Can Florida State win the ACC Atlantic?


All of us are allowed to call an audible from time to time and I called one last night.

I was going through my preseason magazines and breaking down the ACC and SEC predictions as promised. Then I realized it would make sense to go ahead and get my own predictions out there now so that you could compare them to the magazines and then offer up your own. Obviously, we’ll be revisiting all of this stuff after practice starts.

So here is the new lineup:

Today: ACC Atlantic

Friday: ACC Coastal

Monday: SEC East

Tuesday: SEC West


For those of you who give me a hard time for not putting enough ACC football on this blog, well, here is your shot. Step up and show me the level of your interest because the next two days are going to be devoted to ACC football.


To the SEC boys and girls: Be patient and be nice. Your time is coming on Monday and Tuesday.

Okay, here we go. Here is how the five magazines I use for reference picked the order of finish in the ACC Atlantic:




Athlon:  Florida State, N.C. State, Clemson, Wake Forest, Boston College, Maryland

Lindy’s: Florida State, Wake Forest, Clemson, N.C. State, Boston College, Maryland

Phil Steele: Clemson, Florida State, Boston College (tie 3rd), N.C. State (tie 3rd), Wake Forest, Maryland

Sporting News: Florida State, N.C. State, Wake Forest, Clemson, Maryland, Boston College

The Kickoff: N.C. State, Wake Forest, Clemson, Florida State, Maryland, Boston College


What we learned: Phil Steele has a pretty good track record of picking teams that are ready for a breakout season. That is why his pick of Clemson is so interesting. The other interesting pick is N.C. State in The Kickoff. Their ACC preview was written by Dan Collins of the Winston-Salem newspaper who, in my opinion, is one of the most knowledgeable writers who covers the ACC.  He likes N.C. State because it is the third year under coach Tom O’Brien and because the Wolfpack has Russell Wilson, who was the All-ACC quarterback as a true freshman. Dan also spends a lot of time at Wake Forest, and likes the Deacons at No. 2 in the Atlantic despite losing seven players on defense who combined for 260 career starts. One of those, LB Aaron Curry, was a first-round draft choice. CB Alphonso Smith, the all-time leader in ACC interceptions with 21, is also gone. Despite losing six starters on the defense, Florida State was picked to win the division by three of the magazines.



Florida State: There are so many intangibles with Florida State that it’s hard to know where to start. I just think the offensive line is going to be dramatically better in the third year under OL coach Rick Trickett. I like Christian Ponder at quarterback and he’ll get some help from redshirt freshman E.J. Manuel, who missed most of the spring with a broken finger. Despite the losses on defense, I believe there are finally enough good athletes in the program for DC Mickey Andrews to put together a good unit.

Clemson: Part of me wants to move Clemson into the No. 1 hole because of RB C.J. Spiller, WR Jacoby Ford, and a defense that returns eight starters and will be playing with more of an attitude under new coordinator Kevin Steele. I also like the energy that new coach Dabo Swinney has brought to the program. But Clemson has to prove to me that it knows how to win the big game. The Tigers won’t have to wait long because they go to Georgia Tech on Sept. 10.

N.C. State: The Wolfpack has Wilson and a stable of good running backs. But there are still questions on the offensive line. O’Brien is a helluva coach and if those issues up front can be ironed out, the Wolfpack just may surprise South Carolina on Sept. 3 in Raleigh.

Wake Forest: Does anybody do a better job of coaching up talent than Jim Grobe? The Deacons,  once the doormat of the ACC, have now won 28 games in the past three seasons, including the 2006 ACC championship. The Deacons also have QB Riley Skinner, who is the most accurate passer in ACC history (67.3 percent).

 Boston College: The Eagles have lost their starting quarterback (Dominique Davis) to academics which means Justin Tuggle, son of Jessie, has to step up. BC lost its best overall player (LB Mark Herzlich), who will sit out this season as he battles cancer. The Eagles have a new head coach in veteran DC Frank Spaziani.

Maryland: The Terps have their offense back on track with James Franklin calling the plays for QB Chris Turner and RB Da’Rel Scott (1,133 yards in 2008). But the issues last season were on defense and veteran Don Brown has been called in to fix it. He’ll have to work some magic, which includes replacing seven starters, in order to keep the Terps out of the cellar.


Okay. You’ve read the magazines’ pick. You’re read my picks. Now what are yours?

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181 comments Add your comment


July 9th, 2009
6:08 pm

Wake’s defense is going to be VERY good, to go along with an 8 man rotation of very talented O lineman.


July 9th, 2009
6:18 pm

Why in the hell is Tony talking about ACC basketball? That ended in March.

At first I thought he was talking about football in the ACC and then I remembered they don’t play football in that conference. So I guess he’s talking about basketball.

