- File photo by Chris Baird
- The Tar Heels and Wolfpack will have their annual showdown Nov. 2 in Raleigh.
GRANDOVER RESORT/GREENSBORO Clemson is going to beat Miami in the ACC Championship Game on Dec. 7 in Charlotte.
At least that’s what 120 media members at the ACC Football Kickoff decided in voting over the weekend, the 120 votes shattering the record 100 cast at the 2010 in Greensboro.
For the first time in five seasons, the scribes and talking heads didn’t pick a Florida State-Virginia Tech matchup in the ACC title game, from which the winner will advance to the Orange Bowl if it does not play for the National Championship.
Ninety-five of the voters selected the Tigers to win it all. And the preseason Player of the Year vote was even more lopsided, with Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd amassing 105 votes. UNC’s Bryn Renner finished fifth with five.
The Tigers were an easy pick to win the Atlantic Division, with 102 first-place votes to 18 for second-place Florida State. N.C. State, in its first season under Dave Doeren after a 7-6 finish last time, was the third-place pick in the division, followed by Wake Forest, Maryland, new member Syracuse and Boston College.
The vote for the first-place finisher in the Coastal Division was more muddled, with Miami receiving 65 votes to 27 for
- Photo courtesy Clemson athletics
- Clemson QB Tajh Boyd
Virginia Tech, 22 for UNC — which was ineligible for post-season play in coach Larry Fedora’s first campaign last season but went a solid 8-4 — and six for Georgia Tech. New member Pittsburgh was picked fifth in the division, followed by Virginia and Duke. The Blue Devils, who went 6-7 and played in the Belk Bowl last season, have been picked last in the division or the conference all but one year since 2000.
The ACC season will open on Aug. 29 with two games, including the Tar Heels’ visit to South Carolina. Duke and State both open two days later, with the Blue Devils hosting cross-town rival N.C. Central and the Wolfpack entertaining Louisiana Tech.
They said it:
Fedora: “ I’ve thought about what’s going to be different about this year compared to last year (when the Tar Heels went 8-4). And honestly we can play for a championship and a bowl game. But I don’t want to discredit what happened last year because it was really good for our football team. Guys dug deep and thought about ‘Why am I playing the game of football? Why do I love putting on a uniform? Why do I love the grind of the off-season?’ You love it because you love playing the game. So this is just an added bonus for these guys. … (About UNC’s defense compared to last year) It’s not even close knowledge-wise. They understand the schemes and what’s expected. Now what you get to see is that guys aren’t thinking all the time. If you’ve watched football players as long as I have, guys that are having to think about what to do — their feet aren’t moving fast, they don’t look athletic and they don’t look like good football players. Now you’re getting to see guys turn it loose.”
Doeren: “The biggest challenge in the first year is that you don’t know what you have because you haven’t been out there with those guys against the competition. I could think we’re the best team in the world when we’re not because I haven’t played Clemson and Florida State. And I could think we’re really bad when we’re not and we’re better than those teams, you know what I mean? We’re probably somewhere in between, and I probably won’t know until I’ve been in the league for a year. … (On how to replace QB Mike Glennon) I hope I have a plan, but it doesn’t mean I’m going to tell you (chuckles). We’ve got five guys. I think Pete (Thomas) came out ahead of Manny (Stocker) and then we added Brandon Mitchell because we didn’t think we were in a position to name a starter and wanted more competition for Pete. I think those two being the oldest are probably the two front-runners. ”
Duke coach David Cutcliffe: “(Being picked last) makes you realize that there’s still a lot of culture work left to do. We’ve worked awfully hard on just changing the culture and the mentality and the entire thought process. I don’t want that to depress where we’re headed or where we’ve come. If we’d won the bowl game and not dropped one ball, then what’s the difference in what everybody else expects? I went back to what are our expectations and I really focused on that with our team. Our expectations should be far more important and far tougher than anyone else’s. … When I came in I was just hoping to live 20 years. But I think in increments of five years. If you’re a developmental program you take guys over five years and you sign people and you redshirt enough of them — in our fifth year at Ole Miss we won 10, but I was concerned about the sixth year because we had to replace Eli Manning and a defensive front that had grown. This (Duke) Year 6 and Year 7 teams are already good-looking football teams in my eyes if we do the right things behind it. We knew we were in this for long term. I like what we’re doing because we’re building a program and we’re reaping the benefits of that now.”