Aug 7

ACC-SEC Top 10

Posted By:Dana Mitchell  Tags:

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Photo: USPresswire.com - Crystal LoGiudice

1. Georgia

Without a doubt, this is, and should be, the team ranked number one on the ACC-SEC list to start the 2008 college football season. The Dawgs return virtually everyone of note on both sides of the ball including Matthew Stafford, Knowshon Moreno, Mohammed Massaquoi and others. Mark Richt has created a monster of a program in Athens with 2 SEC titles and 2 Sugar Bowl titles since he started there in 2001, and his eighth season could very well be his best. The one problem: the schedule. Yikes! The Dawgs play at South Carolina , Arizona State , LSU, Kentucky  and Auburn . Home games against Alabama , Tennessee , Vandy and Georgia Tech aren’t much easier. And, there’s always the Cocktail party with the Gators. If they run the table with this schedule, I’d be shocked, but for now, they deserve the number one spot.

2. Florida

I get a feeling that this team is going to be really, really good. Heisman winner Tim Tebow returns with Percy Harvin and a slew of other talented offensive players to a team that was really close to greatness last year. The defense was the thing that slowed them down then, not because of a lack of talent, but due mainly to a lack of experience. This is no longer the case, and this should be evident on the field next year. Their schedule, like most SEC teams, is pretty daunting, but all in all, this should be a title contending team all year. Toughest games: at Tennessee , LSU at home, and Georgia. Also, watch out for games against Miami in the Swamp, and especially FSU in Tallahassee . They have owned the Seminoles as of late, but sooner or later their luck is going to change in this rivalry game.

3. LSU

I’d like to put the Auburn Tigers ahead of LSU due to what they have returning on both sides of the ball and especially due to their new offensive coordinator Tony Franklin, but LSU is the defending National Champion, and deserves the respect that comes along with that. They have lost their starting quarterback in Ryan Perrilloux, but many Tiger fans I have spoken to say that they are ok with this. The trouble that he brought along with him may have been much more than LSU could have handled, or would have wanted to handle. The Tigers have won two National Titles in the last five years (2003, 2007) with "under the radar" type guys. Matt Mauck began building a name for himself with a win in the 2001 SEC Title game against Tennessee, and last year Matt Flynn did a good job of managing the offense for the Tigers. They'll ask that of new comer Andrew Hatch to do the same. Let's face it...this team is all about defense, and if they're going to win big this year, it'll be because of just that.

4. Auburn

The Auburn Tigers could be poised for a big run this year . My heart wanted to pick them to win the west over LSU, but I had to give the nod to the boys from Baton Rouge because of last year, and because it should be so close between the two teams. The fact that Auburn gets the other Tigers at home is a huge feather in their cap for sure, though. That game, and the following week against Tennessee, will define whether this season is great or good.  An October Thursday night game in Morgantown is an awesome addition to the schedule on a short-term basis. Bottom line question: How well with this team gel under new offensive coordinator Tony Franklin and Defensive Coordinator Paul Rhoads?

5. Clemson

Yes....Clemson. This, for all you who think otherwise, is the first Tiger team picked to win the ACC since 1991, and there's a reason for it. They're deep on both sides of the ball with tons of weapons on offense including RB James Davis, QB Cullen Harper and WR Aaron Kelly. There are questions about the O-line, but the talent ,and more importantly the hunger, are there. The defense is even better, with veterans all around, and newcomer Daquan Bowers (ESPN number 1 national recruit) thrown in to shake things up a bit. A huge game against Alabama awaits on August 30th...Do they belong? We'll soon see.

6. Virginia Tech

It's hard to ever bet against this team. It seems they've lost a lot of national respect since getting spanked by LSU last year. Granted that was a clear and devastating defeat, but this is also a team and a program that has proven on the field over the last decade that they are one of college football's best. Many of those fans who bashed the eventual ACC champs last year are fans of teams that the Hokies have dismantled in recent years, too. The big questions here: Will the offense find a replacement for Branden Ore at tailback? How will the usually stout defense respond to a number of senior departures? Can they fill the gaps?

I wouldn't count out this coaching staff. They know what they're doing, and in the so-called weak Coastal division of the ACC they should have no trouble finding themselves in Tampa in December to defend their title.

7. Tennessee

This is a big year for the Volunteers. Much will be learned about them when they open in L.A. against UCLA. They have a very strong, and now, experienced defense returning. Can they find a replacement for Eric Ainge early enough in the season to stay in the hunt? The Gators come to town on September 20th. They must win this game to keep pace in this division. They have to travel to Athens this year to play the Dawgs, and Georgia certainly hasn’t forgotten what happened to them in Knoxville last year. Many would say that the loss to the Vols last year was what catapulted Georgia to their final # 2 national ranking - and it was. However, Georgia will certainly be out for revenge. There is also the question of how this team will respond on offense after the departure of David Cutcliffe as the offensive coordinator.

8. Wake Forest

Well-coached, disciplined, underrated, hungry, angry and talented. These are all words that can describe the Demon Deacons over the last few years. People like to say they aren’t what they are. That’s fine. But how many teams on this list, or any list, have gone into Tallahasse and defeated the Seminoles in a shut-out by thirty plus points? Listen, I don’t care if FSU has lost a step or not, that is a heck of a feat!  They’ve continued to show that they can hang with anyone they’ve played, and considering the history of the school when it comes to football, this is very impressive. All of that said, Wake has some very tough games this year. They face a young, hungry team in Ole Miss early in the year, and then travel to FSU, Miami and Maryland, while welcoming Clemson and BC. One thing is for sure: It’ll be a wild ride for these guys again in 2008, as they prove once again basketball isn't the only sport in Winston Salem.

9. Florida State

The Seminoles may not be quite back to where they want to be, but they will be improved from last year. It’s never easy breaking in a new coach, much less an offensive coordinator. Jimbo Fisher returns for year two under the helm of legendary Coach Bobby Bowden, and the two will look to improve on last year’s inconsistency. Their schedule could set up nicely for them. All of their toughest games are at home: Clemson, Va. Tech and Florida. The one exception is Miami, but that one is always a war. Western Carolina and Chattanooga, to start the year at Doak Campbell, will give this team a chance to get in a groove before division rival Wake Forest comes calling. 

10. Alabama

6-6 is definitely not a banner year in the eyes of anyone in the Crimson Tide nation. However, there were a lot of positives to take out of that 2007 season. Their leader, and now senior QB, John Parker Wilson, had a good year, and gained much needed experience. They lost some steam after a tough loss at home to eventual National Champ LSU. There’s no excuse for losing to La-Monroe, but it was obvious that this was a young team who was so close to being where they wanted to be, took a real tough loss to heart, and allowed it to effect the rest of their year. I would look for them to be a bit more mature in ’08. Key game: Auburn!!!! 6 losses in a row is unheard of, and unacceptable. They absolutely MUST win that game this year in Tuscaloosa. Beating a top 10 team in the Clemson Tigers on August 30th in Atlanta would get the media buzzing quickly for the Tide, as well. We’re 22 days away from that one. Are you ready?!
 

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