State Colleges

Media picks FSU to win ACC title again

Florida State, seeking its first league title since 2005, is the consensus choice to win the Atlantic Division and to defeat Virginia Tech in the 8th Annual Dr Pepper ACC Football Championship Game according to a poll of media members. This is the second straight year that Florida State has been projected to win the ACC title. Clemson was the actual conference champion, defeating Virginia Tech 38-10 in Charlotte. The Seminoles of coach Jimbo Fisher, who finished second in the Atlantic last year, received 72 of 95 first place votes in that portion of the balloting. Sixty of the 95 also said Florida State will prevail in the title game, set for Dec. 1 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte. The Hokies have won five of the seven Coastal Division crowns since the ACC went to divisional play in 2005 and got 83 votes in the Coastal election. Clemson sophomore wide receiver Sammy Watkins, who set ACC single-season freshman records for receptions (82), reception yardage (1,219) and receiving touchdowns (12), was the choice for Preseason Player of the Year. Watkins received 25 votes and nudged out Virginia Tech junior quarterback Logan Thomas who had 21 votes. The Preseason Player of the Year ballotting was a close, four-person race with Florida State senior quarterback EJ Manuel coming in third with 19 votes and Watkins’ junior teammate, quarterback Tajh Boyd, finishing fourth with 18.

BOSTON COLLEGE EAGLES

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Coach:

Frank Spaziani (20-19).



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Players to watch:

TE Chris Pantale, OT Emmett Cleary, LB Kevin Pierre-Louis, K Nate Freese, QB Chase Rettig.



Overview: The Eagles’ run of 12 consecutive bowl appearances came to a screeching halt last season despite the stellar play of Butkus winner Luke Kuechly, leaving Spaziani on the hot seat. In all, 17 starters return, led by Pantale, who will be out the first month of the season with a broken bone in his foot. New coordinator Kevin Rogers hopes to be a bring more up-tempo style to what should be a more balanced offense.

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Key games:

vs. Miami (Sept. 1); at Florida State (Oct. 13); vs. Notre Dame (Nov. 10).



BY THE NUMBERS

2011 Vs. Atlantic Vs. Top 25 Passing Leader Rushing Leader
4-8 (3-5 SEC) 2-3 0-3 Rettig 1,954 Yds Finch 705 Yds
Receving Yards Pass Rank Rushing Rank Points For Points Against
Larmond 530 Yds 100th (167.8) 82nd (130,9) 112th (18.2) 43rd (23.5)

CLEMSON TIGERS

Coach: Dabo Swinney (29-19).

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Players to watch:

WR Sammy Watkins, C Dalton Freeman, QB Tahj Boyd, RB Andre Ellington, LB Corico Hawkins.



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Overview:

The Tigers were 8-0 and ranked fifth in the country last season before losing three of four and getting embarrassed by West Virginia in the Orange Bowl 70-33. Defensive coordinator Kevin Steele was replaced by former Oklahoma coordinator Brent Venables. If the Tigers, who return seven starters on each side of the ball, can find a way to stop other teams they could be a dark horse for the national title.



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Key games:

Auburn (Sept. 1); at Florida State (Sept. 22).



BY THE NUMBERS

2011 Vs. Atlantic Vs. Top 25 Passing Leader Rushing Leader
10-4 (6-2 ACC) 4-1 4-2 Boyd 3,828 Yds Ellington 1,178 Yds
Receving Yards Pass Rank Rushing Rank Points For Points Against
Watkins 1,219 Yds 21st (282.3) 59th (158.5) 24th (33.6) 81st (29.3)

FLORIDA STATE SEMINOLES

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Coach:

Jimbo Fisher (19-9).



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Players to watch:

DE Brandon Jenkins, S Lamarcus Joyner, CB Xavier Rhodes, QB EJ Manuel, K Dustin Hopkins.



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Overview:

Eight starters are back on offense and defense for an FSU team that lost three games by a combined 11 points and was riddled by injuries on its offensive line. Although there are a couple questions on the defense — free safety, linebacker depth — this group should be nasty again this year even with the loss of leading tackler Nigel Bradham. The addition of the nation’s No. 2 recruiting class according to ESPN should also help.



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Key games:

vs. Clemson (Sept. 22), at N.C. State (Oct. 6), at Virginia Tech (Nov. 8).



BY THE NUMBERS

2011 Vs. Atlantic Vs. Top 25 Passing Leader Rushing Leader
9-4 (5-3 ACC) 3-2 0-2 Manuel 2,666 Yds Freeman 579 Yds
Receving Yards Pass Rank Rushing Rank Points For Points Against
Greene 596 Yds 33rd (257.0) 104th (112.2) 39th (30.6) 4th (15.1)

MARYLAND TERRAPINS

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Coach:

Randy Edsall (2-10).



