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COLLEGE FOOTBALL PREVIEW 2006: THE ACC
August 2, 2006

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SCS.com Projected Standings

Team-by-Team Previews

All-Conference

Also See: ACC Preview In-Depth Extra


Florida State and Miami look to be the early favorites in their respective divisions this fall, though a number of other teams are certainly capable of making a championship run if things fall into place. In the Atlantic, Boston College is always a consistent squad, while NC State and Clemson will be looking to take a step forward this fall and contend for the league title. Over on the Coastal side of the conference, Georgia Tech will look to ride the senior leadership of QB Reggie Ball to a good season, while Virginia Tech will be attempting to replace some key contributors and could slide back in the pack just a bit. Virginia and Maryland should find themselves right around the .500 mark once again, while Wake Forest and North Carolina are capable of making bowl runs if they play up to potential. Duke, meanwhile, appears to be lacking the fire-power to move out of the cellar.

PROJECTED LEAGUE STANDINGS

TEAM CONFERENCE OVERALL
ATLANTIC
Florida State 7-1 11-1
Boston College 5-3 9-3
Clemson 4-4 8-4
NC State 4-4 8-4
Maryland 2-6 5-7
Wake Forest 2-6 4-8
COASTAL
Miami 7-1 10-2
Georgia Tech 6-2 8-4
Virginia Tech 5-3 9-3
Virginia 3-5 6-6
North Carolina 2-6 4-8
Duke 1-7 2-10

Who do you think will win the 2006 ACC title? VOTE HERE!

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BEFORE YOU ASK...A PREVIEW OF OUR PREVIEW FAQ:

Q: Why is Team A listed as a toss-up in Team B's preview, but Team B listed as a loss in Team A's preview?

A: Each preview is done from that individual team's perspective. Therefore, if you are looking at Southern Cal's preview, that is written from a USC mindset. Just for example: while USC may be Arizona State's toughest game of the season and a pretty sure-loss from the ASU perspective, it is possibly the toughest game the Trojans will play all year and therefore not a guaranteed win.

TEAM-BY-TEAM PREVIEWS

FLORIDA STATE

SCS.com The Seminoles won just five league games last fall, but it was enough to earn the squad a tie for the Atlantic division title. Eleven starters are back this season, including sophomore QB Drew Weatherford who threw for over 3200 yards and 18 TDs as a rookie last year. Also back are RB Lorenzo Booker (550 yards, 4 TD) and leading WRs Chris Davis and Greg Carr. The two wideouts combined for more than 1200 yards and 14 TDs a season ago. However, just one of the Noles' top seven tacklers is back this fall, and Weatherford will have to cut down on the turnovers in an effort to keep the defense off the field as much as possible.

The schedule appears to be very favorable, especially after the season-opening road trip to in-state rival Miami. Most the team's other tough games are in Tallahasse, including those against Clemson, Boston College, and Florida. Even if they do fall to the Canes to begin the season, playing out the rest of the schedule without a loss is very possible. If that were to happen, Bobby Bowden's squad would be in great position to earn a spot in this year's BCS title game.

Projected Wins: Troy, CLEM, Rice, at NCSU, at Duke, at MD, UVA, WF, WMU
Projected Losses: (none)
Toss-Ups: at MIA, BC, FLA
Projected Record: 11-1 / 7-1

MIAMI

SCS.com The Hurricanes came up a game short of making an appearance in the ACC title game last season, but with many of their top weapons returning this fall, it appears they could be on their way to accomplishing that goal in 2006. Eleven starters are back, including QB Kyle Wright who threw for over 2400 yards and 18 scores in '05. Also back are top RBs Tyrone Moss and Charlie Jones. That pair combined for over 1200 yards and 17 TDs a year ago. Two of Wright's top three targets also return, including the ACC's best TE, Greg Olsen. DB Brandon Meriweather is expected to lead the defensive unit but has to hope recent off-the-field troubles do not interfere.

Last year was the first time this century that FSU was able to beat the Canes, and UM would like to avoid making it two straight, especially early in the year at home. A road trip to Louisville in mid-September will be another crucial matchup between two teams with BCS hopes. The schedule then eases up a bit before a road trip to Georgia Tech and a home date with Virginia Tech carry the Canes into November. Miami has the most tested and proven offensive weapons in the conference and should be the favorite to take home the Coastal title, and possibly a BCS berth.

