PREDICTIONS: Pack Or Terps Will Win The ACC

Mike Glennon

College Football News ACC Blogger Justine Hendricks believes the winner of the NC State-Maryland game will win the 2011 ACC Championship Game.

Recently CFN.com asked their ACC Bloggers to submit their bold predictions for the 2011 season, and Blogger Justine Hendricks gave hers... The winner of the Maryland-NC State game will be the 2011 ACC Champion.

ABOUT THE BLOGGER: Justine Hendricks started blogging at FanNation.com in August of 2007 before starting her own blog: www.sportsinstilettos.com.

She now serves as the USC Football Correspondent for the ISportsWeb Community and is an ACC blogger for CollegeFootballNews.com.

By Justine Hendricks
Among preseason polls, Florida State and Virginia Tech were nearly unanimous picks to win their divisions, face each other in the ACC title game, and represent the conference in at least one, if not two, BCS bowl games. Both teams, though, are replacing talented, experienced quarterbacks and a number of other players now on NFL rosters, and with many other ACC teams in the same position, the competition is wide open.

The Atlantic Division race will be tightest, with FSU, Maryland and N.C. State jockeying for a shot at the title. It'll go down to the wire, and to which quarterback has the most success, especially late in the season.

Florida State's E.J. Manuel is projected to be one of the top players in the conference, and while he may be the most athletically gifted, it's too early to hand him the MVP award. He's 4-2 as a starter, playing in relief of Christian Ponder, but last year's stats - 6 touchdowns and 10 interceptions - will not take the ‘Noles to the top of the ACC, much less the BCS title game as many have predicted.

FSU's offensive line is also a concern. Seniors Andrew Datko, Zebrie Sanders, and David Spurlock are experienced standouts, but Datko's just coming back from last season's shoulder injury and Sanders and Spurlock dealt with injuries during camp. The first two games, against Louisiana-Monroe and Charleston Southern, should be easy wins, but if the O-line gets beat-up in Week Three's showdown with Oklahoma, Manuel will feel the brunt of it. He has to stay healthy for FSU to have a shot this season, something Ponder wasn't able to do playing behind that line the past two years.

Manuel's one of many new ACC quarterbacks taking over for an established starter, and while he's the most highly touted, N.C. State's Mike Glennon might be the real surprise this year.

Glennon will get his chance after the team parted ways with Russell Wilson, now starting for Wisconsin. The Wolfpack exceeded expectations with nine wins in 2010, just missing their chance at the conference title. Wilson didn't have his best season last year, and while Glennon has yet to be tested, if he's as good as advertised, he might be able to take the Wolfpack even further this season. Look for him to flourish as a starter and make head coach Tom O'Brien's decision to part ways with Wilson look like a very sage move.

Maryland is one of the only teams returning a starter at quarterback: last year's ACC Rookie of the Year Danny O'Brien (Boston College's Chase Rettig and Duke's Sean Renfree, both of whom struggled in 2010, are the others). The Terps were in a battle with N.C. State for second in the conference last season, and if O'Brien can simply replicate his success in 2011, without Torrey Smith and with a new coaching staff, Maryland will be right back in the mix. He's the only proven quarterback among the top teams in the Atlantic division and he'll only need to make slight improvements for Maryland to be at the top.

With E.J. Manuel struggling behind FSU's line, it'll come down to Maryland and N.C. State on November 26th for the Atlantic division title, and the winner of that game will face Virginia Tech for the conference title.

Virginia Tech won the ACC last year behind fourth-year quarterback Tyrod Taylor. The Hokies have been the most consistent program in the conference over the last decade, and while they'll still have a solid year, their success is too dependent on new starting QB Logan Thomas. The Hokies will still win their division, but when they get to the title game, Thomas won't be able to match up with either O'Brien or Glennon.

*****

ABOUT THE BLOGGER: Justine Hendricks started blogging at FanNation.com in August of 2007 before starting her own blog: www.sportsinstilettos.com.

She now serves as the USC Football Correspondent for the ISportsWeb Community and is an ACC blogger for CollegeFootballNews.com.

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