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2008 ACC Conference College Football Preview

Read our 2008 Atlantic Coast Conference Preview and ACC College Football Picks the Columnists at Bankroll Sports Handicapping!

   The ACC Conference had the most number one picks (seven) out of any conference in this year’s NFL draft, including the number one offensive player – QB Matt Ryan ­– and the number one defensive player – DE Chris Long. And three of the nation’s top 10 recruiting classes went to Miami, Florida State, and Clemson. So with any luck this could be the year the ACC wins its first BCS bowl game in 10 years and finally sheds its image as a basketball conference.

2008 Boston College College Football Preview:

   The 2008 Boston College Eagles will be aiming for its ninth straight winning season with more question marks than Donald Trump’s hair. This especially bears true for the offense which will be missing quarterback Matt Ryan (drafted 3rd by Atlanta), offensive tackle Gosder Cherilus (drafted 17th by Detroit), and last season’s top two running backs. But what the team lost in experience it will gain in quickness.
     Senior Chris Cane, who looked sharp during spring practice, has the inside edge on taking over the quarterback duties. At 6-4 and 236 pounds, he possesses surprising quickness moving in and out of the pocket. Taking handoffs from Cane will either be Jeff Smith or freshman Josh Haden, a zip-rocket from Maryland with breakaway speed. Despite the loss of Cherilus, the offensive line, now in year two of head coach Jeff Jagodzinski’s zone blocking system, should maintain BC’s reputation as an offensive lineman power-factory (since 1981 23 BC offensive linemen have blocked in the NFL). 
    Defense will carry the Eagles. Its front seven, led by defensive tackle Ron Brace, a potential Outland Trophy candidate, and linebacker Mark Herzlich, ranks as one of the best in the nation. 
   Freshman Ryan Quigley, last year’s South Carolina Special Teams Player of the Year, could ease Boston College’s perpetual special teams concerns, by stepping in as both punter and kicker.

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2008 Clemson Tigers Football Preview:

    Optimism runs amuck in Clemson. And with good reason. Coach Tommy Bowden’s team has 15 starters returning and an incoming class of freshmen recruits that many experts rank as one of the best in the nation. After nine seasons of failed expectations this could be the year that Bowden finally returns the Tigers to gridiron glory.
    Despite question marks over the offensive line, which lost three starters, the offensive skill positions are off-the-charts. Quarterback Cullen Harper returns, after setting 21 school passing records and earning second team All-ACC honors his junior year. Aaron Kelly, who snared 88 passes last season, a school record, will again serve as Cullen’s A-1 receiver. And running the ball will be James Davis and C.J. Spiller, “Thunder” and “Lightning,” college football’s best running tandem since Auburn’s Cadillac Williams and Ronnie Brown.
    The defense looks just as strong, if not better. All four starters in the secondary, led by redshirt senior safety Michael Hamlin, a potential Bronco Nagurski Trophy candidate, are returning. The defensive line boasts three returning starters and the addition of defensive end Da’Quan Bowers, the number one rated high school recruit in the nation, who looked wow-good during spring practice.
    Clemson’s reality check will come in Week One when it opens the season against Alabama in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome.

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2008 Duke Blue Devils Football Preview:

   The words “optimism” and “Duke football” generally don’t mesh in the same sentence, but change is in the air. New head coach David Cutcliffe brings his offensive wizardry from Tennessee to a Duke team that over the last 25 years has experienced only three winning records and hasn’t won an ACC game since 2004.
    Cutcliffe’s first task is to rectify an offensive line that last year yielded 45 sacks and averaged only 64 rushing yards per game. Correcting this wince will allow quarterback Thaddeus Lewis, a two-year starter, to top last year’s numbers of 21 TD passes and 2,430 throwing yards. Wide receiver Eron Riley, a potential NFL prospect and the team’s 2007 MVP,  represents Duke’s best big-play man.  Re’Quan Boyette, last year’s number one running back, may be pushed by sophomore Tony Jackson, a converted safety, who in this year’s spring game zipped 75 yards for a touchdown. 
    The defense returns nine starters, led by senior linebacker Michael Tauiliili, who looked especially good in spring, and a fully intact defensive front four. This unit will look to give the offense a shorter field to work with by improving on last year’s anemic turnover total of 18.
    The kicking game, a constant work in progress, hopes punter Jabari Marshall can improve on last season’s 38-yard average.
    Opening games against James Madison, Northwestern and Navy will give Duke time to hone its game before entering the fangs of its ACC schedule.

