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August 16, 1:00 PM ET
Chat with Heather Dinich

Heather Dinich
  (1:00 PM)

Hey guys, I'm here. Let's get started.

Larry M (Athens)

So Heather, which ACC team is most likely to be poached by the SEC after they add Texas A&M? I've heard FSU and Clemson mentioned, but I doubt Florida and South Carolina let that happen. That leaves NC State and Va Tech as the two prime candidates in my opinion. Va Tech is the more attractive choice in terms of success/TV market.

Heather Dinich
  (1:01 PM)

Well, before I guess on that, let me make something clear from the start ... it's all speculation at this point. Now that we all understand that, my best guess would still be Florida State. I think it's a more likely option than Clemson and VT.

Joel (virginia)

Are Miami, GTech, and NC actual threats to beat VTech this year?

Heather Dinich
  (1:02 PM)

Virginia Tech is hardly invincible, Joel. They're got a first-year starting quarterback, legit questions on the defensive line, and the kicking game is still a question. So yes, they are, but I still think the Hokies are the best team in the Coastal right now.

sam (miami)

What are the chances miami gets in trouble with all this Shapiro stuff going on.

Heather Dinich
  (1:03 PM)

It's still too early to tell, but I expect more news will come quickly on this, and given the fact that Al Golden has practically conceded that some of his players might have made a few mistakes, I think the Canes could be in some trouble.

Mark (Boston)

So, should I be happy that the BC Offense scored 4 touchdowns during their Saturday night scrimmage, or concerned that the Defense gave up 4 touchdowns? (including one TD pass from Dave Shinskie?!?)

Heather Dinich
  (1:04 PM)

I would be encouraged by the offense, Mark, but you know how these summer scrimmages go -- there's always more to the story than the stats. Different guys play just so the coaches can get a look at some new faces, but from what I've heard, there was some legit offensive progress.

Mac (NC)

Realistically, how safe is the ACC from SEC (or any other conference) expansion going forward? Is there anything the conference should be doing now to stregthen itself?

Heather Dinich
  (1:06 PM)

I'm not sure "safe" is the right word, Mac. If you look at it from the SEC's perspective, expansion could be a good thing. The only thing I think the ACC should be doing right now is making a list of candidates to go after should it lose any teams to the SEC.

Jay (Toledo)

How big of a hit would it be for the ACC to lose FSU and Clemson ( if the rumors were true that the SEC wanted them, and said teams actually accepted an invite )? Are there any other teams that could come close to filling that void and if so, who would they be?

Heather Dinich
  (1:07 PM)

I've thought about this, Jay, and to me, the reality of the situation is this: Losing one or both of those teams would be devastating to the ACC. Florida State alone, I think, would be irreplacable in terms of what it brings, and it's hardly as if there would be a program of equal tradition and value available for the ACC to choose.

Joe (Charleston)

Notre Dame is playing half an ACC schedule this year with BC, Wake, and MD. How do you expect these schools to fare against the Irish?

Heather Dinich
  (1:08 PM)

Not very well:http://espn.go.com/blog/acc/post/_/id/26223/prediction-acc-vs-notre-dame

Zack (B-more)

Listening to all the conference expansion talk, it sounds like people think a team moving from the ACC to the SEC would be an automatic promotion to, at the very least, the cusp of "elite" status. Is that accurate for any team in reality?

Heather Dinich
  (1:09 PM)

I think it is, Zack. Considering the SEC's dominance over the national title in recent years, it's hard to argue that it wouldn't be a promotion.

Brett (Miami)

Appreciate the love, but I'm glad the Canes are un-ranked to begin the season. They always play better un-ranked and under appreciated, and under-perform when the favorite. Guarantee we finish the season ranked, though, as Golden is going to fix the things that keep the most talented team in the ACC from winning, i.e. turnovers and penalties (mental toughness). I think your prediction of whoever loses the regular season FSU/UM match-up will win the ACC championship game from last year comes true, just a year late.

Heather Dinich
  (1:10 PM)

Well, now I'm wavering on my commitment because of what could unfold in Coral Gables. And I'm impressed you remembered that prediction. If everything stays status quo for the current roster, it's a definite possibility this year.

