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by Matt Fargo - 08/28/2009
Last year the ACC Atlantic was as congested as Boston rush hour with all six teams finishing with a game of each other. Boston College ended up in the ACC Championship where it lost to Virginia Tech and eventually lost its first bowl game in nine years. The Eagles may take a fall this season but it looks as though it might be another tight race as any one of five teams has a shot at the division as there is no clear runaway winner. Florida St. is the only team ranked on the AP Preseason poll and surprisingly, Wake forest received no votes which I think is absurd.
Florida State Seminoles 9-4 SU, 6-4-1 ATS, 7-4 O/U
Summary: Florida St.’s return to glory seems to be getting closer. The Seminoles finished with nine wins last season for the first time since 2004 and that included a very solid bowl win over Wisconsin by 29 points. They home to carry that over into this season and it had better work as they will be playing a brutal schedule this season. The offense brings back eight starters including junior quarterback Christian Ponder who was very average last season. The offensive line is back as well as a stout running game so that should help him settle in. The defense regained its toughness last season but only five starters are back this season. In his last season before retirement, defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews will get the most out of his unit.
Schedule: The schedule will determine how far along Florida St. really is in its comeback attempt. Every opponent it faces in the ACC went to a bowl game last season and three of its four non-conference opponents also made it to the postseason. The Seminoles have to play three Atlantic road games and none are easy. They also have to travel to BYU and Florida so the entire slate is extremely tough.
Bottom Line: It looks as though every other team in the Atlantic Division is taking a small step back so the Seminoles get the top spot by default. I think they deserve it anyway as talent-wise, no one is in the same class. It all depends on how focused they are because that has been an issue in the past, as have the off-the-field incidents that have taken place. With this schedule, matching the nine wins from 2008 will be tough.
Betting Forecast: Florida St. was above .500 against the number for the first time since 2003. The Seminoles are a very public team so that winning likely won’t continue.
Wake Forest Demon Deacons 8-5 SU, 6-6 ATS, 5-7 O/U
Summary: Head coach Jim Grobe has done an amazing job in turning around the Wake Forest football program. He inherited a 2-9 team in 2001 and put together a winning season in his first year at the helm and over the last three years, the Deacons have won a combined 28 games. This season will be a challenging one as the defense does not look as strong as it has been in the past as only four starters are back on the unit. Offensively, Wake Forest finished 101st in the nation last season but nine starters are back including four-year starting quarterback Riley Skinner so it should improve immensely. The Deacons are getting no respect once again as they received no votes in the AP Preseason poll which is amazing to me. They have a shot at another Atlantic Division title.
Schedule: The schedule sets up very well for Wake Forest. Five of the first six games are at home including two of the first three ACC contests all three of which are winnable. The first one is at Boston College who looks to be rebuilding. The Deacons have to play at Clemson and at Georgia Tech but they catch both Miami and Florida St. at home. They close the season at Duke.
Bottom Line: The defense, which finished 16th in the nation overall and in scoring last season, is the only thing holding Wake Forest back the top raking in the division. The Deacons are young and not deep but the team speed could be the best ever. It should not be a problem for Wake Forest to make it to a fourth straight bowl game but it has higher aspirations and that is making it to the ACC Championship.
Betting Forecast: Wake Forest is a disappointing 8-19-1 ATS as a home favorite under Grobe. I expect that to reverse this season as the Deacons fly under the radar again.
Clemson Tigers 7-6 SU, 4-7 ATS, 3-8 O/U
Summary: Despite playing in four straight bowl games, Clemson has to be one of the biggest disappointments of the decade. There has been so much talent here but the Tigers have underachieved numerous times. Head coach Tommy Bowden was fired midway through last season after the administration had finally seen enough. Dabo Sweeney took over and led Clemson to three straight wins to end the season and earn a bowl bid where it lost to Nebraska. The offense is led by running back C.J. Spiller, one of the top backs in the ACC but there is a big issue at quarterback where Kyle Parker and Willy Korn are battling it out for the starting job. The defense will be stout again and will be asked to carry the team from the start.
Schedule: Clemson has a favorable schedule but that has been the case for years and it has somehow managed to mess it up. The Tigers have seven home games including a tough non-conference game against TCU. Why they would schedule Coastal Carolina for homecoming is beyond me. The ACC schedule is manageable as it gets Boston College, Wake Forest and Florida St. all at home.
Bottom Line: The defense, which finished 18th overall and 13th in scoring in the country last season, is in fact good enough to carry Clemson to a winning record and a bowl game. If the Tigers want to have any realistic shot at the division title and an upper-tier bowl game, the offense needs to pick it up. Finding a quarterback is the first challenge and if they can do that, the Tigers could be the team to beat.
