Sleeper picks have been a hot topic in the blog this week, as Andrea Adelson and I debated the issue Wednesday, and KC Joyner recently released his pick for the ACC. Surprise: none of us can seem to agree. Joyner says Canes. Andrea likes the Hokies. Me? I’m sticking with the Deacs.
Your vote counts, too.
Florida State and Clemson are again the favorites to win the ACC this year, but you know how this league goes -- anything can happen, and it usually does. So who’s got the best chance to dethrone them? Your sleeper pick, of course.
We’ve narrowed it down to five choices for you, including ours (sorry, UNC, we think you're too close to contender to be categorized as a sleeper):
1. Miami: Nobody returns more starters in the ACC than the Canes, with 19. Andrea and I agree that we don’t count the Canes in the “true sleeper” category. They’ve got a veteran quarterback in Stephen Morris and the league’s 2012 ACC Rookie of the Year in Duke Johnson. Every starter returns on both the offensive and defensive lines. If Miami isn’t a contender for the ACC title this year, the Canes have underachieved.
2. Virginia Tech: Expectations have been tempered outside the program after what was the worst season in the past 20 years, but those within it are encouraged by the progress the offense made this spring. First-year offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler said that the spring game wasn’t a true indication of how the rest of the spring went (much better), but that the performance gave his players an even greater sense of urgency this summer.
3. Wake Forest: The Demon Deacons have a veteran quarterback returning in Tanner Price, but the offensive line remains the team’s biggest concern. The Deacs are expected to run the ball more this year, and will turn Price loose, but they’ll also be depending heavily upon their defense, which returns nine starters.
4. Pitt: Coach Paul Chryst has started to change the culture, and expectations within the program have been raised. Don’t forget that the Panthers beat the Hokies last year and took Notre Dame to triple overtime before losing. Searching for that kind of effort on a consistent basis will be the priority this fall, as Pitt lost four games by a total of 21 points last year. The Panthers need to find a dependable quarterback, but return nine starters on defense.
5. Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets aren’t getting a lot of ink this preseason, but they’re right in the muddled mix with everyone else in the Coastal Division. The defense should be better under first-year coordinator Ted Roof, they’ve got one of the best linebackers in the conference in Jeremiah Attaochu, and the offense is in good hands -- Paul Johnson’s. You know they're going to run the ball effectively. Vad Lee could be an upgrade at quarterback, but wide receiver is a concern.