NCF Nation: Dolphin Stadium

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Good morning, ACC fans! Why the exclamation point so early? Because I'm heading to Atlanta today! And I'll be at a game tomorrow!

Flight leaves soon, so I've got an abbreviated edition for you today. Since I'm heading to Atlanta, why don't we check in on what kind of trouble Clemson has already stirred with Alabama.

Defensive coordinator Vic Koenning's off-hand comment about Alabama recruiting had him a little worried about his vacation home in Alabama.

Elsewhere in Atlanta, I spoke with Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson on Tuesday and he reinforced the notion that Josh Nesbitt is his starting quarterback, despite strong performances by Jaybo Shaw this summer and the fact that Johnson recruited Shaw while he was at Navy.

NC State fans should be thankful South Carolina running back Mike Davis was just ... so ... thirsty! Smile, Mike, you're on candid football camera.

Heading to Dolphin Stadium this week? Here's the scouting report on the new venue. When Miami released its injury report Tuesday there was one surprise.

Florida State still hasn't named a starting quarterback, and Jimbo Fisher hasn't ruled out the possibility of playing more than one.

Of course, most of you know by now that Frank Beamer made his decision to redshirt Tyrod Taylor on Tuesday.

Elsewhere in the Commonwealth, Virginia's quarterback still remains a mystery. Looks like it will be a game-time decision.

OK guys, that's all you get today or I'm walkin' to Hotlanta. Check back later, though, I've got some more for you ... AND check out the Hotlist on ESPNEWS around 4:10 p.m., where SEC blogger Chris Low and I will be talking football.

Later.

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Florida State isn't gonna look like the program it used to, dadgummit, and unless Bernie Kosar suddenly found an extra year of eligibility, either will Miami.

Doesn't matter -- at least not this year.

The spotlight is on Clemson, and deservedly so. The entire league can stake its reputation on the Tigers this year, but they must deliver with a win in the Orange Bowl if the ACC is going to start chipping away at its embarrassing 1-9 record in BCS games. If Clemson can win on the national stage, then Tommy Bowden should receive thank-you notes from 11 other coaches -- the first one coming priority mail from his "daddy" for diverting some of the attention off another mediocre 7-5 season in Tallahassee.

The realistic coaches in the league -- like NC State's Tom O'Brien -- know that until they start knocking off some storied non-conference programs, the ACC can't be considered among the best in the BCS.

"We haven't proven we can go on the national scene and win games, and until we do that, I don't think you have any leg to stand on to dispute that claim," said O'Brien, whose young team won't have it easy against South Carolina, East Carolina and South Florida before October. "You have to go out and you have to win those nonconference games if you're going to be considered as the top conference in the country."

That means Virginia Tech has to beat Nebraska, Clemson should beat Alabama, Miami needs to beat Florida, and Georgia Tech and Boston College better handle a new-and-improved Notre Dame. Wake Forest also has two SEC opponents on its schedule in Ole Miss and Vanderbilt. Only Miami, though, can help the league's 2-17 record against non-conference opponents ranked in the top 10 over the past four years. Unfortunately for the Hurricanes, they have to beat the team picked to win the SEC to do it. With a freshman quarterback.

Not going to happen.

Here are a few preseason predictions, though, that might:

* Somebody at Miami will win Rookie of the Year.

But ... somebody else will be ineligible or in trouble.

* Paul Johnson will call more passing plays than he did at Navy.

But ... Georgia Tech will fumble the ball better than anyone and practices quickly close to the

public.

* North Carolina will live up to the hype of a legitimate contender for the ACC title.

But ...

* Maryland will be the conference darkhorse and the Atlantic Division will be a tighter race between Clemson, Wake Forest and the Terps than most people think.
But ...

* Clemson will lose to Wake Forest, win the Atlantic Division, and beat Virginia Tech for its first conference crown since 1991. And then proceed to blow it in the Orange Bowl.

But ...

