Maryland is ranked fifth in fortified ACC

Friedgen reminds media they've been wrong before

College Football

July 27, 2004|By Kevin Van Valkenburg | Kevin Van Valkenburg,SUN STAFF

GREENSBORO, N.C. - If you believe the Atlantic Coast Conference media, Florida State, Miami, Virginia and Clemson all will have better football teams than Maryland this season, according to a poll released yesterday that predicted the Terps will finish fifth in the 11-team league.

Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen, however, took a small amount of pleasure in pointing out to the assembled media that they have - ever since his arrival in College Park - a history of underrating the Terps in preseason.

"They haven't been very accurate about us yet," Friedgen said with a grin. "My first year, [the media] picked us to finish seventh, and we finished first. The second year, we were picked something like fourth and we finished second. Last year, we were picked to finish third, and we finished second. So we'll just see how it turns out."

Friedgen and the 10 other ACC head football coaches spent about two hours yesterday fielding various questions about their teams as part of the ACC Kickoff, a three-day media event that wraps up today. And while Friedgen did get a few questions about the Terps' chances to win 10 games for the fourth straight year, the coaches spent most of their time answering questions about Miami and Virginia Tech, the league's two newest members.

"I think it's a tremendous thing," Friedgen said. "I think Florida State really did a lot to change the dynamics of the league when it joined [in 1992], and I wouldn't be surprised to see Miami do the same."

Even though the Hurricanes have beaten Florida State five straight times, the Seminoles will go into the season opener against Miami Sept. 6 as the media favorite to claim a third consecutive ACC title. Florida State finished first in the poll, getting 49 of the possible 88 first-place votes. Miami was second, with 36 first-place votes, while Virginia (two) and Clemson (one) got the other first-place votes to finish in third and fourth. Virginia Tech, which has been to 11 straight bowls, was picked to finish sixth.

"Is it going to be tougher for us to accomplish our goals? Yeah, of course," Friedgen said. "I'd like to think it would be tougher on Miami and Virginia Tech, too. I think it's possible that a team could win the league and not win 10 games."

Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer was quick to agree.

"It's very possibly the best conference in the country," he said. "I think it got a lot tougher for all of us to win a national championship. But I think everybody's recruiting is going to get better."

That's already happened somewhat at Maryland, where Friedgen expects to field his most athletic team. But the Terps also will be inexperienced at positions like quarterback. Florida State (Chris Rix), Miami (Brock Berlin), Clemson (Charlie Whitehurst), Virginia Tech (Byron Randall) and Georgia Tech (Reggie Ball) all return experienced starters, while Maryland will need preseason to decide between sophomores Joel Statham and Sam Hollenbach and freshman Jordan Steffy.

"I really like this team, I just wish they were a year older," Friedgen said.

ACC preseason poll

The 2004 Atlantic Coast Conference preseason football poll, as voted on by 88 media members attending the ACC Football Kickoff.

No. School (1st place) ............ Pts.

1. Florida State (49) ............... 925

2. Miami (36) ......................... 913

3. Virginia (2) ........................ 697

4. Clemson (1) ....................... 664

5. Maryland .......................... 653

6. Virginia Tech .................. 511

7. N.C. State ......................... 509

8. Georgia Tech .................. 365

9. Wake Forest .................... 273

10. North Carolina .............. 184

11. Duke ............................... 114

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