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Scouting the nonconference opponents

5/3/2010

My blogger colleagues also released their post-spring power rankings today and I thought it might be interesting to see how the ACC’s top opponents stack up this spring. The conference has a slew of tough games this fall, but just how high are the expectations for teams like BYU, Florida and Oklahoma?

The conclusion from this little exercise? Nobody has it more difficult than Miami, which will face two teams ranked No. 1 in their respective power rankings -- on the road.

Here’s a look at what the ACC will be up against this fall:

CLEMSON vs. …

Auburn: SEC blogger Chris Low has Auburn at No. 5 and writes that the Tigers have to improve defensively if they’re going to contend for the SEC title. Clemson has more questions on offense heading into summer camp, but has enough talent to return to the ACC title game.

South Carolina: The Gamecocks come in at No. 7, but if Clemson plays the way it did last year in this rivalry game it won’t matter how low in the SEC South Carolina falls. Might ACC fans get a glimpse of Connor Shaw, the younger brother of former Georgia Tech backup quarterback Jaybo Shaw?

DUKE vs. …

Alabama: That’s right, Duke is taking on David Cutcliffe’s alma mater, and Low says the Tide is loaded with talented recruits and could have the best offense the program has seen in years. Let’s call this one Mission Impossible?

Navy: This is a more reasonable challenge for Duke, and there’s no reason the Blue Devils can’t win this one.

FLORIDA STATE vs. …

BYU: Non-AQ blogger Graham Watson ranks the Cougars at No. 8 because they’ve got more questions than answers. If this game resembles anything like last year’s, it could get ugly for BYU.

Oklahoma: Big 12 blogger David Ubben has the Sooners at No. 2 and writes that the offensive line will be key to their separation at the top. That’s an area the Noles don’t have to worry about this year.

Florida: No Tim Tebow, but Florida is still Florida. SEC blogger Chris Low has the Gators at No. 2 in the SEC and gives a vote of confidence to quarterback John Brantley.

GEORGIA TECH vs. …

Georgia: The Bulldogs are No. 6 in Low’s power rankings, a similar spot to where Georgia Tech falls in the ACC. The Jackets are facing higher expectations, though, after winning the ACC last year. One team they couldn’t beat, though, was Georgia.

Kansas: Even though it’s a road trip the second week of the season, it sounds like a winnable game for the Jackets. Ubben has the Jayhawks at No. 11, whereas Georgia Tech has the potential to defend its conference title. Ubben says Kansas is “short on talent,” something Georgia Tech is not.

MARYLAND vs. …

West Virginia: This series was renewed this season, and it will be a tough road trip for the Terps. Big East blogger Brian Bennett has the Mountaineers at No. 4 in the Big East and writes that they return more starters than any other team in the conference.

Navy: Watson has the Middies at No. 5, thanks to the depth they developed this spring at several positions. Navy should actually be favored heading into this game, and it should set the tone for the Terps’ season.

MIAMI vs. …

Ohio State: Big Ten blogger Adam Rittenberg has the Buckeyes as the team to beat heading into fall camp. It’s the first of two back-to-back road trips for Miami, but the Canes have a bye week to prepare for …

Pittsburgh: Bennett says the Panthers are the best team in the Big East heading into summer camp.

UNC vs. …

LSU: Low has the Tigers at No. 4, which is right around where the Tar Heels are hovering in the ACC. Both teams are lacking some confidence in the quarterback position right now.

Rutgers: Bennett has the Scarlet Knights at No. 5 in the Big East, no doubt a winnable road trip for the Tar Heels, as they should win the battle up front with their defensive line.

NC STATE vs. …

Cincinnati: Bennett has the two-time defending champs at No. 2 because of lingering questions on defense. NC State has a similar problem, as it has to replace all four starters up front.

VIRGINIA vs. …

USC: The Trojans are No. 1 (again), but that’s due in large part to Oregon’s misfortune with the season-long suspension of starting quarterback Jeremiah Masoli. This game is at USC. But hey, Boston College was able to hang with these guys on the West Coast just a few months ago. Virginia’s offensive line is going to have to get better quickly, though, to stand a chance up front.

VIRGINIA TECH vs. …

Boise State: Watson has the Broncos at No. 1, even though quarterback Kellen Moore didn’t have a spectacular spring. And no, we didn’t collaborate on our No. 1s, but they’ll meet on Labor Day in a game that will go a long way in determining eventual BCS standings.

WAKE FOREST vs. …

Navy: This is a team that has tripped the Deacs up in the past, but they’ll play the Midshipmen one week after having to prepare for Georgia Tech’s similar-style offense.

Stanford: This is going to be a tough cross-country trip for the Deacs. Pac-10 blogger Ted Miller has the Cardinal ranked No. 4, thanks to offensive answers this spring.