Projected Wins: FAMU, HOU, UNC, FIU, at Duke, VT, at MD, at UVA, BC
Projected Losses: (none)
Toss-Ups: FSU, at LOU, at GT
Projected Record: 10-2 / 7-1

GEORGIA TECH

SCS.com The Jackets climbed over the .500 mark in conference play for the first time in four years last fall, and with fourteen starters, including nine on the offensive side of the ball, returning, expectations are even higher in 2006. Among those back is QB Reggie Ball, who threw for nearly 2200 yards and 11 TDs as a junior last year while also running for almost 400 yards and 4 more scores. However, he must improve his TD:INT ratio this season. Also back is junior RB Tashard Choice, who backed up star P.J. Daniels last fall, and all-American candidate WR Calvin Johnson, who had nearly 900 receiving yards and a half-dozen TDs in 2005.

The home opener with Notre Dame is a chance for the Jackets to make an early statement to the nation. The next three games should be wins before a big conference road trip to Virginia Tech in late September. Another road trip, this one to Clemson, comes around in late October before a home showdown with Miami concludes the month. Three of the last four are away from home, including the finale at Georgia, but GT should have no problem finishing above .500 in league play once again.

Projected Wins: SAM, Troy, UVA, MD, at NCSU, at UNC, Duke
Projected Losses: (none)
Toss-Ups: ND, at VT, at CLEM, MIA, at UGA
Projected Record: 8-4 / 6-2

BOSTON COLLEGE

SCS.com The Eagles have been one of the most consistent teams in the country in recent years, even throughout their recent move from the Big East to the ACC. The team has won either 8 or 9 games each of the past five seasons, and BC's last losing record came way back in 1998. A dozen starters, six on each side of the ball, return this fall. Among them is star junior RB L.V. Whitworth, who dashed for over 800 yards and 5 scores a season ago. QB Matt Ryan sparked the team last fall and also returns for his junior campaign after throwing for eight scores in 2005.

BC should breeze past the opener before heading home for a tough two-game stretch against Clemson and BYU. A road game at NC State and a home game with Maine wrap up September, and by then we'll know if this team is capable of making a run at a conference title. A home game with Virginia Tech will be huge, as will a road trip to Florida State later in October. The schedule then eases up some before the season finale on the road at Miami.

Projected Wins: at CMU, Maine, BUF, at WF, Duke, MD
Projected Losses: at FSU, at MIA
Toss-Ups: CLEM, BYU, at NCSU, VT
Projected Record: 9-3 / 5-3

VIRGINIA TECH

SCS.com The Hokies have won at least 10 games in seven of the past eleven seasons and have never won less than seven games in a season during that time period. With QB Marcus Vick (talented, though a distraction) and top RB Cedric Humes (as well as Mike Imoh) gone, reaching that double-digit plateau could be a challenge in 2006. Ten starters return this fall, five on each side of the ball. RB Brandon Ore should carry the load this season after dashing for nearly 700 yards and 6 scores a year ago. A new QB will step under center for VT, but he will have four of the team's top six WRs from last fall back, minus star TE Jeff King.

The Hokies should easily win their first four games before a big showdown at home with Georgia Tech to close out the month of September. A road trip to Boston College follows in two weeks before consecutive home matchups against Clemson and Southern Miss. A road trip to Miami follows that before the team closes with three very winnable contests. Picking up victories early and late in the year will be crucial to earn bowl eligibility. Whether or not this team is an ACC contender will be decided between September 30 and November 4.

Projected Wins: NE'trn, at UNC, Duke, CIN, USM, Kent, at WF, UVA
Projected Losses: at MIA
Toss-Ups: GT, at BC, CLEM
Projected Record: 9-3 / 5-3

CLEMSON

SCS.com Record-setting QB Charlie Whitehurst has moved on, but fifteen starters do return for the Tigers this fall and will try to take the team to their sixth bowl in the last seven years. Among those returning are star RBs James Davis and Reggie Meriweather. As a freshman last fall, Davis dashed for nearly 900 yards and 9 scores, while Meriweather tallied over 700 yards and 7 scores himself. The new Clemson signal-caller has a tough chore in replacing Whitehurst, but he will have the team's top two wideouts back, including star Chansi Stuckey (770 yards, 4 TD). Six of the team's top seven tacklers from last fall also return.

