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Can Florida State Win the Atlantic? and the Big Finish

Brian: The AJC’s Mr. College Football compares each of the preseason magazines predictions for the 2009 ACC Atlantic Division race and offers up his own set of predictions. Here is the breakdown:

Writer 1 2 3 4 5 6

* tied

The general consensus appears to be that Florida State will win the Atlantic Division this year, with 4 of the 6 writers/magazines picking the Seminoles. This leads Barnhardt to ask the question, can Florida State win the ACC Atlantic? Well, can they? Is this the year that the Seminoles gets back on track, or do you expect someone else to emerge from the ACC Atlantic?

Jeff: To be perfectly honest (and I know I'm a homer) I say it's going to be Virginia Tech and Boston College again until someone proves they can beat them. The Eagles might fall off a little this year because of all the changes in coaching staff and some personnel on the field but who is going to step up and beat them?

FSU certainly has issues and they have to travel to Chestnut Hill ...

NC State has been - straight up - the worst team in the Atlantic Division since full conference expansion, so even though hopes are high in Raleigh for this season, there is really no reason to get too excited ...

Wake Forest and Maryland I'm picking to finish 5th and 6th in the division in no particular order ...

And finally, Clemson has C.J. Spiller which is great and all but they still have offensive line issues, questions at the quarterback position and as much uncertainty as anyone else in the league.

Virginia Tech and BC went to Tampa last year despite probably having worse teams than the year before so since they could get it done last year with less talent, there is no reason they can't do it again this year as their talent matures.

Brian: Can Florida State win the Atlantic this year? Sure. But much like the last few seasons, they certainly aren't going to run away with the division. The Seminoles defensive unit is fairly inexperienced, and they similarly have to fill the hole left on the defensive line with the graduation of Everette Brown. Christian Ponder has his moments, but was wildly inconsistent in his first full season as a starter under center. See 2 TDs and 0 INTs and 199 yards passing in the Champs Sports Bowl win over Wisconsin, and a combined 0 TDs, 6 INTs in losses to both Wake Forest and Boston College at home. The Noles also lose playmakers Greg Carr and Preston Parker, so the supporting cast is a bit inexperienced as well.

Finally, the ACC schedule - at least the Atlantic Division slate - certainly doesn't break in their favor this season, as they have to travel to Clemson, Chestnut Hill and Winston-Salem. In particular, Wake Forest has been a thorn in Florida State's side, having won each of their last 3 meetings, including two in Tallahassee. On the other side, the Seminoles get the benefit of not facing Virginia Tech this season, but they do get three of the tougher draws in Georgia Tech, Miami to open the season and at North Carolina.

Going back to the Atlantic predictions, I think its interesting to see how high some of the sportswriters are Wake Forest and N.C. State. As an Eagles fan, I know not to undervalue the job guys like Jim Grobe and Tom O'Brien can do with mediocre talent, but I just don't see it happening this season. If you average the above predictions, this gives you a rough idea of what the Atlantic preseason predictions will look like come ACC Media Day:

1. Florida State
2. N.C. State
3. Clemson
4. Wake Forest
5. Boston College
6. Maryland

Not sure whether I agree or disagree with these preseason rankings at this point. I think one thing is clear though. Unlike a year ago, the majority of the high expectations for the conference are in the Coastal Division. This is probably why you see such a wide range of preseason predictions for the Atlantic. With no clear cut favorite in the Division, the tried-and-true preseason prediction fallback is - of course - Florida State.

Big Finish

Brian: The Legacy x4 guys take a look at ACC Media Day preseason predictions and compare the past 4 season's predictions to postseason results. What they found is that Wake Forest edges BC as the least predictable team in terms of order of finish in their respective division. You surprised?

Jeff: Not surprised at all. This is really the most underrated team award not the hardest to predict team.

Jeff: Which will happen first? BC winning an ACC Football Championship or being predicted preseason to win the title?

Brian: No brainer. BC wins an ACC Football Championship before they are ever tabbed the preseason conference favorite.

Brian: Matt Ryan has been nominated for the 2009 ESPY Award for "Best Breakthrough Athlete." Ryan is up against Shawn Johnson, Evan Longoria and Derrick Rose. Will he take home the award? Who will?

Jeff: The NFL is king so Matty better win.

Jeff: The Globe's Bruins Blog reports that the Bruins aren’t likely to sign Brock Bradford, making him an unrestricted free agent. Your thoughts?

Brian: I hope a franchise takes a chance on Bradford but it looks like due to his size – 5'10", 175 pounds – he’ll have to grind it out in the AHL for a few years.

Brian: This blog takes a crack at ranking the ACC coaches. David Cutcliffe at #7 with 1 ACC win under his belt? Do you agree with any of this blogger’s ACC coaching rankings?

Jeff: I don't strongly disagree with any of his rankings right now considering Spaziani hasn't held the head coach title before. One win at Duke is worth like 8 at Florida State.

Jeff: JPG takes a second look at 2009-2010 ACC basketball and has BC predicted to finish 3rd in the ACC behind only Duke and UNC. Surprised at the News & Observer’s high expectations for BC hoops next season?

Brian: I am somewhat surprised about this. I think we are still a year away from contending for the conference title. Georgia Tech at four is surprising too. I know they get Derrick Favors and return some talent, but worse to fourth is asking a lot of Paul Hewitt.

Jeff: Will the basketball team finish higher than the football team in the conference this year?

Brian: No. Basketball will be good and will make another NCAA tournament appearance, but I don't think they will finish in the top four. Despite what the above football preseason predictions say, I don't expect BC to fall lower than 4th in the ACC Atlantic Division standings.

Brian: Last one, the NY Times’ Quad Countdown previewed BC at #60 in their countdown, down 14 slots from a season ago. Out of conference, only Kent State (109) and Northeastern (NR, since they are I-AA) came in lower ranked than the Eagles. You surprised the NYT thinks more highly of our other two out of conference opponents than they do of BC?

Jeff: Yes, I am shocked Central Michigan is getting ranked above us in the Quad Countdown. I guess we'll prove everyone wrong again this year starting September 19 at Clemson.