The Washington Times - December 17, 2008, 05:26PM

Back in late Aug. 30, for the sake of transparency (and also being sort of crazy) I went ahead and broke down exactly how each ACC team would arrive at its predicted record.

So now everything has settled down and it’s almost time for bowl predictions (the first batch of which will be doled out here a little later). So it’s probably a good chance to look back at what went wrong in my many shaky selection.


Here’s the team-by-team rundown, with projected record, actual record and why there was a discrepency:


Projected: 7-5, 3-5 ACC
Actual: 9-4, 5-3 (including ACC title game loss)
What happened: The Eagles’ defense was better than expected, which should be amended to say “better than I expected.” There were plenty of defensive backs and linebackers to replace, but Boston College simply got better on that side of the ball. It more than made up for an offense that wasn’t always efficient.


Projected: 10-2, 6-2 ACC
Actual: 7-5, 4-4
What happened: The Tigers simply didn’t have an offensive line worth much of anything in the first half of the season, and the dynamic C.J. Spiller wasn’t utilized nearly as much as he should have been. I was wary of Clemson given its propensity to lose silly games it has no business losing, and didn’t think they’d win the big one against Virginia Tech in the ACC title game. But absolutely no one would have guessed the Tigers would need to win their finale to earn a bowl berth. A mulligan is in order here.


Projected: 3-9, 1-7 ACC
Actual: 4-8, 1-7
What happened: The Blue Devils got better under first-year coach David Cutcliffe, and did so fast enough to spring an upset of Navy in September. An overall talent gap remains, but it is plausible Duke could contend for a lower-tier bowl berth if things break right next season. This was probably one of the better picks from the preseason.


Projected: 8-4, 4-4 ACC
Actual: 8-4, 5-3
What happened: The Seminoles showed progress after a pair of seven-win seasons. They’re not at Florida’s level, and their quarterback play remains inconsistent. But things are moving back in the right direction in Tallahassee, and that could mean contending for a league title next season.


Projected: 6-6, 3-5 ACC
Actual: 9-3, 5-3
What happened: The Yellow Jackets were who we thought they were on defense, and the absence of good offensive linemen didn’t hurt nearly as much as anyone would have thought. At the start of the season, a victory Between the Hedges would have been insane to consider. As for the success in conference play, that’s function of both Paul Johnson‘s superior coaching and the insistence of league members to regress toward the mean. Neither factor was appropriately considered at the start of the year.


Projected: 7-5, 4-4 ACC
Actual: 7-5, 4-4
What happened: That sure looks like a great prediction, but it included a half-dozen missed picks. The wins over Cal, Clemson and Wake Forest make up for the losses to Virginia, Middle Tennessee and Florida State (the latter an upset pick gone awry).

If you want to chart the Terps’ season, imagine placing a 3-year-old in a room with a box of crayons with no surface to write on beyond four white walls. Hilarity ensues, with lines flying all over the place in completely random fashion.


Projected: 6-6, 4-4 ACC
Actual: 7-5, 4-4
What happened: Well, the extra win was the result of Miami being decent and Texas A&M being incompetent, which I considered possible when I designated A&M as the Canes’ swing game. Beyond that, Miami beat Virginia Tech and lost to N.C. State, but in general was one of the easiest teams in the league to peg. Even the preseason bowl projection (Emerald) was spot-on.


Projected: 8-4, 5-3 ACC
Actual: 8-4, 4-4
What happened: Notre Dame wasn’t as good as expected and Tom O’Brien already owns the Tar Heels. But toss those two games out, and Carolina performed pretty much as expected. Their bowl destination wasn’t quite as superb as originally guessed (Champs Sports), but the Tar Heels will do just fine in front of a capacity crowd in Charlotte later this month.


Projected: 5-7, 3-5 ACC
Actual: 6-6, 4-4
What happened: This pick went from looking overly generous to a slight bit of underestimation as November progressed. The Wolfpack got better, plain and simple, and will need to be considered a factor heading into next season with all-ACC quarterback Russell Wilson. O’Brien is the master at churning out eight- or nine-win seasons. It wouldn’t be astonishing if it happened next season.


Projected: 5-7, 3-5 ACC
Actual: 5-7, 3-5
What happened: There were some missed games in there, but everything came out in the wash. The Cavaliers were just good enough in spurts to look postseason-worthy, but the offense was just too unproductive to collect the elusive sixth victory.


Projected: 10-2, 7-1 ACC
Actual: 9-4, 5-3 (including ACC title game victory)
What happened: What didn’t happen? The Hokies changed quarterbacks in September (again), had a mediocre offense (again), had a solid defense (again) and avenged a regular-season loss with an ACC title game defeat of Boston College (again). The only thing that wasn’t there was a gaudy record.


Projected: 9-3, 5-3 ACC
Actual: 7-5, 4-4
What happened: Chances are, someone in Winston-Salem said “Dude, where’s my offense?” Quite simply, talent cycles in and out of programs, and a place like Wake has little margin for error. There was some error this season on offense (the Aaron Curry-led defense was superb), but it speaks volumes about Jim Grobe and his staff that the Demon Deacons took a step back and still landed in a bowl game. By Wake’s historical standards, that’s simply incredible.

—- Patrick Stevens