Atlantic Coast Conference preview

Open field

August 28, 2007|By HEATHER A. DINICH

Who's hot

Virginia Tech: With four of their first five games at home - a stadium that will be oozing with pride and community after the tragic shootings in April - the Hokies could get off to a fast start. They have an experienced quarterback, a revamped offensive line, one of the top defenses in the country and more to play for than just football.

Boston College: First-year coach Jeff Jagodzinski inherited a talented, 10-win team that includes senior running backs L.V. Whitworth and Andre Callender, but there will be pressure to win immediately. Nine starters return on defense.

Who's not

Wake Forest: It's not as if the Demon Deacons can't contend for another title - they might even be better than last season - but with the rest of the league on an expected upswing, it's going to be tough for them to repeat their 11-win success of 2006.

North Carolina: Nobody on the Tar Heels' roster has played for a winning college football team, and first-year quarterback T.J. Yates has played only three seasons of competitive football, including last season's redshirt year at UNC. It could be a difficult year for new coach Butch Davis.

Key games

Monday: Florida State at Clemson, 8 p.m., ESPN. Bobby Bowden and son Tommy will face each other for the ninth time, and this Labor Day matchup features two teams expected to contend for the Atlantic Division title.

Sept. 8: North Carolina State at Boston College, 2:30 p.m. It will be interesting to see how former Eagles coach Tom O'Brien is received in Chestnut Hill, as his homecoming will be as head coach of the Wolfpack.

Sept. 22: Maryland at Wake Forest, time TBA. The Demon Deacons squashed the Terps' chance at the ACC title in the season finale last year; this year, they will be Maryland's first league opponent.

Oct. 20: Miami at Florida State, time TBA. Both programs should be better than they were last season, making for a renewed rivalry and an important midseason game.

Nov. 1: Virginia Tech at Georgia Tech, 7:30 p.m., ESPN. This game could go a long way toward determining the Coastal Division winner.

Big shoes to fill

James Johnson, Georgia Tech: He was the Yellow Jackets' No. 2 receiver last year behind ACC Player of the Year Calvin Johnson, who was the No. 2 pick in the NFL draft.

Travis Baltz, Maryland: A freshman who is taking over for Adam Podlesh, one of the top punters in the nation who is now with the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars.

Jimbo Fisher, Florida State: He was hired to replace Jeff Bowden as the Seminoles' offensive coordinator - not necessarily big shoes to fill as much as the super-sized scrutiny and expectations he'll face.

Jeff Jagodzinski, Boston College: Former coach Tom O'Brien averaged 8.5 wins the past eight seasons, his Eagles won seven consecutive bowl games, and he was consistently lauded for his graduation rate.

DajLeon Farr, Miami: The most likely player to take over a tight end position, where the Hurricanes were used to first-round NFL draft pick Greg Olsen making big plays.

By the numbers

0 Combined years of head coaching experience for Boston College coach Jeff Jagodzinski and Miami coach Randy Shannon.

1 Carries made last year by current North Carolina running backs.

7 New hires on Bobby Bowden's Florida State staff, including five assistants, a strength and conditioning coach and a director of player personnel. 13 Starters returning to defend Wake Forest's ACC championship, including quarterback Riley Skinner.

83 Percent of voting media who picked Virginia Tech to win the ACC title.

96 Yards gained in the longest pass completion in the ACC last year, from then-Maryland quarterback Sam Hollenbach to receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, now a sophomore.

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