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July 24, 2006
Florida State, Miami picked as ACC favorites
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – A year of change in the ACC? Well, apparently not.
When the ballots were counted Monday afternoon, the assembled writers and broadcasters at the ACC Media Days went with the old tried and true in voting both perennial powers Florida State and Miami at the top of their respective positions.
Florida State finished 8-5 last season, captured the Atlantic Division title, won the first ACC title game and then fell to Penn State in the Orange Bowl.
Last season, Miami was 9-3 and lost to LSU in the Peach Bowl. Both teams return ample talent and depth, but tradition might have given them the nod in what is an unpredictable upcoming year for the ACC.
In the voting for which team will ultimately win the ACC title game here in Jacksonville in December, Miami edged out Florida State in votes, 31-23.
Interestingly, the two coaches were split on their reaction to the media's picks.
"It doesn't surprise me because that's what our expectations are. Now, I'd like to finish that way," said Miami coach Larry Coker whose Hurricanes will likely duel with Virginia Tech for supremacy in the Coastal Division.
Florida State's Bobby Bowden was actually taken aback – almost – by the results.
Clemson, the Seminoles' most likely challenger in the Atlantic, has been a trendy preseason pick to win the ACC by some. On top of that, the Tigers did topple the 'Noles 35-14 last season.
"That really does surprise me. We played Clemson last year and they beat us and beat us pretty bad," Bowden said. "They also have pretty much the same team coming back."
Clemson travels to Florida State on Sept. 16. While the media will build their annual hype around the Bowden vs. Bowden matchup then, the younger Bowden wasn't filling the reporters' notebooks on this day.
"It's my belief that this league still goes through Florida. I think you have to win at Florida State or at Miami to win the title," Tommy Bowden said.
AS MIAMI TURNS
With the movie version of Miami Vice set for release this week , it's perhaps a tad ironic - for Hurricanes fans at least - that life is imitating art.
"Willie is doing all right is the first thing I'll say," Coker said.
As for his players carrying firearms – Meriweather returned fire at the assailants that shot Cooper – Coker said it was a practice he would do his best to discourage.
"I'd prefer players not to have firearms. I'd like them to call 9-1-1 to resolve things, but for those living off campus... I understand that could be an issue and I'm not sure whether I'm going to set down a team rule about that or not," Coker said.
As for troubled Miami linebacker Willie Williams, who was essentially AWOL all summer and then asked for a transfer recently, Coker said he might be willing to take the player back. Williams has looked to transfer to both West Virginia and Tennessee but both schools essentially came back with answers of "Not interested."
"I'd consider bringing Willie back. That's something that is the head coach's decision. Willie has not been a problem while at Miami, on the field or off," Coker said.
Last December, Groh lost assistants Danny Rocco (Liberty), Al Golden (Temple) and Ron Prince (Kansas State) to head coaching jobs in the span of approximately two weeks.
The faces and names have changed, but not the overall philosophy according to Groh.
"I think it has been a pretty seamless transition for the players and the other coaches. We were certainly happy for those coaches," said Groh. "With the new coaches we were looking to maintain the same schemes and ideas. We were looking for guys with compatability and similar backgrounds."
While his staff changes were one major topic for Groh, another was his quarterback. Groh tapped Christian Olsen the starter after spring practice - and he hasn't changed his mind.
"As I said before, Christian Olsen will be the first one going into the huddle that first game," said Groh whose matter-of-fact style was quite evident in the answer.
Two ACC coaches, Groh and Bobby Bowden, now have their sons as offensive coordinators and each has taken a little criticism for those decisions at their respective schools.
Groh insists that there would be second-guessing no matter which route he took.
"If Michael wasn't offensive coordinator, the first time something went wrong offensively, they would say he should be," Groh said. "Those 62,000 people will voice their opinions but they aren't putting in the 100 or plus hours preparing and gameplanning each week."
Bowden certainly can relate to what the Grohs will face this upcoming season.
"It's the same thing. Every time something goes wrong they'll say it's his [the son's fault]. That's just how it is," Bowden said. "The upside is that you have someone that you know is dependable right there with you."
SEARCHING FOR A RIVALRY?
With any further expansion a very distant thought at this point for the ACC, Boston College will remain the ACC's northern outpost with no discernable natural rival.
There isn't much BC coach Tom O'Brien feels he can do about that.
"It's something I guess we've fought since Holy Cross dropped it's football program," O'Brien said with a laugh. "I know our school, fans and alumni think our biggest rival is Notre Dame, but they don't want to play us long term."
Boston College has stepped – cautiously – into the idea of trying to add one of its former Big East foes to the schedule. But given the lingering bitterness between the two leagues, it might take a while for that scenario to come to fruition.
"We've looked into possibly playing Syracuse. That was a good fit and rivalry for us in the Big East. We will have to see," O'Brien said.
Clemson coach Tommy Bowden will be blessed with several choices this season at running back, but they are ones coaches probably look forward to making.
Last season as a freshman, James Davis rushed for 879 yards on 165 carries and scored nine touchdowns. It normally would be a no-brainer that Davis would be the kind of back a program would build its future around, but the Tigers are in a unique situation.
Bowden and his staff shocked many experts by successfully recruiting C.J. Spiller. Rivals.com ranked Spiller as the nation's best running back prospect and eighth overall in the 2006 class.
"Based on high school talent, he [Spiller] is very talented," Bowden said. "With James Davis, he had the hunger, toughness and competence as a freshman. I've watched [Spiller] a lot on tape but those things you can't tell off tape."