2006 Atlantic Coast Conference Preview
Boston College, after a 9-3 campaign in their initial ACC season, looks to have another strong year under Coach Tom O’Brien. The Eagles came within one game of playing for the ACC Conference Crown in 2005, and have a good chance to reach the title game this year if quarterback Matt Ryan can lead the offense efficiently and avoid costly turnovers.
Clemson, after finishing their 2005 season 8-4 and beating Colorado in their bowl appearance, looks to rebound after losing their record shattering quarterback Charlie Whitehurst. Will Proctor looks to replace Whitehurst by spreading the ball to Chansi Stuckey and Aaron Kelly, the two leading Clemson wideouts last year, who both missed the spring game but will be ready to go for the 2006 college football.
Florida State, the perennial powerhouse of the ACC Conference, won its most surprising championship ever last year by beating Virginia Tech in Jacksonville and followed that up with nearly knocking off the one loss Nittany Lions. Florida State has some key holes to fill, including four defensive stars they lost in the first round of the NFL Draft. If Florida State’s young talent can live up to their expectations, look for the ‘Noles to compete yet again for the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship.
The Maryland Terrapins, after several disappointing seasons in a row, look to rebound with a strong 2006 college football season under Coach Ralph Friedgen. The Terrapins have starters returning on both sides of the ball, although they did lose dominating linebacker D’Qwell Jackson to the NFL Draft. Jordan Steffy and Sam Hollenbach will be competing for the starting position, and if one of them doesn’t step up and show more consistency for the struggling offense, look for the Terrapins to have another sub-par season.
North Carolina State, after losing #1 overall pick Mario Williams, looks to build on their strong finish to last year’s season, where they won 5 of their final 6 games. For the first time in several years, it looks as though the Wolfpack’s offense will be carrying the squad. Junior quarterback Marcus Stone should have this offense ready to go and looking to make a strong push in the ACC Conference during their 2006 college football campaign.
The Wake Forest Demon Deacons, who lost heart-breaker after heart-breaker in 2005, are looking to get back to the post-season for the fourth time in five years in 2006. The Deacons have 18 starters returning, 8 coming back on the offensive side of the ball, and 10 coming back on the defensive side. Combine this experience with the talent they put on the field and the Daemon Deacons will be a tough task for any squad during 2006.
The Duke Blue Devils, who went winless during the 2005 ACC season, and only won one game outside the ACC, look to gain some respectability back during the 2006 season. The Blue Devils haven’t had a winning season since 1994 and it’s not looking much brighter for the 2006 campaign either, unless their 7 returning defensive starters can put a stop to offenses running up and down on them.
The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, who have appeared in 9 consecutive bowl games, look to continue this trend during their 2006 college football season. The Yellow Jackets return 15 starters, and play their first four games at home. If Tech can get out to a strong start, and their talent and maturity on both sides of the ball prevail, look for the Yellow Jackets to compete for a spot in the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship.
The Miami Hurricanes, who finished with what’s consider a dismal 9-3 to Canes fans, look to come back and compete for another National Championship in 2006 with a team that, like all Miami squads, is loaded with talent. The biggest question the 2006 Canes have is the completely revamped coaching staff after Larry Coker fired almost all of his assistants following a dismal Peach Bowl performance against LSU. Look for The Canes to have a very strong 2006 season after Larry Coker got an eye opener in the 2005 season.
The North Carolina Tar Heels, after a strong performance including several upsets in 2005, look to compete once again for a post-season spot in the ACC. The Tar Heels are 9-7 in conference play over the last two seasons, and have been known to have one of the toughest schedules year in and year out. The Tar Heels showed they could play with anyone last year, and this year should be no different. Look for North Carolina to cause a stumble for several teams in the ACC this year.
The University of Virginia, after a disappointing 3-5 ACC season in 2005, looks to bounce back under Al Groh in 2006. The team is one of the biggest question marks in the ACC this year, losing 10 of their most valuable starters from their 2005 team. Offensive Tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson is the most obvious gap the team needs to fill, but both interior lines will be inexperienced for the upcoming year. If the new starters don’t respond well, look for it to be a long season for the Cavaliers.
Virginia Tech, which was not only upset by Florida State in the 2005 ACC Conference Championship, but also lost quarterback Marcus Vick due to off the field problems, is still unsettled at the quarterback position. The Hokies came out of spring camp without a penciled in starting quarterback, and that can be a huge factor going into the tough ACC schedule. If Frank Beamer doesn’t get this team focused quickly, it can be a very disappointing season in Blacksburg.