2011 ACC Football Simulated Preview From WhatIfSports.com image

2011 ACC Football Simulated Preview

We simulate the ACC football season

By Joel Beall - WhatIfSports.com
Aug. 24, 2011

Although they racked up 11 wins on the season, Virginia Tech's occasional ineptitude epitomized the ACC's football futility in 2010, with the Hokies following a hard-fought loss to Boise State by inexcusably falling to James Madison in Week 2. To their credit, VT rolled through the rest of their schedule and defeated Florida State in the conference championship game; unfortunately, the Hokies were smoked by Stanford in the Orange Bowl.

This season the conference is pinning its hopes on Florida State, which comes into the year with a no. 5 ranking despite losing quarterback Christian Ponder to the NFL. Greg Reid and Xavier Rhodes lead a dynamic secondary, with enforcement up front thanks to DE Brandon Jenkins and LB Nigel Bradham. If E.J. Manuel can smoothly transition into the quarterback position, FSU will be a force to be reckoned with. The Seminoles get an early test with top-ranked Oklahoma coming into Tallahassee on September 17.

Virginia Tech hopes to rebound off of their BCS embarrassment with Logan Thomas as their new quarterback. Thomas' combination of stature (6'6, 250 lbs.) and speed instantly invigorates an offense that averaged 33.9 points per game last season. Although there is much turnover on defense, coordinator Bud Foster has cultivated a culture of dominance that has passed down from team to team.

Other interesting subplots to keep on eye on in the ACC will be Al Golden's first year in Miami, Dabo Swinney trying to hold onto his job in Clemson and how the Butch Davis fiasco affects the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill.

Using our college football simulation engine, WhatIfSports.com simulated thousands of college football games to create this ACC Preview. Team ratings, player ratings and depth charts are accurate as of August 19th. What you see in the WIS-ACC Predictions table is the most likely outcome based on the computer simulations. The team-by-team schedules use Absolute Records, which you can learn more about below. Those same game-by-game simulations also generate average points per game for both teams.

WIS-ACC Predictions
AtlanticWLOverall Record
Florida State629-3
Clemson538-4
Maryland537-5
North Carolina State447-5
Boston College355-7
Wake Forest173-9
CoastalWLOverall Record
Virginia Tech6210-2
Miami (FL)538-4
North Carolina538-4
Georgia Tech356-6
Duke265-7
Virginia264-8

To hide the details, click here.

For this analysis, thousands of college football games are simulated, with the sum of the winning percentages of those games being our final predicted record. As can be noted, sometimes a team is "favored" (wins more than 50% of the time) in a different number of our games than the expected record shows. We list this record as the Absolute Record. The assumption of the Absolute Record is that the more likely scenario always happens. Since we know that it does not, our expected record (in the table above) is far more accurate. Also, especially since we are rounding, it is possible for a team to win a game more often, yet score the same or fewer points on average. In those cases, for Absolute Records, we always take higher winning percentage and are not predicting a tie or a win by an underdog. This is another reason why the expected records are more accurate, as the teams are so evenly matched, the game could easily go either way.


Florida State

Jimbo Fisher

High expectations? Bring it on, say the Seminoles.

The No. 5-ranked 'Noles have the attention they've coveted for several years. That spot in the preseason coaches' poll brings heightened expectations, but also puts FSU in position to accomplish its national title goals.

All for a team that has not been to a BCS bowl since 2005 and has not won the ACC title in the same span. But FSU was an overwhelming pick at the ACC Kickoff on July 25 to win the ACC Atlantic Division and go on to win the league title over Virginia Tech.

"It's great to be there," FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. "It does signify that people are taking notice of your program. You can say it doesn't mean anything, but it does at the same time. And that's where you want to be. If you're going to be good you have to embrace it."

Perception around the Seminoles is fueled by two solid recruiting classes that Fisher has assembled and the 10-4 record his team attained last year.

- FOXSports.com

Absolute Schedule/Records

2011 Florida State Seminoles
WeekOpponentWin%Avg Score
1Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks9440-17
2Charleston Southern Buccaneers9563-6
3Oklahoma Sooners4433-35
4@Clemson Tigers6831-24
6@Wake Forest Demon Deacons9541-15
7@Duke Blue Devils9239-20
8Maryland Terrapins6731-23
9North Carolina State Wolfpack7736-22
10@Boston College Eagles8231-17
11Miami (FL) Hurricanes6330-25
12Virginia Cavaliers9234-16
13@Florida Gators7329-21

Dabo Swinney

Clemson

Although the defense lost several standouts to the NFL, including Da'Quan Bowers, Jarvis Jenkins and Marcus Gilchrist, defensive coordinator Kevin Steele's group should be solid if not spectacular once again as experienced backups move into starting roles.

