Sunday, July 23, 2006

Mountain West Conference Preview

The Mountain West Conference welcomed Texas Christian as its ninth member in 2005, and the Horned Frogs ran away with the conference title. TCU is a favorite, along with 2004 conference champion and BCS buster Utah, to win the MWC in 2006.

Speaking of the BCS, the consensus thought is a MWC school, if any non-BCS school, will earn a berth in the expanded version of the controversial bowl series. If this year’s formula had been in place last year TCU would have earned an automatic berth to a BCS bowl. Hypothetically speaking, imagine if TCU would have won a BCS bowl last year and West Virginia would have got beat in the Sugar Bowl. Then the debate about the Big East’s automatic BCS berth would be heated. It was just two years when Utah whipped the Big East champion, Pittsburgh, 35-7 in the Fiesta Bowl.

There is a fine line between the Big East and MWC, but West Virginia’s Sugar Bowl win over Georgia and Louisville’s high-scoring offense have created a separation that has held off the debate, for now.

Utah 10-2 (7-1) – The Utes were on top of the world in 2004, but were given a heavy dose of reality last season. However, Utah has great shot to return the BCS for the second time in three years. It all starts with great quarterback play, and very few, if any, schools can match the Utes’ quarterback depth. Brian Johnson, Brett Ratliff or Tommy Grady could start for most MWC schools. The Utes must replace tailback Quentin Ganther and that is easier said then done. Brian Hernandez leads a good experienced receiving corps. The offensive line is solid but lacks experience depth. The defensive line returns three starters led by all-MWC candidate Kelley Talavou. The linebackers are headed by rover Joe Jiannoni and are among the best in the conference. The defensive backfield is a real strength. Cornerback Eric Weddle and strong safety Casey Evans are among the best in the country at their respective positions.
Schedule- It has BCS written all over it. The toughest test is at UCLA to start the year, but UCLA will be breaking in a host of key starters. The toughest league games, TCU and BYU, are at home. And one can’t forget the BCS Buster Bowl vs. Boise State the last day of September.
Final Words- I am still not sold on the Utah offense under offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig, and a quarterback controversy could kill team moral. If Utah does not win at least 10 games with this amount of talent and favorable schedule, then Urban Meyer was really a once and lifetime coach.
Bowl- Chance at the BCS, but I say Vegas baby!

TCU 8-4 (6-2) – The Frogs beat teams with sound defense and mistake free football. The formula will not change in 2006. The strength behind TCU’s offense is its depth at tailback. Robert Merrill and Lonta Hobbs is one of the most potent duos in the nation. Quarterback Jeff Ballard is 8-0 as the starter, but is not a great quarterback per se. The offensive line returns just on starter and could pose a problem if the holes can not be filled. The early departure of wide receiver Cory Rodgers hurts both on offense and special teams. The defensive line returns the two best defensive ends, Tommy Blake and Chase Ortiz, in the conference. The linebackers are some of the best in the country. Middle linebacker Jason Philips is an All-American candidate. However, the secondary could be the weak link of the defense. Weakside safety Marvin White is the only returning starter. I consider returning strong safety Eric Buchanan a linebacker in the 4-2-5 defense.
Schedule- The MWC did not do TCU any favors by scheduling it an after Thanksgiving game at Colorado State. TCU has never played a post October game in the Rockies. Texas Tech at home will make or break the Frogs season. Last year’s team could have easily started last season 0-4, this year’s team could conceivably be 1-4 by mid-October.
Final Words- TCU was +21 in turnover margin last year and the odds are the Frogs will not be as lucky this year. The offensive line and secondary are problems areas that were not a year ago.
Bowl- Fort Worth

BYU 8-4 (6-2) – It was not long ago when BYU was considered one of the top 10 football programs in the nation. Today the Cougars are just another “mid-major” trying to earn national respect. Utah may have the conference’s best quarterback depth and TCU the best running back depth, but there is not a better quarterback/running back tandem in the MWC then BYU’s John Beck and Curtis Brown. The receiving corps is the best in the conference, as is the offensive line. Tight end Johny Harline is one of the best in the country and Jake Kuresa is the best tackle in the conference. As good as the offense is the defense is a mess. The defensive line will be breaking in young raw talent and the starters could all be newcomers. The linebackers are the strength of the defense and are led by all-MWC performer Cameron Jensen. The secondary was decimated by injuries last year, but should stay healthy improve its numbers in 2006.
Schedule- Arizona and Boston College on the road is not going to be easy. Conference games at TCU and Utah makes if very difficult for BYU to win an outright conference title.
Final Words- BYU will be much improved, but the tough schedule will prevent the Cougars from making any splash beyond a minor bowl win. If the defense can overcome its shortfalls and be a force, BYU just may win the conference title.
Bowl- Poinsettia

