HOW THEY'LL FINISH
This is an article from the Aug. 11, 2008 issue
Clemson SS Michael Hamlin
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Top performers from unranked teams in the conference
WR, Jr., Maryland
Clocked as fast as 4.23 in the 40, he scored on reverses against Wake Forest and Boston College, then caught a 63-yard TD pass against Oregon State in the Emerald Bowl.
QB, Jr., Duke
A two-year starter who threw 21 touchdown passes last season, he should benefit from the tutelage of new coach David Cutcliffe, the former mentor to Peyton and Eli Manning.
T, Sr., Virginia
The 6'6" 315-pounder could become the third Cavaliers offensive lineman in four years to be a first-round NFL draft pick (following D'Brickshaw Ferguson in 2006 and Branden Albert in '08).
CB, Sr., Wake Forest
As a junior, the 5'9", 190-pound Smith led all players nationally with 12 forced turnovers (eight interceptions, four forced fumbles); he is also the career leader among active players in interceptions, with 14.
LB, Sr., Boston College
The 6-foot 252-pounder, who had 180 tackles in his first three years with the Eagles and lined up as a fullback in short-yardage sets, returns after missing the 2007 season with a shoulder injury.
BEST OFFENSIVE PLAYER
James Davis, RB, Sr., Clemson.
Despite splitting time with C.J. Spiller, he ranks fourth nationally among active players, with 3,130 career rushing yards.
BEST DEFENSIVE PLAYER
Victor (Macho) Harris (below), CB, Sr., Virginia Tech.
A first-team All-ACC choice with five interceptions in '07, he declared for the NFL draft, then decided to return to Blacksburg.
TRUE FRESHMAN TO WATCH
Arthur Brown, LB, Miami.
An early enrollee from Wichita, Kans., Brown had eight tackles and an interception in Miami's spring game.
COACH ON THE RISE
Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech.
After leading Georgia Southern to consecutive I-AA national titles and Navy to five straight bowls, he brings his potent triple-option offense to Atlanta.
COACH ON THE HOT SEAT
Bobby Bowden, Florida State.
If the Seminoles don't improve on their 7--6 records in the past two seasons, he may turn the program over to designated head-coach-in-waiting Jimbo Fisher.
Maryland coach RALPH FRIEDGEN relinquished his role as offensive coordinator and hired Kansas State's JAMES FRANKLIN, who served on Friedgen's staff from 2000 through '04. Franklin is implementing aspects of the West Coast offense.... Florida State will play its first three games without seven anticipated starters who were suspended for their role in an academic fraud scandal last year.... After unexpected losses at tailback (1,000-yard rusher Branden Ore was dismissed from the team, and KENNY LEWIS and JAHRE CHEESEMAN were injured in the spring), Virginia Tech is counting on RYAN WILLIAMS, a freshman from Manassas, Va., to play right away.... Former Marshall coach BOB PRUETT, who retired in 2005 with a 94--23 career record, is returning to the sideline as Virginia's defensive coordinator.... Keep an eye on Georgia Tech defensive end MICHAEL JOHNSON. Though he had only four sacks in 2007, the senior has NFL scouts drooling about his 6'7", 247-pound frame.