Since it's pretty close to the middle of the college football season, I thought I would take the time to go back and review how my preseason picks (from back in July) stack up against the reality of October.
In hindsight, the picks weren't that far off. Well, except for one team. (I'll let you figure out who that might be.)
On to the analysis ...
Preseason Final ACC Rankings (from July 24)
1. Florida State
2. NC State
5. Wake Forest
7. Georgia Tech
8. North Carolina
Looking back at these on October 9: Boy, I was fairly confident about these picks back in July. In fact, this is what I wrote about the Wolfpack: "The Pack has almost all the weapons to unseat the Noles, but a win in Tallahassee may be too much to ask." Little did I expect that a win in Winston-Salem or Atlanta might be too much to ask too.
As for the rest of the picks, the other teams in the ACC have held up their end of the bargain so far.
Here's how the conference standings, uh, stand as of today:
ACC Coach of the Year (from July 24) Jim Grobe, Wake Forest - At a school like Wake Forest, coaches do a good job if, after five or six years, they've built the program into a near-.500 team that every now and then earns a bowl game. Grobe hasn't settled for that, and this year should be no different. The fact that Wake was picked seventh in the preseason by the media suggests that there are those that think this will be the Wake Forest of old. I'll believe it when I see it.
Looking back at this on October 9: If things continue the way they're going, Grobe will be in the hunt. The Demon Deacons are a solid 3-2 overall and 1-1 in the conference (with a winnable game at home against Georgia Tech coming up), and will be in every game from here on out, with a chance to win them all. However, the directions that Virginia and Maryland go from here on out will go a long way in deciding who the coach of the year is. And it's too early to discount what Chan Gailey has done - or may continue to do - at Georgia Tech after such a horrible off-season.
ACC Player of the Year (from July 24) Philip Rivers, NC State - It's his to lose. And he won't.
Looking back at this on October 9:I challenge anyone to find a more deserving "most valuable player" candidate than Rivers. However, if the Pack can't pick up some more 'Ws,' then the award for player of the year may go to Chris Rix of Florida State.
ACC Game of the Year (from July 24) NCSU at Florida State, November 15
Looking back at this on October 9: Here's what I wrote back in July: "This one could be for all the ACC marbles." I must've been drunk at the time.
Game of the Year involving an ACC team (from July 24) Miami at Florida State, October 11 - Two future ACC rivals meet just for pride one last time.
Looking back at this on October 9: Hammer. Meet nail. Isn't college football great? The season's only halfway over, and we already have gems like this one to enjoy.
THE LOSS OF A FRIEND
The ACC family lost a dear friend last week when Stephen Gates of the Tar Heel Sports Network was killed in a hit-and-run incident on Interstate 40.
I had the pleasure of working with Stephen for almost two years while we worked at The VilCom Network in Chapel Hill. Though I was a "wolf in sheep's clothing," so to speak (a State grad in a sea of Tar Heels), Stephen always made me feel welcome and like a member of the family. From what others have said and written over the past week, I know that I wasn't alone. Stephen had the ability to make everyone around him feel great about living. He came to work smiling, and he left work smiling. As most of us know, that's not always an easy thing to do.
It's become cliché, but I really am a better person having known Stephen Gates. As someone wrote on a message board after Stephen's death, it's sad that someone who not only loved life but loved what they did was taken away so young.
Stephen was on his way to great things. There's no doubt in my mind that he would've one day become the "Voice of the Cincinnati Reds," which was his favorite baseball team. Then again, he could just have easily one day become the "Voice of the Tar Heels." The amazing thing is Stephen Gates, no doubt, would've had to choose between his two dream jobs. Not many of us get that chance.
Instead we are left to wonder what might have been about a great talent taken from us at a young age. But Stephen Gates wouldn't want that. Instead, he would probably prefer that we keep on enjoying life and enjoying sports - whether you like the Pack, the Heels or the Devils. And I'm sure he would want us all to enjoy what moments we all have together with friends and family. Because as we unfortunately learned last week, it can all be over in an instant.
'Now' ACC Standings
1. Florida State: Noles could further distance
themselves from the rest of the (current) ACC with a
win over Miami.
2. Maryland: Terps are starting to hit their stride - just in time for poor ole Duke.
3. Virginia: Wahoos will get a nice test at improving Clemson this weekend.
4. Wake Forest: In the battle between "Wolfpack Thorns in the Side," Wake gets to host Georgia Tech.
5 (tie): Clemson, Georgia Tech and NC State: Yes, I know, Tech fans - your team pummeled the Pack last Saturday. But should State take care of Clemson at home, and it's that weird cycle of Team A beat Team B beat Team C beat Team A.
8 (tie). Duke and North Carolina: Heels (vs. ECU) should pick up win No. 1 this weekend, but the Devils (vs. Maryland) will have a tough time getting victory No. 3.
'Later' ACC Standings
1 (tie). Florida State and Miami
3. Virginia Tech
6. Wake Forest
7 (tie). Clemson, Georgia Tech and NC State
10 (tie). Duke and North Carolina
This Week's Predictions:
Connecticut at NC State: Expect this one to be a low-emotion affair at Carter-Finley. The Pack will be preparing for the short turnaround against Clemson - as will the fans. State 44, UConn 21
Miami at Florida State: Perhaps the best college football game of the year (on paper, at least). Noles look to avenge last year's heartbreaker, but the Canes got a nice wake-up call last Thursday against West Virginia. Miami 28, Florida State 24
Virginia at Clemson: Tigers showed heart at Maryland; perhaps Tommy's team gained some confidence before its tussle versus the Wahoos. Mr. Jefferson's University 34, Mr. Clemson's University, 17
Georgia Tech at Wake Forest: Both teams need a win to keep bowl aspirations alive, but Wake is just too tough at home. The Old Gold & Black 24, The Yellow Jacket Attack 17
North Carolina at East Carolina: ECU's "Game of the Century 2" is a dud - at least when it comes to records. Pirate fans will still pack Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium for this game; UNC fans will probably stay away. Winless Heels 35, Winless Bucs 10
Duke at Maryland: If this were basketball, Dick Vitale would be in the house. Maryland 42, Duke 13
Prognostication Record This Year (as far as picking the correct winner goes): 31-6