CFT predicts: the ACC

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Like the Big East, the ACC’s reputation in football has taken a dive in recent years. The conference has an insulting BCS bowl record and traditional powers (i.e, Florida State and Miami) can’t get back into the national championship picture.

That has an opportunity to change this season. Florida State is one of those preseason media darlings getting the “Watch out, this team’s back!” treatment. The Seminoles have fallen flat in the face of high expectations, though. Will this year be any different?

Looking ahead to the 2012 season, here’s how the ACC should shake out:

(Let it be known that I reserve the right to change my mind at any time without notice.)

Atlantic Division

1. Florida State (last season: 9-4; won Champs Sports Bowl) 
I know, I know. This is the year the Seminoles finally get back in the BCS championship picture, right? Eh, I’ve heard that musical number before. Florida State should be good this season, but that good? The defense, though? Holy cow. One of the best in the nation last year in points allowed should be equally stout this time around. My concern continues to be the FSU offense. The ‘Noles couldn’t run the ball at all last year and the offensive line was downright awful at times. While the O-line should be more cohesive this season, the emphasis is currently on “should.”

2. Clemson (last season: 10-4; lost Orange Bowl) 
Clemson returns practically all its offensive weapons from a year ago, minus tight end Dwayne Allen and backup running back Mike Bellamy. The real loss for the Tigers is in the trenches along the offensive and defensive line — not to mention receiver Sammy Watkins for the first two games of the season due to a drug-related suspension. That could end up being problematic, and to me, that’s the difference between the Tigers and the ‘Noles. Tajh Boyd put up good numbers last year, but he can’t be under pressure the whole year. New defensive coordinator Brent Venables will try to turn the defense around.

3. North Carolina State (last season: 8-5; won Belk Bowl) 
The Wolfpack has one of the best players in the secondary in all of college football in David Amerson … who somehow was not a unanimous preseason All-ACC first-team selection. Anyway, N.C. State also has one of the better, yet under-the-radar quarterbacks in Mike Glennon. The Wolfpack return most of their starters from a year ago and get the benefit of skipping Virginia Tech on this season’s schedule.

4. Wake Forest (last season: 6-7; lost Music City Bowl) 
Jim Grobe enters his 12th season as the head coach of Wake Forest with an overall record of 68-67. The Demon Deacons were trending down for a few years after their 2007 Orange Bowl appearance, but this program seems to have regained some of its mojo last season. There’s some heavy turnover on the offense, especially along the O-line, but conference slate is manageable enough that Wake can manage a middle-of-the-pack finish.

5. Maryland (last season: 2-10) 
Things couldn’t have gone much worse for Randy Edsall in his first season with Maryland. As much as I don’t think Edsall is the right fit for the Terps, he’s too good a coach — yes, he is; he took UConn (UConn!) to a BCS bowl — to have another season as disastrous as his first. In fact, Maryland can get off to a good start with an easy non-conference schedule (save West Virginia) to give the Terps some confidence heading into their Oct. 6 game against Wake Forest. Once November rolls around, though, things get tough with games against Georgia Tech, Clemson, Florida State and North Carolina.

6. Boston College (last season: 4-8)
Boston College lost its two best players on either side of the ball — running back Montel Harris (rushed for 3,735 career yards) and linebacker Luke Kuechly — and Frank Spaziani has a grueling year ahead of him to try to save his job. BC’s program has tanked fast.

Coastal Division

1. Virginia Tech (last season: 11-3; lost Sugar Bowl) 
The Hokies are almost always the favorite to win the Coastal, and this year is no exception. Logan Thomas is gaining a lot of offseason whispers as a potential high-round NFL draft pick because of his size, but keep in mind this will only be his second full year as a starter. Tech is just one of those teams that always knows who they are, which is why Frank Beamer enjoys annual success. The back-end of the schedule features two big games for the Hokies: at Clemson on Oct. 20 — the Tigers swept Va. Tech in two games last year — and at home against Florida State Nov. 8. According to these projections, and I don’t think I’m alone in thinking this, it could be the first of two games between the Hokies and the Seminoles.

2. North Carolina (last season: 7-6; lost Independence Bowl)
Larry Fedora takes over a program that was firmly in the crosshairs of NCAA — the Tar Heels aren’t eligible to go to a bowl this season. The offense has playmakers in quarterback Bryn Renner and running back Giovani Bernard, so the scoring potential for Fedora’s spread offense is certainly there. Protecting Renner will be an offensive line featuring two all-conference selections in James Hurst and Jonathan Cooper.

