August 17, 2010
ACC Conference Report
Can Virginia Tech reclaim the conference crown? Will off-field distractions limit UNC? Are Florida State and Miami really back? Cory McCartney kicks off's conference reports by breaking down the ACC.
How They'll Finish
COASTAL Conference Overall
Virginia Tech 7-1 11-1
Miami 7-1 10-2
North Carolina 6-2 9-3
Georgia Tech 5-3 9-3
Duke 2-6 4-8
Virginia 1-7 4-8
ATLANTIC Conference Overall
Florida State 6-2 9-3
Clemson 4-4 7-5
Boston College 4-4 8-4
NC State 3-5 5-7
Wake Forest 2-6 4-8
Maryland 1-7 3-9
Conference Championship: Virginia Tech def. Florida State
Offensive MVP
Ryan Williams
2009 Season Stats: 293 rush attempts, 1,655 yards, 21 TDs
2010 Projected Stats: 260 attempts, 1,560 yards, 14 TDs
Williams set the ACC ablaze in his freshman year, becoming the first rookie to lead the conference in both rushing and scoring. Expectations aren't a concern as the electric game-breaker embarks on his sophomore -- and Heisman -- campaign, but it remains to be seen how Frank Beamer will dole out carries with the return of Darren Evans, who earned conference newcomer of the year honors in 2008, but missed '09 with a torn ACL.
McCARTNEY: Tech looking to ride tailback tandem
Defensive MVP
Robert Quinn
2009 Season Stats: 52 tackles, 19 for loss, 11 sacks, 6 forced fumbles
2010 Projected Stats: 70 tackles, 20 for loss, 13 sacks, 7 forced fumbles
Searching for this season's Ndamukong Suh? Look no further than Quinn, who could emerge as the nation's best defender this season. A scary mix of speed and power, the 6-foot-5, 270-pounder ran the 40-yard dash in 4.38 seconds, breaking Julius Peppers' school record for ends. Quinn also owns the mark for power clean, at 366 pounds. The centerpiece of Butch Davis' loaded D also led the ACC with 19 tackles for loss last year.
GALLERY: Quinn headlines's All-ACC Team
Impact Freshman
Jeff Luc
High School Stats: 103 tackles, 14 for loss, 2 sacks
2010 Projected Stats: 58 tackles, 5 for loss, 3 sacks
Before he landed in Tallahassee as an early enrollee, the heavy-hitter was a bona fide YouTube star, racking up over 135,000 hits for just one of his QB-punishing montages. The nation's top-rated inside linebacker recruit started in the middle in the spring game, and though he's expected to open the season behind Kendall Smith, he'll surely help a unit that ranked 108th in total defense in '09, allowing 204.6 rushing yards per game.
VIDEO: Is Florida State really back?
Coach On The Hot Seat
Ralph Friedgen
Last Season: 2-10 (1-7 ACC)
Career at Maryland: 66-46 (38-34 ACC)
After winning the ACC title in 2001 and going 31-8 in his first three seasons at the helm of his alma mater, the Fridge has fallen on hard times, suffering through four losing seasons in the past six years -- including an '09 campaign in which the Terps lost a school-record 10 games. He'll face added pressure to turn things around this season with a new president and athletic director in College Park.
Three Key Nonconference Games
Virginia Tech vs. Boise State
Monday, September 6
8 p.m. ET (ESPN)
A rebuilt Hokies defense featuring seven new starters will be put to the test against Kellen Moore and the loaded Broncos in the biggest game of Week 1. Though it's only the opener, a loss here could spell disaster for the side that comes up short; no team has dropped its opener and gone on to win the title in the BCS era.
Miami at Ohio State
Saturday, September 11
3:30 p.m ET (ESPN)
Jacory Harris can move to the forefront of the Heisman discussion by outdueling fellow candidate Terrelle Pryor in this contest. More importantly, the 'Canes can prove they're again ready to contend for the national title. On the other hand, a loss could deflate a Miami team facing a brutal four-game stretch that also including trips to Pitt and Clemson and a home date with Florida State.
Florida State at Oklahoma
Saturday, September 11
3:30 p.m. ET (ABC)
Christian Ponder and an experienced FSU offense will look to feast on an Oklahoma secondary starting two new cornerbacks. But with Landry Jones and Co. poised to attack a leaky Seminoles D, this one has the makings of a shootout.
Three Key Conference Games
Georgia Tech at Virginia Tech
Thursday, Nov. 4
7:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)
The battle between the last two conference champs will be a clash of two of the nation's top rushing attacks, as Georgia Tech's Josh Nesbitt and Anthony Allen go head-to-head with Virginia Tech's Evans and Williams. A juicy subplot: the bad blood that emerged after the Hokies accused the Yellow Jackets of illegal chop blocks after last season's contest.
Florida State at Miami
Saturday, Oct. 9
Last year, Harris and Ponder breathed new life into a rivalry that had grown stale. This year, they'll each look to prove their team has rejoined the elite. If history is any indication, this one will go down to the wire; their six meetings as ACC foes have been decided by an average of four points.
Virginia Tech at North Carolina
Saturday, Nov. 13
This one will weigh heavily on the Coastal Division race -- and it couldn't come at a worse time for the Hokies, who will be coming off a date with Georgia Tech and preparing to face Miami. Look for this to be decided in the trenches, as Tech's backs try to get past a devastating Heels front.
Did You Know?
The Colorado Rockies have cornered the market on ACC quarterbacks. They selected Clemson's Kyle Parker with the 26th overall pick in June's MLB draft and North Carolina State's Russell Wilson in the fourth round.
Boston College LB Mark Herzlich, who returns after missing last season while battling a rare form of bone cancer, is just one of the conference's comeback stories. Georgia Tech safety Cooper Taylor returns after fighting Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome, and North Carolina State linebacker Nate Irving returns after suffering a collapsed lung and a broken leg in a car crash.
Florida State's offensive line boasts a combined 146 starts, the second-most of any FBS school after Georgia's 155.
ACC Video Preview
Top Contenders
Source: SI breaks down why Virginia Tech, Miami and Florida State look like the top ACC contenders in 2010.

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