Posted by Chip Patterson
The first official preseason poll was released on Thursday, with USA Today announcing the results of the Coaches Poll. The ACC, which has spent much of the offseason discussing ways to increase their national prominence, finds themselves with only two teams ranked in the top 25.
The teams come as no surprise, as the ACC preseason favorite Florida State starts the season ranked No. 5, while Virginia Tech-picked by the media to win the Coastal Division - is ranked No. 13.
#5 Florida State - Seeing the Seminoles in the top 5 seems appropriate. They had a strong finish to the 2010 season, falling 44-33 to Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship Game then defeating South Carolina in the Chick Fil-A Bowl, and return 16 offensive and defensive starters. One of the new starters, junior quarterback EJ Manuel, was already selected to the preseason All-ACC team. Head coach Jimbo Fisher has embraced the expectations, and feels certain that his team is prepared to stay focus regardless of hype. Manuel himself claims that he doesn't even read articles and blogs about the team.
But as far as national dominance goes, the Seminoles' campaign hits a fork in the road on Sept. 17 when the top-ranked Oklahoma Sooners visit Tallahassee for a spotlight showdown that will likely make or break either team's national title hopes. A loss puts them in the position of battling for an Orange Bowl berth, a win makes a trip to New Orleans seem like a legitimate possibility for Florida State fans.
#13 Virginia Tech - One year ago, the Hokies were ranked sixth in this same preseason poll. Then an exhausting 33-30 Labor Day loss to Boise State was piggy-backed by an upset loss to James Madison at home. Suddenly, the top-10 Virginia Tech team with title hopes was unranked and looking for answers. The season had changed tone in only a five-day period. But the Hokies bounced back winning 11 straight games and an ACC Championship before losing to Stanford in the Orange Bowl.
Frank Beamer returns 12 starters from last year's squad, and a more than favorable schedule makes an eighth straight 10+ win season seem like a possibility. New starting quarterback Logan Thomas has drawn praise for his development and athletic ability, but the Hokies still need to answer some questions offensively. Being ranked just behind South Carolina and ahead of Arkansas seems a little high for this unproven squad, but I would not have put them below No. 16 Ohio State or No. 17 Michigan State. Considering the talent returning and the coaching staff in place, the ranking seems not only appropriate - but a good guess at where they could end up at the end of the season.
Other Receiving Votes
No. 25 Penn State finished with 161 points in the poll, here is a breakdown of how the other vote-getting teams fared.
Miami, 49 points, No. 29 - The Hurricanes have been picked by the media to finish second in the Coastal Division behind the Hokies. With a new head coach and still no decision on a starting quarterback, it is easy to see why coaches are reserving their endorsements of "The U."
North Carolina, 14 points, No. 36 - Anytime you dismiss a head coach just eight days before players report for training camp, it is going to shake up confidence in the upcoming season. The Tar Heels have one of the best defensive lines in the ACC, but big question marks in the secondary and unproven sophomore quarterback Bryn Renner make another "7 or 8 win/just outside the Top 25"-type season seem likely in Chapel Hill.
Clemson, 7 points, No. 40 - The Tigers pulled in a Top-10 recruiting class this offseason, with many of the stars expected to see playing time almost immediately. New offensive coordinator is promising upwards of 70-80 plays a game for the Tigers' offense, which could make for either a dominating or painfully reckless experience for sophomore quarterback Tajh Boyd.
North Carolina State, 4 points, No. 44 - For the first time since his arrival, Tom O'Brien has recruited every player on the N.C. State two-deep depth chart. He feels confident that last season's 9-win performance was a sign of the program turning a corner. A favorable schedule makes a return to the postseason seem likely for the Wolfpack, but letting all-conference quarterback Russell Wilson walk to the Badgers will not get you preseason votes from most coaches.
Georgia Tech, 1 point, No. 49 - Head coach Paul Johnson is not on the USA TODAY Board of Coaches, so I'm not sure who gave the Yellow Jackets the sole No. 25 vote. Georgia Tech lost 5 of their last 6 games in 2010, only defeating Duke 30-20. They've got talent, but not enough to deserve national ranking after last season's collapse.