Atlantic Division fans took over the mailblog this week ...
Tom in Tulsa writes: I have a feeling wake forest will be the surprise team of the country. this team reminds me of the 2006 version which came out of nowhere to win the acc. to me Jim Grobe is a very under rated coach because it is hard to win at wake forest!
HD: Darkhorse in the Atlantic Division? Definitely. Surprise team in the country? Maybe. They kind of go hand in hand, because in order to have a shot they'd have to knock off either FSU or Clemson. As for comparing these guys to 2006? That's pushing it. Every single starter on that defense went to the NFL. It was a once-in-a-Grobetime roster. Even those within the program would probably concede they're unlikely to sign such a class again. That doesn't mean they won't develop and recruit some great players -- they will -- but that was a special Cinderella season that I doubt will ever be matched.
Brad in Valdosta, Ga., writes: Will Maryland's record be better this year or next. Their schedule is brutal next year.
HD: Um, yeah, good luck -- and I'll even give you a 'W' against my alma mater, the Hoosiers. This fall, Maryland has to travel to Florida State, Wake Forest, Virginia Tech and NC State. Next year the Terps have to go to IU, Wisconsin, Penn State and Michigan. I have been to every one of those stadiums, and while FSU, VT and even NCSU are tough places to play, trips to Madison, Happy Valley and the Big House will prove more difficult. But hey, they get Ohio State at home ...
Colby Lanham in Clemson, S.C., writes: What are your thoughts on the Clemson's defense heading into 2013?
HD: Getting better, still lots to prove. In the first six games of 2012, Clemson gave up an average of 27.3 points per game. That number dropped to 21.2 points per game in the final seven games. Clemson ended up ranking No. 3 in the ACC in scoring defense. Not bad for the first year under Brent Venables. More should be expected of a national title contender, of course, but the way the defense played against LSU was a big step in the right direction.
Matt R in Blue Ridge, Ga., writes: My father was at the Polk County Jimbo Fisher banquet this evening. My father said for the first time at a FSU banquet Jimbo was VERY enthusiastic. Jimbo is excited about what is coming for FSU. Jimbo was talking about how many sophomores that are greats that FSU has. I believe FSU will when a national championship in the next 3 years... What do you think?
HD: I've seen Jimbo excited about a team before. He was excited about last year's roster, too. He should be, with all that talent they continue to lure in. Here's the problem with "the next three years." Louisville will be joining the league next fall. With Clemson AND Louisville in the Atlantic Division -- AND an annual game against Florida AND a game against Notre Dame -- the path to the national title is much, much more difficult. One thing is for sure -- nobody should be questioning FSU's strength of schedule.
Kyle in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., writes: Once the NCAA concludes its investigation with Miami, do you see the Canes eventually overtaking Florida and Florida State as the top in-state recruiter?
HD: It's hard to answer that question without knowing if there will be more scholarship reductions. They've done a pretty good job even under their self-imposed scholarship restrictions, but who knows how the NCAA's ruling might affect recruiting? If the NCAA weren't a factor, I'd say yeah, they definitely could, especially with James Coley on staff. He's an ace recruiter selling his hometown. That's hard to beat -- and it's an even easier sell when the Canes are winning.
Shane Winningham in Orlando, Fla., writes: A 3 part question about Clemson ; 1). Can a 1 loss Clemson team be a title contender. 2). Who could they lose to, without banking on their victims season and last 3). How good does their defense need to be to make the big dream come true.
HD: 1. Yes, as long as that loss isn't to NC State. 2. Georgia and FSU are the only options. 3. I don't think you can put a number on it, like saying "they have to hold opponents to 10 points or less per game." What I DO think is fair to say, is the obvious: They've got to be stingy on third downs, they've got to be opportunistic and get some takeaways, create a short field for the offense. They can't give up big plays over 20 yards, have to be solid in the red zone. If they take of those things, that scoring average will quickly shrink.
Chris in Hopatcong, N.J., writes: We want more Miami links and articles! But seriously keep up the good work (and Andrea too!). I think Miami's chances of making it to a BCS bowl are high, maybe as good as 75%. With so many returning starters that were impact players why aren't they getting any love in preseason rankings? To be fair their defense was terrible last year but they were real young. They can't be any worse on that side of the ball and a middle of the pack defense should be plenty good enough to get the Canes to 10-2 and the ACC championship game where anything can happen.
HD: You nailed it: The D is still suspect. I've said before, though, that I think Miami will be the next ACC team in the rankings. The schedule is certainly conducive to it, and it wouldn't surprise me if Miami beat Florida.