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NATIONAL PREVIEW

Five points

September 01, 2007|Diane Pucin

* Florida State has lost 22 games over the past five seasons and the Seminoles play seven of their eight toughest games of this season on the road. Coach Bobby Bowden reacted to last season's dreary 7-6 record by blaming the assistants; or at least that's how it looked. He has four new coaches on the offensive side and Bowden is recycling Chuck Amato as linebackers coach. It was the position Amato had in Tallahassee before taking the head job at North Carolina State and then getting fired.

* The heartening "feel good" story of last season -- Wake Forest winning the conference championship and representing the ACC in the Bowl Championship Series -- made for some "feel bad" moments for several veteran coaches. Miami's Larry Coker (replaced by Randy Shannon); North Carolina's John Bunting (replaced by Butch Davis, who used to coach Miami) and North Carolina State's aforementioned Amato (replaced by Boston College's Tom O'Brien) were all fired, partly for not beating Wake Forest.

* Wake Forest won't want to wait another 105 years for its next breakout season. Being unaccustomed to high rankings and winning seasons, Coach Jim Grobe's team has goals unfamiliar to the Florida States and Miamis of the conference. For example, since the ACC was formed in 1953, Wake Forest has never had three consecutive winning seasons. Only two more to go. Building on an 11-3 record and an Orange Bowl appearance makes going over .500 this season seem possible.

* How will it go for Virginia Tech? Will the Hokies ride an emotional wave of good wishes in the first season after the tragic April on-campus murders, or will the program face ill will in the aftermath of the Michael Vick dogfighting revelations? Coach Frank Beamer has 16 returning starters -- eight offense, eight defense -- and those veterans will be needed to help the Hokies navigate opening games at Boston College and at home against Nebraska. The Hokies had the nation's top-ranked defense in 2006, and big-hitting, big-play linebackers Vince Hall and Xavier Adibi have predicted similar results this season.

* This may not be good news for Miami fans. Rookie Coach Shannon wasn't able to choose a quarterback until Tuesday, when he tabbed junior Kirby Freeman to be the starter over fifth-year senior Kyle Wright. Neither player was allowed to speak to the media during spring practice or this summer. In the past three seasons, at a school where quarterbacks used to rule, the passing attack has ranked no better than 43rd in the country.

-- Diane Pucin

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Quick facts

* AP preseason top 25: No. 9 Virginia Tech, No. 19 Florida State.

* AP final 2006 rankings: No. 18 Wake Forest, No. 19 Virginia Tech, No. 20 Boston College.

* 2007 conference projection: (Atlantic) 1. Florida State (7-6 overall, 3-5 in ACC in 2006). 2. Boston College (10-3, 5-3). 3. Clemson (8-5, 5-3). 4. Wake Forest (11-3, 6-2). 5. Maryland (9-4, 5-3). 6. North Carolina State (3-9, 2-6). (Coastal) 1. Virginia Tech (10-3, 6-2). 2. Georgia Tech (9-5, 7-1). 3. Miami (7-6, 3-5). 4. Virginia (5-7, 4-4). 5. North Carolina (3-9, 2-6). 6. Duke (0-12, 0-8).

* 2006-07 bowl record: 4-4.

* Last season vs. Pac-10: 1-0.

* Key Pac-10 win: none.

* Key ACC win: Florida State 44, UCLA 27 (Happy memories from the USC upset fade as the Bruins give up three touchdowns in the final quarter of the Emerald Bowl.)

* This season vs. Pac-10: None.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

* Calais Campbell, Jr., DE, Miami, made 84 tackles including 10.5 sacks and 20.5 tackles for losses.

* Vince Hall, Sr., LB, Virginia Tech, 128 tackles last season, leader of the conference's best defense.

* Branden Ore, Jr., RB, Virginia Tech, last season ran for 1,137 yards and 16 touchdowns.

* Kenny Phillips, Jr., S, Miami, made 71 tackles and had four interceptions in 2006.

* Matt Ryan, Sr., QB, Boston College, was tabbed in the preseason as the conference's offensive player of the year after passing for 2,942 yards last season.

-- Eric Maddy

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