Matt (Fairfax)

Don't you think you're underestimating Maryland's WR's a little? There are a lot of playmakers there. That coupled with last year's leading rusher returning makes for a pretty imposing offense. If only we could count on that O-line staying healthy...

Heather Dinich
  (1:11 PM)

I could be, Matt, it's just that they're unproven in starting roles and need to show consistency before I'm sold. You're right, though, the o-line's health is the key. Been a trouble spot for the Terps.

Rick (Atlanta)

If 1 or 2 ACC schools were to leave, who are the prime candidates to replace them?

Heather Dinich
  (1:13 PM)

It's impossible to say, Rick. First you have to look at who's available once the dust settles. Then, you have to look at by how much the ACC wants to expand. Would it play catch-up with the SEC and go to 14 or 16? Then we're talking far more than just two teams. I'll throw out two programs I'd LIKE to see added if need be -- Pitt and West Virginia.

Dan (Pa.)

Any chance that Wake is poised to surprise people, similar to 2006? Not expecting them to win the ACC, but all that painful experience from last year, plus Grobe, creates hope for Deacs fans. Tough schedule, but maybe a few surprises and a bowl bid?

Heather Dinich
  (1:14 PM)

Based on what I've heard out of Winston-Salem, these are a confident group of guys and Tanner Price has shown significant improvement. The thing is, they're still young, and I'm not sure they've closed the gap enough to really be a surprise team. They've got VT, FSU, Clemson and Notre Dame on the sked. Not conducive to getting to the postseason.

Seth (Miami)

HD,I'll make you the smartest blogger on ESPN. Impact freshman to watch at FSU, DT Tim Jernigan. Reports out of FSU camp is that he has been unblockable. Jimbo and Stoops have been raving about him from day 1

Heather Dinich
  (1:15 PM)

Lol ... "make?" Thanks, Seth. There are actually several comments in here about Jernigan today.

David (Raleigh)

What do you think is more likely: ACC teams leave for SEC or ACC adds 2 or 4 teams from other conferences (primarily Big East)

Heather Dinich
  (1:16 PM)

I don't think the ACC would add any teams unless they lost some. Everything I've heard from Greensboro indicates they are intent on staying with the current 12.

Will (Baltimore)

Heather, how much of a role do you think name recognition has played in the media's dismissal of the ACC? If Miami and Florida State had played better over the last few seasons, for example, instead of BC and GT, would the popular opinion of the ACC be much different than it is today?

Heather Dinich
  (1:17 PM)

I think it's a huge factor, Will. I've said it before, and there are some ACC fans who disagree with me, but the league needs those two programs to be at their best. They're the brand name programs of the league. Commish John Swofford said as much last year.

Brandon (Westminster)

Does Maryland have a chance against Miami in the opener? Edsall couldn't have asked for a tougher opening schedule.

Heather Dinich
  (1:19 PM)

They certainly do. They'll have home field advantage, and the guys should be motivated at least in part by that loss to the Canes last year. Also, there have been reports of possible suspensions for Miami for that game, though I don't believe Golden has actually said yet who/how many.

Harmon (Richmond Hill, GA)

Heather, I remember last year that GT was tossed around as a possible pickup for SEC but nothing this year. Are you surprised at all?

Heather Dinich
  (1:20 PM)

Not in the slightest. Why? Because it's the same thing we had last year -- everyone's best guess.

Daniel (Raleigh)

Do you honestly believe it when the officials at FSU, Clemson, and VT all say they are not thinking about the SEC and would not accept if invited?

Heather Dinich
  (1:21 PM)

I believe them all when they say they have not had any contact with the SEC, and that there haven't been any invitations extended, and I believe ACC commish John Swofford when he said that all 12 presidents have reaffirmed their commitment to the ACC. HOWEVER, I don't believe that FSU or any other program would ignore the SEC if it came calling.

Flipp (College)

Is this Al Groh's last year if GT's Def. isn't in the top of the ACC?

Heather Dinich
  (1:22 PM)

Last year? Give the man some time to unpack, willya? Year 2 should be better.

Stephen (WV)

LaRon Byrd made a pretty bold statement about breaking Leonard Hankerson?s records and Miami is pretty stacked at WR. Do you think he can back up what he said?

Heather Dinich
  (1:22 PM)

It was pretty bold. I'll believe it when I see it.