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2008 Florida St. Seminoles Football:

   After back-to-back 7-6 seasons head coach Bobby Bowden understands that in the land of the football-crazy a legacy’s shadow grows short under the unrelenting glare of high-noon scrutiny. Sensing growing impatience among Florida State backers, Bowden helped orchestrate one of the top recruiting classes in the nation, nabbing Pennsylvania wide receiver A.J. Alexander, a human jackrabbit with 4.3 speed, and E.J. Manual, the number two-ranked high school quarterback in the nation. But whether either can help jumpstart Florida State’s anemic offense remains a question.
    Offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher, the heir to Bowden’s head coaching throne, must decide on a signal caller. Senior Drew Weatherford, a 33-game starter, is being pushed by sophomore Chris Ponder, who looked sharp in the team’s spring game, connecting on 12 of 19 passes and tossing for one score.  Antone Smith will handle the brunt of the carries, while Preston Parker will be the number one receiving target provided, of course, he clears several legal problems. But for the offense to truly click there must be improvement with the brutes up front. Offensive tackle Antwane Greenlee’s return from injury and the emergence of guard Rodney Hudson during spring practice provide reason for optimism.
    The defense boasts a strong secondary, led by cornerback Tony Carter who last season snatched four interceptions. Injuries to the defensive line during spring practice could open the chute for prized-recruit Jacobbi McDaniel, who last year, in high school, totaled eight sacks and 21 tackles for a loss.
    An uncharacteristically easy opening schedule – Western Carolina and Chattanooga – should help both Bowden and the team rediscover its lost swagger.  

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2008 Georgia Tech College Football:

    Optimism normally trumpets the arrival of a new head new coach.  Especially one who boasts a 107-39 record over 11 seasons at Georgia Southern and Navy, and whose winning percentage ranks 11th nationally among Division 1-A  head coaches. But Paul Johnson’s first few months have been marred with the departures of starting quarterback Taylor Bennett (transferred to Louisiana Tech), starting wide receiver James Johnson (quit the team), and defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta (hired by Notre Dame), the genius behind the Yellow Jackets’ successful blitzing attack.
    A fast start will calm Georgia Tech’s backers, but this may be a difficult task. The team boasts 14 new starters and will need time to adjust to Johnson’s complicated spread offense, a variation of the triple-option. 
   Sophomore quarterback Josh Nesbitt, more known for running than passing, fits perfectly with the offensive scheme and drew high praise from Johnson during spring practice. Running back Jonathon Dwyer should benefit the most from the new system. Navy, under Johnson, had the number one rushing offense in college football four out of his six years.
    The defense only has four returning starters. Fortunately, two of those are defensive tackle Vance Walker, who, last season, earned first-team All-ACC honors, and defensive end Michael Johnson, a 6-7, pass-rushing specialist. Many experts compare Johnson to being a larger version of Jevon Kearse and project him as a top ten pick in next year’s NFL draft.
    For the Yellow Jackets to be successful this season the team will need to mesh together fast. Two of its first three games are on the road against ACC Conference teams, Boston College and Virginia Tech.

2008 Maryland Terrapins Football Preview:

   The Terrapins are hoping that the adage “change is good” bears true for them this season. Following last year’s disappointing 6-7 campaign, the team enters 2008 with new offensive and defensive schemes.
    Newly hired James Franklin, a crackerjack offensive guru, brings from Kansas State a west coast attack that last year averaged 35 points per game. His system will allow Maryland to utilize the playmaking abilities of wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, a human gazelle with 4.23 speed, and highly touted freshman recruit, Kenny Tate. Running back Da’Rell Scott, another speed wonder, should also flourish in the west coast attack, especially behind a senior-stacked offensive line. But for the offense to click Maryland needs to decide on a starting quarterback.  Chris Turner, Jordan Steffy and Florida transfer, Josh Porter are all vying for number one honors.
    The defense shifts to a 3-5-3 this season. This will allow the Terps to take advantage of a talented and deep linebacking crew and cover for an inexperienced front line.  Cornerback Anthony Wiseman, who looked sharp in spring ball, will need a breakout year. He’s the only returning starter from last year’s secondary.
    If the defense responds and a number one quarterback emerges Maryland could shock as the surprise of the ACC. California, in the third week of the season, will provide the first true test.

