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by Ben Burns - 06/11/2009
The ACC has a reputation as a second-tier conference.
It has the potential to exceed its bad rep this year.
Some recent embarrassing performances in non-conference games and the lack of a perennial BCS title contender led to the disrespect. Alabama's 34-10 trashing of then-Top 10 Clemson to open last season was such a mismatch, that afterwards Tigers' coach Tommy Bowden called Nick Saban and asked him for advice. A month later, Bowden resigned.
Losses like that combined with the fact that the ACC hasn't put a team in the BCS championship game since 2001 has hurt the league's national perception.
But the recent gluttony of bad press overshadows what is a young, improving league that sent a record 10 teams to bowl games last season. It's also a great quarterback league, with 10 teams returning signal callers that started meaningful games last season.
Will the ACC produce the national champion? It feels safe to say no.
But there are some solid, middle-of-the-pack teams like Wake Forest, North Carolina and North Carolina State that are capable of putting together profitable seasons for bettors and improving the conference's national reputation.
Talent-gauging early games
Make sure to catch these September showcases to see how the ACC stacks up.
South Carolina at North Carolina State, Sept. 3
Maryland at California, Sept. 5
Virginia Tech vs. Alabama, Sept 5 (at Georgia Dome)
Duke at Kansas, Sept 19
Florida State at BYU, Sept 19
TCU at Clemson, Sept. 26
These teams have proven winners at quarterback, by far the most important position in college football.
North Carolina State: Russell Wilson, last season's ACC Freshman of the Year, is a difference maker. When he started and was completely healthy, the Wolf Pack averaged 28 points. When he wasn't at full strength - he missed two games - they averaged just 13 points.
Wake Forest: Riley Skinner, the conference's top passer, has won more games than any other Wake Forest quarterback. He's also got the ACC's most experienced offensive line in front of him.
Florida State: Christian Ponder emerged as the surprise starter last season and promptly threw for 2,006 yards. With a year under his belt, big things are expected out of Ponder in his second season. He'll benefit from the Seminoles' O-line, which is considered the best in the ACC.
Georgia Tech: Josh Nesbitt isn't your prototypical option quarterback, but he's elusive and getting better at running Paul Johnson's attack.
Other notable QBs: Duke's Thaddeus Lewis, North Carolina's T.J. Yates, Virginia Tech's Tyrod Taylor.
Don't be caught off guard by ...
How bad Boston College will be.
Off-seasons don't get any worse than what the Eagles just suffered. Their coach was fired, unexpectedly. Their best linebacker, reigning ACC Defensive Player of the Year Mark Herzlich, was diagnosed with cancer. Their top QB, out of what was already a questionable situation, was suspended and decided to transfer, leaving new coach Frank Spaziani with an unproven redshirt freshman or a 25-year-old minor league baseball player as his best options.
"I will tell you what I tell my kids," new coach Spaziani told the Boston Globe during spring practice. "If you come up with an offensive scheme that we can use, I will pay you $50."
It will be interesting to see just how much oddsmakers fade B.C. The Eagles will be getting big points in Week 3's game at Clemson, but it might not be enough.
One Thing to Remember about each team
-Virginia Tech has the best in-conference ATS record over the past three seasons at 17-9.
-Miami has the worst in-conference ATS mark over the past three seasons at 8-16.
-The under is 7-1 in Clemson's last eight home games at grassy Memorial Stadium.
-Bobby Bowden can circle the wagons. Florida State is 11-4 ATS after a straight up loss in the last three seasons.
-Picked to finish last in the Atlantic Division, North Carolina State went 8-0 ATS against the ACC last season.
-Maryland, which returns nine starters, including all-conference running back Da'Rel Scott, is picked to finish last in the Atlanta Division this season.
-Play the over on Wake Forest games. The Demon Deacons return just four starters on defense, but have all of their top offensive playmakers back.
-Play the over on Georgia Tech games. The Yellow Jackets return their top three rushers, including ACC Offensive Player of the Year Jonathan Dwyer. Paul Johnson said after spring practice that his team is miles ahead of where it was last year at the same time. Defensively, the Jackets must replace nearly their entire defensive. They surrendered 42 points to Georgia and 38 to LSU in the Chick-fil-Bowl to end the season.
-Play the under on Boston College games. New coach Frank Spaziani had been a longtime defensive coordinator for the Eagles, before taking over in the wake of Jeff Jagodzinski's firing. With aforementioned quarterback issues, expect Spaziani to be very conservative on offense.
-North Carolina lost only 14 letterman, the fewest in the ACC.
-Virginia is 3-9 ATS in September the past three years.
-Duke has lost 20 straight ACC road games, but is 13-7 ATS in those games.
ACC ATS Records (last three seasons)
Clemson: 16-20 ATS, (9-9 home, 6-7 away)
Florida State: 18-19 ATS, 7-11 home, 5-8 away
Boston College: 18-19-1 ATS, 9-6-1 home, 6-9 away
North Carolina State: 18-16 ATS, 9-9 home, 8-7 away
Wake Forest: 22-1 ATS, 10-7 home, 9-7 away
Maryland: 15-21 ATS, 8-9 home, 5-11 away
Virginia Tech: 20-17-1 ATS, 7-10-1 home, 9-5 away
Miami: 13-23 ATS, 6-12 home, 7-10 away
Georgia Tech: 19-15-2 ATS, 9-7-1 home, 9-5-1 away
North Carolina: 17-17 ATS, 9-8 home, 8-8 away
Virginia: 17-19 ATS, 10-8 home, 6-11 away
Duke 17-22 ATS, 6-11 home, 11-6 away