The primary concerns continue to be on offense, where the Tigers will try to break in a new quarterback in sophomore Tajh Boyd to run new offensive coordinator Chad Morris's up-tempo offense. He's unproven and inexperienced, but head coach Dabo Swinney is counting on him to make an impact with both his arm and legs.

- FOXSports.com

Absolute Schedule/Records

2011 Clemson Tigers
WeekOpponentWin%Avg Score
1Troy Trojans8533-20
2Wofford Terriers9553-7
3Auburn Tigers6527-23
4Florida State Seminoles3224-31
5@Virginia Tech Hokies4323-26
6Boston College Eagles6924-18
7@Maryland Terrapins5726-22
8North Carolina Tar Heels6626-20
9@Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets6527-21
11Wake Forest Demon Deacons8230-17
12@North Carolina State Wolfpack6428-24
13@South Carolina Gamecocks3223-30

Maryland

Danny O'Brien

Five offensive starters return, headlined by ACC Freshman of the Year Danny O'Brien at quarterback. O'Brien threw 22 touchdown passes and was fourth among all conference quarterbacks with a 134.5 rating. Davin Meggett led the team in rushing and D.J. Adams rushed for 11 scores but O'Brien will have new starters at the ends, and will particularly miss Torrey Smith, the Baltimore Ravens' second round draft choice. Senior Ronnie Tyler and junior Kevin Dorsey looked good in the spring.

On defense, seven starters return, including All-ACC defensive tackle Joe Vellano, All-ACC safety Kenny Tate, who has moved to linebacker, and up-and-coming linebacker Demetrius Hartsfield. Seven of the top 10 tacklers are back but they're lining up in a 4-3 now, and they're not exceptionally big or fast.

- FOXSports.com

Absolute Schedule/Records

2011 Maryland Terrapins
WeekOpponentWin%Avg Score
1Miami (FL) Hurricanes3923-26
3West Virginia Mountaineers4023-27
4Temple Owls6829-22
5Towson Tigers9553-7
6@Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets6927-21
7Clemson Tigers4322-26
8@Florida State Seminoles3323-31
9Boston College Eagles6524-19
10Virginia Cavaliers7729-18
11@Notre Dame Fighting Irish4926-26
12@Wake Forest Demon Deacons8431-17
13@North Carolina State Wolfpack5828-24

North Carolina State

Mike Glennon

The Wolfpack finally has some momentum under coach Tom O'Brien after a 9-4 season that included a bowl victory against West Virginia. It's the first time in four years that N.C. State posted a winning record with O'Brien in charge.

Sustaining the momentum will be critical to the program's evolution and much of that will fall on the shoulders of redshirt junior QB Mike Glennon.

Glennon fits the mold of the style of quarterback that O'Brien prefers. He's more of a drop-back, pro-style quarterback. He also comes with a family background as older brother Sean Glennon is a former Virginia Tech quarterback.

While the quarterback issue will attract a lot of headlines, there are other areas for the Wolfpack to pay attention to. Yet with six starters returning on offense and eight starters back on defense there's no reason that N.C. State shouldn't expect to stay on track.

- FOXSports.com

Absolute Schedule/Records

2011 North Carolina State Wolfpack
WeekOpponentWin%Avg Score
1Liberty Flames9551-9
2@Wake Forest Demon Deacons8234-20
3South Alabama Jaguars9553-8
4@Cincinnati Bearcats5029-30
5Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets6728-24
6Central Michigan Chippewas7431-22
8@Virginia Cavaliers7130-21
9@Florida State Seminoles2322-36
10North Carolina Tar Heels4926-27
11@Boston College Eagles5626-24
12Clemson Tigers3524-28
13Maryland Terrapins4224-28

Boston College

Luke Kuechly

Last year's BC entry, an offensively challenged group, sat at 2-5 with the season heading right down the drain. The players vowed to keep plugging away and did just that. The Eagles won five in a row and extended the bowl streak, before losing the Fight Hunger Bowl to Nevada to finish at 7-6.

They did it with a freshman quarterback, with Chase Rettig taking over in the fourth game, and with the offensive line, usually a BC strength, struggling. But they also did it with defense, which is where LB Luke Kuechly, called "The Human Eraser" by coach Frank Spaziani, led the country in tackles.

Kuechly, the ACC Defensive Player of the Year, is a junior now and should be an All-American. The defense was hit with losses up front, and the inspirational Mark Herzlich is gone from the strong linebacking corps, but the defense should again be strong. Tackle Kaleb Ramsey anchors a line that suffered some losses and Donnie Fletcher is the veteran leader in the secondary.

