Commentary

Hurricanes, Seminoles will challenge Hokies for ACC crown

Originally Published: August 23, 2007
By Mark Schlabach | ESPN.com

Peering into the crystal ball revealed the following five predictions for the 2007 ACC season:

1. Virginia Tech will win the ACC
The Hokies will have one of the country's best defenses, led by linebackers Xavier Adibi and Vince Hall and cornerback Brandon Flowers. The offense will be better, but it won't score enough points in Week 2 at LSU, which will be Virginia Tech's only loss of the season.

2. Florida State and Miami will rebound
The Seminoles and Hurricanes will fight their way back to respectability in 2007. FSU will be in the hunt in the Atlantic Division, keeping coach Bobby Bowden around for at least one more season. Miami will be much-improved but won't be good enough to outlast the Hokies in the Coastal Division. Randy Shannon's tough-as-nails approach will make the Orange Bowl a tough place for opponents to play in Miami's last season there.

3. Maryland will be the most-improved team in the league
The Terrapins will pull off a big upset in September -- against West Virginia or at Rutgers -- and will challenge Boston College and FSU for the Atlantic Division title. Quarterback Jordan Steffy will finally deliver on his potential, and receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey will become a household name.

4. Several ACC stadiums will need new turf by October
The conference is loaded with great running backs -- James Davis and C.J. Spiller at Clemson, Branden Ore at Virginia Tech, Tashard Choice at Georgia Tech, Javarris James and Graig Cooper at Miami, Micah Andrews at Wake Forest, and Antone Smith at Florida State. The league's rushing title hunt will be as fun to watch as the division races.

5. Jeff Jagodzinski will have the best first-year record
The former Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator didn't arrive with the same fanfare as North Carolina's Butch Davis or NC State's Tom O'Brien, the coach he replaced in Boston. But Jagodzinski's team is positioned well to make a run at the Atlantic Division title, with senior quarterback Matt Ryan leading the way.

Mark Schlabach covers college football and men's college basketball for ESPN.com. You can contact him at schlabachma@yahoo.com.

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