Someone not only once told me that the ACC plays football but also that they had a championship game?

I’m calling BS on that one? I saw a game last year where 2 teams allegedly from the ACC were playing for something in JAX or Tampa or somewhere or another.

Anyway, nobody can remember who those 2 teams were.

I do remember there were a handful of fans in the stands so with a couple hundred people I figured it was just a scrimmage or was in fact a high school game. Does anybody know anything about this?


July 9th, 2009
7:07 pm

I don’t read the replys on this blog often. However, ACC fans really need to take a road trip to an SEC stadium or just spend an extended amount of time in the heart of SEC country. There is no contest between the two conferences. I grew up in Atlanta but live and work in Huntsville now and as an SEC fan, the only time ACC football crosses my mind (or the mind of any other sec fan) is when we have to fast forward through your part of College Football Final every Saturday. Seriously, and this is for all the GT fans reading this blog, where were you two years ago when the Jackets made the ACC title game? Even a Vandy-Ole Miss SEC title game would be packed out. Until you can fill up your title game, quite trying to compare yourself to the SEC, it only makes you look worse.


July 9th, 2009
7:41 pm

ACC FOOTBALL!!!!! What a joke. Teeheheheheheheheheheheheheheheheheheheheheheheheh


July 9th, 2009
8:45 pm

Tony thanks for your coverage of ACC football. Can you also give us coverage of other equally interesting topics like Woman’s Golf, Water Polo, the X-games or Usher?

Tide Rising

July 9th, 2009
8:49 pm

If you’re an acc fan should be a great watch to see who wins this division. Someone earlier posted that 4 teams could tie with 4-4 division records. Actually that wouldn’t surprise me. Lot of parity in this division and Maryland and BC can’t be very far off from the top 4 all of which could end up winning this division. Should be a great race. Personally I always pull for the underdog and my exgirlfriend is a Wake grad so I’m pulling for the Deacs.

Damon Feldman

July 9th, 2009
9:27 pm


Great article. I can’t wait for your breakdown tomorrow. The only change I would make is to flip-flop Boston College and Clemson. Clemson always wets the bed in big games. That won’t change with DaBozo. Go Jackets!

Old Dawg

July 9th, 2009
10:03 pm

If two ACC teams play a college football game and no one attends and no one is interested in the final score, is it really a game?


July 9th, 2009
10:12 pm

ACC Breakdown:
Atlantic Eastern Coastal North Divsion
1. Parity.
2. Top to Bottom we are better than the SEC.
3. Academics, Academics, Academics.
4. Duke vs North Carolina.
5. There are at least 50 other cities we can try before we give up on the ACC Championship Game.
6. We rule labor day.

Coastal Eastern Atlantic South Division
1. It takes time to build rivalries.
2. If it’s thursday night it must me ACC Football time!
3. As usual Clemson will be pre-season #1.
4. We have a coach named Dabo Sweeney.
5. Tony Barnhart is writing about us.
6. NC State is Urban Myers dream job.

Tommy Bow Wow den

July 9th, 2009
10:15 pm

You UGA fans dont have too much room to talk about underachieving…. BTW Dabo is a damn cry baby. When he was introduced to tiger nation as the new coach he squalled like a baby. Crybo Dabo has a nice ring to it dont you think. I give him 3 years and he is gone too.


July 9th, 2009
10:55 pm

I’m thinking someone from the sec must have shot m’s dog and perhaps popped his mama in the can. A lot of hate in that little fellers posts.

Gen Neyland

July 9th, 2009
11:04 pm

Thankfully, tomorrow is just around the corner…


July 9th, 2009
11:11 pm

All of the commenters picking BC to be terrible either aren’t paying attention or just don’t know football. BC will still have an excellent defense (as just about always), the best O-Line in the conference, and 2 very good returning RB’s. If they can get anything out of the passing game at all with whoever ends up at QB, they’ll be in contention again. And I guarantee that whoever ends up at QB for BC, will be better than Chris Crane and Dominique Davis, who might have been the 2 worst Division I quarterbacks in the history of college football.

My predictions:
1) Wake Forest (best coach, good enough talent, everyone else has bigger flaws. Win by default.)
2) Clemson (always seem to choke, coach has no track record, but the talent is there)
3) Florida State (great talent, consistently underachieving for the last 5 years or so. Wonder why that is . . . Bobby? Wake up, Bobby. Time for your meds.)
4) Boston College (with Herzlich and McLaughlin, they’d win their third title in a row. Without them, they’ll be in the mix but fall short. Expect low-scoring games both ways.)
5) NC State (good talent, horrible coach — when will you people learn to stop blindly repeating what the media tells you and WATCH THE GAMES? Tom O’Brien is a putrid game-day coach. Worse than Butch Davis.)
6) Maryland (still a good team, but not as good as the other 5)

BS Patrol

July 10th, 2009
12:41 am

Tech will take another hideous massive dump on Ga this year as they will for the foreseeable future.

