Commentary

ACC forecast: Wait 'til next year again for Tigers

Originally Published: August 12, 2008
By Mark Schlabach | ESPN.com

Expansion hasn't gone exactly how the ACC envisioned it would after it raided the Big East for three teams in 2003. ACC champions are 1-9 in BCS bowl games in the past decade, and the league has yet to earn an at-large berth into a BCS game. Is this the season Florida State and Miami finally return to national prominence? Probably not. Is this another topsy-turvy season in which a team such as Wake Forest or North Carolina might stun the rest of the ACC? Maybe.

1. Clemson won't win the ACC.

The Tigers are loaded at the skill positions. Cullen Harper is the best quarterback in the ACC. Tailbacks James Davis and C.J. Spiller are two of the best runners in the country. Aaron Kelly is the best pass-catcher in the league. But Clemson might start two or even three freshmen on the offensive line, which isn't a good thing, and its linebacker corps is very thin. Alabama will beat the Tigers in the Georgia Dome in the opener, and North Carolina or Wake Forest will win the ACC.

2. Paul Johnson will take Georgia Tech to a bowl game.

The Yellow Jackets aren't expected to do too much in Johnson's first season, but the man can flat-out coach. Johnson will do exactly what he did at Navy -- plug a new quarterback into his offense and watch it run. Because it has one of the ACC's most potent defenses, Georgia Tech won't have to score many points to win.

2008 ACC Preview

Is this the season the ACC regains some of its swagger? Is Clemson the team to bring the conference some BCS glory? Get ready for the 2008 ACC season:

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Skill threat: Jacoby Ford
Schlabach: Five ACC predictions
SportsNation: Vote on ACC

3. Florida State will improve.

The Seminoles will recover from mediocre 7-6 records in each of the past two seasons and might even be good enough to challenge Clemson and Wake Forest for the Atlantic Division title. FSU will be 3-1 when it plays Miami at Dolphin Stadium on Oct. 4. Miami will be 2-3 after losing to the Seminoles.

4. Duke will win more games.

The Blue Devils will at least triple their victory total from a year ago, when they finished 1-11 under fired coach Ted Roof. Former Tennessee offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe will open his Duke tenure with a 3-1 record. The Blue Devils will beat Division I-AA James Madison and Northwestern to start the season, then lose to Navy and beat Virginia. On Sept. 27, Cutcliffe will receive the keys to Mike Krzyzewski's office.

5. Virginia Tech will slip.

The defending ACC champions must replace 13 starters, including defensive stars Chris Ellis, Vince Hall, Xavier Adibi and Brandon Flowers. Tech's offensive line still isn't very good, and tailback Branden Ore was booted off the team. The Hokies won't play in a BCS bowl game this season, but they'll be a national championship contender in 2009.

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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