Clemson should win the opener before heading out on the road for a brutal two game stretch at Boston College and Florida State. However, the schedule then eases up quite a bit until Georgia Tech comes to town in late October. A road trip to Virginia Tech follows the next week, and of course the schedule concludes with South Carolina at home. If Clemson can survive the opening stretch - both mentally and physically - the schedule sets them up with an opportunity to easily win six games and make a run at a winning record in conference play.

Projected Wins: FAU, UNC, LT, at WF, at TEMP, MD
Projected Losses: at FSU
Toss-Ups: at BC, GT, at VT, NCSU, USC
Projected Record: 8-4 / 4-4

NC STATE

SCS.com The Wolfpack returned to postseason play last fall after missing out in 2004, and they are looking to start a new streak of bowl appearances. Just ten starters return this year, five on each side of the ball. Among those back, though, is QB Marcus Stone. The junior took over at mid-season last year and led the team to four wins while throwing for over 1000 yards and 8 scores. Also back is tailback duo Andre Brown and Toney Baker. That pair combined for about 1200 yards and 11 scores last fall. Star WR Darrell Blackman can hurt you in many ways as well, whether its catching passes, running the ball, or taking back kicks and punts.

The season should open with a victory before two challenging but winnable non-conference games at home against Akron and on the road against Southern Miss. Boston College comes to town to round out the first month of the campaign before FSU pays a visit to Raleigh two weeks afterward. Four of NCSU's last six are away from home, but all are winnable. NC State avoids both Miami and Virginia Tech out of the Coastal, meaning a bowl trip is almost a lock and a run at the Atlantic crown is possible if they take care of business and FSU falters.

Projected Wins: APPST, Akron, WF, ECU
Projected Losses: FSU, GT, at CLEM
Toss-Ups: at USM, BC, at MD, at UVA, at UNC
Projected Record: 8-4 / 4-4

VIRGINIA

SCS.com Coach Al Groh enters his sixth year on campus, and though he's actually lost more games than he's won thus far in his career, he has taken the Cavs to four straight bowl games. A fifth straight postseason appearance will be quite a challenge in 2006, as just a dozen starters are back, six on each side of the ball. Among those gone is star QB Marques Hagans and stud RB Wali Lundy. However, UVA has a plethora of QBs to choose from, and Lundy's top three backups (who combined for over 800 yards and 7 scores last fall) all return. The new signal caller will also have the team's top five wideouts from a season ago to throw at in 2006.

A season-opening road trip to Pittsburgh will be tough, but two wins should follow. A three-game road swing comes next, but the visit to Georgia Tech is the only one the Cavs shouldn't come out on top in. A trio of home games follows, and by the time UVA's brutal November schedule rolls around, they should already be (and better be) bowl eligible. That's because the season concludes with trips to FSU and VT sandwiched around a home date with Miami.

Projected Wins: WYO, WMU, at Duke, at ECU
Projected Losses: at PITT, at GT, at FSU, MIA, at VT
Toss-Ups: MD, UNC, NCSU
Projected Record: 6-6 / 3-5

MARYLAND

SCS.com Grumblings about the Fridge being on the stove - er, the hot seat - are already starting to surface now that the Terps have missed out on postseason play for two straight seasons, though it's worth noting it was by a single game both times. Thirteen starters are back this fall, but obtaining that elusive sixth win will again be a challenge in 2006. QB Sam Hollenbach returns, but he will have to improve his turnover numbers in order to help RB Lance Ball become even more effective. The junior tailback dashed for over 900 yards and a half-dozen scores in '05. However, Hollenbach (or maybe fellow QB Jordan Steffey) will be throwing to an entirely new array of WRs as each of his top four targets from last fall have left campus.

Three of the first four games should be victories, the lone expcetion being a week three trip to West Virginia. A brutal seven-game stretch follows, one that would make most any team in America cringe: at GT, at UVA, vs NCSU, vs FSU, at Clemson, vs Miami, at BC. But such is life in the ACC, and though the season should close with a home victory over Wake Forest, it's likely the Terps will once again be sitting just a win or two short of bowl eligibility in 2006.

Projected Wins: W&M, MTSU, FIU, WF
Projected Losses: at WVU, at GT, FSU, at CLEM, MIA, at BC
Toss-Ups: at VA, NCSU
Projected Record: 5-7 / 2-6

NORTH CAROLINA

SCS.com After making a bowl trip in 2004, the Tar Heels came up a win short of that goal in 2005. A dozen starters return this fall, including seven on the defensive side of the ball. Among those returning on offense is the RB duo of Ronnie McGill and Barrington Edwards. That pair combined for over 900 yards and 7 scores a season ago. However, QB Matt Baker will have to be replaced, as will three of the team's top four WRs. Joey Bozich saw time under center last year, but redshirt freshman Cam Sexton and Nebraska transfer Joe Dailey are likely to see most of the snaps in '06.