BS Patrol

July 10th, 2009
12:59 am

Hey Tony, Missed your deadline? It’s Friday now!

King of Sandy Springs

July 10th, 2009
1:12 am


Did you think of “Criminoles” all by yourself? This must be open mic night.

Old Dog,

Touche, you silly boy. You had me the first time, but man, I almost feel for it a second time, you old coot.

You girls sure are funny. About as funny as screen door on a battleship. See that? I just purposefully messed up an expression. I should have said submarine, but instead I said battleship! Maybe we should get together offline, and trade quirky jokes and screwy puns. TTYL


July 10th, 2009
9:15 am

I have to agree with all of your anylysis and order of finish except 1 and 2. Florida State will be good but unproven recievers are going to be the issue and I still think that things aren’t turned around at FSU yet. I like Clemson to step up and finally win some big games.


July 10th, 2009
10:44 am

All I can say is that before some of you post, you may want to actually have some sort of educated statements to make. Maybe do a little homework…..then again we are talking about the South where most of you are posting from a 56k modem connection in your trailers.


July 10th, 2009
11:00 am

For all of you so quick to pick NC State, think again. I think they will be top 3 in the Atlantic, but no way they come out first place. Their defense lacks, and always has. Losing their top MLB doesnt help, and the clincher is having to play at FSU. They cant beat FSU at NCState much less having to go down to play in FSU. All these NC state pickers better hope Phillip Rivers shows up in Doak when they play the Noles, otherwise, its another loss like always.

SEC "Fans"

July 10th, 2009
11:11 am

The SEC is the best. The SEC is the biggest. Blah blah blah. Guess what? I am an ACC fan and actually went to the school (FSU) that I support. The SEC is full of trailer park fans who the closest they got to actually attending the institution they support was buying a hat at a Quick Stop gas station. I know this for a fact as I live in Florida and 80-90% of the Gaytor “fans” have never even been to Hogtown. Losers.


July 10th, 2009
6:41 pm

Clemson’s defense will be one of the best in the nation. The offense will struggle if ANY of the starting OL gets injured. They’re just not that deep nor that good on the OL to give Spiller the space he needs to operate. Either QBs will be an upgrade over last year. Then again, last year’s OL was facepalming horrific. Clemson *could* win the division, but my money is on FSU (and I’m a Clemson fan).

ACC & SEC Blogger

July 11th, 2009
9:42 am

FSU looks like the best team in mediocre Atlantic, but the two best in the conference are over in the Coastal. The ACC will likely be decided Oct 17 in Atlanta.

Undefeated 1999 - wire to wire

July 11th, 2009
12:02 pm

Noles will win the ACC. Ponder and our running game is back baby!!

Undefeated 1999 - wire to wire

July 11th, 2009
12:03 pm


[...] college football guru Tony Barnhart is making his early picks for the season and started with the ACC Atlantic by picking Florida State to win, citing what he expects to be an improved offensive line. He [...]


July 11th, 2009
12:34 pm

HaHa i love how every preseason poll i’ve ever seen puts BC as a underdog……tell me what happens every year…we rise over the radar…..sorry but if u put BC low in yer picks…your asking to be wrong!!!!!


July 12th, 2009
1:00 pm

reservoirDAWG:If FSU are the criminoles and considering that UGA has had a lot more players arrested than FSU over the past several years, what does that make UGA?


July 15th, 2009
10:21 am

I have a sneaking hunch that the Atlantic is going to play second fiddle in 2009. That being said, the obvious answers would appear to be FSU and Clemson. They will be good, but I think Wake is going to rise back up this year and win the division.


July 22nd, 2009
11:07 am

Both divisions of the ACC will be wide open in 2009. I’ve never seen a conference like this! Even lowly Duke can’t be counted out. This team had turned a corner so teams playing them will have to come with their “A” game. In the SEC it Floruduh and everyone else. With the exception of UF, I see the ACC overtaking the so-called dominant SEC this year.


July 22nd, 2009
12:38 pm


Atlanta Gator’s case in point, see:


September 10th, 2009
7:42 am

i have to think that fsu is going to win the atlantic. after seeing them play against miami they looked very solid on offense. they looked a little shaky in the secondary, and had trouble wrapping up the miami qb, but you have to remember that it was the first game and they looked very good overall. lost a close one to a pretty descent team. luckily they are in the coastal. i dont see anyone in the atlantic that looks that great. if not florida state i think its gonna be clemson with a good rb cj spiller