For the first time in 34 years Bobby Bowden will not be patrolling the sidelines for Florida St, after “retiring” (or being forced out by the boosters after two disappointing seasons if you want to be honest) last season. Jimbo Fisher takes over the Seminoles, but Bowden left him with the talent to compete for a conference title. Clemson and Boston College are expected to be their main competition. Here is a look at the teams in the Atlantic Division. Odds to win the division and conference are in parentheses from Bodog.
1. Florida St (division 5/4, conference 31/10) The Seminoles are loaded and are among the elite teams in the ACC. The offense is led by quarterback Christian Ponder and one of the best offensive lines in the country. The team brought in Mark Stoops to revamp a horrible defense from last year, but the unit is expected to be much better. A major bowl bid is very likely and maybe even a BCS bid if the defense holds up. The schedule is tough and includes road games at Oklahoma, Miami, NC State, and Maryland, with home games against BYU, Boston College, Wake Forest, North Carolina, Clemson, and Florida.
2. Clemson (division 5/2, conference 10/1) The Tigers lost running back C.J. Spiller to the NFL but the offense should still be potent. Sophomore quarterback Kyle Parker also plays on the Tigers baseball team that went to the College World Series in June. There was a rumor that Parker was going to quit football to focus solely on baseball, but it appears he will play both sports. If Parker plays football, Clemson can win the division title and have a chance to go to a major bowl. The schedule is formidable as it includes road games at Auburn, North Carolina, Boston College, Florida St, and Wake Forest, and home games against Miami, Maryland, Georgia Tech, North Carolina St and South Carolina.
3. Boston College (division 3/1 conference 8/1) The Eagles will be led on defense by Mark Herzlich who missed all of last year battling cancer. The defense will be a strength of this team led by the linebackers who might be the best in the country. Sophomore QB Dave Shinskie leads the offense, which was inconsistent last season. If the offense improves this team could challenge for the division and conference titles. The schedule is manageable and includes home games against Virginia Tech, Notre Dame, Maryland Clemson, and Virginia, and road games at North Carolina St, Florida St, Wake Forest, Duke, and Syracuse.
4. North Carolina St (division 6/1 conference 25/1) Quarterback Russell Wilson returns for the Wolfpack. The passing game will be solid, and the Wolfpack should have no trouble scoring. But the defense lost the entire front 7, and that inexperience will make it tough for the Wolfpack to compete but a bowl bid isn’t out of the question. The schedule includes home games against Cincinnati, Virginia Tech, Boston College, Florida St, and Wake Forest, and road games at Central Florida, Georgia Tech, East Carolina, Clemson, North Carolina, and Maryland.
5. Wake Forest (division 9/1, conference 30/1) The Demon Deacons are in for a tough rebuilding transition year, after quarterback Riley Skinner left after 4 years. The deacons are going to focus more on the run and Coach Jim Grobe has installed an option offense to facilitate that. The defense is expected to struggle as well, so it for this reason that Wake will finish near the bottom of the division. The schedule includes road games at Stanford, Florida St, Virginia Tech, Maryland, NC State, and Vanderbilt, along with home games against Duke, Georgia Tech, Navy, Boston College and Clemson.
6. Maryland (division 11/1, conference 60/1) The Terrapins only won 2 games last season behind an offense that struggled and a defense that was not very good either. The offense is expected to be better but the defense will still struggle. Coach Ralph Friedgen might be on the hot seat if the Terps don’t improve. The strength of the conference makes it difficult to improve though. The schedule includes a game against Navy in Baltimore, road games against West Virginia, Clemson, Boston College, Miami, and Virginia, and home games against Duke, Wake, Florida St, and NC State.
Here is a look at the teams in the Coastal division. Odds to win the division and conference are in parentheses.
1. Miami-Florida (division 3/2, conference 5/2) Jacoby Harris comes back at quarterback for the Hurricanes, after a disappointing finish against Wisconsin in the Champs Sports Bowl last year. The ‘Canes will score a ton of points, and have a dominant defense with 9 starters returning. They are very fast and deep, and will cause havoc for all teams they face. The schedule is very difficult though. After a warm-up game against Florida A&M, the Hurricanes have a brutal stretch of three straight road games at Ohio St, Pitt, and Clemson. If they survive that stretch the road schedule eases up a lot as they get Duke, Virginia, and Georgia Tech. The home slate includes games versus archrivals Florida St and Virginia Tech along with games against North Carolina, Maryland, and South Florida. Miami has the talent to win the conference but the schedule might prevent that from happening. A major bowl bid is likely maybe even a BCS berth.
2. Virginia Tech (division 5/2, conference 3/1) The Hokies return 8 starters on offense including Heisman trophy candidate QB Tyrod Taylor, and a deep backfield with Ryan Williams and Derrick Evans. The defense night be a question mark as only 4 starters return. Usually defense and special teams are the strengths of a Frank Beamer coached team, but this year could be different. The Hokies can certainly compete with Miami to win both the division and conference title, and a major bowl bid is likely. The schedule is tough as the Hokies open the season on Labor Day night against Boise St in Landover, MD. It is also highlighted by road games at Boston College, North Carolina St, North Carolina, and archrival Miami, and also home games against Wake Forest, Duke, Georgia Tech and Virginia.
3. North Carolina (division 5/2, conference 5/1) Coach Butch Davis ahs his best team since taking over the Tarheels a few years ago. The Tarheels can compete for a division title this year. They have almost all starters back on both sides of the ball. The defense has 6 all-conference players returning that could have gone to the NFL. The only question mark of this team is on offense. Quarterback T.J. Yates was somewhat turnover prone and will be on a short leach. Freshman Bryn Renner might get a look at quarterback if Yates can’t get the job done. The scheduled is difficult. It opens in Atlanta against LSU, and also includes home games against Georgia Tech, Clemson, Virginia Tech, and North Carolina St. The Tarheels travel to Rutgers, Virginia, Miami, Florida St, and Duke.
4. Georgia Tech (division 5/1, conference 10/1) The Yellow Jackets return 18 starters from last season including dual threat QB Josh Nesbitt. Senior Antony Allen takes over the running duties as Jonathan Dwyer left for the NFL. The offensive line returns only two starters but the triple option system might be enough to overcome that. The defense lost end Derrick Morgan but will still be solid. The schedule is tough with road games at Kansas, North Carolina, Wake Forest, Clemson, Virginia Tech, and archrival Georgia. The Yellow Jackets have home games against North Carolina St, Virginia, Miami, and Duke.
5. Virginia (division 17/2, conference 50/1) The Cavaliers only won 3 games last season, and will be lucky to win that many this season, as they have to break in a new quarterback, Marc Verica. The defense will struggle as well, and the schedule does them no favors with road games at an angry Southern Cal, Duke, Georgia Tech, Boston College, and Virginia Tech, along with home games against Florida St, North Carolina, Miami, and Maryland.
6. Duke (division 13/1 conference 75/1) The Blue Devils are headed toward respectability under coach David Cutcliffe, but are expected to take a step back this season. The Blue Devils return 16 starters from a team that only won 3 conference games last season and narrowly missed going to a bowl game, but sophomore Sean Renfree takes over at quarterback. This year the division is just much to tough for the Blue Devils to make many strides. The schedule includes home games against Alabama, Army, Virginia, Boston College, Miami and North Carolina, and road games at Wake Forest, Maryland, Virginia Tech, Navy, and Georgia Tech.