Betting Forecast: Despite going 44-16 at home since 2000, Clemson is just 17-24 ATS as a home chalk. Tread lightly when laying points with this overvalued team.
NC State Wolfpack 6-7 SU, 9-2-1 ATS, 6-6 O/U
Summary: It looked like it was going to be three straight losing seasons for NC State but it responded after a 2-6 start by winning its final four games and making its first bowl appearance since 2005. The Wolfpack did lose to Rutgers in the bowl game to finish 6-7 overall but it was still a successful season and something to build on. Head coach Tom O’Brien is in his third season so now is the time to find out what he is accomplishing. NC State finished 88th in total offense and 83rd in total defense last year so making it to a bowl game was a big accomplishment with those rankings. They get 14 starters back including quarterback Russell Wilson who finished with 17 touchdowns and just one interception and he is one of the best young quarterbacks in the country. But can he repeat that performance?
Schedule: The Wolfpack have the advantage of eight home games this season but includes difficult games against South Carolina, Pittsburgh, Clemson and North Carolina. The game against the Gamecocks opens the season on Thursday and that is the first of four straight at Carter-Finley Stadium. The four road games are at Wake Forest, Boston College, Florida St. and Virginia Tech, all of which can be lost.
Bottom Line: Wilson will do his best to lead the offense but the sophomore jinx could come into play as there is no way he can match his 2008 season. The running game will be adequate after losing Andre Brown and the offensive line returns three massive bodies. The defense came on strong at the end of last season, allowing 20.2 ppg over the final five but a major push forward will need to happen for the Wolfpack to contend.
Betting Forecast: The Wolfpack went 8-0 ATS in the ACC last season after a combined 10-20 ATS in the previous four years. Look for a regression this year.
Boston College Eagles 9-5 SU, 6-6 ATS, 7-5 O/U
Summary: The head coach for Boston College has been a revolving door the past three years at Tom O’Brien left for NC State and Jeff Jagodzinski was fired after two years after interviewing for an NFL position. Frank Spaziani, who is in his 13th season with the program, takes over so the transition should be smooth. Now, the Eagles just need to find a starting quarterback to run the offense, an offense that will be switching schemes once again. Boston College had a stellar defense last season, finishing 5th in the country including 7th against the run. The problem this year is that the interior line needs to be replaced. In total seven starters are back including three from the secondary which was last year’s weak spot. It should be the strength this year.
Schedule: Boston College starts the season with two relatively easy home games against Northeastern and Kent St. Then the real fun begins as the Eagles play four straight ACC games, none of which are easy. They are at Clemson then at home against Wake Forest and Florida St. and then on the road at Virginia Tech. The final two non-conference games are at Notre Dame and at home against Central Michigan.
Bottom Line: The bowl run of 10 straight trips could continue this year if the Eagles can survive that difficult early ACC stretch. If they put up a goose egg in those four games, it will be tough to come back. This is far from the most talented team at the Heights so a bowl game could be a big accomplishment and the reason it will happen is because of Spaziani. The Eagles are lucky he stayed at O’Brien left.
Betting Forecast: After going on a 3-14 ATS run as a home chalk, the Wildcats rebounded with a 4-1 ATS mark last season. Look for that to continue again in 2009.
Maryland Terrapins 8-5 SU, 6-6 ATS, 5-7 O/U
Summary: When Ralph Friedgen burst upon the College Park campus, he led the Terrapins to a 31-8 record in his first three seasons. He has just 33 victories in the five years since then including just two winning seasons. This year will be tough to achieve back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since 2002-2003 because this team is extremely young. The Fridge did a great job last season in getting his team to overachieve so that should keep his job safe if this year results in another losing campaign. Maryland returns just nine starters overall and there are only 11 seniors that dot the 44-man two-deep chart. That is great news for the future but for 2009, it could mean a pretty long season.
Schedule: The season starts at California where the Bears will be out for revenge following last seasons loss at Maryland. The Terrapins then return home for four straight games with Rutgers and Clemson being the toughest of the bunch. The rest of the ACC schedule is not overly tough with the exception of games at Wake Forest and at Florida St. The Terrapins miss both Miami and Georgia Tech.
Bottom Line: Five road games definitely help the cause for Maryland but it still may not be enough. The last time the Terrapins returned so few starters came in 2004 and 2005 when they returned nine and ten respectively and finished both seasons 5-6. A rebuilding season is almost inevitable but an experienced offensive backfield could make for a couple upset bids.
Betting Forecast: Maryland is 0-4 ATS as a road favorite the last three seasons and while it will be rare, avoid that bet at all costs and take a long look at the home dog.