Colorado State 6-6 (5-3) – Sonny Lubick is the dean of the MWC coaches, but his program has fallen on some hard times. Departure of Parade All-American quarterback Justin Holland is welcomed by many Rams fans, but he could be harder to replace than many expect. Running back Kyle Bell is built like a truck (6’ 2 226) and will top 1,000 yards on the year. The receiving corps loses David Anderson, but returns four of the top five pass catchers. The offensive line loses two starters but looks to be just a strong as last year’s unit. The Rams are loaded on defense. The front seven is experienced and deep. Defensive end Jesse Nading will vie for all-MWC honors. The secondary is led by stellar cornerback Robert Herbert. It is, as well, very deep and experienced.
Schedule- Lubick tried to tone down the non-conference schedule this year, but games at Nevada and Fresno State will not be easy, neither will be the annual game vs. Colorado. BYU and TCU have to come to Fort Collins in MWC play.
Final Words- The Rams will be underrated, again. Has Lubick lost his touch? No, in fact with an upset or two, CSU could find itself atop the conference.
Bowl- New Mexico

San Diego State 6-6 (3-5) – Chuck Long steps into a great situation in San Diego. The former Oklahoma offensive coordinator is finally a head coach, and just may be the one to awake the sleeping giant that is known as the San Diego State football program. The offense will start and end with tailback Lynell Hamilton. He has not been healthy since late 2003, but could be the best back in the West by season’s end. Quarterback Kevin O’ Connell must learn a new offensive scheme, but should adapt well. The receivers lose some talent, but shouldn’t miss a beat. The offensive line loses three starters, but should be comparable to last year’s unit. The Aztec defense will be led up front by one of the conference’s best defensive ends, Antwan Applewhite. The linebackers should be a lot healthier and more productive this season. The secondary is underrated, but should be among the best in the country. Cornerbacks Donny Baker and Terrell Maze are undersized, however, are the best CB duo in the MWC.
Schedule- SDSU can make an early splash with a win over UTEP in the season opener. At Wisconsin will not be as tough as many expect. Utah comes to San Diego the following week.
Final Words- Long has great weapons on offense to work with. The defense will be strong point and there is a great chance for SDSU to win eight to nine games.
Bowl- Quite possibly the hometown Poinsettia

UNLV 4-8 (3-5) – The Rebels might as well join the Pac 10 considering how many Pac 10 transfers will call UNLV home in 2006. The offensive back field will be led by former USC quarterback Rocky Hinds. The “little” Erick Jackson (5’6 185) is a decent back, but there is little experience behind him. Two of top three receivers depart, but still remains a strong point. The offensive line returns virtually in tack. The defense is full of potential and question marks. Howie Fuimaono is mountain of a nose guard and will anchor the 3-4; however, overall the unit is very inexperienced. All-MWC linebacker Beau Bell leads an inexperienced group. The secondary is full of big-name transfers, but will they blend well and contribute. Former USC cornerback Eric Wright is considered by many pundits one of the best in the nation, yet he has not played in nearly two years and only started four games for the Trojans in 2004.
Schedule- The conference road schedule is brutal: Colorado State, BYU, Utah and San Diego State. The Rebels have to play two of the WAC’s best, at Hawaii and vs. Nevada, along with a very tough road game at Iowa State.
Final Words- The big name transfers draw media attention and give fans hope. However, the transfers have yet to play or contribute to the team per se. I am not sold on the “elite” secondary and UNLV could struggle early on against great passing teams (Hawaii and Nevada).
Bowl- With a few upsets, there is an outside shot.

New Mexico 4-8 (2-6) – The Lobos lose their top rusher, DonTrell Moore, and receiver, Hank Baskett III, and must rebuild with only 10 returning starters. Former UCLA head coach Bob Toledo will be the new offensive coordinator. He will switch from the spread to more of a West Coast offense, but has few weapons to work with. Quarterback Kole McKamey is a duel-threat quarterback, but will have to hold off Chris Nelson for the starting job. Moore and Baskett’s departure leave gaping holes at the skill positions. The returning receivers have size, but were not impressive last season. The offensive line returns three starters, led by all-MWC tackle Robert Turner. The defensive line is raw and undersized. But the heart of the Lobos 3-3-5 is the linebackers and Cody Kase and Quincy Black are among the best in the conference. The secondary will be much improved from a year ago.
Schedule- Missouri and UTEP come to Albuquerque and both pose great upset opportunities. New Mexico’s last five games are against arguably the MWC’s best: Utah, at Colorado State, TCU, at BYU, and San Diego State.
Final Words- The cupboard is bare on offense, and after the first two games there are no breathers. If no one steps on offense it could be a very long season for Lobo fans.
Bowl- The hometown bowl will have to wait at least another year.