- FOXSports.com

Absolute Schedule/Records

2011 Boston College Eagles
WeekOpponentWin%Avg Score
1Northwestern Wildcats4824-23
2@UCF Knights4823-24
3Duke Blue Devils6227-21
4Massachusetts Minutemen9547-7
5Wake Forest Demon Deacons7426-17
6@Clemson Tigers3118-24
8@Virginia Tech Hokies2318-27
9@Maryland Terrapins3519-24
10Florida State Seminoles1717-31
11North Carolina State Wolfpack4324-26
12@Notre Dame Fighting Irish3721-27
13@Miami (FL) Hurricanes2819-27

Wake Forest

Jim Grobe

The Demon Deacons were so miserable a year ago that putting the pieces back together has become almost a rallying cry.

"I've got a feeling we're not a cocky group right now," coach Jim Grobe said with the upcoming season barely more than a month away. "Our kids are embarrassed what happened to us last year."

A good share of the attention will fall on a defense that was scorched time and time again a year ago. The Demon Deacons have started to bulk up along the front and they've turned to a 3-4 defense. That was something that they implemented during the season last year, so with more time to become familiar with that alignment there could be more rewards this season.

The offense will be directed by sophomore quarterback Tanner Price, who was banged up repeatedly as a true freshman who desperately needed more help.

With four seniors on the offensive line, it's time for the Demon Deacons to put that experience to good use.

- FOXSports.com

Absolute Schedule/Records

2011 Wake Forest Demon Deacons
WeekOpponentWin%Avg Score
1@Syracuse Orange2218-29
2North Carolina State Wolfpack1820-34
3Gardner-Webb Runnin' Bulldogs9541-9
5@Boston College Eagles2617-26
6Florida State Seminoles515-41
7Virginia Tech Hokies515-35
8@Duke Blue Devils4525-28
9@North Carolina Tar Heels1718-31
10Notre Dame Fighting Irish1219-35
11@Clemson Tigers1817-30
12Maryland Terrapins1617-31
13Vanderbilt Commodores5222-23

Virginia Tech

David Wilson

The year's hopes and dreams ride on the big shoulders of quarterback Logan Thomas and brothers Derrick and Antoine Hopkins at defensive tackle.

While comparisons to Cam Newton are obvious because of Thomas' build and surprising ability to make big plays with his feet, one must remember that Thomas is still somewhat raw, having been recruited as a tight end before being moved to QB when Virginia Tech whiffed on a couple of prospects.

An easy September schedule - the toughest opponent could arguably be long-time FCS power Appalachian State in the opener - should not only boost Thomas' confidence, it should also serve as a shakedown cruise of sorts for the Hopkins brothers.

If both can stand their ground in the interior better than last year, when they would make two good plays and then make a bad one to cost the team big plays, the defense could become the kind of nasty stop unit one expects from this program. And that might just allow a perennial contender to find its way to New Orleans in January for a BCS title game.

- FOXSports.com

Absolute Schedule/Records

2011 Virginia Tech Hokies
WeekOpponentWin%Avg Score
1Appalachian State Mountaineers9559-6
2@East Carolina Pirates8936-19
3Arkansas State Red Wolves9538-17
4@Marshall Thundering Herd9536-13
5Clemson Tigers5726-23
6Miami (FL) Hurricanes5025-25
7@Wake Forest Demon Deacons9535-15
8Boston College Eagles7727-18
9@Duke Blue Devils8331-19
11@Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets7530-21
12North Carolina Tar Heels6129-22
13@Virginia Cavaliers8731-16

Miami (FL)

Al Golden

Miami has gone through the summer without knowing for sure who the quarterback will be when the Hurricanes kick off the season at Maryland Sept. 5. First-year coach Al Golden, though, is hoping the competition between senior Jacory Harris and sophomore Stephen Morris will be settled early in fall camp.

With 24 career starts, Harris, a senior, has the experience edge over Morris, who was headed for a redshirt year in 2010 until Harris was knocked to the sidelines late in the year. Morris had some success, nearly guiding the Hurricanes to a comeback win over Virginia in the game Harris was injured, but he also struggled with interceptions, just like Harris had.

"I'm going to make a decision who the starter is going to be, but I certainly would not hesitate to put in somebody else if things weren't going right," Golden said. "It's always about what's best for the team."

- FOXSports.com

Absolute Schedule/Records

2011 Miami (FL) Hurricanes
WeekOpponentWin%Avg Score
1@Maryland Terrapins6126-23
3Ohio State Buckeyes4023-25
4Kansas State Wildcats7630-20
5Bethune-Cookman Wildcats9557-7
6@Virginia Tech Hokies5025-25
7@North Carolina Tar Heels5826-22
8Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets8130-21
9Virginia Cavaliers8230-15
10Duke Blue Devils7931-21
11@Florida State Seminoles3725-30
12@South Florida Bulls7028-18
13Boston College Eagles7227-19

North Carolina

Dwight Jones

Greg Barnes of InsideCarolina.com is our North Carolina Tar Heels insider:

North Carolina enters the 2011 football season in disarray after head coach Butch Davis was fired eight days before the start of training camp. Defensive coordinator Everett Withers has been elevated to interim head coach and retains Davis's entire staff, so that continuity should help keep the players on track. The Tar Heels have a glaring hole in the secondary with three new starters and sophomore quarterback Bryn Renner has to live up to his preseason hype, but if those two positions are solidified early, North Carolina has the talent to challenge for the ACC Coastal Division crown.