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Players to watch:

TE Matt Furstenburg, DE Joe Vellano, LB Demetrius Hartsfield, C Bennett Fulper, S Eric Franklin.



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Overview:

Injuries helped derail Maryland’s 2011 season and led to coaching changes. Former Houston defensive coordinator Brian Stewart will implement a 3-4 scheme and has 10 returning starters including Vellano, a second-team All-American who will move from inside to outside.



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Key games:

vs. University of Connecticut (Sept. 15), at West Virginia (Oct. 6), at Boston College (Oct. 27).



BY THE NUMBERS

2011 Vs. Atlantic Vs. Top 25 Passing Leader Rushing Leader
2-10 (1-7 ACC) 0-6 0-3 O’Brien 1,648 Yards Meggett 896 Yds
Receving Yards Pass Rank Rushing Rank Points For Points Against
Dorsey 573 Yds 75th (210.3) 42nd (169.3) 87th (23.08) 102nd (34.25)

NORTH CAROLINA STATE WOLFPACK

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Coach:

Tom O’Brien (18-22).



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Players to watch:

CB David Amerson, S Earl Wolff, QB Mike Glennon, RG R.J. Mattes, C Camden Wentz.



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Overview:

The Wolfpack won six of its last eight games and hopes to carry over some of that momentum with seven starters back on each side of the ball. Glennon completed 62.5 percent of his passes for 31 touchdowns and will once again be the focus on offense. Defensively, the Wolfpack has one of the most experienced, ball-hawking secondaries in the country led by Amerson (13 INTs).



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Key games:

vs. Tennessee (Aug. 31), vs. Florida State (Oct. 6), at Clemson (Nov. 17).



BY THE NUMBERS

2011 Vs. Atlantic Vs. Top 25 Passing Leader Rushing Leader
8-5 (4-4 ACC) 2-3 1-1 Glennon 3,054 Yds Washington 897 Yds
Receving Yards Pass Rank Rushing Rank Points For Points Against
Graham 757 Yds 54th (240.0) 109th (104.9) 54th (28.2) 54th (24.7)

WAKE FOREST DEMON DEACONS

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Coach:

Jim Grobe (68-67).



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Players to watch:

NG Nikita Whitlock, OLB Joey Ehrmann, QB Tanner Price, C Garrick William, FS Chibuikem Okori.



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Overview:

The Demon Deacons came awfully close to playing for the Atlantic Coast Conference title last season, falling to eventual champion Clemson 31-28. Eight starters are gone from what was a pretty good offense, but at least Price is back. Defensively, seven starters are back, including five in what should be a good front seven.



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Key games:

at Florida State (Sept. 5), vs. Clemson (Oct. 25), at Notre Dame (Nov. 17)



BY THE NUMBERS

2011 Vs. Atlantic Vs. Top 25 Passing Leader Rushing Leader
6-7 (5-3 ACC) 4-1 1-2 Price 3,017 Yds Pendergrass 823 Yds
Receving Yards Pass Rank Rushing Rank Points For Points Against
Givens 1,330 Yds 39th (253.2) 99th (114.6) 68th (26.0) 68th (26.0)

DUKE BLUE DEVILS

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Coach:

David Cutcliffe (15-33).



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Players to watch:

WR Conner Vernon, RT Perry Simmons, C Brian Moore, QB Sean Renfree, CB Ross Cockrell.



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Overview:

The Blue Devils have nearly quadrupled their win total under Cutcliffe from the four seasons before he arrived. What Duke still isn’t doing is winning close games, having lost eight games by a touchdown or fewer in the past two seasons. Eight starters return on each side of the ball, led by the Miami-born Vernon, who needs just 35 catches to become the ACC’s all-time leading receiver.



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Key games:

vs. FIU (Sept. 1), at Stanford (Sept. 8), Nov. 24 (Miami),



BY THE NUMBERS

2011 Vs. Coastal Vs. Top 25 Passing Leader Rushing Leader
3-9 (1-7 ACC) 0-6 0-3 Renfree 2,891 Yds Thompson 457 Yds
Receving Yards Pass Rank Rushing Rank Points For Points Against
Vernon 956 Yds 28th (272.2) 115th (94.1) 93rd (22.5) 90th (31.2)

GEORGIA TECH YELLOW JACKETS

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Coach:

Paul Johnson (33-19).



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Players to watch:

G Omoregie Uzzi, RB Orwin Smith, LB Jeremiah Atttaochu, S Isaiah Johnson.



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Overview:

After starting 6-0 and climbing to 12th in the polls, the Yellow Jackets dropped five of seven. Washington, the quarterback in the spread option offense, is among 15 starters back from last year’s team. The winner of the Virginia Tech-Georgia Tech game has won the Coastal Division ever since there has been a Coastal Division to win.