Wyoming 3-9 (2-6) – Joe Glenn is 15-20 in his first threes at Wyoming. The highlight of his Cowboy coaching career was the Las Vega Bowl win over heavily favored UCLA in 2004. Last year’s team should have contended for the conference crown after starting an impressive 4-1, but lost its last six games. The dynamic pass-catching duo of Casey Bramlet and Jovon Bouknight has departed and Cowboys return just 12 starters. Bramlet didn’t have the best senior year, and projected starter Karsten Sween could post better numbers. The offensive and defensive lines look to be stronger. Weakside linebacker Ward Dobbs is a super sophomore and heads a very strong unit. The secondary is a wreck. Only one starter, free safety John Welding, returns.
Schedule- The non-conference slate really has no breathers. Utah State is decent ball club that could upset the Cowboys in the opener. Boise State, road games at Virginia and Syracuse will be tough for a Wyoming team trying to build some momentum early in the season. In conference play, it ends the season on the road at BYU and UNLV.
Final Words- There is a still talent in Laramie. There is only one major concern, defensive back, and if the Sween can develop chemistry with his receivers the Cowboys have a shot to win six games.
Bowl- Not likely

Air Force 2-10 (1-7) – Man oh man do I hate to pick Air Force last. Since 2003 the Falcons have steadily fallen and they just may hit rock bottom in 2006. Shaun Carney is another in a long line of great Air Force quarterbacks. The running backs and offensive line are experienced but were not that impressive last year. The receiving corps must be rebuilt. Despite returning just five starters on defense, the Falcons are still experienced. Defensive end Gilberto Perez is an all-MWC caliber player. The linebackers and secondary will improve if they can stay healthy.
Schedule- Navy is no longer a gimme, and neither is this year’s road trip to Army. Notre Dame and Tennessee will be blowouts, but at least the Irish are at home. In conference the tough games are at home, and the easier ones are on the road.
Final Words- The Falcons are not the worst team in the MWC. Any of the predicted bottom six teams could finish third through ninth; unfortunately the Falcons have the toughest schedule of the six, in my opinion.
Bowl- Unlikely

All-MWC Team

WR- Johnny Walker, Colorado State
WR- Brian Hernandez, Utah
TE- Johny Harline, BYU
T- Jake Kuresa, BYU
T- Robert Turner, New Mexico
C- Nick Allotta, Colorado State
G- Dallas Roberts, BYU
G- Bo Greer, New Mexico
QB- John Beck, BYU
RB- Kyle Bell, Colorado State
RB- Lynell Hamilton, San Diego State
AP- Curtis Brown, BYU

DL- Tommy Blake, TCU
DL- Kelly Talavou, Utah
DL- Antwan Applewhite, San Diego State
DL- Chase Ortiz, TCU
LB- Jason Phillips, TCU
LB- Cameron Jensen, BYU
LB- Ward Dobbs, Wyoming
CB- Eric Weddle, Utah
CB- Donny Baker, San Diego State
SS- Casey Evans, Utah
FS- Ben Stratton, Colorado State
PR- Chris Sutton, Air Force

K- Chris Manfredini, TCU
P- Jimmie Kaylor, Colorado State
KR- Brent Casteel, Utah

Individual Awards

Offensive POY- John Beck, BYU
Defensive POY- Chase Ortiz, TCU
Freshman of the Year- Walter Watts, Utah
Coach of the Year- Chuck Long, San Diego State
Game of the Year- BYU at Utah
Upset of the Year- Colorado State over TCU
Most Overrated- Eric Wright, UNLV
Most Underrated- Donny Baker, San Diego State

Top Units

Best Quarterbacks- Utah
Best Running Backs- TCU
Best Wide Receivers- BYU
Best Offensive Line- BYU
Best Defensive Line- TCU
Best Linebackers- TCU
Best Defensive Backs- Utah
Best Special Teams- San Diego State
Best Coaching- TCU
Best Intangibles- TCU

Monday, July 17, 2006

CFB's Best Quarterbacks

Time to start my All-American picks and there is no better place to start than with the quarterback. Notre Dame's Brady Quinn is going to be "everyone's" first team preseason All-American quarterback. Quinn is a great quarterback and very well may be the first pick in the 2007 NFL draft, but is he the best "college" quarterback?

