Keys to the ACC Championship, Part 2

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Continuing
our Keys to the ACC Championship feature, we’ll take a look at three teams
that should be pretty good, but lack either talent or experience at some key
positions that will likely keep them from competing for the ACC Championship.
But after Virginia Tech’s 2004 season, you never really know. We’ll start
with the only ACC team to beat the Hokies last year, N.C. State, and cover
Boston College and Virginia as well.


N.C. State (13 returning starters)

N.C. State could be a real sleeper this year in the ACC. I say this for two
reasons. Number one, they were (-17) in turnover margin in 2004, which effectively
eliminated them from every close game they played (VT excepted). Also, they have
one of the top defenses in the nation.

If Jay Davis improves and the defense remains strong, an easy
out-of-conference schedule (at Temple, Eastern Kentucky, Southern Miss) will put
the Wolfpack back in a bowl game. If they can manage to upset Virginia Tech on
opening weekend, N.C. State should not play another challenging game until they
play at Georgia Tech on Thursday, October 6.

Strength

The obvious strength of this team is the outstanding defensive line.
This group has been together for quite awhile. They are a veteran group,
starting three juniors and a senior. Manny Lawson and Mario Williams man the
defensive end positions, and there is no better end combination anywhere in
America. This is a group that abused the Tech offensive front in Blacksburg last
season, and they will be looking to do the same in Raleigh this year.

Weakness

Based on last season’s results, quarterback is the obvious choice
here. Jay Davis had big shoes to fill with the departure of Philip Rivers, and
fill them Davis did not, throwing 15 interceptions to only 12 touchdowns.
However, Davis had a solid completion percentage (55.9%) and threw for over
2,000 yards. Marcus Stone was a freshman backup that many Wolfpack fans wanted
as their starter, but the offense appeared very limited when he was in the game.