Head coach: David Cutcliffe (4-8 in one season at Duke, 48-37 overall).
2008 record: 4-8 (1-7 ACC).
Players to watch: QB Thaddeus Lewis (2,171 passing yards, 15 passing touchdowns in 2008); LB Vincent Rey (109 total tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss); DT Vince Oghobaase (51 tackles).
Game of the year: Nov. 7 at North Carolina. It may not be basketball, but this in-state rivalry could have a big impact on how well Duke’s Coastal Division schedule progresses.
Cutcliffe says: “We’re throwing and catching better, we’re being where we’re supposed to be in coverage better, just retention — with coaches not having to make any critical assignment corrections — so that’s been really, really good in that regard.”
Ledger-Enquirer says: Last year’s 4-8 mark was a noted improvement for the team that repeatedly has found itself in the basement of the ACC. The key to Duke’s success will revolve around its passing game, specifically how well Lewis can take over a particular game and carry his team.
Schedule: Sept. 5 vs. Richmond; Sept. 12 at Army; Sept. 19 at Kansas; Sept. 26 vs. North Carolina Central; Oct. 3 vs. Virginia Tech; Oct. 10 at North Carolina State; Oct. 24 vs. Maryland; Oct. 31 at Virginia; Nov. 7 at North Carolina; Nov. 14 vs. Georgia Tech; Nov. 21 vs. Miami; Nov. 28 at Wake Forest.
Head coach: Randy Shannon (12-13 in two seasons at Miami, 12-13 overall).
2008 record: 7-6 (4-4 ACC).
Players to watch: RB Graig Cooper (841 rushing yards in 2008); QB Jacory Harris (1,195 passing yards, 12 passing touchdowns); PK Matt Bosher (40-for-40 on extra points, 18-for-20 on field goals).
Game of the year: Sept. 17 vs. Georgia Tech. After taking on Florida State in a rare season-opener two weeks prior, Miami’s contest with Georgia Tech will be a key indicator as far as how good the Hurricanes are.
Shannon says: “Miami’s never been a school that always had a chance that wanted to stay for a long time. I’m an alumnus, I like Miami. I plan on staying here a long time.”
Ledger-Enquirer says: Miami is one of the big unknowns in the ACC this season. Conventional wisdom says the rich history of the program and Shannon’s bulldog mentality, could combine to bring the Hurricanes back to the glory days they once long enjoyed.
Schedule: Sept. 7 at Florida State, Sept. 17 vs. Georgia Tech, Sept. 26 at Virginia Tech, Oct. 3 vs. Oklahoma, Oct. 10 vs. Florida A&M, Oct. 17 at Central Florida, Oct. 24 vs. Clemson, Oct. 31 at Wake Forest, Nov. 7 vs. Virginia, Nov. 14 at North Carolina, Nov. 21 vs. Duke, Nov. 28 at South Florida.
Head coach: Butch Davis (12-13 in two seasons at North Carolina, 63-33 overall).
2008 record: 8-5 (4-4 ACC).
Players to watch: LB Quan Sturdivant (122 total tackles in 2008); RB Shaun Draughn (866 rushing yards).
Game of the year: Oct. 29 at Virginia Tech. Expected to be one of the Coastal Division’s top teams this year, North Carolina will have to run through the likes of Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech in order to do so. Catching the Hokies in the middle of the season may play to the Tar Heels’ advantage, as they’ll have a few extra weeks to make up ground if they lose this showdown. Either way, Lane Stadium should be rocking.
Davis says: “I’m concerned, yeah. I’ve got to be. We’ve got some work to do to replace those guys, and I made the statement: We are not going to be as good at receiver Sept. 3 as we were any time last year. Do I think we’re going to be OK and should we improve as the season goes along? Absolutely. I’ll be thoroughly disappointed if those guys don’t come on and play.”
Ledger-Enquirer says: Davis has brought this program out of obscurity and back into the yearly conference debate. The Tar Heels will have a difficult mountain to climb, however, if this season is to be even better than the last. They’ll have to go on the road to face both of the teams expected to stand between them and the ACC title game.
Schedule: Sept. 5 vs. The Citadel, Sept. 12 at Connecticut, Sept. 16 vs. East Carolina, Sept. 26 at Georgia Tech, Oct. 3 vs. Virginia, Oct. 10 vs. Georgia Southern, Oct. 22 vs. Florida State, Oct. 29 at Virginia Tech, Nov. 7 vs. Duke, Nov. 14 vs. Miami, Nov. 21 at Boston College, Nov. 28 at North Carolina State.
Head coach: Al Groh (56-44 in eight seasons at Virginia, 82-84 overall).
2008 record:5-7 (3-5 ACC).
Players to watch: QB Marc Verica (2,037 passing yards, eight passing touchdowns in 2008); QB/DB Vic Hall (forced five fumbles),
Game of the year: Nov. 28 vs. Virginia Tech. Nothing is more exciting than a rivalry game, and if Virginia exceeds expectations and is in the hunt come the final week of the year, this contest could make for an interesting Coastal Division finish.
Groh says: “We’re hoping that with the inexperience at the linebacker positions, at least the trade-off is that they’ll be playing behind three guys (on defensive line) who have significant snaps.”
Ledger-Enquirer says: By most accounts, this will be another tough year for the Cavaliers, and the calls for Groh’s departure likely will begin to grow. It will be hard for Virginia to be the contender it would like to be after losing several key defensive stars from last year’s team.
Schedule: Sept. 5 vs. William & Mary, Sept. 12 vs. TCU, Sept. 19 at Southern Mississippi, Oct. 3 at North Carolina, Oct. 10 vs. Indiana, Oct. 17 at Maryland, Oct. 24 vs. Georgia Tech, Oct. 31 vs. Duke, Nov. 7 at Miami, Nov. 14 vs. Boston College, Nov. 21 at Clemson, Nov. 28 vs. Virginia Tech.
Head coach: Frank Beamer (177-89-2 in 22 seasons at Virginia Tech, 219-112-4 overall).
2008 record: 10-4 (5-3 ACC).
Players to watch: QB Tyrod Taylor (seven rushing touchdowns in 2008); LB Cody Grimm (71 total tackles, 7.5 sacks); DE Jason Worilds (62 total tackles, eight sacks).
Game of the year: Sept. 5 vs. Alabama (at Georgia Dome, Atlanta). As Clemson proved last year, the first game of the year can dictate the rest of a team’s season. The Hokies hope to have better fortunes than the Tigers did in last year’s Chick-fil-A Kickoff against Alabama, but a late-preseason injury could halt those plans.
Beamer says: “If you win a game like (the season-opener against Alabama), it gives you great energy, great momentum. If you lose, then you’re still not out of it. So I think there’s reason to play that game, but you can’t get ahead of yourself.”
Ledger-Enquirer says: Despite losing Darren Evans to a season-ending ACL tear, the Hokies are still the team to beat in the ACC. Each conference team which plays Virginia Tech this season has that date circled on its calendar. Projected by some to be the ACC’s main contender for a national championship, the Hokies are likely in for a rough conference slate.
Schedule: Sept. 5 vs. Alabama (at Georgia Dome, Atlanta), Sept. 12 vs. Marshall, Sept. 19 vs. Nebraska, Sept. 26 vs. Miami, Oct. 3 at Duke, Oct. 10 vs. Boston College, Oct. 17 at Georgia Tech, Oct. 29 vs. North Carolina, Nov. 5 at East Carolina, Nov. 14 at Maryland, Nov. 21 vs. North Carolina State, Nov. 28 at Virginia.