Last year Matt Leinart was hands down the best quarterback heading into the season. He was the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, the best pro prospect, and arguably the best college football player to ever play the game. However, by season's end Texas' Vince Young proved to be the best college quarterback and surprisingly was the first quarterback taken in the 2006 NFL draft.

This quarterback list is not necessarily the best pro prospects, but in my opinion the best quarterbacks in the college game.

1. Troy Smith, Ohio State- Smith is this year's Vince Young. He is quick, mobile and can just flat out make plays.
2. Sam Keller, Arizona State- Keller missed half of last year due to injury, but should 100% this fall. When healthy there is not a better college quarterback in the nation.
3. Brady Quinn, Notre Dame- Head coach Charlie Weis has turned Quinn into a remarkable player. Quinn will win the Heisman if the Irish wins at least nine games and he passes for over 3,000 yards and 30 scores.
4. Drew Tate, Iowa- It seems everyone is forgetting about Iowa and Tate this year. He is still the quintessential college quarterback, undersized with little or no pro potential yet is a leader and finds a way to win games.
5. Pat White, West Virginia- White is not the best thrower, but he is the best dual threat quarterback in nation. White had 952 yards rushing last year, despite not starting until mid-October. He could be the first quarterback, ever, to rush for 1,500 yards and pass for 1,500 yards in the same season.
6. Brian Brohm, Louisville- I was skeptical about him last season, but he proved me wrong. He not only proved to me to be a great full-time starter, but to be one of the best quarterbacks in the nation.
7. Drew Stanton, Michigan State- Few quarterbacks have the on and off switch like Stanton. When he is on, he is arguably one of the best quarterbacks in the nation, but when he is off...
8. Chad Henne, Michigan- Henne had a bit of a letdown in 2005 compared to his great freshman year. Was Braylon Edwards that big of a difference? I think not.
9. Bret Meyer, Iowa State- Meyer is a virtual unknown that takes the torch from Young as the best quarterback in the Big 12.
10. Tyler Palko, Pittsburgh- Palko had a pretty bad season last year. He should rebound nicely and just may be the best quarterback in the Big East, and that is saying a lot.
11. Colt Brennan, Hawaii- It's a good bet Brennan will shatter the NCAA record for passing yards in season this year. The Warriors will play 14 games if bowl eligible.
12. Matt Ryan, Boston College- The most underrated passer in all of college football. A great season by Ryan could land the Eagles in the BCS.
13. Chris Leak, Florida- Leak would be a much better quarterback in a different offense. The spread is just not his thing.
14. Trent Edwards, Stanford- Edwards could be the Pac 10's best quarterback.
15. Jeff Rowe, Nevada- The unorthodox pistol offense is run to perfection by the experienced Rowe.
16. Brandon Cox, Auburn- He just gets the job done, and makes few mistakes.
17. Luke Getsy, Akron- An excellent passer that deserves more notice.
18. Drew Weatherford- His improvement could be the difference between another five loss season and possible national title.
19. Paul Smith, Tulsa- A tough, gritty quarterback that is a great team leader.
20. John Beck, BYU- Beck is a throwback to the great Cougar quarterbacks of the past.
21. Rudy Carpenter, Arizona State- He could start for most teams in the nation, but will ride the pine behind Keller.

My Top 25

It's been two months since my last top 25; things have change a bit and it's time to update the teams. The official preseason Blog Poll ballot is still over a month away, and this will be my last "unofficial" top 25 until then. I rank teams based on talent, coaching, depth, intangibles, and I do take into account schedules and where a team might finish the season.