* The rest of the ACC teams should win enough of their bowl games to improve upon last year's 2-6 record in the postseason. Especially since Ralph Friedgen hired an assistant right off of the Oregon State staff he lost to in the Emerald Bowl.

* There will be a better turnout for the ACC championship in Tampa than there was in Jacksonville because it's a smaller stadium with a broader alumni base.

Speaking of NFL venues, here are a few things that probably won't happen this season in the ACC:

* Miami fans won't like the move to Dolphin Stadium, save for the beer.

- Nobody's going to get fired, but the algrohmustgo web site makes a faster comeback than Florida State and Miami.

* Nine ACC teams won't be bowl eligible, which means the Congressional Bowl reps will have to settle for Navy (if the Midshipmen even qualify) and a MAC team.

* Cullen Harper won't win the Heisman.

* Chris Crane won't make you forget Matt Ryan, and Jeff Jagodzinski won't make Eagles fans forget Tom O'Brien.

* Tyrod Taylor won't redshirt, and Virginia Tech isn't going to miss Branden Ore -- or his lack of discipline -- now that Jahre Cheeseman and Kenny Lewis Jr. are healthy.

* Duke doesn't win more than three games. Hey, that's still triple last year's win total. Let's not push it.

Overall, just about every team in the conference should show improvement this year. The teams in the Triangle are taking the necessary steps to build their programs, and Wake Forest has the staff stability and player potential to build upon its most successful period in school history. What the conference is starving for, though, is a national contender, and right now, that burden falls on the Tigers.

And as Bobby Bowden so eloquently pointed out, his son Tommy, "ain't won nothin' yet."

This year, he's got no excuse not to win.

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Good morning from Annapolis, Md. No, Paul Johnson is not here, but I still call this place home.

Not that I'm here that often during the season. One of the better trips this year will be to Tampa, for the ACC Championship. Anything has got to be better than the half-empty stadium in Jacksonville, and ACC officials all but promised it will be. The key will be a smaller venue, bigger city and cheaper tickets. More ACC alumni, too. But you know the No. 1 rule in real estate - location, location, location.

So far the rule seems to apply to ACC football, too -- more than half of the seats there are already sold.

Want one? Check out their web site.

In addition to talking up Tampa on Tuesday, ACC commissioner John Swofford gave his take on the state of the ACC yesterday, so that's where much of the news came from. And yes, he is pleased with the way things are going.

Even in the face of numbers like these.

Also addressed on Tuesday in the final day of the ACC football kickoff was the new rule changes. Here's a more in-depth look at the clock change for this season.

Swofford and SEC commissioner Mike Slive are ready for a change in the BCS, but believe it or not, some coaches are OK with the status quo. The coaches in the Triangle don't mind it so much, either.

Speaking of coaches in the Triangle, somebody else noticed how Butch Davis dressed on Monday, too. And David Cutcliffe and Jenny Craig in the same sentence? More on how the Blue Devils slimmed down to shape up.

And more on food -- Gregg Doyel says recruiting at Wake Forest is like is like visiting a seven-course buffet and being allowed to pick only from the salad bowl.

Despite the high hopes for the Carolina schools, Clemson is obviously the best team this year. If the Tigers are going to win it all, though, quarterback Cullen Harper said they will need a little luck.

It appears Florida State has the speed. Who's the fastest at FSU? Redshirt freshman Brandon Paul is ready for a "race-off" to find out.

Elsewhere in Florida, former Miami coach Larry Coker is gearing up for his second season as a TV analyst for ESPN but hasn't ruled out returning to the sidelines. Click here for his take on that and the Hurricanes' move to Dolphin Stadium.

Back to the BCS -- remember that excuse for not going with the plus-one, that whole thing about academics?

Well, how about playing in the Congressional Bowl the same day you've got a final exam? Given its locale, Maryland would be a natural fit for this game. Given its potential, it won't have to worry about it.

The bigger question is who -- if anyone -- will qualify for it.

 
 Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
 Clemson's Memorial Stadium is the NEW toughest place to play in the ACC.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

OK people, there's something you need to know about this blog: I'm listening. I'm reading. I'm lurking. And I can HEAR you ... Does your mother know you talk like that?

