2005 ACC Preview: Defense Rules

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There’s a reason that the casinos always win. Picking games, let alone season outcomes, is quite difficult. For anyone who thinks this is easy, try to remember back to last season. In my 2004 ACC predictions, I managed just two correct slots: Georgia Tech at seven and Duke at eleven (though Virginia did tie for third, so I could make that three). I also picked Virginia Tech eighth. Oops.

My picks fared better than some: the ACC media and College Football News each managed just one correct spot, so maybe I did OK. Then again, my preseason All-ACC team landed just nine of 25. The point is that it’s not as easy as you may think to predict the future, even in sports. So I challenge you to sit down right now and jot down your predicted standings, and order of finish, with a first-team All-ACC. Then find yourself humbled in four months.

Still, what would an August be without a myriad of season predictions? With that mind, I throw my hat into the ring with a look at the 2005 ACC.

The theme this year has to be new quarterbacks. The only returning QBs who were full-time starters last season are Marques Hagans (Virginia), Reggie Ball (Georgia Tech) and Charlie Whitehurst (Clemson). How important is experience at that position? Virginia was the only ACC bowl team last year with a first-year starter at quarterback. With the high-caliber defenses in the ACC (College Football News ranks seven ACC teams among the top 18 defenses in the country and nine in the top 28), the early-season contests will be dominated by defenses that crowd the line and test these QBs.

Atlantic Division

1) Florida State

Jeff Bowden will do his best to stymie the Florida State offense, but he has probably the best one-two running combo outside of USC in Leon Washington and Lorenzo Booker. While either of two freshman QBs, Xavier Lee or Drew Weatherford, gets his feet wet, Booker and Washington should simply overpower defenses. Lee has a cannon but really struggled in the team’s scrimmage, going 2 of 17 for negative yardage. Whoever ends up starting will go through growing pains, especially with inexperienced receivers, but will spend a lot of time handing the ball off.

It was a rough offseason for the defense, as starting DT Clifton Dickson was declared ineligible academically,