  1. Auburn- There is still no reason to drop the Tigers from my top spot.
  2. USC- Slowly this team is starting to remind me of the 2003 national title team.
  3. Ohio State- The offense is just too good to keep the Buckeyes out of the top 3, and the defense will progress each game.
  4. LSU- Talent wise, there are few teams in the Tigers' league.
  5. Texas- I would not be surprised to see a repeat.
  6. Notre Dame- Unlike the Buckeyes, the Irish defense will not get better as the season rolls along.
  7. Iowa- The schedule is very favorable, and the talent is not too shabby either.
  8. Florida State- This team is ready to surprise the nation.
  9. Michigan- There is too much talent on this team to keep the Blue out of the top 10.
  10. Oklahoma- This team is very good, but not great in my book.
  11. Louisville- Could very well play for the national title.
  12. West Virginia- 12-0 is a good possibility, but talent wise; this is where the Mountaineers belong.
  13. Florida- The Gators season hinges on quality quarterback play.
  14. Miami- The 'Canes overhauled the coaching staff, will it pay off?
  15. Clemson- The Tigers are top 10 worthy, but have to prove it on the field first.
  16. Georgia- If last year was considered a rebuilding year, then what would you call this year?
  17. California- The team is good, but hardly top five good some pundits are predicting.
  18. Tennessee- The Volunteers will back to their old SEC title contending days.
  19. Virginia Tech- The loss of Vick is a both good and bad, this ranking is the bad, for now.
  20. Nebraska- The Cornhuskers have a good shot to win a somewhat "weak" Big 12.
  21. Penn State- There is holes to fill, but nothing too big for JoPa to overcome.
  22. Boston College- The Eagles have dropped, but some big early season wins will put them back in my top 10.
  23. Oregon- The Ducks will win their share of games, but the defense is a concern.
  24. Texas Tech- The Red Raiders are this close to getting over the hump and becoming an upper echelon team.
  25. Arizona State- The Sun Devils need to stay healthy.

on the outside looking in: Georgia Tech, Arkansas, Pittsburgh, South Carolina, Alabama, Michigan State, Utah, Maryland, TCU, Iowa State, Wisconsin, Oregon State, Fresno State, Arizona, Kansas, Rutgers, UCLA, Navy, Purdue, Washington State, Tulsa, Boise State, UCF, N. Illinois, So. Miss

bold-teams to watch

post spring top 25

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

1550 Sporting News Radio

I will be on the air today at 7:25 am with Tony D and the gang talking Bulldog football and recruiting. Listen to the webcast here.

Monday, July 03, 2006

ACC Preview

The Atlantic Coast Conference has become one of the top four conferences in major college football with the addition of Miami and Virginia in 2004 and Boston College last year. However, with the added schools, it’s doubtful an ACC representative will play in the BCS national championship game this season.

Inaugural season of the 12 team ACC set numerous records for the conference, including a record eight bowl teams. 7-4 Florida State upset 10-1 Virginia Tech in the ACC championship game, thus the Seminoles earned an automatic bid to the Orange Bowl. If the current BCS formula had been in place last year, TCU would have been given the ACC’s automatic bid to the BCS, based on FSU’s low BCS ranking.

The ACC shouldn’t encounter that same problem again in 2006. The conference is loaded with great teams, but there is no clear cut favorite. Miami and Florida State are always going to be the talk of the ACC and the nation for that matter. Virginia Tech still is fighting for respect in the college football despite going to a bowl game every year since 1992. Clemson has its best team in the Tommy Bowden era. Boston College has a solid team again. As many five other ACC teams could be bowl eligible, this would give the ACC an unprecedented 10 bowl teams. Duke is the only school with really no shot at becoming bowl eligible.

Atlantic Division

Florida State 10-2 (6-2) - The Seminoles lose a boatload of starters especially on defense. However, this year’s team will be more experienced than last year’s conference championship squad. The offense is loaded with weapons, but it remains to be seen if Bowden junior can kick it into high gear. Quarterback Drew Weatherford is poised to have a great year and tailback Lorenzo Booker is a dangerous threat running or receiving. The offensive line will be better as long as it can stay healthy. Add in the abundance of depth at wide receiver and you can see why the offense might just be obliterating teams, while the defense comes around early in the season. The defensive front seven, despite the loss of starters, shouldn’t be a major concern. Weakside linebacker Buster Davis will have a great year. The secondary is in great shape compared to last year, and will be one of the nation’s best.
Schedule: FSU has a very favorable schedule, but their toughest game is right off the bat at Miami in the season opener. A win in the Orange Bowl would put the Seminoles on track for an unbeaten season; a loss may not damage their chances if they can run the table the rest of the way.
Final Words: Florida State will be underrated in 2006, which can be either good or bad for the psyche of the team. The defense will be strong once again, but if the offense struggles, FSU could be in for a tough year. Booker needs to gain at least 1,000 yards on the ground in order for the Seminoles to be considered a serious national title contender.
Bowl: I smell Oranges.