Joe (Charleston)

alright, I'm an ND fan trolling on the ACC chat: why do ppl keep saying MD should beat us? yes, they did alright last year, but seems like that was more of a fluke bc the yrs preceding they were atrocious. are they for real in '11 or is it back to the bottom of the barrel for the terps?

Heather Dinich
  (1:24 PM)

Ha, welcome, Joe. Check out one of my previous answers, I predicted the Terps lose that game. We'll find out in Week 1 if the Terps are for real when they line up against Miami, which, I think is a better team up front. Notre Dame is ahead of Maryland in the coaching transition game.

Samuel (Duck, NC)

Heather, do you feel that fans of ACC teams truly like each other? When you read the comments left on various chat sites that fans of ACC teams leave for other ACC teams you really have to wonder. I know that it makes it hard me to pull for some of them even when they play out of conference.

Heather Dinich
  (1:25 PM)

Haha, some of them really do, Samuel. I read some of the comments (my dad is ready to toss some of you guys), and I think most of them get along pretty well. What I REALLY like is following the players on Twitter and seeing how the guys from different teams get along and wish each other well during camp. And I would think that when the Orange Bowl comes along, no matter who is playing in it, ACC fans are cheering for the ACC. Same during bowl season.

Alex (Douglasville, Ga.)

What do you think of (if you've seen it in action) about Chad Morris' new offense? Do you think it will be affective?

Heather Dinich
  (1:26 PM)

I really like the premise of it and his philosophy. When executed right, it does work. Look at Auburn. Tulsa last year. The key is to get it to work!

Britton (Nebraska)

Who is your Darkhorse ACC winner this year?

Heather Dinich
  (1:27 PM)

It WAS North Carolina. Now I'll go with NC State as my official darkhorse.

Heather (BC Canda)

What should we expect from the ACC in terms of bowls this year? Well we get much in the way of the BCS finally? How about our normal bowls? What's our record going to look like?

Heather Dinich
  (1:29 PM)

I'll have some way-too-early bowl predictions for you guys at some point before the season starts, but I do think this is a good chance for the ACC to get two teams into BCS bowls (FSU and VT). I'd like to think the league could come with a winning record, but it's way too early to tell. Too many new quarterbacks to know how good everyone is going to be this year.

Paul (Greenville, SC)

Thanks for covering the ACC. I loved the Big East smack down article you wrote a while back. Aside from FSU vs Oklahoma, what is the biggest out-of-conference match-up? Also, I feel like Clemson has let you down over the years. Hop back on to the tiger wagon, this year is going to surprise you!

Heather Dinich
  (1:30 PM)

Ha, thanks, Paul. I think Miami/Ohio State, a.k.a. the NCAA Bowl, is suddenly more interesting, but don't forget about Clemson/South Carolina. The heat is on Dabo to win that one, and Clemson/Auburn should be a good one.

Chris (Los Angeles)

Don't you think the idea of rivalries is to pick on each other and to have a distaste for the other team? Doesn't "dislike" ultimately strengthen the conference bond because it makes for compelling rivalries and matchups? After all, are we fascinated by UNC-Duke because they like each other, or because they "hate" each other? Strange to me how someone pulled a switch a few years back and made it so we're supposed to "like" our rivals when they play other teams.

Heather Dinich
  (1:32 PM)

Oh no, don't get me wrong. I LOVE rivalry hate. Love it when fans and players trash talk. I'm talking big picture, though. When Virginia Tech is playing Stanford, isn't the rest of the ACC rooting for the Hokies?

Evan (Durham, NC)

with Coach Middleton and Brian Moore already sidelined for at least the first part of the season, do you think this affects Dukes bowl hopes significantly?

Heather Dinich
  (1:34 PM)

I think it affects them, but not to the point they can't overcome it. I think they'll be fine.

David (Raleigh)

As an NC State fan I will never root for UNC no matter who they are playing. I wanted VT to beat Stanford but I can imagine that many UVA fans wanted VT to lose that game.

Heather Dinich
  (1:35 PM)

Fair enough. Any Hoos' out there want to chime in?

trippen willie (va)

Is VT in trouble with there lack of depth on DL? Can Bud Foster turn this year's unit into a top 10 Defense?

