I guess you guys read the power rankings yesterday ...
Doug in Coral Gables, Fla., writes: Heather,Please explain to me all the hype surrounding Florida State. Miami beat them last year in THEIR building and we are bringing back more experience. I respect FSU and think that they could be slightly worse than UNC, but 2nd in the ACC? Everyone seems to forget this team lost 4 of its first five legitimate games and almost lost to 1AA Jacksonville State.
HD: I understand where you're coming from, Doug, really I do. But it's impossible to ignore Florida State's offense, starting up front. That should be one of the best offensive lines in the country, and to me, that's FSU's biggest reason for hope. That and the fact the Noles only lost one starter on offense. And the way I look at the defense -- well, it can't get much worse. There have been nothing but positive remarks coming out of Tallahassee on the direction the program is headed under Jimbo Fisher, convincing me that change is underway. Of course, they've got to prove it this fall. And who says I don't think Miami has a chance to win it all this year? ...
Jon in Blacksburg, Va., writes: Why is it that you seem to always feel Miami will beat us in a given season? Last year you thought they were going to win it all (and Pat Forde) and this year you pick them to upset us on Nov. 20th? I don't know if it's just me but I just don't think they are that great of a team.
HD: Well, I was in Miami two years ago when the Canes DID beat Virginia Tech, so I know it can happen. (I was also in Blacksburg last year when the Hokies won, so I've seen the flip-side, too). I just think that with Jacory Harris being a junior, and the entire offense now having a year under Mark Whipple, the Canes have what it takes to take the next step. There is a lot of skill and speed on that team, and there is also mounting pressure for Randy Shannon in his fourth season. Those things are bound to add up eventually. But hey, don't count out Georgia Tech in the Coastal Division ...
Matt in Atlanta, Ga., writes: Heather, You always seem to underestimate GT. But, I guess Paul Johnson will prove the media wrong once again this year. And what is with this hype about Clemson? They are not that good. Tech beat them twice with a absolutely sorry defense. Now, then don't even have CJ Spiller and Jacoby Ford. If they win the Atlantic, it's just because somebody has to take the Atlantic title.
HD: Maybe I do underestimate Georgia Tech, but don't forget I picked Tech to beat Iowa in the Orange Bowl. The Jackets have some legitimate reasons to doubt them this year, including the loss of two first-round draft picks, a new defensive coordinator and a new defensive scheme. As for the Clemson hype, I think people are underestimating the Tigers. Jamie Harper and Andre Ellington will ease the loss of Spiller. They do need to find some consistency at receiver, though. The defense will be the strength ... at least until it plays Georgia Tech in late October, right?
Tom in Portage, Ind., writes: Recently there was a suggestion that the SEC was considering going after Florida State as a new member. If the Big 10 does expand, how vulnerable is the ACC and how will the conference respond? Also, if other conferences go to as many as 16 teams, is this something the ACC will consider?
HD: From what I gather, the ACC is on the backburner in all of this expansion talk, and would be one of the last conferences to be affected if at all. It's an impossible question to answer until we see HOW the Big Ten expands. Personally, I don't see what the Big Ten would have to gain by adding a team like Rutgers. Notre Dame? Yeah, that would make a difference and make sense, and the trickle-down effect would probably be moot. I do know the ACC likes its current 12-team alignment just the way it is and would rather not see anything change. Speaking of Notre Dame ...
Drew in Boston writes: Why would you write a column about the ACC's out-of-conference schedules and write about ever single team in the ACC except Boston College? Granted, their OOC schedule isn't great, but it still has ND and deserves some sort of analysis. And the decided lack of BC coverage on this blog has not only been noticeable, but insulting. We may be up north, but we're in the ACC too, Heather.
HD: I KNEW I should've put a disclaimer at the top of that post. That wasn't an intentional slight on BC, it was a slight on the Eagles' schedule. They don't play any nonconference opponents we have ranked! Sorry, but Notre Dame doesn't cut it. Last I checked, the Irish lost to Navy last year. And Syracuse is still one of the worst teams in the Big East. The whole point of that post was to see how the top opponents stack up. Not yet, anyway. And I just wrote about BC yesterday afternoon.
Kevin in Tokyo, Japan, writes: Heather,Glad to see you back at work. Hope all's well with the munchkin. The perennial fall of Miami and FSU seems to have others viewing the ACC as a weak conference. Do you think putting them high in the preseason rankings on an annual basis hurts the conference reputation, especially when neither has proven anything?
HD: Thanks, Kevin! I never thought of it that way, but to answer your question, no. The rankings don't hurt the ACC's reputation, the results do. It's good for those programs to have high expectations -- they should. It's time, though, for both of them to meet those expectations.
Daniel in Durham writes: Heather, I love reading your blog, but how could you put Duke 11th in your ranking? I'm not arguing that Duke is a contender in the ACC by any stretch of the imagination, but you have them behind Maryland and NC State, two teams that they beat last year. They also got a good schedule against the Atlantic by not playing FSU or Clemson. What keeps you from putting them higher in your rankings?
HD: One main thing -- no Thaddeus Lewis, the quarterback who beat Maryland and NC State last year. The staff has a lot of faith in Sean Renfree, who is very talented, but he'll be in his first season as a full-time starter and missed the spring with a torn ACL. Also, Duke's running game has really struggled, and the defensive line still has holes to plug.