Boston College 9-3 (5-3) – The Eagles are my pick to surprise team in the ACC this year. Quarterback Matt Ryan is underrated, but in my opinion will be the best quarterback in the ACC at the end of the season. LV Whitworth and Andre Callender are a great one-two punch at running back. Combined they should exceed the 2,000 yard mark this season. The offensive line and receivers have holes to fill, but there is enough talent to make a seamless transition. Linebacker Brian Toal is one of the best in the nation and will lead the defense. The front seven looks to be down a notch overall, but the secondary should improve from a year ago.
Schedule: BC hosts Clemson and Virginia Tech but must travel to Miami and Florida State. The other eight games are winnable; therefore, the Eagles have a good shot at their best season since 1984
Final Words: If the Eagles can take care of business at home, a double-digit win season is likely. If the Florida State stumbles along the way, it is not a stretch to say that BC could be playing for the ACC title in early December.
Bowl: Music City

Clemson 9-3 (5-3) – How far can the Tigers go? Atlantic Division winners, ACC Champs, BCS Bowl, National title, they will go as far as quarterback Will Proctor will take them. All the pieces are in place for Tommy Bowden to finally get the Tigers over the hump. Procter is a better fit for Bowden’s spread offense than departing four-year starter Charlie Whitehurst. The receivers are deep and the running backs are arguably the best in the conference. The offensive line returns all five starters and will be among the nation’s best. The defense is the strongest it has been in the Bowden era. The defensive line has to fill some holes, but defensive end Gaines Adams returns and is one of the best in the nation. The linebackers are deep, talented and experienced. The secondary shouldn’t miss a beat despite having to replace cornerback Tye Hill.
Schedule: This is where the Tigers get screwed. Their second and third games of the season are at Boston College and Florida State, respectively. For the Tigers to have any shot at the ACC title they have to sweep or at least split those games.
Final Words: Bowden has had some talented teams in his tenure, but his Tigers always seem to lose a game or two they shouldn’t. Clemson arguably can be considered the most talented and experienced team in the ACC, but could lose as many as four games this season.
Bowl: Just Peachy

Maryland 7-5 (4-4) – Ralph Friedgen won 10 games in each of his first three seasons at the helm. However, the Terps have struggled to win just 10 games total his last two years. This year’s team should break the losing skid and get Friedgen back to a bowl. Running back Lance Ball is the key to the offense, and should top the 1,500 yard mark as a full time starter. Sam Hollenbach returns as the starting quarterback, but loses his top four receivers from 2005. The veteran offensive line will pave the way for a ground oriented attack why the young receivers get their feet wet. The defensive line looks to be the strong point of the defense. The linebackers are a concern with the loss of D’Qwell Jackson. The secondary is far more experienced than 2005 and can only improve.
Schedule: This is not an easy schedule. The Terps must travel to West Virginia. Miami and Florida State will sell out Byrd Stadium but it would be tough for Maryland to win both. Road games at Clemson and Boston College surround the Miami game in November.
Final Words: Despite having one of the tougher schedules in the ACC, Maryland should have its best season since 2003. If the receivers develop into quality targets the offense should average over 400 yards per game for the first time since 2003.
Bowl: Emerald

NC State 5-7 (2-6) – The Wolfpack simply underachieved last season. The all-star stellar defense from a year ago must be rebuilt up front; however, the secondary should be one of the best in the country. Defensive tackle DeMario Pressley is a nice rock to build the defense on. Offensively, NC State has weapons, but simply can’t score points. Receiver/return specialist Darrell Blackmon is threat to score every time he touches the ball. Marcus Stone was an average quarterback at best last year, but should have a decent year as the sole starter. Center Leroy Harris is an all-American candidate at center, but the offensive line must replace three starters.
Schedule: The Wolfpack have a tricky road game at Southern Miss before ACC play begins. Florida State and Boston College must come to Raleigh. Road games at Virginia, Maryland and North Carolina will be the difference from a winning season or a losing one.
Final Words: NC State should have won more than six games last year. This year’s team despite not being as talented could match or exceed last year’s win total.
Bowl: Possible

Wake Forest 5-7 (2-6) – Jim Grobe’s program is now full of his recruits. The Demon Deacons are loaded on both sides of the ball with and are capable of earning a bowl bid. Quarterback Ben Mauk has to have good season if Wake Forest is to finish in the upper half of the ACC. Replacing record breaking tailback Chris Barclay is not going to be easy. The receiving corps is an underrated group that could surprise. The offensive and defensive lines are the strong points of the team heading into fall. Defensive end Matt Robinson is a candidate for all-ACC honors. The linebackers and secondary return all its starters and both units should rank among the top in the conference.
Schedule: Wake Forest has a chance to start the season 5-0, but could conceivably lose its last seven games. The Demon Deacons will more than likely have to win two ACC road games to become bowl eligible.
Final Words: A lot of people are going to expect Wake Forest to challenge for a bowl game. It’s quite possible for the Demon Deacons to win eight games, but five or six is more reasonable.
Bowl: Possible

