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Bitter: Taking a stab at the ACC preseason picks

Bitter: Taking a stab at the ACC preseason picks

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The ACC Kickoff started — and ended — much earlier than usual this year, and there’s still more than two weeks before Virginia Tech’s fall practice opener on Aug. 1.

We’re nearly seven weeks before the Hokies kick things off against West Virginia at FedEx Field on Sept. 3.

The ACC beat writers submitted their ballots picking an order in each division as well as a preseason All-ACC team in Charlotte last week. The consensus order will be released Monday, with the All-ACC team put out Wednesday.

But, for the sake of transparency and possible ridicule both now and in the future, this is what I submitted Friday:

Predicted Atlantic Division finish

1. Florida State

2. Clemson

3. Louisville

4. N.C. State

5. Wake Forest

6. Syracuse

7. Boston College

Predicted Coastal Division finish

1. Miami

2. Georgia Tech

3. Virginia Tech

4. Pittsburgh

5. Duke

6. North Carolina

7. Virginia

ACC title game

Florida State over Miami.

I tried — I honestly did — to come up with a reason not to pick the FSU-Miami matchup that everybody seems to have wanted since the league added the Hurricanes more than a decade ago.

I understand Miami’s history. I understand that The U is not “back” to what it once was, as much as the national media seems to want the Hurricanes to be. But in a flawed division in which almost every team will be undergoing major rebuilds in some form , I liked the Hurricanes in a very tight Coastal race, particularly since they get both Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech at home.

A few years ago I reflexively refused to pick North Carolina to win the division, since the Tar Heels had never done so. That was the year UNC ran the table in the division and into the league title game. I wasn’t going to fall down that trap again.

I seriously considered both Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech but couldn’t convince myself of either. I think Hokies coach Justin Fuente will figure out how to move the ball with a young offense and put some points on the board, but there were too many games last year where the difference in the outcome was because of how spectacular Jerod Evans or Isaiah Ford or Bucky Hodges were in big moments. I can’t imagine a scenario where Tech doesn’t take at least something of a step back this year with those play-makers gone.

I saw a lot of parallels between Miami and Virginia Tech, in fact, with each having big question marks at quarterback and strong defenses, but I went with the ’Canes, partly because they finally have a capable coach in Mark Richt.

My preseason All-ACC team:

Offense

QB: Lamar Jackson, Louisville

RB: Mark Walton, Miami

RB: Dedrick Mills, Georgia Tech

WR: Ahmmon Richards, Miami

WR: Cam Phillips, Virginia Tech

WR: Deon Cain, Clemson

TE: Cam Serigne, Wake Forest

OT: Mitch Hyatt, Clemson

OT: Brian O’Neill, Pittsburgh

OG: Tyrone Crowder, Clemson

OG: Tony Adams, N.C. State

C: Austin Davis, Duke

APB: Jaylen Samuels, N.C. State

Defense

DE: Harold Landry, Boston College

DE: Bradley Chubb, N.C. State

DT: Christian Wilkins, Clemson

DT: Dexter Lawrence, Clemson

LB: Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech

LB: Micah Kiser, Virginia

LB: Shaquille Quarterman, Miami

CB: Tarvarus McFadden, Florida State

CB: Jaire Alexander, Louisville

S: Derwin James, Florida State

S: Terrell Edmunds, Virginia Tech

Special teams

PK: Michael Badgley, Miami

P: Mason King, Louisville

Ret: Quadree Henderson, Pittsburgh

Preseason Player of the Year

Lamar Jackson, Louisville

Trio of Hokies

That’s three Hokies on the All-ACC team for me: Cam Phillips and the two Edmunds brothers, Tremaine and Terrell. I strongly considered Wyatt Teller at offensive guard — though Crowder and Adams were first and second-teamers at the end of last year, while Teller was an honorable mention pick. I thought Joey Slye was actually better at placekicking in 2015 than ’16. Plus, contenders at cornerback are hard to differentiate at Tech, which probably doesn’t help their cause in this instance .

When the team comes out Wednesday, my prediction is that you see Tremaine on the team and probably Phillips as well. Terrell might be a stretch, because Virginia’s Quin Blanding has been a mainstay on All-ACC teams his entire career at safety and everybody’s going to pick Derwin James.

I thought Edmunds was better than Blanding last year, however — he was my pick on my postseason ballot as well, so I made him my pick here too. Also, in an effort to get good representation for what I think will be a strong defense, I couldn’t submit a ballot with two UVa defenders and one at Virginia Tech when I think the Hokies’ defense will be superior.

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