The opener at home against much-improved Rutgers will tell a lot about where this team is headed. A tough game with Virginia Tech is scheduled for week two before what should be a sure-win against Furman in week three. The schedule then gets tougher with consecutive road trips to Clemson and Miami. Two more road trips to Virginia and Notre Dame follow later on, as do home games with NC State and Georgia Tech. Just as they did a season ago, UNC is likely to come up just a win or two short of bowl eligibility in 2006.

Projected Wins: FUR, WF, at Duke
Projected Losses: VT, at CLEM, at MIA, at ND, GT
Toss-Ups: RUT, USF, at UVA, NCSU
Projected Record: 4-8 / 2-6

WAKE FOREST

SCS.com Since going bowling in 2002, the Deacons have averaged just four wins per season while failing to make another postseason appearance. But with 19 starters returning in 2006, there are expectations for another bowl trip this fall. QB Ben Mauk returns after sharing time under center last fall but must see tremendous improvement, especially considering the loss of star RB Chris Barclay (1100 yards, 10 TD). Tailback Micah Andrews looks to pick up the slack on the ground after dashing for over 600 yards and a score in 2005.

The September schedule couldn't be much more favorable to Wake Forest. They open at home with two of the weaker BCS-conference teams in the country in Syracuse and Duke before paying consecutive visits to Connecticut and Mississippi, two more BCS-league squads who failed to go bowling last fall. The Deacons then return home to face Liberty to round out the month of September, and by that point, they should have no fewer than three wins under their belt if they have any hope of approaching the six-win mark. The schedule gets much more difficult from that point forward, including four of the last six away from home. It appears Wake will miss out on postseason play again this fall, though a 4-1 or 5-0 start could make those bowl dreams a reality.

Projected Wins: LIB
Projected Losses: at MISS, CLEM, at NCSU, BC, at FSU, VT
Toss-Ups: SYR, Duke, at CONN, at UNC, at MD
Projected Record: 4-8 / 2-6

DUKE

SCS.com Just eleven starters return from last year's Blue Devil squad that won only one game all season long. The news got even worse earlier this summer when it was announced that QB Zach Asack was suspended for the season due to academic violations. However, the team's top three RBs, including leading rusher Justin Boyle, all return, as does second-leading WR Eron Riley. Stars Michael Tauilili and John Talley return to lead a defense that brings back 7 starters from a season ago.

The first two games vs Richmond and at Wake Forest are winnable, but then things get much tougher. A road trip to Virginia Tech is followed by a home game with Virginia. Then Duke travels to Alabama before returning home to face Florida State and Miami in consecutive weeks. Home games against Vanderbilt, Navy, and North Carolina late in the year could be good battles, but it would take at least a pair of upsets for the Devils to approach the six-win plateau in 2006. At this point, simply moving out of last place in the Coastal division would be progress.

Projected Wins: RICH
Projected Losses: at VT, VA, at ALA, FSU, MIA, Navy, at BC, at GT
Toss-Ups: at WF, VAN, UNC
Projected Record: 2-10 / 1-7

PRESEASON ALL-CONFERENCE

OFFENSE
QB Kyle Wright Miami
RB James Davis Clemson
RB Tyrone Moss Miami
WR Calvin Johnson Georgia Tech
WR Chansi Stuckey Clemson
TE Greg Olsen Miami
OL James Marten Boston College
OL Steve Vallos Wake Forest
OL Josh Beekman Boston College
OL Dustin Fry Clemson
OL Leroy Harris NC State
DEFENSE
DL Baraka Atkins Miami
DL Gaines Adams Clemson
DL Chris Ellis Virginia Tech
DL Chris Long Virginia
LB Vince Hall Virginia Tech
LB Buster Davis Florida State
LB Anthony Waters Clemson
DB Brandon Meriweather Miami
DB John Talley Duke
DB Marcus Hamilton Virginia
DB Kenny Phillips Miami
SPECIAL TEAMS
K Brandon Pace Virginia Tech
P Adam Podlesh Maryland
KR Darrell Blackman NC State
PR Brandon Tate North Carolina


Individual team previews by SCS.com editor Jonathan.
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