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Key games:

at Virginia Tech (Sept. 3), Miami (Sept. 22), at Clemson (Sept. 6), at North Carolina (Nov. 10).



BY THE NUMBERS

2011 Vs. Coastal Vs. Top 25 Passing Leader Rushing Leader
8-5 (5-3 ACC) 2-3 2-2 Washington 1,652 Yds Washington 987 Yds
Receving Yards Pass Rank Rushing Rank Points For Points Against
Hill 820 Yds 112th (142.3) 2nd (316.5) 21st (34.3) 60th (26.1)

MIAMI HURRICANES

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Coach:

Al Golden (6-6).



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Players to watch:

P Dalton Botts, OG Brandon Linder, S Vaughn Telemaque, QB Stephen Morris, LB Denzel Perryman.



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Overview:

No team lost more veterans in the conference than the Miami Hurricanes, which brings back a total of four starters on offense and six starters on defense from a team that lost all six games last season by eight points or fewer. Several talented freshman appear to be ready to make an immediate impact for the Hurricanes, which is a team expected to go through some growing pains.



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Key games:

at Georgia Tech (Sept. 22), vs. Notre Dame (Oct. 6), vs. Virginia Tech (Nov. 1).



BY THE NUMBERS

2011 Vs. Coastal Vs. Top 25 Passing Leader Rushing Leader
6-6 (3-5 ACC) 3-2 2-1 Harris 2,486 Yds Miller 1,272 Yds
Receving Yards Pass Rank Rushing Rank Points For Points Against
Streeter 811 Yds 62nd (232.1) 71st (145.7) 63rd (26.5) 17th (20.1)

NORTH CAROLINA TAR HEELS

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Coach:

Larry Fedora (1st year).



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Players to watch:

OT James Hurst, G Jonathan Gooper, RB Giovanni Bernard, LB Kevin Reddick, DE Kareem Martin .



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Overview:

UNC was hit with a one-year bowl ban and a reduction of 15 scholarships during the next three years for violations involving illegal agent activity, improper benefits and academic fraud. Armed with a new fast-paced spread offense and an aggressive new 4-2-5 hybrid defensive scheme, UNC brings back eight starters on offense and five on defense.



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Key games:

vs. Virginia Tech (Oct. 6); at Georgia. Tech (Nov. 10).



BY THE NUMBERS

2011 Vs. Coastal Vs. Top 25 Passing Leader Rushing Leader
7-6 (3-5 ACC) 2-3 0-3 Renner 3,086 Yds Bernard 1,253 Yds
Receving Yards Pass Rank Rushing Rank Points For Points Against
Jones 1,196 Yds 36th (254.4) 76th (138.9) 56th (28.0) 56th (24.9)

VIRGINIA CAVALIERS

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Coach:

Mike London (12-13).



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Players to watch:

OT Oday Aboushi, LB Steve Greer, RB Perry Jones, OT Morgan Moses, SLB LaRoy Reynolds.



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Overview:

London, the reigning ACC Coach of the Year, said goodbye to seven starters on defense and four others on offense from a team that was a win against Virginia Tech from playing for the conference crown. Virginia excelled at winning the close games, going 5-1 in games decided by six points or fewer in 2011.



Key games: at Georgia Tech (Sept. 15), at TCU (Sept. 22), at Virginia Tech (Nov. 24)

BY THE NUMBERS

2011 Vs. Coastal Vs. Top 25 Passing Leader Rushing Leader
8-5 (5-3 ACC) 3-2 2-1 Rocco 2,671 Yds Jones 915 Yds
Receving Yards Pass Rank Rushing Rank Points For Points Against
Burd 913 Yds 56th (237.7) 52nd (162.1) 86th (23.2) 46th (23.9)

VIRGINIA TECH HOKIES

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Coach:

Frank Beamer (209-98-2).



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Players to watch:

DE James Gayle, LB Bruce Taylor, CB Kyle Fuller, QB Logan Thomas, C Andrew Miller.



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Overview:

If the Hokies are going to win double-digit games for the ninth year in row, they will have to find replacements for eight starters on offense, including their leading rusher, receiver and four veterans on the line. The good news is the defense is frighteningly good with nine starters back, and Beamer’s teams are famous for their special teams.



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Key games:

vs. Georgia Tech (Sept. 3), at Clemson (Oct. 20), vs. Florida State (Nov. 8)



BY THE NUMBERS

2011 Vs. Coastal Vs. Top 25 Passing Leader Rushing Leader
11-3 (7-1 ACC) 6-0 2-2 Thomas 3,013 Yds Wilson 1,709 Yards
Receving Yards Pass Rank Rushing Rank Points For Points Against
Coale 904 Yds 66th (226.1) 28th (186.9) 57th (27.9) 7th (17.6)
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