3. Georgia Tech (last season: 8-5; lost Sun Bowl) 
The ACC Coastal field levels off and fast here. Georgia Tech returns 17 starters from a year ago, including quarterback Tevin Washington. Who Washington will throw to — when the Yellow Jackets throw — remains a question mark. For a team that runs the triple option, Ga. Tech has had some good receivers come out of the program in recent years, most recently Stephen Hill. The defense is a veteran group led by linebacker Julian Burnett.

4. Virginia (last season: 8-5; lost Chick-fil-A Bowl)
The Cavaliers upgrade their quarterback spot with Alabama transfer Phillip Sims. Linebacker Steve Greer returns after earning all-conference honors last year. I like the direction Mike London has Virginia headed and the schedule this season sets up well. No Florida State. No Clemson.

5. Miami (last season: 6-6)
The Hurricanes are dealing with a lot of turnover on offense and losing Ray-Ray Armstrong due to off-the-field issues hurts this team’s secondary. There really aren’t any guaranteed wins between mid-September and the season-ending game against Duke, either. Al Golden has one year under his belt in Miami, but this could shape up to be a rough one.

6. Duke (last season: 3-9)
The Blue Devils have 16 returning starters. Unfortunately, this team will be playing with wide receiver Blair Holliday on its mind. Holliday was involved in an offseason jet ski accident that put him temporarily in a coma. Coach David Cutcliffe will use it as a rallying point for his team, but it looks like another tough season for the Blue Devils. The final six games for this team (at VT, UNC, at FSU, Clemson, at GT, Miami) are brutal.

ACC champion: Virginia Tech

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Interested in our other 10 conference projections along with Division 1-A (FBS) Independents? View ’em all below by clicking the individual links or our projections landing page HERE. And don’t forget to check out CFT’s preseason Top 25.

Big East
Big Ten
Big 12
Conference USA
MAC
Mountain West
Pac-12
SEC
Sun Belt
WAC
Independents

Jon Runyan Jr. expected to play for Michigan this weekend at Wisconsin

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The Michigan Wolverines may have one of their best offensive linemen on the field this weekend when they hit the road to play at Wisconsin. Jon Runyan Jr. will make his season debut on Saturday against Wisconsin, according to Michigan offensive line coach Ed Warinner.

“We’ve had two weeks to work him through, so he’ll be ready to go,” Warinner said, according to MLive.com. “Jon will be excited to get some action.”

Runyan is a starting offensive lineman, although Warinner didn’t specifically say Runyan will get the start against the Badgers. However, that would be a safe assumption if Runyan is ready to get back on the field. Warinner did say Runyan will play left tackle. This will help solidify the left side of the offensive line as the Wolverines try to get their offense on track. The new-look Michigan offense hasn’t quite gotten going as hyped heading into the season, although the absence of Runyan is not believed to have been a major reason for the mild offensive struggles.

Runyan had been out for the start of the season due to an undisclosed injury. He was dressed for Michigan’s game against Army, but he was held out as a precaution. Michigan had a bye week last week, allowing more time to get ready for a game that should be quite a battle on the line of scrimmage against Wisconsin this weekend.

Bill proposed in New York aims to share college athletics revenue directly with student-athletes

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As the state of California moves forward with a push adopt a law that would allow student-athletes to receive compensation for the use of their name and likeness, a new bill proposed in New York aims to go one step farther. Senator Kevin Parker has proposed a bill that would allow student-athletes to be compensated directly from the school’s annual revenue.

As written, Senate Bill S6722A in New York seeks to allow student-athletes (including college football players) to be able to receive compensation for the use of their name, likeness or image; the ability to hire an agent; and to receive an even distribution directly from the school from the university’s athletics revenue. The bill intends to require schools to set aside 15 percent of revenue earned from ticket sales and distribute that evenly among every student-athlete at the school.

This could impact three FBS schools in New York; Syracuse, Buffalo, and Army. New York also has a handful of FCS programs as well, including Fordham, Stony Brook, and Colgate. If the bill gains any traction, it would impact each school differently due to the range in ticket revenue generated by each school. The proposed bill currently sits in committee right now and has not been scheduled for a date on the Senate floor in New York.

