Every July, the ACC coaches and select players meet in the capital of ACC country, Greensboro, NC. A city not known for much else, and one that most people choose to ignore. Unfortunately, for those of us in the ACC, Greensboro is the bitter reminder that it is not the Atlantic Coast Conference, but instead the All-Carolina Conference.
Regardless of your views on Greensboro, the ACC met this week and the media announced their picks for the upcoming ACC football season. In no surprise, they picked Clemson to win the Atlantic and Miami to win the Coastal division. Maryland was gifted a fifth place selection in the Atlantic Division.
Since 2005, the ACC has had two six-team divisions, and while it isn’t the largest sample size, looking over the past preseason polls gives us a good opportunity to see how teams stack up to their early season hype. Of course, remember that preseason polls are just that (there is no real basis used) and it’s just a combination of writers making picks.
Florida State – The Seminoles have only not been picked to win the ACC Atlantic twice. In 2008, they were picked to finish third, and 2013 they were picked to finish second. With such expectations yearly, there isn’t much room for them to exceed expectations. Regardless, they have won the Atlantic division three times since 2005. In 2006 and in 2007 they thoroughly disappointed the media when they finished fifth and fourth respectively.
The ACC media isn’t the only one baited into the Seminoles in the preseason. Since 2005, they have only been omitted from one AP preseason poll (2005). At the end of the season, that’s a different story. Florida State has only finished a season ranked in the top 15 once, but have been preseason top 15 four times. Actually, not being picked to win the division might be better for Florida State. In 2008, they were picked third, and not in the preseason polls. They finished the year ranked 21st, and second in the Atlantic.
Clemson – Despite having the ACC Preseason Player of the Year, there should be some worry in Death Valley with the preseason hype. The Tigers have only been accurately selected in the preseason poll once (2012), and have finished lower than there preseason pick three times. On top of that, Clemson has been ranked in the AP Preseason Poll three times, but in those three years, only finished ranked in the final poll once (2012).
The 2008 campaign was the worst for Clemson, who started ranked ninth in the preseason poll and picked to win the Atalntic, the only time until this year that they were picked to finish first. That year, Clemson came in fifth place in the Atlantic, and was unranked at the end of the year. Three of the four times Clemson finished a season ranked, they had started the season unranked. Tiger fans can say that this year will be different, but history hasn’t been on their side when the preseason media adores them.
Boston College – One of the more interesting teams when it comes to preseason expectations is Boston College. We’ll look at the Eagles in two periods: Pre-Spaziani and with Spaziani, as it might be the only way to make sense of it.
In 2005, they were correctly picked to finish second in the division, and a preseason #22 (they finished at 18). This was under Tom O’Brien, who in his final year (2006) took an unranked Boston College team picked to finished third, to another second place finish and ranked twenty in the final polls. Jeff Jagodzinski took over for O’Brien and continued the trend in his two seasons as the Eagles coach. Both years he won the Atlantic division after being picked second (2007) and fourth (2008). They started both seasons unranked, and only finished one season ranked (2007- 10th).
Frank Spaziani took over in 2009, and in his first year preseason ranked sixth in the Atlantic, the Eagles finished second behind Clemson. Since 2009, Boston College has finished fourth, fifth, and sixth, all of which were one spot lower than their preseason ranking. Good news for Eagles fans: they can’t continue that trend this year. Boston College was picked to finish in last place this season. Last time they were picked that low, they finished in second.
North Carolina State – Honest question, is there ever a good time to be a State fan? Since 2005, the Wolfpack have only exceed their preseason ranking once (2005). In that time they have been accurately picked to finish in last place twice, and last season accurately picked to finish third. Every other year, North Carolina State did worse than their preseason ranking. In other funny North Carolina State facts: the Wolfpack are the only Atlantic division team, since 2005, to never finish a season in second or first place. The Wolfpack were picked to finish in third place this year, and if history has shown anything, it says they are safe bet to finish fourth or worse.
Wake Forest – Who has exceed their preseason rank the best? The 2006 Demon Deacons were picked to finish the year in sixth place, but went on to win the Atlantic division and were ranked eightieth in the final AP Poll. Wake Forest has been tricking the media for awhile now. Three times they were picked to finish in last place, but only did so once in those three years. The highest they have been picked in the preseason was second place (2008), but then finished in fourth place. This was also the only time they were in the preseason AP Poll, but were left off in the final ranking. Last year they were accurately picked to finish fourth, and picked to finish in the same spot this year. It’s tough to gather anything concrete from Wake’s history, so I’ll take the safe bet of saying they will finish anywhere between first and seventh, but not fourth.
Maryland – Finally, how do our Terps fare when compared with the preseason expectations? Well, it’s relatively average.
Maryland has not been ranked in the preseason poll since the twelve team expansion, and only once finished ranked in the final poll (2010- 23rd). If it makes Terp fans feel better, the media has only accurately picked Maryland’s finish twice (2005 and 2007). Maryland has also finished worse three of the past four seasons than their preseason pick. Maryland has never finished worse than one spot below the preseason prediction, however two of three times they were picked fifth and finished sixth.
Maryland’s fifth place prediction this year is in line with their 5.11 average. For those going crazy about a Carolina bias, I usually agree with you, but this time the number’s don’t back it up. In 2010 Maryland made the media look foolish when they finished in second after being picked sixth. This was the only time that Maryland blew away their preseason prediction. Aside from 2010, Maryland exceed their expectations twice, but in 2006 it was only finishing third instead of fourth, and in 2008 finishing third instead of fifth. Good news for the Terps is that North Carolina State (3rd) is historically worse, and Wake Forest (4th) is a crap shoot.
Takeaways from the Atlantic division: Clemson isn’t a safe bet to win the division, Boston College is a safe bet to finish better than last, and North Carolina State is a safe bet to finish worse than third.
For the Coastal picks, go here.