For more from Greg Barnes and the Tar Heels, check out InsideCarolina.com.

Absolute Schedule/Records

2011 North Carolina Tar Heels
WeekOpponentWin%Avg Score
1James Madison Dukes9553-8
2Rutgers Scarlet Knights8431-17
3Virginia Cavaliers8128-17
4@Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets6426-21
5@East Carolina Pirates7534-21
6Louisville Cardinals7627-20
7Miami (FL) Hurricanes4222-26
8@Clemson Tigers3420-26
9Wake Forest Demon Deacons8331-18
10@North Carolina State Wolfpack5127-26
12@Virginia Tech Hokies3922-29
13Duke Blue Devils7231-21

Georgia Tech

Orwin Smith

Tech figures to be a rushing juggernaut once again after leading the nation last year (323.3 yards per game). QB Tevin Washington and A-backs Orwin Smith (9.7 yards per carry) and Roddy Jones (6.8 ypc) all will thrive in coach Paul Johnson's option attack.

Washington vows the passing game will be much better than last year, when he and senior QB Josh Nesbitt combined to complete 38 percent of their throws with nine TDs and seven INTs. Six-foot-five WR Stephen Hill likely will be the featured target.

Look for the biggest improvement to come on defense, where the unit is entering its second year under coordinator Al Groh. Players say they've gotten much more comfortable in the 3-4 scheme and are ready to unleash their playmaking ability.

- FOXSports.com

Absolute Schedule/Records

2011 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
WeekOpponentWin%Avg Score
1Western Carolina Catamounts9549-7
2@Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders7929-20
3Kansas Jayhawks8532-16
4North Carolina Tar Heels3521-26
5@North Carolina State Wolfpack3324-28
6Maryland Terrapins3121-27
7@Virginia Cavaliers6725-20
8@Miami (FL) Hurricanes1921-30
9Clemson Tigers3521-27
11Virginia Tech Hokies2521-30
12@Duke Blue Devils7129-22
13Georgia Bulldogs2020-32

Duke

Sean Renfree

The Blue Devils would appear to have a long way to go after winning only one conference game in a three-win season. But coach David Cutcliffe, who harps on building optimism, senses a significant change in fortunes.

"The worm has turned," Cutcliffe said.

Cutcliffe was baffled by losses in close games in 2010, something he said can be turned around by paying attention to more details. The Blue Devils lost four games by six points or less last year.

The encouraging spots for the Blue Devils begin with the passing aspects of their offense. They've established a core of receivers for returning starting quarterback Sean Renfree to throw to. Putting together a consistent rushing attack to alleviate pressure from Renfree continues to be something that gains traction only some of the time.

- FOXSports.com

Absolute Schedule/Records

2011 Duke Blue Devils
WeekOpponentWin%Avg Score
1Richmond Spiders9544-6
2Stanford Cardinal518-45
3@Boston College Eagles3821-27
4Tulane Green Wave7130-22
5@FIU Golden Panthers6730-25
7Florida State Seminoles820-39
8Wake Forest Demon Deacons5528-25
9Virginia Tech Hokies1719-31
10@Miami (FL) Hurricanes2021-31
11@Virginia Cavaliers4723-24
12Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets2922-29
13@North Carolina Tar Heels2821-31

Chase Minnifield

Virginia

The Cavaliers will remain a step behind the league's contenders in overall talent, but especially on offense. The defense, on the other hand, has a chance to be sneaky-good. Not only is it London's area of expertise, but the unit is rich in starting experience, including next-level CB Chase Minnifield and DE Cam Johnson. Plus, the learning curve for Jim Reid's 4-3 alignment figures to be much flatter than it was a year ago, when everything was new.

- CFN, Scout.com

Absolute Schedule/Records

2011 Virginia Cavaliers
WeekOpponentWin%Avg Score
1William & Mary Tribe9543-9
2@Indiana Hoosiers4627-26
3@North Carolina Tar Heels1917-28
4Southern Miss Golden Eagles2624-33
5Idaho Vandals6226-21
7Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets3320-25
8North Carolina State Wolfpack2921-30
9@Miami (FL) Hurricanes1615-30
10@Maryland Terrapins2218-29
11Duke Blue Devils5224-23
12@Florida State Seminoles816-34
13Virginia Tech Hokies1316-31

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Joel Beall is the assistant content manager for WhatIfSports.com. He can be reached at jbeall@whatifsports.com.

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