I'm going to be honest with you: If I had to do it over again, I would. Oh, look, I can!

Here it is -- same words, different ranking with a short explanation below it. Thanks for all of your feedback. Now, complain all you want, this is the final version:

1. Clemson, Memorial Stadium (81,500) -- The Rock. The Hill. Death Valley. Need I say more?

Previous ranking, No. 3 -- I moved this one up because the atmosphere here is awesome, the football is some of the best in the league, and the fans get this place so loud it gives me goosebumps. It's among my favorite places to cover a game. I should've listened to my instinct first time around.

2. Virginia Tech, Lane Stadium (66,233) -- This place sells out, and Hokies fans make this one of the toughest stadiums in the country. Which is why Boston College's fourth-quarter comeback in Blacksburg last season was all the more impressive.

PR No. 1 -- Dropped a spot in favor of my gut feeling over Clemson. It just doesn't swallow you whole like Death Valley.

3. Florida State, Doak S. Campbell Stadium (82,300) -- The program's history is as concrete as the structure here, and you can feel the tradition even during a weekday. With Osceola and Renegade, the war chant ... this is college football.

PR No. 2 -- The game day traditions here are outstanding, but Clemson's move had to bump this down a notch.

4. NC State, Carter-Finley Stadium (57,500) -- The fairly new facilities here are impressive, but it lacks tradition.

PR No. 11 -- I was stuck on the lack of tradition with this program, and lack of recent wins, but Wolfpack fans are passionate enough to compensate for that. I heard them at the Raleigh Regional baseball games and read their e-mails yesterday.

5. Georgia Tech, Bobby Dodd Stadium (55,000) -- Roll out the Ramblin' Wreck, and this place is rockin'. It's the oldest stadium in Division I, but it's location in the heart of Atlanta and its fans make it unique.

PR 5 -- Same.

6. UNC, Kenan Stadium (60,000) -- This place is just the right size, and the picturesque pine trees make this one of the nicest venues in the league. Butch Davis has an amazing view of all of it from his office.

PR 4 -- Argue all you want about this spot, but the intimate setting here is great for fans and the facilities here should impress any recruit.

7. Virginia, Scott Stadium (61,000) -- Despite the open press box (which I always seem to forget on the coldest of Saturdays), this place is gorgeous. The columns on the hill and the architecture make this one of my favorite fall road trips.

PR 6 Who's afraid of fans in ties?

8. Wake Forest, Groves Stadium (31,500) -- With around 4,000 undergrads, it's only going to get so loud in here. Deacon Hill is unique, though, and the fans are faithful and appreciative.

PR 9 -- It's still better than the last three.

9. Boston College, Alumni Stadium (44,500) -- Eh. Sorry, Eagles fans, but not only don't you travel well for bowl games, but you guys can't even pack your place for FSU on prime time.

PR 8 -- That pretty much summed it up.

10. Maryland, Byrd Stadium (51,500) -- Go ahead and get Ralph Friedgen started about the lacrosse team ripping up Byrd. There have been times when it looks dustier than my bookshelves, but the renovations and suites should be an upgrade.

PR 7 -- I'll admit, I gave this too much credit the first time around, which was dumb, considering how many games I've seen there and said, "the field looks awful." And the pregame atmosphere is lacking.

11. Miami, Dolphin Stadium (75,235) -- Well, the Orange Bowl was a dump, but there were some great and historic games there. The NFL venue just won't be the same and it will take away from the college gameday feeling.

PR 10 -- The only thing worse than trading the college atmosphere for an oversized NFL arena is ...

12. Duke, Wallace Wade Stadium (33,941) -- In our interview earlier this week, David Cutcliffe called Wallace Wade Stadium "quaint." Not exactly the atmosphere you're looking for when you want some smashmouth football. Then again, they've got to start playing some smashmouth football.

Same ranking.

