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Thursday, July 25, 2013
What we learned: ACC media days

By Heather Dinich

Here’s the truth: Not a lot was gleaned from ACC media days this year. The headlines were tame (unless your name is Doug Rhoads), and the tweets civil. In the big picture, though, here’s what we came away with after two days at the ACC Football Kickoff in Greensboro, N.C.:

1. Clemson is the undisputed heavyweight -- at least for now. For all of the talk about how the Clemson-Florida State game is going to determine this year’s championship game winner, the votes indicated the Tigers should head into it as the overwhelming favorite. Clemson received 95 votes as this year’s preseason favorite to win the ACC, while Florida State received just 15. You better believe the game will be much closer than that, but Clemson received 102 first-place votes in the Atlantic Division while FSU -- the defending ACC champ -- got 18. Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd also received 105 of 120 votes for the ACC’s preseason player of the year. The Tigers are shouldering the same kind of expectations FSU was last year.

2. Miami’s potential is a story again. Al Golden was actually talking about his football team more than the NCAA. How refreshing. In what should be another cluttered Coastal Division race, Miami received 65 first-place votes to win the division. That’s a pretty significant vote of confidence considering the rest of the division should be better than it was a year ago, but nobody returns more starters than the Canes, and they have arguably the best quarterback, so it wasn’t surprising. Never mind that we still don’t know if Miami will even be eligible to win the division, but it’s hard to believe that after two years of self-imposed postseason bans it won’t.

3. The ACC is “stronger than ever.” That was commissioner John Swofford’s message in his forum on Sunday afternoon, and he had plenty of talking points to back it up. Swofford mentioned the partial membership of Notre Dame, the extended partnership with the Orange Bowl, the new and improved bowl lineup, the addition of Louisville and the grant of rights when he spoke about the stability of the conference moving forward. A television network continues to be a possibility, but it is still two to three years away from becoming a reality, if that’s what happens.

4. Virginia Tech is expected to be better. After what was the worst season in 20 years, those within the program are adamant this year will be better, and the media seems to think so, too. The Hokies were picked to finish second in the Coastal Division behind Miami, and embattled quarterback Logan Thomas even got three votes as the ACC’s player of the year. Coach Frank Beamer made sweeping changes to his offensive staff, hiring a new offensive coordinator, new offensive line coach and receivers coach, and Thomas said first-year coordinator Scot Loeffler has already made a difference. Regardless of what happens in the season-opener against Alabama, Virginia Tech is expected to prove last year was an anomaly in the conference race.

5. Pitt and Syracuse blend right in. The coaches and players all seemed to be a good fit in the ACC, getting along well with each other at the ACC Football Kickoff. Their mere presence at media day was a difference, and the overall crowd seemed bigger in part because of their media contingents, but overall their interview sessions were just like everyone else’s, and they joined the crowded no-man’s land in the preseason predictions. Syracuse was picked to finish sixth and Pitt was voted fifth in the Coastal Division.