With the college football season starting on Thursday week in North Carolina for South Carolina's match-up with NC State, the VFA thought it was high-time we started with our conference previews.
With that in mind, here's our ACC preview.
After they beat Georgia on the road in one of the best games of 2008, the Ramblin' Wreck have high hopes for 2009. They should do - the running back corps of Jonathan Dwyer and Roddy Jones are downright filthy, and Paul Johnson may just be the conference's best coach. Oh, and Josh Nesbitt, who's already on the Davey O'Brien watchlist for 2009 after posting strong numbers both in the air and on the floor, is a pretty good quarterback.
Prediction: 11-1 ACC winner
Already people are talking about a potential Top 10 finish for the Hokies, but get this: they've still got one monster of a game to play against the Alabama Crimson Tide on the opening day of the season. If Tyrod Taylor & Co can get through that, then they should have plain sailing up to October 17, when they get together with Georgia Tech.
Prediction: 10-2 (loses to Georgia Tech, 'Bama)
The Clemson Tigers were the model of 'disappointing' last year when they trundled to a 7-6 record last year after being widely predicted to win the ACC. This year, running back CJ Spiller's back, but the offense needs to wake up a bit - or new coach Dabo Swinney could be getting the boos reserved for now-resigned Tommy Bowden.
Prediction: 10-2 (wins ACC Coastal)
Could go each way
Butch Davis' program keeps on getting better and better, and the Tar Heels are giving people in Chapel Hill something else to think about other than basketball. Having said that, a warm-up against the North Carolina School for the Blind at the Dean Dome would probably get more fans in, but really, the school should be selling more football tickets. Why? This team - ranked in the teens preseason- is going to be pretty useful.
Not even ranked this year, there's a thought that this could be yet another rebuilding year for Randy Shannon's men. But we'll throw this one out there: there's is a much better team than people will give Shannon credit for. The defense was pretty good last year - although they'll have to improve their run defence, which was pounded last year. Travis Benjamin and Craig Cooper are going to be a lot of fun to watch. Maybe we were premature to talk about an ACC title (we actually forgot about Georgia Tech - oops!) in our predictions, but these guys will go bowling.
In the last few years, Florida State has been in the shadow of their in-state rivals, Florida. With Florida expected to have the season of a lifetime, Florida State is expected to remain blackened out by orange and blue-clad bandwagon jumpers. If there was ever a season for the Seminoles to get on the map, it's this one. Quarterback Christian Ponder's being seen as the person to lead the charge - and he'll need to. Otherwise, we'll be talking about FSU as yet another 'also-ran'.
The Deacons have been a minnow awakened over the last few years, and it's coincided with the quarterback play of Riley Skinner. In fact, when the Deacons went 8-5 last season, it was seen a mild disappointment. This year, Skinner and Wake Forest could prove people wrong, although two nasty end-of-season dates with Georgia Tech and Florida State may hurt the Deacons. Nevertheless, they'll probably go bowling this year.
Duke might be improving, but they won't go bowling.......NC State and Maryland will continue to rebuild - if not improve- after mediocre 2009s.....Boston College hasn't been talked about this off-season, and for good reason....Virginia should stick to it's wonderful co-eds.
Clemson: The noise in Death Valley is absolutely deafening. The Tigers orange army are some of the most vociferous in college football. It's a crazy place to play in. Virginia's female contingent get the prize for the prettiest, though.