Flattery gets you nowhere ... except into the mailblog:
Brandon Shreve in Charleston, S.C., writes: I agree that Miami is not a sleeper pick when they are #1 choice for the Coastal, but I love your WF pick ... took a lot of nerve and foresight ... good job.
Heather Dinich: Why thank you.
Jeff in Lake Mary, Fla., writes: Heather you seem to be stuck on the last decade's old news, you know? Clemson. Stop me if you've heard this before. Clemson will challenge for the title. Blah blah blah. Oh, they won't win it, again. Look Heather are you missing it? The league is getting solid top to bottom. All teams must show up. Who would have thought Duke last year or GT in their bowl game. UNC with [coach Larry] Fedora in their first year, NCSU beating FSU oh wait. That's a given. Do you get it. Clemson hyped again? We have heard this before. There are probably 4 teams with a shot at winning the ACC but there are at least another 3 to 4 teams that will have a say in that. I'm out.
HD: You need to spend more time with Brandon in Charleston. No way can you point to last year and tell me the league is getting solid top to bottom. More like bottom out. Last year was dreadful. The worst I've seen. Worst anyone in the conference has ever seen. Georgia Tech wasn't even the best team in the division. Fortunately, it was an anomaly, and you're right -- this is an unpredictable league, but if you look back in recent years, even through all of that unpredictability, Clemson and Florida State have been right at the top. Unless somebody else starts hauling in top-10 recruiting classes, they're not going anywhere.
Todd in Williamsburg, Va., writes: Everyone keeps writing VT off for this year and the future. It's all about FSU and Clemson to the point it's sickening. Do not discount [defensive coordinator] Bud Foster and [head coach Frank] Beamer's passion for winning. Yes, 7-6 stinks but we will back!!!
HD: I don't doubt it, but when? You're right, the Hokies should have one of the best defenses in the ACC this year. Offensively, though, they still have a lot to prove. The questions about the future are coming less as a result of last season and more as a result of Beamer's age. What does the future hold for him? How much longer will he be there? Who will be his successor? Will there be an exit plan? Who will take over for Logan Thomas? Every program goes through turnover, and the offensive staff just had some, but how much more is in store?
William Mitchell in Fort Worth, Texas, writes: Why is Va Tech not listed as a choice while Miami and UNC are in the poll who will be the best team in the next 3 years? Va Tech has dominated the conference since joining, despite a down year, it would be a farfetched assumption that the team with the most titles and most NFL players over the last 10 years were to be dismissed as permanently down? I agree Miami has recruited well, but they have for a few years now with nothing to show for it but a .500 record.
HD: No way do I think VT is "permanently down" -- Beamer has built the program beyond that, but I do think the other programs have fewer questions moving forward, hence the answer to Todd above.
Chris C in San Jose, Calif., writes: Based on the penalties that Oregon received, in your opinion how hard or weak do you think the COI's penalties will be for my Hurricanes? With self-imposed bowl bans, it stands to reason that we should receive a somewhat similar fate, right?
HD: Oh, Miami fans. Don't get your hopes up, guys. You can't compare the two cases by any means and there is no way to predict what the NCAA Committee on Infractions will do. The only thing it has been consistent on is its inconsistency. AA has a good take on it, which you can read here.
Bob Cicogna in Shadyside, Ohio, writes: Heather, I enjoyed reading your article about Florida State and Clemson. What do you think Georgia Tech's chances are of contending in the Coastal, especially with a new quarterback?
HD: I listed the Yellow Jackets as a sleeper pick option in the poll this week, Bob, because I think they've got just as good of a chance as anyone in that division. I don't think they're as good as Miami or UNC -- and a lot of that has to do with the experience at quarterback and what those programs have on their offensive lines -- but I think Vad Lee will be an upgrade. The question is whether or not they can find somebody to throw it to on the few times they do decide to pass. Overall, I think they'll be a much better team than last year -- but so will the rest of the division.
Steven Smith in Jacksonville, Fla., writes: Presuming the ACC wants ND to join as a full football member, wouldn't Navy be a better 16th team than Cincinnati or UConn? ND would have another annual matchup in league (like BC), and allow it 4 out-of-conference slots for USC etc. Navy is top-flight academically, and almost attracts as many viewers in the MD/DC area as the Terps, and certainly more nationally. (Granted, the timing of the Army-Navy would be difficult, but realistically, how many times would Navy win the North?) Then, the ACC could split North/South or East/West.
HD: I love the Navy pick. I've even mentioned it before, but I don't think the ACC has ever seriously considered Navy. I'm not sure why. For all of the reasons and matchups you mentioned, it always made perfect sense to me. I haven't gotten any indication the ACC is thinking about 16 teams right now, so to me it's a completely premature discussion, but if it ever became a hot topic again, I'd have no problem giving Navy my vote as a member of the ACC. Then again, remember I have football tunnel vision.
Brett in Ashburn, Va., writes: Heather, I know the 2014 bowl lineup has yet to be released but from all that I've seen the Chick-fil-A Bowl looks to no longer be a part of the ACC line up. Any ideas why?
HD: Yup. It's going to be a host bowl in the new playoff system. It's unfortunate it will be out of the lineup -- it was a top-tier bowl -- but if the ACC gets a team into the playoff, it can still play there, and it is still within the league's footprint.
Isaiah in RDU, N.C., writes: Heather, I am an avid Duke fan. I was so encouraged by our success last year. We made it to a bowl game, led for the majority of the game, had a very weak secondary, and yet if we could just take away one fumble on the goal line we come away winners. My question comes in response to the future power rankings blogs. After reading them, give me some reasons to be optimistic. Because I feel like the only thing ESPN did was say, well, the ACC expanded to 15 teams so let's just move Duke down to 15th. Where I'm sitting, it looks like the last two starting QBs at Duke could have been the statisical best in the ACC and the actual best even with 2nd tier athletes at WR and a super inconsistent OL. Plus we have Cutt, and I think he's at least in the top third of coaches in the ACC. So give me some hope missing from the article.
HD: Here is the problem with having 14 teams in a league -- it makes the power rankings harder and, well, more depressing if your team is at or near the bottom. Somebody, though, has to be there. You named your hope: David Cutcliffe. He's a great coach, he has turned things around, changed the expectations in the program and brought in a better class of recruits. In order to work its way up the power rankings, though, it can't be satisfied with just a bowl, and those guys know that. Duke didn't do squat last year after it beat North Carolina. It certainly didn't help to have back-to-back games against Florida State and Clemson, and the Belk Bowl loss to Cincinnati was an absolute heartbreaker, but there is still plenty of room for improvement in Durham.