Heather Dinich
  (1:36 PM)

They could be, yes. Depth there was a concern even before guys were banged up. The starters have to stay healthy in order for that to happen, I think.

John (Raleigh)

Since NC State is now your official darkhorse... How do you think the game between the two will end this year in Raleigh?

Heather Dinich
  (1:37 PM)

As of right now, I'm going with the Pack. (Again.)

Brad (Charlotte)

Heather, do you think VT will make it 8 consecutive years of having 10 or more wins this season?

Heather Dinich
  (1:38 PM)

If they don't, they underachieved.

Larry (Right behind you)

Is Clemson/Auburn really a good game? Auburn lost their entire team and Clemson is retruning a lot more. I think they only thing interesting about that game is that it's the battle of the Tigers.

Heather Dinich
  (1:39 PM)

No doubt it's an interesting game because of the reason both teams have gone through so much change. Add to that Clemson's overtime loss last year, a game which stung them for a while after that, and it's the start to a tough stretch for them, it should be a good and important game for Clemson.

Mick London (Va)

I know you favor VT in the Coastal, but which team is most likely to ruin your prediction?(By the way, as a Hoo fan, I can confirm that I root against VT even when they're playing out of conference.)

Heather Dinich
  (1:40 PM)

Miami (there goes my theory, huh?)

Samuel (Greensboro, NC)

As an NC State fan, I'd like to think they'd be 7-0 going into the FSU game, but Wake and Cincinnati are going to be much improved and they'll have home field advantage. Your thoughts?

Heather Dinich
  (1:41 PM)

I've said before that I think it's a great chance for NC State to look like one of the most deceivingly good teams in the country. 7-0 wouldn't surprise me in the least.

Logan (Blacksburg, va)

If the sec comes calling my hokies, it would be the mistake of a lifetime to say no. There isn't one legitimate reason to stay in the acc. Travel isn't really different considering we go to miami, tallahassee, and boston as it is. There is way more money there, the acc gets no national respect, our recruiting would go through the roof, and we fit in better. With other teams in the sec. Why would they say no?

Heather Dinich
  (1:42 PM)

It sounds like half the ACC fans want to jump to the SEC today.

Steven (Blacksburg)

UVa fans just don't get it, do they? If VT loses when they represent a conference, EVERYONE loses. So, by not rooting for VT when they played Stanford, UVa fans were essentially rooting against themselves. Not too smart for an "ivy league" school.

Heather Dinich
  (1:43 PM)

That's kinda sorta how I thought most ACC fans would feel, but hey, rivalries bring out the best in people. :)

Adam (New Hartford, NY)

As a VT fan, I don't root for UVA to lose. Haven't they suffered enough?

Heather Dinich
  (1:43 PM)

Haha ... now see? This is the kind of rivarly talk I love ...

Andrew (DAVENPORT,IA)

How effective to you think Logan Thomas from VA Tech will be this year for the Hokies?

Heather Dinich
  (1:44 PM)

Based on everything I've seen/heard/read, he'll be effective enough to get them to the ACC title game.

Jordan (New York)

As a Nole I usually root for Miami for their OOC games, but I will never root for UF!

Heather Dinich
  (1:44 PM)

I don't think ACC fans will hold that against you, Jordan.

Jeff (Milwaukee)

As a Noles fan, I will NEVER root for Miami to win.

Heather Dinich
  (1:45 PM)

You've got some company on that one, Jeff. That's the vibe from several FSU fans in here.

Nathan (Kingsport, TN)

Who is Florida State's biggest competition in the Atlantic Division?

Heather Dinich
  (1:46 PM)

I think it's a toss-up between Clemson and NC State. I'll go with Clemson because that one is on the road.

Luke (TN)

I dont want Clemson to go to the SEC. No upside for the Tigers. We havent been able to compete consistently in the ACC, why go to the much tougher SEC? We have plenty of money and a much better shot at a BCS bowl where we are.

Heather Dinich
  (1:46 PM)

Agreed. Clemson needs to win an ACC title and beat South Carolina again before it starts thinking about the SEC.

Chris (Troutville, VA)

what are the chances that David Wilson breaks Ryan williams single season yards rushing mark this year, and if he does and the Hokies far well with our soft serve schedule, what are his chances at the Heisman?

Heather Dinich
  (1:47 PM)

I'm buying into the David Wilson hype. Check the blog after the chat for more on that.

