There’s a countdown clock the ACC handed out at its media kickoff event last month to promote the football’s title game in Tampa.
Yesterday, it struck 100 —- as in days left before the title game.
A lot is going to happen throughout the league in that time, so why not try to forecast it? Here’s one prediction for each team in the league.
1. Chris Crane will not throw as many interceptions as Matt Ryan did in 2007. Boston College will be fine at quarterback. While Crane won’t be able to script a career filled with comeback victories, he also won’t throw 19 interceptions this year, either. In fact, it would be no surprise if he comes close to throwing more touchdowns than picks this fall.
2. Clemson will lose at least two games. Choose not to look at all those starters lost on the offensive line at your own risk. The Tigers will drop one game that makes sense, and at least one that really doesn’t. The pick here: A Nov. 1 trip to Boston College coming out of a bye week.
3. Duke will win a conference game. The Blue Devils haven’t captured an ACC game since November 2004, dropping their final 25 league contests under former coach Ted Roof. One candidate to lose at Duke is Virginia, but a look at the schedule made the Nov. 8 game against N.C. State seem more likely. The Wolfpack’s anemic performance last night didn’t exactly hurt that pick.
4. Florida State will play in a New Year’s Day Bowl. Not necessarily an elite, BCS bowl. But with the possibility of Bobby Bowden finally retiring at the end of the season and options at quarterback, the Seminoles should land in the Gator Bowl at season’s end.
5. Georgia Tech will play in a bowl. Good news for the Yellow Jackets —- they probably won’t go back to Boise for a second straight year. If nine teams can get eligible from the ACC, look for Georgia Tech to get shipped to Washington for the Congressional Bowl and a meeting with Navy (coach Paul Johnson‘s former team). The Yellow Jackets seem like a possibility to squeeze out six or seven victories in Johnson’s first season.
6. Da’Rel Scott will be Maryland’s first 1,000-yard rusher since 2002. With Morgan Green shelved indefinitely with a quadriceps injury, Scott will probably handle more of the load in the Terrapins’ backfield than first expected. Bet on a couple long runs to push his season-long total into four figures. The last Terp to hit 1,000 yards rushing was Chris Downs.
7. Miami will not give up 30 points on four occasions again. While it’s too early to get excited about the Hurricanes, their defense will better. It just has to be. Miami yielded four 30-point games for the first time since 1984, and it should be much-improved this time around.
8. Hakeem Nicks will lead the ACC in receiving yardage. For as much grief as the ACC rightfully receives for its inability to win on the national stage, it has produced a nice set of wideouts for this season —- Maryland’s Darrius Heyward-Bey, Clemson’s Aaron Kelly and Duke’s Eron Riley among them. Nicks is the best of the bunch, and he’ll become the first North Carolina player to lead the league in receiving since Jimmy Jerome in 1974.
9. N.C. State will change starting quarterbacks more than any other team in the ACC. I was convinced of this before Russell Wilson‘s concussion last night. Any time five guys have a chance to win the job at the start of camp, things don’t bode well. The other possibilities for this “honor” are Maryland, Miami and perhaps Virginia.
10. A Virginia wide receiver will catch more than 21 passes. That was the ceiling for the Cavaliers’ wideout corps a season ago. Someone —- notably Kevin Ogletree, but also Maurice Covington in all probability, will help Virginia extend the field a bit better in 2008.
11. Macho Harris will be the ACC’s player of the year. I’m riding this pick all the way to the start of the season. Given his versatility, the cornerback/return man/part-time wideout will be a big reason Virginia Tech staves off North Carolina and successfully defends its Coastal Division title.
12. Sam Swank will break the ACC’s career scoring record. The Wake Forest senior kicker is at 297 points after last night’s game at Baylor. Former Maryland kicker Nick Novak is at 393 points. Given Swank’s range, his decent chances of playing a dozen more games and the Demon Deacons’ ability to get him scoring opportunities, Swank might become the league’s first 400-point scorer.
—- Patrick Stevens