The NCAA will frown upon this bill, just as it has in California, and it would be expected schools in New York would not be in favor of such a bill. The NCAA has already threatened the state of California with potentially removing all championship events organized by the NCAA from the state. A similar threat to New York would be the typical response if needed. That may not impact the college football world much, although it could mean no NCAA basketball tournament games being played in New York, a state that has routinely hosted NCAA basketball tournament games across the state. The Pinstripe Bowl should be safe because it is not run by the NCAA (although the NCAA could refuse to certify the Pinstripe Bowl if it really wanted). But we are far from the point to have that discussion.

The Fair Pay for Play bill in California, which is currently waiting to be signed into law or vetoed by the state’s governor, merely allows student-athletes to seek representation and receive compensation for the use of their name, likeness, or image. This trend is certainly picking up steam, and it would not be a surprise to see other states attempt to challenge the NCAA’s model of amateurism.

Iowa and Iowa State release joint statement asking fans to treat the marching bands better

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Whatever happened to the Iowa marching band on Saturday at Iowa State must have crossed a fine line, because on Wednesday both Iowa and Iowa State released a statement addressing the concern.

“Both the University of Iowa and Iowa State University are committed to providing a safe environment for everyone attending events on their respective campuses. This includes members of the school’s marching bands,” the joint statement from Iowa athletic director Gary Barta and Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard said. “Unfortunately, both the Hawkeye and Cyclone marching bands have been the target of unacceptable behavior at football games in Iowa City and Ames in recent years. Some of the conduct directed at the students in our respective marching bands recently has been rude, vulgar, and in some cases, violent.”

Unfortunately, it is not unheard of for visiting marching bands to be harassed by hostile fans around the country. Sometimes, those shameful acts by fans of teams cause some bands to decide never to make the trip to a specific stadium ever again. Fortunately, it does appear Iowa and Iowa State are committed to ensuring the bands of both schools are treated respectfully in each other’s stadiums, as should always be the case for visiting bands, fans, and players.

“We should all feel embarrassed when students in the bands don’t feel safe when performing at an away game,” the joint statement continued. “Each of our athletics departments is committed to doing whatever is necessary to improve the environment for visiting school marching bands in the future. A significant part of the solution is insisting our fans help address this issue by showing more respect to our visitors. We owe it to these hardworking performers to have a safe stage on which they can showcase their spirit and talent.”

Make all the jokes you want, but a college band is part of what makes the college football atmosphere enjoyable and more authentic. It would be a shame to lose some of the sounds of the crowd because some idiots decided to be a bunch of jerks.

Former USC coach Pete Carroll never thought players needed to get paid

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The state of California recently passed a law that would allow college athletes to hire agents and be paid for the use of their name, image and likeness if they desire. The NCAA, naturally, has weighed in to protest the law and is hoping the governor of California decided to hear their case and not sign the bill into law. Former USC head coach Pete Carroll, now the head coach of the Seattle Seahawks in the NFL with a Super Bowl championship to his name, was asked for his opinion on the developments in California. Perhaps not surprisingly, Carroll came on the side of the conversation which suggests players do not need any additional compensation beyond what is provided by a scholarship.

“I’ve never been of the thought that players need to get paid,” Carroll said, according to Joe Fann, Seattle Seahawks insider for NBC Sports Northwest.

Of course, nobody needs to be reminded Carroll was the head coach of former USC running back Reggie Bush (Ok, I guess I just reminded you anyway).The NCAA found Bush had received improper gifts from an agent, which ultimately dropped a series of sanctions on USC including four years of probation, forced the Trojans to vacate a national championship and the entire 2005 season. USC was also placed on a two-year postseason ban and was stripped of 30 scholarships over a period of three years. The Heisman Trust also vacated Bush’s Heisman Trophy from the record book, and USC has removed any ties and references to Bush from the program. USC was handed their sanctions after the 2009 season, at which time Carroll left the Trojans to coach in the NFL with Seattle.

Carroll’s thoughts on the idea of players receiving compensation (legally, of course) are not too surprising, and they are common thoughts expressed by other college football coaches who make millions. In 2009, it was reported Carroll was paid $4.4 million for the 2006-2007 fiscal year, four times as much as USC President Steven B. Sample at the time.

Carroll isn’t the only coach chiming in on the subject. Washington State head coach Mike Leach thinks California has some other issues to be concerned about.