University, MS (U-WIRE) -- With only a month and a half - agonizing though it is - left before the college football season kicks off, it is time to start talking about college football. I will be a newly minted 21-year-old when our Rebels open play against Tiger High School. Excitement will surely abound as we travel to the Liberty Bowl (that stadium we reluctantly agree to travel to bi-annually, and Southern Miss hopes and prays it gets invited to every December). But we have August to talk about our coach, quarterback triad and punishing linebacker core. Plus, I need a warm-up column before I start writing about the prospects of erasing last year's abomination from memory.
With that in mind, we will take this week to break down the conference that many confused and lonely college football analysts misperceive to rival the SEC in football awesomeness - the Atlantic Coast Conference.
When talking about the ACC, the first thing that comes to one's mind is a confused man running wildly down a Tallahassee street proclaiming himself to be the sovereign of the universe - projected Florida State starter at quarterback Wyatt Sexton. Usually such a wild, fanatical idea would be a deviation of my own mind, but, unfortunately for Sexton, FSU head coach Bobby Bowden and the millions of bandwagon fans who still think it's the 1990s and Florida State is the best team in the country, he really did run down the streets of Tallahassee screaming that he was God - which, let me say from experience, is not a great way to get girls. If national embarrassment was not bad enough, now poor Wyatt has Lyme Disease and will miss the entire season. This is bad news. FSU fans will surely agree, since almost all of them were calling for Sexton to replace embattled former quarterback Chris Rix (no, really, this year is his year) in the middle of last season.
With the looming quarterback question and perhaps Florida State's least experienced team in 15 years, things look bleak in Tallahassee - but not that bleak. Even with all the questions, Florida State should challenge for the division title, but an ACC Championship may be asking too much.
As always, Miami looks loaded, but their schedule is not easy. The Canes must travel north to Blacksburg to face division rival Virginia Tech. Larry Coker, though, will have a team that is nasty on defense with playmakers like Devin Hester at cornerback. The offense is high on prospects and low on proven production.
You may be thinking, "That sounds like a team I have heard of." Fans of both the Hurricanes and the Rebels need not worry that Miami will struggle the way the Rebels did last year. If Miami can beat Beamer in Blacksburg, the way will be open for its first ACC Title.
Speaking of Blacksburg, Virginia Tech, who last year was supposed to be one year away, is wondering why everyone is forgetting that they are the defending champs of this league. Marcus Vick, brother of the alien that plays in Atlanta, is back from a yearlong suspension. If Vick lives up to the name, he will be able to go gangbusters with an experienced receiving core and backfield.
The team that few people are talking about, though, is Boston College. The Eagles have a decent schedule, Virginia Tech comes to Blacksburg, and, from top to bottom, the Atlantic Division is much deeper than the Coastal Division, Boston College is good enough to handle Clemson, Wake Forrest, Maryland and NC State. The division championship should be between FSU and Boston College, and considering that it is a really long drive to Massachusetts, Boston College has the edge.
Here's the story on the ACC: new powers have reshaped this conference. Three of the four teams that have the best shot at a league title are from the old Big East. Virginia Tech and Miami have decent chances at going undefeated and hope that zeros at the end of one's record still mean championships.
Predictions: Virginia Tech wins the ACC with a spotless record, facing a 9-2 or 8-3 Boston College in a rematch in the title game. Wake, NC State, FSU, Maryland, Virginia, Miami, Georgia Tech and Clemson should all have good chances to go bowling. In fact, with the parity in the Atlantic Division, it is very possible that an ACC team with a winning record will be staying home for Christmas. However, the ACC is still only the third or fourth strongest conference. The SEC and Big 10 are both clearly deeper than the ACC.
Even though its reshuffling and realigning and downright thievery caused a lot of commotion in the college football world, this new league (when three of your four top teams were not members two years ago, you qualify as new) should be an interesting monster to watch. FSU-Miami duels for conference supremacy just make for great television. Personally, I will be celebrating my 21st in a Beale Street institution of low repute, so someone be sure to tell me how the game ends.
(C) 2004 Daily Mississippian via U-WIRE