Published: August 28, 2008 2008 NCAA Football Preview
Atlantic Coast Conference capsules
2007 record: 11-3 (6-2 ACC).
Players to watch: TE Ryan Purvis, DT Ron Brace, LB Brian Toal, WR Brandon Robinson, OL Anthony Castonzo, K Steve Aponavicius.
Overview: After climbing to as high as No. 2 in the country last year, the Atlantic Division champions have to replace quarterback Matt Ryan with fifth-year senior Chris Crane. The nation's second-ranked defense brings back five starters and should be solid.
Key games: Oct. 18 vs. Virginia Tech; Nov. 1 vs. Clemsom; Nov. 15 at Florida State.
2007 record: 9-4 (5-3 ACC).
Players to watch: QB Cullen Harper, RB C.J. Spiller, RB James Davis, WR Aaron Kelly, DL Ricky Sapp.
Overview: The Tigers haven't won the ACC title since 1991, but have their best shot in years with Harper, the ACC Preseason Player of the Year. In addition to eight starters on defense, Clemson has the ACC's top running back tandem and receiver.
Key games: Aug. 30 vs. Alabama (Atlanta); Oct. 9 at Wake Forest; Nov. 8 at Florida State.
2007 record: 7-6 (4-4 ACC).
Players to watch: WR Preston Parker, OL Rodney Hudson, LB Derek Nicholson, S Myron Rolle, P Graham Gano, DL Everette Brown.
Overview: The competition for the starting job at quarterback could go into the season. A group of 13 starters is back, but suspensions will keep at least six out through the first two games.
Key games: Oct. 4 at Miami; Nov. 8 vs. Clemson; Nov. 29 vs. Florida.
2007 record: 6-7 (3-5 ACC).
Players to watch: WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, K Obi Egekeze, LB Dave Philistin, OT Scott Burley, CB Kevin Barnes.
Overview: Heyward-Bey is the leader of one of the top receiving corps in the conference. The problem is at quarterback, and running game will feel the losses of Lance Ball and Keon Lattimore.
Key games: Sept 13 vs. California; Sept. 27 at Clemson; Nov. 6 at Virginia Tech.
NORTH CAROLINA STATE
2007 record: 5-7 (3-5 ACC).
Players to watch: RB Jamelle Eugene, OG Curtis Crouch, OT Meares Green, CB DeAndre Morgan, TE Anthony Hill, DL Willie Young.
Overview: Fixing the running game and run defense are priorities for the Wolfpack, along with finding a quarterback. The front four brings back some experience, but all three starting linebackers from last year must be replaced.
Key games: Aug. 28 at South Carolina; Sept. 13 at Clemson; Sept. 27 vs. South Florida.
2007 record: 9-4 (5-3 ACC).
Players to watch: LB Aaron Curry, CB Alphonso Smith, QB Riley Skinner, RB Josh Adams, K Sam Swank, S Chip Vaughn.
Overview: With nine starters back on a stout defense and veterans in the offensive backfield, the Demon Deacons again should be in the thick of the ACC title race. The weakness is the offensive line, where only two starters return.
Key games: Sept. 6 vs. Mississippi; Oct. 9 vs. Clemson; Oct. 25 at Miami.
2007 record: 1-11 (0-8 ACC).
Players to watch: DT Vince Oghobaase, WR Eron Riley, OG Rob Schirmann, LB Marcus Jones, QB Thaddeus Lewis.
Overview: After winning just two games in the past three years, the Blue Devils return 17 starters. Duke turns to Cutcliffe, who was the offensive coordinator at Tennessee when Peyton Manning was there, and he led Ole Miss to five bowl games in six years.
Key games: Sept. 6 vs. Northwestern; Nov. 8 vs. North Carolina State; Nov. 29 vs. North Carolina.
2007 record: 7-6 (4-4 ACC).
Players to watch: OL Andrew Gardner, DL Vance Walker, S Morgan Burnett, RB Greg Smith, LB Shane Bowen.
Overview: The Yellow Jackets are going with a new option spread offense under Johnson, who helped turn Navy into a winner and won two I-AA titles at Georgia Southern. Four starters are back on each side of the ball.
Key games: Sept. 13 at Virginia Tech; Oct. 18 at Clemson; Nov. 29 at Georgia.
2007 record: 5-7 (2-6 ACC).
Players to watch: RB Graig Cooper, RB Javarris James, OT Jason Fox, LB Colin McCarthy, WR Sam Shields, DE Eric Moncur.
Overview: Miami had its worst season in 30 years and missed a bowl game in Shannon's rookie season. The strength is the offensive line. A solid recruiting class and some emerging young players could help Miami get back to its winning ways.
Key games: Sept. 6 at Florida; Oct. 4 vs. Florida State; Nov. 13 vs. Virginia Tech.
2007 record: 4-8 (3-5 ACC).
Players to watch: QB T.J. Yates, DL Marvin Austin, WR Hakeem Nicks, RB Greg Little, CB Kendric Burney.
Overview: The Tar Heels were young in 2007, but the payoff could begin now. Yates and Nicks were a solid passing combination last year. The Tar Heels' weakness is in the front four and depth in the secondary.
Key games: Sept. 11 at Rutgers; Sept. 20 vs. Virginia Techl; Oct. 11 vs. Notre Dame.
2007 record: 9-4 (6-2 ACC).
Players to watch: TE John Phillips, OL Eugene Monroe, LB Clint Sintim, LB Jon Copper, LB Antonio Appleby.
Overview: There probably isn't enough talent to build off of last year's success, but there is enough -- especially at linebacker -- to keep Virginia bowl-eligible. The weakness is the defensive line, which lost Chris Long to the NFL.
Key games: Aug. 30 vs. Southern Cal; Nov. 8 at Wake Forest; Nov. 22 vs. Clemson.
2007 record: 11-3 (7-1 ACC).
Players to watch: CB Victor Harris, S Kam Chancellor, DE Orion Martin, OT Ed Wang, OG Nick Marshman, QB Tyrod Taylor.
Overview: The Hokies had one of the nation's top five defenses last season, but lost seven starters from it. The Hokies appear to be stable at offensive line and quarterback but likely will have to fill the shoes of running back Branden Ore with a freshman.
Key games: Sept. 27 at Nebraska; Oct. 25 at Florida State; Nov. 13 at Miami.
-- MANNY NAVARRO
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