ACC Network a ways off
The ACC has multiple issues to work out in putting together a network like the Big Ten has and the SEC will soon have. It plans to learn from the SEC's process so that its attempt can go more smoothly.
Bowl teams could soon receive greater payout than non-bowl teams
Commissioner John Swofford told me that there could be an change in the distribution of bowl revenue as soon as this season. He believes that most teams favor rewarding teams for making a bowl. And he said that it was "fundamentally unfair" that a team can make a bowl and lose money while a team that fails to make a bowl, or that is ineligible for a bowl due to NCAA issues, can make money for not attending.
A source tells me that the bowl payout is not that significant monetarily, but it will make the top teams feel a bit better. Expect the league to ensure that all of a team's bowl and travel costs are paid for before divvying up the bowl payout. And while the bowl payout may not be all that substantial, that could change in a big way with the coming college football playoff.
New kids on the block
I asked people around Syracuse or Pitt the following question: "is the program more excited to be in the ACC, or more excited to not be stuck in the American (old Big East)?"
The answer, surprisingly, was very even. While they acknowledge that being left in the American would have been a bad, bad thing, they do seem quite excited about the step up in quality of competition, especially what it should do for attendance.
Speaking of Syracuse and Pitt, there really doesn't seem to be much excitement from other league members about them joining the league, other than that it did improve the product and stability some. There is much more excitement about the addition of Louisville, which will enter the league in 2014.
The Coastal: Anyone's division
Just a year after picking Miami to finish sixth in the Coastal Division, the media selected Miami as the favorite for the Coastal. Why the sudden change? It seems there are a combination of factors.
First, Miami feels it has weathered the storm that is the NCAA investigation, particularly with the NCAA's missteps. With a decision that could come down before the season starts, the distraction could very well be gone before Miami plays its first game. I'm also told that Miami is not expecting much additional punishment, and that if severe additional punishment does come (Miami has already self-imposed two bowl bans), Miami will seriously consider suing the NCAA.
Second, it seems that Virginia Tech's six-loss 2012 campaign with a veteran team has scared off a lot of people. Quite simply, the shine is off the Hokies, and they can no longer be penciled in as the Coastal Division favorite on a yearly basis. With a veteran team that should be vastly improved in 2013, Miami was the choice for the first time in several years. And it doesn't hurt that the ACC's schedule reshuffling sends the Hokies to Miami for the second consecutive year.
The Canes were not an overwhelming favorite for the Coastal, however, as both the Hokies and North Carolina Tar Heels received significant votes. For Carolina, it seems like there are two factors at work.
First, there is a common belief among college football writers that teams improve considerably in the second year under a new head coach. With QB Bryn Renner returning under coach Larry Fedora, UNC certainly qualifies. And UNC feels its players will be better this season within its new systems, because they can get more reps in during practice at the crazy tempo they run -- something some players were not prepared for in 2012.
Second, the schedule. UNC dodges both top-15 projected teams in Clemson and Florida State from the Atlantic Division. That's huge, because Clemson and Florida State are the only two teams in the conference who would be favored over the other 12 opponents, regardless of where the game is played. In addition, UNC draws a bye week before playing Georgia Tech, a potentially huge benefit, as it allows the Heels to prepare for Tech's unique flexbone spread option attack. And if that wasn't enough, Carolina draws Miami at home on a Thursday night, a setting especially favoring the home team.
Virginia Tech also dodges Clemson and Florida State, but as noted above when discussing Miami, the Hokies must travel to Miami again, as it did in 2012.
The consensus is that any of the top four (Miami, Virginia Tech, UNC, Georgia Tech) could conceivably win the Coastal in 2013, as the rosters are not all that different in talent.
How much will stability help Pitt?
For the first time in a half-decade, Pitt has the same head coach or its second-consecutive year. While Pitt has multiple personnel questions, including QB and running back, there is a lot of optimism that the Panthers can return to a bowl game because of the players' trust in the program brought by the stability of coach Paul Chryst. The second-year coach factor also applies to the Panthers.
London is safe
Records of 4-8, 8-4, and 4-8, with an 0-3 mark against Virginia Tech aren't much to write home about for Mike London in Virginia. But I couldn't find anyone who thinks he is or will be on the hot seat, even if he were to miss a bowl again in 2013, which is likely. London continues to recruit very well, and insiders think the damage done to the program if London were to be fired would far outweigh the benefits of bringing in a new coach.
A great academic institution, London also spoke Monday about the multiple academic improvements made by the team under his watch.
Duke's bowl appearance removes negative recruiting ammunition
Having not made a bowl since 1995, before some current recruits were even born, was used against Duke in negative recruiting. One reporter who covers the program told me that Duke expects that to help on the recruiting trail, particularly if Duke can make another bowl in 2013 or 2014.
The Atlantic gap
While there are four teams in the discussion to win the Coastal, the number is just half that in the Atlantic. Clemson received 102 votes, while Florida State drew 18. No other Atlantic team received a vote. This matches the Vegas odds, in which Clemson and Florida State are both even money, and the next favorite is roughly 25/1 (Source: 5Dimes Casino & Sportsbook). Any team other than the Tigers or Noles winning the Atlantic Division would be major surprise.
Clemson and Florida State are the two ACC teams who have recruited like SEC teams, and have also recently defeated SEC programs. The rest of the Atlantic Division simply has not kept pace, and it seems like eons ago when Boston College and Wake Forest were playing for the ACC Championship.
One thing that does not mirror the Vegas odds? The voting split between Clemson and Florida State. The reason? A poll of this sort is not designed to reflect the chance that a team wins a division, but rather simply to gauge who the writers think will win. If every writer thinks Clemson is slightly better than Florida State, then all the votes would be expected to go to Clemson, a result that would not reflect the difference in team quality between the two.
Still, as it has for the last three seasons, the game between the Tigers and the Noles should decide the Atlantic. In each of the last three years, the home team has won. The location in 2013? Tiger Stadium.
Both teams had several starters gone (Clemson returns 13, while FSU brings back 11), but the feeling I got in talking with both sides is that there is more uncertainty in Tallahassee with 11 new starters, including a new quarterback, six new coaches, and a new defense.
Addazio an obvious upgrade
There was little doubt from the media that Steve Addazio is a major upgrade at Boston College. Already seeing improvements on the recruiting trail, Addazio is a proven head coach and has been around excellent head coaches as well.
Boston College was picked last in the Atlantic, and is not expected to make a bowl, but the long-term outlook under Addazio looks strong. The mood around the program has changed, and it would not be surprise to see Boston College making bowl games much more often than not under Addazio.
Expectations at Wake
There is real optimism that Wake Forest will return to a bowl game this season, with a veteran quarterback and a very salty defense. Wake was picked to finish fourth by the media, by a razor-thin margin over Maryland.
The interesting note I picked up from those around Wake is the disconnect with reality from some of the younger fans and alumni. John Mundy, of SB Nation's Blogger So Dear, told me that many of the young fans who started cheering for Wake during the last decade don't remember the days of losing to Appalachian State or appreciate how much of an accomplishment it is for a tiny school like Wake Forest to field a competitive ACC team on a yearly basis.
Ten bowl teams?
A year after sending just six teams to bowl games due to the ineligibility of North Carolina and Miami, the league believes it could have as many as 10 in 2012. Clemson, Florida State, Virginia Tech, Miami, North Carolina and Georgia Tech are seen as locks, and it seems likely that half of the remaining teams could make a bid for a bowl.