ACC Football: Two New Faces, Wide Open Races
The Atlantic Coast Conference welcomes Syracuse and Pittsburgh this fall as football members and while both squads are picked to finish near the bottom of their respective conferences, the race to play in the ACC championship game should be a rather intruiging one.
Clemson and Florida State are the favorites in the Atlantic Division, which looks like the stronger of the two this year while Miami, Virginia Tech, North Carolina, and Georgia Tech each have legitimate shots to win the Coastal Division.
Clemson would like to overtake Florida State this season and avenge a 49-37 loss to the Seminoles in Tallahassee last season. Florida State wound up beating Georgia Tech in the championship game 21-16. The Tigers return all-everything quarterback Tajh Boyd and receiver Sammy Watkins and get Florida State at home this year. Coach Dabo Swinney's squad could vault themselves into the national championship spotlight with a season-opening win over Georgia and a victory over rival South Carolina in the regular season finale.
Florida State, fresh off their Orange Bowl victory over Northern Illinois, will notch around ten wins, as always, as coach Jimbo Fisher enters his fourth year in Tallahassee. Maryland, North Carolina State, Wake Forest, Syracuse, and Boston College may pull an upset or two, but none will be in the running for a trip to Charlotte and the championship game.
Anyone can win the Coastal Division, even Miami, who could be under NCAA sanctions very soon. Al Golden needs a better effort from his defensive line, but his offensive line could be one of the best units in the league. Duke Johnson is an extremely talented running back, and Stephen Morris has put up great numbers at quarterback.
Virginia Tech is in the race for the title every year, while Georgia Tech won the division last season. North Carolina has problems similar to Miami, but quarteback Byrn Renner will give the Tar Heels a chance to be in every game. Pittsburgh and Virginia are formidable teams that are in the middle of the pack, and Duke most likely will be counting the days until basketball season, even though they have a very easy non-conference schedule.