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July 27, 2004

Monday was quite the day in Greensboro, North Carolina at the site of the 33rd annual ACC Preseason Football Kick-off. Florida State was picked to finish first, again….Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer came within 8 inches of a hole in one…and I spent the day with Bud Foster, the Hokies defensive coordinator who showed a lot of interest in the Virginia job four years ago.

It was no surprise that the Seminoles grabbed 49 first place votes of the 88 cast to be selected as the team that will win it’s 12th ACC football title in 2004. This is the 13th consecutive year that FSU has been tabbed numero uno at this event. Despite losing 12 games in the last three years…almost unheard of in Tallahassee…Florida State is the cock of the walk right now in the newly expanded ACC.

Miami was selected second. Head Coach Larry Coker, dressed in coat and tie during the media session, is 35-3 in three seasons and the program has only suffered four losses in four years. Plus, you can forget the fact that the Hurricanes lost 9 NFL draftees…6 in the first round. ACC executives are already drooling over the fact the two teams get together Monday night, September 6th, for a real ACC kick-off. Both programs return quarterbacks that are under media microscopes…and that game, in just one night, could decide the ACC title.

Virginia was picked third and received two first place votes…to the surprise of Cavalier head coach Al Groh.

“You would think teams with returning quarterbacks would be the teams that are selected higher,” Groh told a crowded media table. “We were in that position last year and I know how it feels to have your quarterback return. The position is so magnified.”

Selections four through six went to Clemson, Maryland, and Virginia Tech. To me that just proves what the ACC is about to become. The Tigers return the league’s best quarterback, Charlie Whitehurst, who threw for 3500 yards and 21 touchdowns last year. While the Terps look to replace Scott McBrien, you can’t overlook what Ralph Friedgen has been able to do in College Park. “The Fridge” has won 31 games in three years with three consecutive 10 plus win seasons…no other ACC coach ever began their tenure with that type of record.

The Hokies? Virginia Tech is going to be young defensively and is down 13 starters. VT was only 11-10 against the Big East the past three years.

For the fifth consecutive year, the Carolina schools were picked towards the bottom of the heap. NC State was chosen 7th, Wake Forest 9th, North Carolina 10th, and Duke 11th.

“I wish we would have been picked 11th,” Chuck Amato of the Wolfpack said. “It would have been great motivation for our kids.”

The Tar Heels’ head coach John Bunting said he could care less about the poll and thought his team was going to have a very good year. Many say Steve Spurrier will be watching things very closely in Chapel Hill this season. Since taking over for Carl Torbush, Bunting is 13-24 in Blue Heaven and only 2-14 in the ACC the past two years.

Georgia Tech was picked 8th and remains a mystery. Chan Gailey, the Yellowjackets head coach, is a 30-year veteran who has placed Tech in two bowl games the past two years. He is also 4-0 against UNC and NC State, 2-2 versus Maryland and Virginia.

The ACC pre season kick-off wraps up today with commissioner John Swofford addressing the media and giving his own state of the league message. We did learn yesterday, however, that the 2005 ACC Football Championship city will be named by August 28th.

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