Surprise! FSU favored in ACC

Jul 30, 2002 4:22 AM

The Atlantic Coast Conference is feeling nostalgic again, which is good considering the only history being made involved the number of league teams falling to Florida State.

The Seminoles went nearly 12 years before losing a home game in the conference, finally falling last year to North Carolina State. The setback, shocking as it was, helped lift Maryland to its first league title since 1985.

FSU actually dropped four games, considered a losing year in Tallahassee. The Seminoles are the only school to finish in the Associated Press Top-4 for 11 straight years, yet many in the media began focusing more on Bobby Bowden’s age (72) than his success (323 wins) in Division I.

FSU is back in its usual perch as preseason favorites in this, the ACC’s 50th anniversary year. The Noles had eight players selected to the Top 50 Golden Anniversary Team, as voted by a 120-member blue ribbon panel. Not bad for a school that didn’t join until 1990.

Florida State went through its one-year "growing pain" of having to find a replacement for veteran QB Chris Weinke. During that time, Maryland produced a magical season under first-year coach Ralph Friedgen that led to an Orange Bowl appearance.

The Terps are picked third in the preseason ACC poll among league scribes, behind FSU and the up and coming Wolfpack. North Carolina State has a very favorable schedule (early-season games against New Mexico, East Tennessee State, Navy and Massachusetts).

Should the Pack defeat Texas Tech in Lubbock on Sept. 21, they could ride into Chapel Hill with a 6-0 mark. QB Phillip Rivers is the league’s best passer, but the soft schedule probably keeps State outside the Top 10 until November. The final seven games, including matchups with Georgia Tech, Maryland, Virginia and Florida State, will tell the tale.

The ACC’s most interesting team could be Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets hired former Dallas Cowboys coach Chan Gailey after the fiasco involving George O’Leary decision to leave for Notre Dame, only to lose that job over a faulty resume before even starting.

The league is solid except for Duke, which has dropped 23 straight games and went a horrible 2-9 ATS last year. The bright light rested with bettors who wagered against Duke and took the OVER. Those wiseguys would have ended the season with a six-game win streak.

North Carolina suffered the most during the off-season, losing its entire starting seven on defense. All-American DE Julius Peppers was the No. 2 overall selection in the NFL draft, taken by the Carolina Panthers. Peppers wasn’t even the MVP on the Heels last year. LB David Thornton was that man and he, along with DT Ryan Sims, are also NFL-bound.

Clemson again offers the Bowden vs Bowden storyline with son Tommy having led the Tigers to bowl appearances all three years at Death Valley. The Tigers placed a record nine on the anniversary team.

Wake Forest has always been considered the darlings of the league because nobody fears the football program. The Deacons thrive in the underdog role, evidenced by a 6-1-1 ATS mark last year and a 45-41-1 slate since 1992. That’s especially impressive considering Wake is 22-65 SU over the past 10 years.

Duke has not won an ACC game in two years, and the news already is not good from Durham. Expected starting QB D (yes, D) Bryant (3,902 yards passing in 22 games) was declared in June academically ineligible for his senior season.

While Duke yearns for one win, the ACC title could boil down to a final game shootout between N.C. State and Florida State in Raleigh on Nov. 23.

LVSC RATINGS

College  

 Odds  

 Rank

Florida State  

 5-1  

 2

Maryland  

 40-1  

 T-18

Clemson  

 50-1  

 T-24

N. Carolina St  

 60-1  

 T-26

Field (all others)*  

 40-1  

 ””

*””N.Carolina, Virginia, Ga Tech, W.Forest, Duke.