to run the offense this year. Lewis was 2nd-team All-ACC last year, and should only improve as he gains a better grasp of the offense. Lewis will have two young WR’s with big potential in Sophomores Johnny Williams and Donovan Varner. But beyond the passing game and RB Re’quan Boyette, who missed all of last year due to injury, there isn’t much for the Blue Devils to be excited about this year. The offensive line will break in 3 new starters, and the defense loses 6. DT Vince Oghobaase is a force in the middle of the line and LB Vincent Ray racks up tackles, but beyond those two the defense will likely struggle. Duke will flounder at the bottom of the conference yet again, but Cutcliffe is starting to put the pieces in place to be a competitive team in the not so distant future.

Well, there you have it, our 2009 ACC Predictions. We feel Va Tech is far and away the top team in the league and could potentially challenge for the BCS National Championship, but the rest of the conference is wide open. Let us know who YOU think will take the top spot or be the surprise team in our comments section.

Thanks for reading and check back next week for our Pac 10 preview….we might just have a surprise in store!


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11 Responses to “2009 ACC Football Predictions”

  1. STLkthx says:

    Wow. This guy really didn’t do his research. Especially about Miami. Jacoby?! How about Jacory. The defense only returning 6 starters? My count is more towards 8 or 9. We have two seniors that were granted a 6th year of eligability (Randy Phillips and Eric Moncur). I appreciate the tiny bit of hype, but 4th in the coastal come on. We beat VaTech last year, UNC came down to the final play. It’ll be a much different year than last year.

  2. Tom says:

    Clemson over State? Are you serious. Clemson will finish at the bottom of the division. 1. FSU 2. NCSU 3. Wake 4. Clemson 5. BC 6. Maryland. Do some research next time.

  3. Patrick Nix says:

    It will be a much different year. Miami will finish 5th instead of 4th.

  4. dillon tucker says:

    i think ga tech will beat va tech and i think this is bobby bowdens year he is going out with a great year maybe not championship but a dadgum great year

  5. fsu says:

    amen brother

  6. Hokie says:

    The Alabama-VT game is actually on a neutral field being played in Atlanta. I’m just glad it’s actually neutral and not USC goes to the RoseBowl neutral.

    Excellent and fair predictions I do believe we have the best team in the ACC hands down, but like you said we’re gonna be haunted by one or two conference losses.

  7. Jake says:

    all this talk about Miami is bull. GT ran all over them for over 300 yards last year. that will continue. and the only reason why VT beat GT last year was because of one bad call and play. GT is the best team in the ACC no dought. VT is overrated. they got talent but they just dont have enough to beat GT again. GT will beat FSU in the ACC title game and finish an unbeaten season by winning the national title. WRITE IT DOWN

  8. GO NOLES says:

    Wow Jake you are drinking WAY WAY to much kool-aid!!! but thanks for the laugh!

  9. ATIGER4LIFE says:

    The plague of Tommy Bowden is now dead and gone. A warning to all ACC teams. Watch out for Clemson!!!

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