ACC Preview

Projected Records & Standings

Atlantic Division
1. FLORIDA STATE       8-4  (5-3)
2. N.C. STATE 9-3 (5-3)
3. CLEMSON 6-6 (3-5)
4. MARYLAND 6-6 (3-5)
5. WAKE FOREST 6-6 (3-5)
6. BOSTON COLLEGE 5-7 (2-6)
Coastal Division
1. VIRGINIA TECH      11-1  (8-0)
2. MIAMI 9-3 (6-2)
3. NORTH CAROLINA 9-3 (5-3)
4. VIRGINIA 7-5 (4-4)
5. GEORGIA TECH 6-6 (3-5)
6. DUKE 4-8 (1-7)
Atlantic Champion: FLORIDA STATE
Even though I think N.C. State might end up being the best team in the Atlantic Division, Florida State has the benefit of playing the Wolfpack in Tallahassee, FL. Therefore, as long as there are no silly rules like in the Big XII, Florida State will most likely hold the tie-breaker advantage. The Seminoles will look for improvement in the running game in 2009. With up-and-comer Jermaine Thomas at running back and athletic Christian Ponder at quarterback running behind a veteran offensive line featuring road grater Rodney Hudson, Jimbo Fisher’s offense should be able to do just that.

Coastal Champion: VIRGINIA TECH
There’s not much doubt here. The Hokies are the defending ACC champions and return most of the key cogs that helped claim that title a year ago. Look for Tyrod Taylor to step up into the national spotlight in 2009 as he finally has the quarterback job all to himself. His all-purpose skills should make this offense crackle. Seven starters return on the defensive side of the ball where Bud Foster always gets the most out of his talent. Defensive end Jason Worilds, linebacker Cody Grimm, and cornerback Stephan Virgil are the new heirs to the Lunch Pail.

Question the Hype: GEORGIA TECH
Paul Johnson is a great coach. Most schools would take him to head up their program in a heartbeat. But let’s not put the cart before the horse here. Georgia Tech surprised a lot of people in 2008. In an improving conference with increasingly athletic defenses, I don’t think Johnson’s option offense will be able to take as many teams by surprise this time around. That’s not to say I don’t think the offense will work long term here, I just think the Coastal Division will be significantly improved in 2009. Also consider the defensive line – one of the most important pieces to the Yellow Jackets’ successful run a year ago – lost three players to the NFL. That’s no laughing matter - there will be a significant drop-off in the trenches. The defense will in turn take a step back, meaning the offense will have to shoulder more of the load.

Question the Hype, Part II: C.J. SPILLER
Is C.J. Spiller extremely athletic? Yes. Is he as dangerous as anybody in the open field? Probably. Is he a good every-down running back? Not sure yet. Is he dependable? No. Spiller has all the tools to become a great running back, but up to this point he hasn’t put together a full season that warrants the acclaim he has received. Worst of all, he has a tendency to disappear from games for spells when it looks like he just doesn’t feel like playing. I’m not sure if Spiller has the drive it takes to be a great football player. As of now, he’s simply a great athlete.

Could Surprise: VIRGINIA`
Nobody is talking about the Cavaliers in the Coastal Division. With Virginia Tech in command and Miami, North Carolina, and Georgia Tech all on the rise, it’s easy for the off-season changes in Charlottesville to go unnoticed. But the ‘Hoos deserve your attention. New offensive coordinator Gregg Branndon comes over from Bowling Green where he will install a more wide open offense. This is good news for returning quarterback Jameel Sewell, one of the best QBs in the ACC until he was forced to sit out 2008 due to academic shortcomings. Another benefactor should be Vic Hall, a converted cornerback with a ton of athleticism who surprisingly played quarterback in Virginia’s last two games a year ago. Look for Branndon to find creative ways to get Hall on the field. Head coach Al Groh is a fine coach who knows how to recruit offensive linemen with the best of them. Don’t be surprised when Virginia jumps at least one of those four division rivals I mentioned in the standings. Because they will.

Bo Jackson Trophy Candidates:
Top 3:
QB-Tyrod Taylor, Virginia Tech
QB-Russell Wilson, N.C. State
RB-Da’Rel Scott, Maryland

Ten to Watch:
RB-Jonathan Dwyer, Georgia Tech
RB-Darren Evans, Virginia Tech
OT-Jason Fox, Miami
QB/AP-Vic Hall, Virginia
QB-Jacory Harris, Miami
OG-Rodney Hudson, Florida State
QB-Thaddeus Lewis, Duke
QB-Josh Nesbitt, Georgia Tech
QB-Jameel Sewell, Virginia
RB/KR-C.J. Spiller, Clemson

Arrington Trophy Candidates:
Defending Arrington Trophy winner Mark Herzlich [LINK] was set to return at linebacker for Boston College in 2009 with one more year of eligibility. Unfortunately Herzlich was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare cancer of the bones, during the offseason. His football career is probably over, but his legacy will live on here at Pikes Picks where we won’t soon forget his hard nosed play and stellar career. We think so highly of him that we are officially re-dedicating the trophy we award to the most outstanding defensive player in the nation. From now on it will be known as the Mark Herzlich Trophy. We wish Mr. Herzlich the best of luck in his battle.

Herzlich Trophy Candidates:
Top 3:
LB-Sean Spence, Miami
DE-Da’Quan Bowers, Clemson
DE-Willie Young, N.C. State

Ten to Watch:
DT-Marvin Austin, North Carolina
DT-Allen Bailey, Miami
SS-Morgan Burnett, Georgia Tech
CB-Ras-I Dowling, Virginia
LB-Cody Grimm, Virginia Tech
DT-Vince Oghobaase, Duke
NG-Boo Robinson, Wake Forest
CB-Stephan Virgil, Virginia Tech
LB-Dekoda Watson, Florida State
S-Deunta Williams, North Carolina
DE-Jason Worilds, Virginia Tech

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