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2008 Miami Hurricanes Football Preview:

   Hopefully, for head coach Randy Shannon’s sake, Miami backers will agree that patience is indeed a virtue. After two straight top ten recruiting classes the Hurricane program is perhaps one year away from returning to king-elite status.
    This year’s squad is chockfull with youth on both sides of the ball. Just about every position is open to competition, starting with quarterback. Redshirt freshman Robert Marve currently has the inside edge over highly touted recruits Jacory Harris and Cannon Smith, but Shannon won’t announce his starter until summer.  A slew of possibilities exist with the receivers. Sam Shields, who grabbed 27 balls in 2007, returns, as does Ryan Hill. But both will be challenged by an impressive freshmen class, including blue-chip prospect Tommy Streeter.  Graig Cooper gives the ‘Canes stability at running back. Not only did he average 5.5 yards per carry last season, but he also displayed good hands in the passing game.
    The defense, though young, looks big and fast and mean. Linebacker Arthur Brown, the nation’s top rated recruit out of Wichita, Kansas, has the ability to make an immediate impact on defense. He’ll be aided by strongside linebacker Colin McCarthy, an emerging superstar with cheetah-like speed. Defensive end Eric Moncur, a disruptive edge rusher, anchors the line, giving Miami one of the top front sevens in the conference. The secondary will be a concern, however, especially if the often injured Anthony Reddick can’t provide senior leadership at safety.
    The young ‘Canes will need to learn on the fly. Two of the team’s first two games are on the road against Florida and Texas A&M. 

2008 North Carolina College Football:

     Don’t be surprised if the Tar Heels become the surprise of the football season. Last year’s youthful team lost six of eight games by a touchdown or less. The experience from those close losses should bode well this year for a team that returns 18 starters. 
    The offensive key for the Tar Heels will be to establish a semblance of a running attack. With the exception of the final two games when converted wide receiver Greg Little churned for 243 yards and two scores, watching the running backs last season was like watching houseflies bouncing off a kitchen window, looking, but never finding, that elusive opening.  A more balanced attack will help quarterback T.J. Yates improve on last year’s 18 interceptions. He has a fleet of prime time targets to throw to, led by Hakeem Nicks, a second-team All-ACC pick, who, as a sophomore, snared 74 balls for 958 yards and five touchdowns.
     If defensive tackle Tydreke Powell’s impressive spring game performance (two sacks, six tackles and a fumble recovery) carries over to the season the Tar Heels may have a lockdown defense. For the back-seven looks solid.  The return of linebacker Chase Rice from last year’s season-ending injury bolsters an already strong linebacking unit. And the secondary features four returning starters, including freshman All-American safety, Deunta Williams.
    Despite facing a 12-game schedule featuring seven bowl teams, coach Butch Davis’ Tar Heels should improve on last year’s 4-8 record and, with a splash of luck, maybe even contend for top ACC honors.

2008 NC State Wolfpack Football Preview

    "Act Two" of the Tom O’Brien story begins with just as many questions as Act One. Very few positions are settled, making spring practice look like an open tryout competition.
    As many as four players are in the running for starting quarterback. Returning starter Daniel Evans is being pushed by Russell Wilson, Justin Burke, who looked sharp in spring practice, and 6-6 freshman Mike Glennon, the prize of this year’s recruiting class. The unknown factor at this vital position makes it imperative that the Wolfpack establish a ground game. Not an easy task considering last year’s squad ranked second last in the ACC in rushing yards per game. To bolster the line, O’Brien moved defensive tackles Ted Larson and John Bedics to the offense. If this experiment works it should provide openings for a talented group of running backs led by Jamelle Eugene.
    The defense has only four returning starters. But considering last year’s dreadful numbers (16 turnovers, last in rushing yards allowed in the ACC) this may be a good omen. The defensive line, led by Marcus Kuhn and Willie Young, will need to be stout, for the both the linebacking unit and the secondary are low on experience. 
    A decent recruiting class gives hope for the future. But in the immediate interim, look for this year’s team to be a work in progress.

