- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 26, 2005

HOT SPRINGS, Va. — Florida State lost its quarterback and three other starters over the summer to off-field woes, but the Seminoles still joined Virginia Tech as the preseason ACC division favorites yesterday.

Florida State has been the early choice in all but one year since joining the ACC in 1991. Even in a 12-team league that will have two divisions and its first title game on Dec. 3, Florida State gained the nod over Boston College in the weaker Atlantic Division with 65 of 92 first-place votes by media covering the ACC kickoff. However, the Seminoles lost quarterback Wyatt Sexton to Lyme Disease and three others to legal troubles.

“It used to be Florida State up here and everybody else down here,” Florida State running back Leon Washington said, using his hands to illustrate. “Now everybody’s [about even].”

Virginia Tech was picked eighth last year entering its first ACC season but took the title last year over Miami. Despite the return of quarterback Marcus Vick from a one-year suspension for off-field problems, coach Frank Beamer was reluctant to say the Hokies are clearly the better team over Miami in the Coastal Division this year.

“I feel honored media people believe we can win, but it’s a conference that’s very tough from top to bottom,” Beamer said. “Last year, we were a little bit good and very, very lucky. We need a little bit of that luck [again].”

That Miami wasn’t the top choice in the Coastal was a mild surprise, though ACC voting often is influenced by the location of the media gathering, and Virginia Tech was the closest college to the event. Miami defensive end Thomas Carroll said the Hurricanes are still the stars of the conference.

“When [others] play Miami, the show is in town,” Carroll said. “We’re going to be a lot of teams’ national championship game. It made their season [last year] when they beat us. I don’t like to make other people’s seasons. I like to break them.”

Even Virginia Tech defensive end Darryl Tapp said Florida State and Miami should be the early front-runners.

“As long as you have Florida State and Miami in your conference, they’re top guns,” Tapp said. “They have a crazy amount of talent and won national championships.”

Maryland was picked fifth in the Atlantic with 222 points, more than only Wake Forest, North Carolina and Duke overall. The Terrapins’ uncertainty at quarterback, even with Sam Hollenbach getting the nod this week, left some voters skeptical.

“It makes us want to prove people wrong,” Terps offensive tackle Stephon Heyer said. “That puts a little chip on your shoulder. When we come out [strong], people will be shocked.”

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