Mark (NYC)

Last Year BC had the worst offense in the country and still finished 4-4 in the ACC. How do you see BC this year with the new OC and one year of experience?

Heather Dinich
  (1:48 PM)

The same -- a contender in November. I just don't see them closing the gap enough to beat FSU AND NC State in November. I think they'll be in the mix again, but man, they close with a tough sked (four road trips). And BC hasn't exactly bowled anyone over on the road.

The Like Ninja (Unknown)

HD, who would win the ACC coaches battle royale?

Heather Dinich
  (1:50 PM)

Based on past experience, I'd say Frank Beamer or Jimbo Fisher, but let me tell you -- Paul Johnson is scary smart.

Lexie (DC)

If you had to pick one game for Wake to "steal" this year, which would it be?

Heather Dinich
  (1:52 PM)

That's a tough call because I think MOST of the games on their sked could be considered a steal, but I'll go with the home game against NC State. Still early in the season, Wake could have the edge at QB and RB.

Jason (Richmond)

I dont want VT to go to the SEC. We would probably lose most of our in state talent as a result. I do not see our Septembers improving in that conference let alone going undefeated in conference play.

Heather Dinich
  (1:53 PM)

I don't think recruiting would be affected, but you are absolutely right in that Virginia Tech's record against top competition would be a consistent major headline.

Kent (Richmond, Va)

As a VT fan, I must say I root for UVA when they are playing other conferences.. Like the USC game last year. Now who I choose to bet on is a different story...

Heather Dinich
  (1:53 PM)

Ha!

John ((Richmond, VA))

B.C. ACC Champs 2011! The Eagles are always have a great D and they will not be inept on offense this season.

Heather Dinich
  (1:54 PM)

They WILL have a great D, and they won't be inept on offense, but Florida State is a better team, and has more depth/experience up front on both sides.

Heels Yeah (ACCYLUM)

I know you've changed your pick for UNC to be the darkhorse. Do you still know that we have the same players playing and the same play calling coaches calling the plays? Everyone has said Butch Davis was a great X's and O's coach and recruiter, but was a horrible in game coach.

Heather Dinich
  (1:56 PM)

Yep, that's a pretty fair assesment, Heels, but I just think that these players have been through a ton, and come October, they'll be dealing with the NCAA again. This distraction is not going away this season.

Brian (Atlanta, GA)

Lots of talk about leaving the ACC...but honestly, FSU seems to be the only team ready to take on an SEC schedule...they have an SEC minded coach, and their recruiting puts them at the top nationally. I don't see the same from other ACC schools.

Heather Dinich
  (1:56 PM)

Nor do I, which is why FSU is at the top of my list. Last year they beat Florida and South Carolina. Not a bad start for Jimbo.

Jason (Durham, NC)

With the league's (possibly the nation's?) best kicker, one of the few returning QB's and possibly the league's best WR crew, can Duke make any noise this year?

Heather Dinich
  (1:57 PM)

Yes, but only if you consider "noise" to be a bowl game, a win over Wake Forest, and only if the defense wakes up.

Christopher (Miami)

Heather, what kind of season does Al Golden have to have to make the fans happy in Miami?

Heather Dinich
  (1:58 PM)

I dunno, Miami fans, you tell me. There's no reason not to expect a winning season in which the Canes contend for the Coastal, but again, this NCAA investigation could be a problem.

William (Mt. Pleasant)

Heather, as a Clemson graduate and fan I read my fair share of harsh comments directed toward my Tigers, both in and out of conference. Regardless, I pull for the other conference members when they play out of conference.I can not think of two better candidates for the SEC than Clemson and Florida State and I think there would be plenty of upside for both however I feel there is plenty enough in the ACC as well.

Heather Dinich
  (2:00 PM)

You're as pleasant as the town you live in, William, take a stand - in our out of the SEC? :) Again, I think Clemson has to win in the ACC first.

Steven (Blacksburg)

VT has the most SEC-like fan base in the ACC, easily.

Heather Dinich
  (2:01 PM)

Really? I think Clemson does.

Heather Dinich
  (2:01 PM)

Ok guys, great discussion today on the rivalries. Thanks for joining me and stay tuned on the Miami story. See you in the blogosphere.hd