Coastal Division

Miami 10-2 (7-1) – Miami was clearly the best team in the ACC last year and was in the national title race until an upset loss to Georgia Tech late in the year. Larry Coker fearing for his job overhauled his coaching staff. He hired former Hurricane offensive coordinator Rich Olsen to rejuvenate the once mighty ‘Cane offense. Kyle Wright is supposed to be the next great Hurricane quarterback, and 2006 could be his breakout year. Miami has an extremely talented receiving corps, led by Ryan Moore, but unfortunately they have yet to live up to their billing. Tight end Greg Olsen is one of the best in the nation catching the ball. Tyrone Moss has to find a way to stay healthy to boost the ‘Canes running game. The offensive line is a weak point of the offense for the first time in a long time. The defense will be among the nation’s best. Baraka Atkins makes the move from defensive tackle to defensive end, and will be an all-American candidate. Miami has to replace two starting linebackers but Tavares Gooden returns from injury to bolster a very strong unit. The secondary is loaded at safety, but cornerback is a bit suspect.
Schedule: An early game at Louisville could make or break the season. The Hurricanes are still considered the big dog, even against the likely favored Cardinals. Florida State, Virginia Tech and Boston College all must play Miami in the Orange Bowl.
Final Words: With this much talent and a favorable schedule, anything less than an ACC title would be a disappointment.
Bowl: Gator Country

Virginia Tech 9-3 (5-3) – What was up with Marcus Vick last year? He was a better passer than his brother, Michael, but couldn’t handle his problems off or on the field. The Hokies will be better without him per se. Sean Glennon will take over for Vick at quarterback, but is not quite the same athlete. Brandon Ore is the mold of the great Hokie running backs of the past, and should break the 1,000 yard barrier this year. The receivers are probably the best in Virginia Tech history. The big question mark on offense is not the quarterback, but the offensive line. The Hokies must replace three all-ACC players. The defensive line shouldn’t miss a beat even with the loss of numerous starters that were drafted by the NFL. Passing rushing specialist Chris Ellis will lead the ACC in sacks. Vince Hall and Xavier Adibi are the best inside linebacker duo in the nation, but Virginia Tech can not afford any injuries at linebacker. The secondary loses Jimmy Williams, but actually looks like it could improve in 2006.
Schedule: It’s not too daunting. Trips to Miami and Boston College are the toughest tests. Tough games against Southern Miss and Clemson fall in between those two tough road trips.
Final Words: If Glennon can develop a rhythm with his receivers, then look out. The defense will carry this team until October. After that, the offense will have to put of some points, if the Hokies want to contend for a conference or even national title.
Bowl: Champs Sports

Georgia Tech 7-5 (4-4) – The Wrambling Wreck could wreck Notre Dame’s national title hopes to start the season. The Yellow Jackets have the nation’s best receiver in Calvin Johnson, and return four starters on the offensive line. Senior quarterback Reggie Ball has 36 career starts under his belt but is still in a battle for his job heading into fall. Ball is an undersized thrower, but is capable of making plays. Tashard Choice will take over PJ Daniels at tailback, and he led the team in rushing touchdowns last year. The defensive front seven will be very good. Kenny Scott is the best cornerback in the ACC, but overall the secondary is weak.
Schedule: Aside from the home opener against the Irish, trips to Virginia Tech, Clemson and Georgia stand out. Miami has to come to Atlanta.
Final Words: An upset win over Notre Dame will say a lot for Georgia Tech and the ACC. A 10-2 season and ACC Coastal Division title is not too far fetched of an idea.
Bowl: Could be hometown Peaches but I say Meineke.

