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ACC Roundtable: 2010 Preseason Football Edition

September 1, 2010

The ACC Roundtable (shown actual size)

Brendan of From Old Virginia has been gracious enough to kick off the 2010-11 ACC Roundtable Season this year by hosting a preseason ACC football questionnaire.  His questions and my answers follow below.  Be sure to swing by FOV later this week for his aggregate post of all of our answers.

1. At UVA we have made wholesale changes to everything this past offseason: the coaching staff, the offense, the defense, the uniforms, even the color of the equipment shed.  What change or changes on your own team are you most looking forward to watching play out on the field this season?

I’m most eager to see what the infusion of John Tenuta to the defensive coaching staff will have on the effectiveness of our lousy defense.  Tenuta’s trying his best to work on every single staff in the ACC, and he’s made his way back to the Triangle after having spent a year over in Chapel Hill in 2001.  He may be viewed as a mercenary, but he knows his stuff and State fans are well aware of how well he can shut down a potent offensive attack…his defenses at Georgia Tech in ’02 and ’03 were a constant thorn in Philip Rivers’ side.  We hope he can have the same impact on opposing teams 10 years later.

2. Who is the next ACC coach to get fired, and when?  And if you think that’s your own coach, who would you like to see replace him?

In reviewing some of the responses from other Roundtable participants, the trendy pick seems to be Tom O’Brien.  Since the question said “fired” and not “stepping down due to health reasons *cough cough*” (I’m looking at you, Ralph), I’m going to go off the board and say Butch Davis.  We State fans–who burn with the hate of a 1,000 suns toward our uppity brethren in Chapel Hill–have kept a very keen eye on the proceedings of the NCAA investigations, and knowing how UNC fans and administrators view their slice of Utopia, I think Butch stands a VERY good chance of getting the boot if any of this sticks to him or his staff.  The contract UNC has with Butch explicitly states that he can be fired without being owed one penny if he lands the school in trouble with the NCAA, so Dick Baddour and chancellor Thorp may jump at the chance to jettison Davis and his $2 million+ salary if they feel he’s shamed the school sufficiently.  They desperately want to elevate themselves in the national football scene, but if it came down to it, they would be willing to sacrifice Davis, Blake, the tutor and the entire defense in order to protect the notion of “The Carolina Way.”  After all, this ain’t basketball we’re talking about here…

Tom is certainly coaching for his job this season, though, as new AD Debbie Yow has no connection to the man and has not been afraid to make dramatic moves in the past.  She may view this season as her best opportunity to bring in her kind of coach if O’Brien leaves the door open for her.

3. How excited are you about your team’s out-of-conference lineup this year?  How would you grade your program overall when it comes to scheduling OOC games?

If I may hop up on my soapbox for a sec, my beef with football out-of-conference schedules has always been the gap between when the games are scheduled and when they’re actually played.  I realize the constraints the sport of football has on scheduling versus basketball, but if there were ANY way to limit scheduling games further than two years out, I’d be all in favor of it.  When State originally scheduled a series with Tennessee (that will finally manifest itself as a one-game deal in 2012 in Atlanta), Phil Fulmer was the coach at UT and Chuck Amato was the coach at State.  It’s quite possible both schools will have gone through TWO coaching hires each before the game is played!  We need to eliminate scheduling games a decade down the road when possible.

/rant over

As to our schedule, I think it’s sneaky tough.  Western Carolina will be a cakewalk and was wisely scheduled for our opener, but Central Florida is expected to contend for their conference title (George O’Leary is a good coach despite being a horrible liar), Cincinnati returns a great quarterback and a large contingent of the team that won the Big East last year, and East Carolina–while decimated with graduation and coaching change attrition–is road game against a bitter rival and will pose a real challenge for State.  The Pack’s schedule may not feature any big names, but it will be tough to finish the OOC slate 4-0, and could likely finish it 2-2 or even 1-3.  If that transpires, O’Brien will be behind the eight ball for sure.

4. What one player on your schedule (not in the ACC overall – your team’s schedule only, and it doesn’t have to be ACC) are you most worried will cause you pain and grief this year?

Robert Quinn.  Dude is a beast, perhaps as beastly as Mario Williams was in ’05.  While all State fans would trade their wins against Carolina for winning records, O’Brien has kept his seat relatively cool thus far in posting a 3-0 record against the Heels.  If State starts off on a rough note and is struggling to reach the .500 mark come the Carolina game, Quinn may be the one player on their team capable of disrupting State enough offensively to finally secure Butch a victory over the Pack.

5. Conversely, provide us a little bulletin board material.  Which team on your calendar are you absolutely positive that not only will you stomp their guts to China, but you’ll gain the warmest, fuzziest feeling of immense satisfaction out of doing it?

Carolina. 🙂  Depending on the severity and breadth of the suspensions that will come in the wake of Nanny-gate, the team State faces in November may look drastically different than we anticipate now in September.  Part-and-parcel of the investigation, I think “The Streak” is taking its toll on Carolina and Butch Davis.  The last two years–when the Heels have had the superior team–they’ve played the game SO tight, it seems they can’t relax and just play football.  They’ve pressed and forced things, which has resulted in come-from-behind wins for the Pack in ’07 and ’09.  And they’ll be SO desperate to erase the 41-10 asshippin’ in Kenan from two years ago, I think they’ll again once again come out wound so tight they can’t see straight.  Until Butch and the Heels can prove otherwise, I believe the Pack makes it four in a row in 2010.

6. It’s been a loony offseason in the conference membership department, but the ACC sat out this round.  Do you think the ACC is set at 12 teams for the long term?  If not, which team(s) is/are most likely to be added, and which would you like to see?

I sure hope we’re set for the long haul.  I know a lot of experts believe the Mega Conferences are inevitable, but at some point there just won’t be enough pie to split 14 or 16 ways to make fiscal sense.  With every team added, another hungry mouth to feed holds out their hand wanting their cut, and unless you can add teams who would definitely increase the revenue stream, I don’t see how it’s worth it.

The problem becomes fending off The Big (Whatever) and The SEC once they start getting dollar signs in their eyes again.  The Swoff may be forced to consider a preemptive strike if Notre Dame ever wises up and considers conference affiliation.  If the Irish start flirting with joining a conference, we might just have to jump at the opportunity.  At that point we’d likely add another Big East school like a West Virginia or a Rutgers, in my opinion.  I’d rather stay pat, all things considered.

7. Standard question for the finish: a) What do you expect out of your team, b) What kind of season would keep you content and happy, c) What kind of season would be a disappointment?

A. Improved play defensively. We can’t do much worse.

B. A bowl appearance of any kind. Our schedule is brutal.

C. Five or fewer wins. It would likely mean we dropped two or more of our OOC games, lost the game to Carolina and dropped a game along the way we had no business losing.  The right combination of five wins with signs of progress (or at least making it through the year with limited injuries for once) might be enough to save O’Brien’s job, but four or fewer and it’s Splitsville for TOB.

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