ACC Blogger Roundtable: 2011 Preseason Edition

The season is right around the corner (Saturday!), which means it's time again to start up the ol' ACC Blogger Roundtable. If you're new to the concept, one ACC blogger of the Brotherhood asks the others questions, and then the others respond. By Thursday or Friday, there'll be a nice, compact wrap-up on the host's blog, making it easy to read through each blogger's thoughts. Nice, right? 

BC Interruption is hosting this week. Let's do it:

1. Most ACC programs are hitting the snooze button for the first two weeks of the season before hosting four preseason top 25 programs in week 3 -- #1 Oklahoma, #18 Ohio State, #23 Auburn and #24 West Virginia. How's week 3 in the ACC go down? Can the conference win a majority of those four high-profile games on Sept. 17?

Well, assuming a majority means 3, no, I don't think so. But getting two wins is definitely possible. Oklahoma is a better team than FSU unless E.J. Manuel is really better than advertised, but there's no telling how good or bad the final three teams will be. There are a lot of question marks there.

Then again, there are plenty of question marks for each of their opponents: Clemson is replacing a quarterback, Maryland is getting a new coach, and Miami is ... well, we know what's going on down there. But hey, Clemson gave Auburn a run for their money last season, and Maryland's game at West Virginia was much closer than the score indicated. Both of the ACC's opponents in those games have gotten worse, so I don't think it's a stretch to say that the ACC could grab two, particularly because FSU is capable of pulling off that upset, as unlikely as it might be.

2. What's the one game on the schedule that your respective fan bases have circled on this year's sched? 

I think it has to be the Miami game to start off the year. Edsall's first game, first conference game, first game of the season, national TV; there's so much meaning here for Maryland. Besides, the whole Monday Night Football thing is pretty cool.

If Maryland wins, then I guess you can start looking farther down the schedule at West Virginia and the game at Florida State as two of the more meaningful games of the schedule. If they lose, the game against Clemson at home will have the potential to be a real turning point of the season.

3. Name one ACC program that's not Florida State or Virginia Tech that has a legitimate shot at winning this year's ACC football title. Your ACC's football champion dark horse is:

Boston College or Maryland. I'll probably be called a homer for including Maryland, but the truth is those two teams are probably the best "darkhorse" candidates in the field. BC is probably a little better than MD, but they have to travel to VT, while Maryland avoids the Hokies entirely. Both teams should improve from last year, in quality if not necessarily in record, and have two of the best - if the not the two best - offensive players in the conference in Montel Harris and Danny O'Brien.

Thing is, I don't think anyone really stands a chance. FSU is the runaway best team in the conference this year, so that mucks things up in the Atlantic for Clemson, N.C. State, and the two I mentioned above. VT, replacing Tyrod Taylor, is vulnerable, but given the instability at Miami and UNC, it's unrealistic to expect them to make a serious run. So then what? A Georgia Tech team who lost most of its squad from last year, including Josh Nesbitt and Anthony Allen? Virginia or Duke? No, I don't think so.

If any of the four Atlantic teams after FSU were in the Coastal, I think they'd probably give VT a run for their money. As it stands, those two are heavy, heavy favorites to be in Charlotte.

4. It's been an offseason to forget with major NCAA infractions / investigations into the North Carolina, Georgia Tech and Miami programs. Can the conference as a whole move forward from this whole mess? How do you expect this all to shake out?

I don't think it's a massive deal, but I guess that really depends on what the NCAA rules on Miami. If it's anything near as bad as people have been saying - say, a two-year TV ban and serious probation - then it's a pretty big deal. If they get USC-esque penalties, it won't be a killer.

Either way, the conference can get through it, but it'd take a real masterstroke to somehow improve through all this, and that's unlikely. It's way too far out to hazard a guess as to what actually happens when all is said and done, but given that UNC is putting football on the backburner for a while and Miami will be hit hard, the conference is definitely taking a hit on the gridiron, at least in the short-term. Hopefully that'll give the Virginias and Marylands and N.C. States a chance to transform themselves from "mediocre" to "good" and absorb some of the damage.

5. You can also add conference realignment rumors to the 2011 offseason to forget. With A&M set to divorce the Big 12 and move to the SEC, rumors swirl about a 14th program coming from the ACC. Now's the time to pledge your allegiance to John Swofford and the ACC. Or don't. Either way, tell us what you think the endgame is for the next round of conference musical chairs.

Well, I'm certainly not married to the ACC. I know some Maryland fans are, especially those who were fans during the glory days back (ie, Lefty Driesell era, and then again in the mid-90s), but even many of those are ready to ship off. There's never been any love lost between College Park and Greensboro - despite being a founding member of the conference, most Maryland fans have always felt slighted by the Carolina focus, from officiating in the good ol' days down to players being left off All-ACC teams. I don't think the SEC or the Big Ten would be much better, but I think it'd be easier to swallow the red-headed stepchild mentality when it's sweetened with a couple million dollars.

Because when it's all said and done, that's what it all comes down to. A school like Maryland, which is in seriously dire straits financially, can't turn down the money a conference like the SEC or Big Ten would offer no matter how much they like Bojangles.

To answer the real question here: when the dust has settled - and it might not settle for a long time - the ACC will have lost at least one member to one of the power conferences, but I do think it'll be able to absorb that hit and grab some Big East leftovers.

6. Last one, and recycled from last year. a) What do you expect out of your team, b) What kind of season would keep you content and happy, c) What kind of season would be a disappointment?

A) A bowl game at the minimum.

B) Eight wins and I'll take back all the "Edsall is a boring old guy" comments. Well, I won't, but I'll be happy enough.

C) Anything less than a bowl game. Danny O'Brien and the defense are too good to not find six wins on Maryland's schedule.

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