As my annual swing through preseason media days continues I’ll be updating you on the current state of the conferences I’m covering …
1. It’s just not the same with Bobby. One of the highlights of the ACC media days is the annual sit down with Bobby Bowden. Around a circular table in a resort conference room we would jam ourselves close to Bobby to hear his dad-gum pearls of wisdom. A couple of “How ya doin’ buddy,”s and away we would go. Something was missing this year and it will never be back. Enjoy retirement, Papa Bowden.
2. Uncertainty at North Carolina. This had the looks of Butch Davis’ breakout season in Chapel Hill. Coming off a second consecutive eight-win season and armed with perhaps the nation’s best defense, Davis was overdue for that big turnaround. Sadly, Carolina is wrapped up in an NCAA agent investigation which may bring down the program for 2010 and short circuit Davis’ rebuilding. “Guys are smart to know what to do and what not to do,” said quarterback T.J. Yates. “You don’t have to read the NCAA rulebook to know the basics of it.” Apparently a few NCAA manuals are just what Carolina needs.
3. Dark horse national champion. Virginia Tech. This wasn’t the plan when expansion plans were being made but the Hokies have become the reigning power of the new (and not-so-improved) ACC. While Georgia Tech is the defending champion and an up-and-comer, Tech has been the most consistent ACC team of the expansion era. Both its overall (41-13) and conference records (24-8) are three games better than everyone else over the past four years. The offense sports one of the deepest backfields in the country with quarterback Tyrod Taylor and tailbacks Darren Evans and Ryan Williams. The defense is being questioned but shouldn’t, not as long as Bud Foster is running the show. This year’s hopes center around the Labor Day opener against Boise State. Win that and the Hokies could enter November undefeated. Then it’s a question of whether they can get past Georgia Tech, North Carolina and Miami, the last two on the road.
4. BC never seems to go away. Eleven consecutive bowls. Two out of the last three Atlantic Division titles. BC is hard to shake. Despite the loss of its best player (linebacker Mark Herzlich) to cancer and breaking in a 26-year-old rookie at quarterback (Dave Shinskie), the Eagles were still competing for the division title into November. This season they get back the inspirational Herzlich, ACC defensive rookie of the year Luke Kuechly as well as tailback Montel Harris (1,457 yards). Don’t be surprised to see the Eagles hanging around the division race again in November on their way to a 12th consecutive bowl.
5. Florida State is back, right? It’s up to the defense which was horrid in 2009. Jimbo Fisher has brought a new energy to the Seminoles who, despite the loveable Bowden, could use it. Quarterback Christian Ponder is back from a separated shoulder. The entire offensive line returns intact. If the defense plays just average, FSU will win 10. If not, retired d-coordinator Mickey Andrews will have handed his problems off to new DC Mark Stoops. We’ll know about the Noles by the second week of October. By that time, they will have played Oklahoma, BYU and Miami.