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2008 Virginia Cavaliers Football Preview:

    After winning five games last year by two points or less, the Cavaliers will need another smoke-and-mirrors effort to return to the bowl scene. A daunting task complicated by the loss of key players to graduation, the NFL draft, and academic bugaboos.
    Coach Al Groh must first decide on a quarterback. Senior Scott Deke, and sophomores Marc Verica and Peter Lalich are all vying for the starting nod. And since no one stood out  during spring practice the position is still up for grabs. The team does look strong at running back, where both Cedric Peerman and Mikell Simpson will most likely share time scampering behind a revamped offensive line.  The return of Kevin Ogletree from injury will boost an already strong group of receivers.
    Things are slightly more settled on the defensive side. Outside linebacker Clint Sintum leads a veteran linebacking crew that will need to be strong behind a young and inexperienced interior line. Although, redshirt freshman Matt Conrath, a 6-7 defensive end, looked imposing during spring practice, drawing comparisons to first-round NFL draft pick Chris Long.
    The schedule does not favor Virginia early. The Cavaliers open at home against USC, ranked number five in most preseason ratings.

2008 Virginia Tech Football Preview:

     Seven starters from last year’s number one ACC defense are gone.   But a Frank Beamer team never rebuilds, it only reloads. This especially bears true for the defense.
    Jason Worilds, a redshirt sophomore who many label a star in the making, moves into the starters role at defensive end. His presence, coupled with the emergence of defensive tackle Cordarrow Thompson, should give the interior line dominant status. A strong showing by the line will help Brett Warren and Purnell Sturdivant ease into their starting roles at linebacker. Cornerback Macho Harris, who may also see time at wide receiver, leads a strong secondary.
    Beamer still hasn’t decided on a starting quarterback, but those close to the program are giving the nod to Sean Glannon. The Texas native looked sharp in spring practice and is coming off his junior year where he completed almost 60% of his passes. If Glannon falters Beamer won’t hesitate giving the offensive keys to Tyrod Taylor, a human speed-bug who even in a limited role last season finished second on the team in rushing. The wide receiver slots remain in flux, as does the running back position. Starter Brandon Ore was kicked off the team, opening the proverbial door for Darren Evans or highly touted recruit Ryan Williams, who averaged an astounding 9.4 yards per carry during his junior year in high school.
    A fairly easy schedule, which includes non-conference college football games against Furman and East Carolina, should allow the Hokies to again challenge for top ACC honors.

2008 Wake Forest College Football Preview:

    Head coach Jim Grobe, who turned down an offer from Arkansas, returns with hopes of continuing Wake Forest’s most successful two-year run in the school’s football history.  Over the last two seasons the team, under Grobe, has totaled 20 wins. And with 14 starters returning there’s no reason to expect anything less than another winning year in 2008.
    Quarterback Riley Skinner will again guide Grobe’s misdirection offense. To improve on last year’s stats (12 TDs, 13 interceptions), this two-year starter will need to find a new favorite target. Kenneth Moore and his 98 grabs left for the NFL, meaning Chip Brinkman, Demir Boldin, and redshirt freshman Devon Brown must step forward in the aerial game. Josh Adams gives the Demon Deacons a breakaway presence at running back. Last year, as a freshman, he earned ACC Offensive Rookie of the Year honors, while rushing for 953 yards and 11 touchdowns.
    Last year defensively Wake topped the ACC with 35 takeaways. Cornerback Alphonso Smith, who led the team with eight interceptions, returns as does linebacker Aaron Curry who picked off four passes and returned three for scores. Boo Robinson anchors a rugged defensive line that limited opponents to 109 rushing yards per game.
    A favorable non-conference schedule – Navy, Baylor, Mississippi – should aid Wake’s chances of a third straight bowl appearance.

2008 College Football Picks - ACC Wrapup

    If Clemson’s offensive line gels quickly the Tigers could find themselves not only competing for the division crown but also for top honors in the nation for the 2008 college football picks season. But to get there they’ll need to get past Virginia Tech, emerging Wake Forest, and possible dark horse, North Carolina. The ACC conference could be one of the most competitive conferences in college football in 2008.


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