North Carolina 7-5 (4-4) - The Tarheels finished 5-6 last year despite having one of the worst offenses in the nation. They brought in former Fresno State offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti to change things around. Quarterback is the hot issue in 2006. Nebraska transfer Joe Dailey and redshirt freshman Cam Sexton are in a heated battle heading into fall. At least each will have talented trio of running backs, led by Ronnie McGill, to hand the ball to. However, the receiving corps needs some players to step up. The offensive line is young but should improve. The defense was the savior last season, and again will be the strongest part of the team. The front seven has decent talent and great depth. Linebacker Larry Edwards is force on the strong side. The underrated secondary will be vastly improved.
Schedule: A trip to South Bend will be tough, as will games at Miami and Clemson. A home contest against Virginia Tech, in the second week of the season, is an excellent opportunity for the Tarheels to pull the upset.
Final Words: Cignetti is often considered the mastermind behind a supposedly high scoring Fresno State offense. His offense, however, was complex and lacked imagination, but it moved the ball with a punishing ground attack and precise passing scheme. It will be interesting to see how it fares in the much stronger ACC.
Bowl: Boise or bust

Virginia 6-6 (3-5) - Head coach Al Groh has stated 2006 will be a rebuilding year. Only 12 starters return and Virginia must replace both its starting quarterback and running back. On the other hand, the Wahoos top five receivers return. Christian Olsen took command of the quarterback position in the spring, and is more of a traditional drop back passer than former signal caller Marques Hagans. Michael Johnson is a speedy tailback that must prove he can be an every down back. The offensive line needs some rebuilding but there is plenty talent to fill the gaps. The defensive line is also a bit down this year, but has enough talent to be a productive unit. Defensive end Chris Long is an all-ACC candidate. The linebackers were considered the best in the nation just two years ago, now are just average. The secondary is very deep and talented.
Schedule: Starting the season at Pitt will be tough, but closing the season at Florida State, vs. Miami and at Virginia Tech is just plain brutal. Luckily in between Virginia has a good shot to win seven games.
Final Words: If the Olsen can get the ball to his receivers and Johnson has a 1,000 yard season, the Wahoos will win eight games. Groh always seems to have a better season when least expected.
Bowl: Boise or bust

Duke 1-11 (0-8) – Duke has not had a winning season since 1994, and the hiatus will continue again in 2006. The offense only returns four starters and the offense line will be young and inexperienced. At least quarterback Zack Asack and running back Justin Boyle return. In fact, Duke returns its top three rushers. The receivers need help. The defensive line will be decent, and should improve its numbers from a year ago. The linebackers are in trouble, health could be an issue again this year. The secondary returns three starters, including superb corner John Talley.
Schedule: The added 12th game must benefit a team like Duke. With the added game, the Blue Devils should schedule four easy non-conference games against IAA, MAC or Sun Belt doormats. But, Duke has games against Navy and at Alabama to go along with their tough ACC schedule.
Final Words: Will Duke ever be a contender in the much stronger 12 team ACC? Probably not in the near future, or maybe never.
Bowl: No way

ACC Championship Game: Florida State over Miami

All-ACC Team

WR- Calvin Johnson, Georgia Tech
WR- Greg Carr, Florida State
TE- Greg Olsen, Miami
T- Barry Richardson, Clemson
T- Stephon Heyer, Maryland
C- Leroy Harris, NC State
G- Josh Beekman, Boston College
G- Charleston Gray, North Carolina
QB- Matt Ryan, Boston College
RB- Lorenzo Booker, Florida State
RB- Brandon Ore, Virginia Tech
FB- Keon Lattimore, Maryland
AP- Eddie Royal, Virginia Tech

DE- Gaines Adams, Clemson
DT- DeMario Pressley, NC State
DL- Baraka Atkins, Miami
DE- Chris Ellis, Virginia Tech
LB- Brian Toal, Boston College
LB- Vince Hall, Virginia Tech
LB- Anthony Waters, Clemson
CB- Kenny Scott, Georgia Tech
CB- Tony Carter, Florida State
SS- Brandon Meriweather, Miami
FS- Josh Gattis, Wake Forest
PR- Brandon Tate, North Carolina

K- Jad Dean, Clemson
P- Nic Schmitt, Virginia Tech
KR- Darrell Blackmon, NC State

Individual Awards

Offensive POY- Lorenzo Booker, Florida State
Defensive POY- Chris Ellis, Virginia Tech
Freshman of the Year- Myron Rolle, Florida State
Coach of the Year- Tom O’ Brien, Boston College
Game of the Year- Boston College at Miami
Upset of the Year- North Carolina over Virginia Tech
Most Overrated- Tyrone Moss, Miami
Most Underrated- Matt Ryan, Boston College

Top Units

Best Quarterbacks-Florida State
Best Running Backs- Clemson
Best Wide Receivers- Miami
Best Offensive Line- Clemson
Best Defensive Line- Miami
Best Linebackers- Clemson
Best Defensive Backs- Virginia Tech
Best Special Teams- Virginia Tech
Best Coaching- Virginia Tech
Best Intangibles- Florida State