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Early Thoughts On The ACC/Big Ten Challenge

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The most interesting aspect of this fall's ACC/Big Ten Challenge is the remarkable coaching turnover in the ACC. It makes it really tough to handicap the games because no one knows for sure what to expect out of programs in transition.  However, there are some reasons for optimism. It's way early, but we'll take a stab. Right now we could see six ACC wins, with opinions subject to revision as we learn more about the 24 teams involved.

  • Miami at Purdue:  Miami returns a tough, talented team and upgrades the coaching.  Great guard play too.  We like their chances.
  • Northwestern at Georgia Tech:  Brian Gregory's talent is depleted, but unlike most ACC coaches, he gets   (got) a regular dose of Big Ten coverage and knows what to expect from the Wildcats.  He won't get suckered the same way Paul Hewitt did.
  • Illinois at Maryland: We'd have to take the Illini at this point, but we think Mark Turgeon can coach circles around Bruce Weber, and it is at home.
  • No. 23 Michigan at Virginia: hard to pick against Michigan here, but you know what? They'll have Mike Scott back, Assane Sene can go back to a more limited role (but with a lot of experience now), and Sammy Zeglinski, Jontel Evans, Joe Harris and K.T. Harrell should all be significantly better. We like defense, and Virginia has that.
  • Clemson at Iowa: an Iowa win  is possible, but they are rebuilding more than Clemson will be. A lot rides on Milton Jennings and Devin Booker, but you know Brad Brownell will have them playing hard-nosed D.
  • No. 5 Duke at No. 3 Ohio State: We never bet against Duke.  And Duke is usually farther ahead early than most teams.
  • Indiana at NC State:  Most interesting.  Perhaps Mark Gottfried's first chance to make a mark in Raleigh.  Currently we'd rate it a tossup pending more intel on both rebuilding projects.
  • Penn State at Boston College: two more rebuilding projects, also currently a tossup.  If Talor Battle was back there'd be no question in our mind.
  • No. 21 Florida State at Michigan State. Wow, a slugfest.   FSU is not much of a road team and Izzo has all summer to chew over his team's near collapse this past season.  Spartans.
  • Virginia Tech at Minnesota.  Two frustrated programs.  We'd argue that Minnesota is tougher mentally, and Virginia Tech needs to break in a new point.  Advantage Gophers.
  • Wake Forest at Nebraska:  We don't know much about Nebraska, but they reliably stink and will be new in the league.  Could Wake pull an upset? Well, yes, if...Tony Chennault can step up and is healthy, Carson Desrosiers bulks up and Wake plays some meaningful D and avoids terminal stupidity.  We've never heard a radio crew as down on a team as Wake's was last season.  That said, they have some talent and it's maturing.  And if they're not sick of getting their asses kicked, they might as well pack it in again.
  • No. 11 Wisconsin at No. 1 North Carolina. Our gut reaction is blowout, but they've got a long time to get ready for this one and Bo Ryan is a sneaky smart coach.  But they ain't winning or anything.
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