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

As EA Sports prepares to release its NCAA Football 09 next week, one of the features that came out is a gallery of the "25 toughest stadiums" in college football, according to NCAA Football 09

It seemed like the perfect opportunity for a discussion about the toughest places to play in the ACC. Considering the entire gameday atmosphere, (and yes, I've been to all of them), here's what I came up with for the overall best venues in the league:

 
 Joe Murphy/WireImage.com
 Lane Stadium was opened in 1965.

1. Virginia Tech, Lane Stadium (66,233) -- This place sells out, and Hokies fans make this one of the toughest stadiums in the country. Which is why Boston College's fourth-quarter comeback in Blacksburg last season was all the more impressive.

2. Florida State, Doak S. Campbell Stadium (82,300) -- The program's history is as concrete as the structure here, and you can feel the tradition even during a weekday. With Osceola and Renegade, the war chant ... this is college football.

3. Clemson, Memorial Stadium (81,500) -- The Rock. The Hill. Death Valley. Need I say more?

4. UNC, Kenan Stadium (60,000) -- This place is just the right size, and the picturesque pine trees make this one of the nicest venues in the league. Butch Davis has an amazing view of all of it from his office.

5. Georgia Tech, Bobby Dodd Stadium (55,000) -- Roll out the Ramblin' Wreck, and this place is rockin'. It's the oldest stadium in Division I, but it's location in the heart of Atlanta and its fans make it unique.

6. Virginia, Scott Stadium (51,500) -- Despite the open press box (which I always seem to forget on the coldest of Saturdays), this place is gorgeous. The columns on the hill and the architecture make this one of my favorite fall road trips.

7. Maryland, Byrd Stadium (51,500) -- Go ahead and get Ralph Friedgen started about the lacrosse team ripping up Byrd. There have been times when it looks dustier than my bookshelves, but the renovations and suites should be an upgrade.

8. Boston College, Alumni Stadium (44,500) -- Eh. Sorry, Eagles fans, but not only don't you travel well for bowl games, but you guys can't even pack your place for FSU on prime time.

9. Wake Forest, Groves Stadium (31,500) -- With around 4,000 undergrads, it's only going to get so loud in here. Deacon Hill is unique, though, and the fans are faithful and appreciative.

10. Miami, Dolphin Stadium (75,235) -- Well, the Orange Bowl was a dump, but there were some great and historic games there. The NFL venue just won't be the same and it will take away from the college gameday feeling.

11. NC State, Carter-Finley Stadium (57,500) -- The farily new facilities here are impressive, but it lacks tradition.

12. Duke, Wallace Wade Stadium (33,941) -- In our interview earlier this week, David Cutcliffe called Wallace Wade Stadium "quaint." Not exactly the atmosphere you're looking for when you want some smashmouth football. Then again, they've got to start playing some smashmouth football.

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich 

Gooood morning, ACC fans! (Are any of you even awake yet?)

If you haven't checked out checked out the comments from yesterday's Coastal Division rankings, you're missing out on some semi-educated trash talk going on over there. You might want to weigh in on it -- especially if you're from the state of Florida.

Speaking of Miami ... 

The Miami Herald reminded me to tell you guys about ESPN's documentary on Miami football that will air next year. I'm not sure when, sorry. This is part of ESPN's "30 for 30" project -- 30 films about notable sports events over the past 30 years. It's the network's way of celebrating its 30th birthday with you. Coincidently, I will be turning 30 next year as well, but nobody has approached me about a documentary yet.

Anyway, if you're a Miami fan, congrats, "U" won. The Herald reported that the folks at Dolphin Stadium caved, and the U logo will indeed be there. Now, just get that swagger back and everything will be fine.

Speaking of swagger ... 

It looks like Butch Davis got himself two more recruits, including one who has already deemed himself a "five-star player," according to the Raleigh News & Observer.

Speaking of Butch Davis ....

Apparently I'm not the only who thinks he's headed in the right direction. People are paying to watch the progress there (OK, and Notre Dame, too), according to the Greensboro News-Record.

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