CLEMSON -- The Atlantic Coast Conference will hold its annual Media Days today and Monday in Pinehurst, N.C., to preview the upcoming football season. The following are five points expected to be driving discussions:
1. Quarterback questions
The ACC lost its top five quarterbacks from last season, indicating this could be a lower-scoring year for the conference. Former N.C. State quarterback Russell Wilson transferred to Wisconsin, much to the delight of defensive coordinators in the conference. Georgia Tech's option-star Josh Nesbitt, 2010 ACC Player of the Year Tyrod Taylor and North Carolina's underrated signal caller T.J. Yates graduated. Florida State's Christian Ponder was selected 12th overall by the Minnesota Vikings.
Sure, Maryland's Danny O'Brien showed promise in throwing 22 touchdowns last season. Virginia Tech's 6-5, 240-pound Logan Thomas might be Cam Newton Lite, and Florida State's E.J. Manuel could be a darkhorse Heisman candidate, but there are more questions than answers throughout the league at quarterback.
2. Keeping up with the Joneses
The ACC has the most intimidating neighbor in college football in the Southeastern Conference. At SEC media days last week, SEC commissioner Mike Slive said while he was "comfortable" with the current 12-team constitution of his league he did not rule out future expansion. Slive said the lucrative television contracts with ESPN and CBS could be renegotiated if the conference expands. If the SEC was able to receive 15-year deals totaling $3 billion from ESPN and CBS three years ago, what would the SEC receive in today's market place if the conference expanded to 14 or 16 teams?
These are concerns for the Big 12 and the ACC. It should make for an interesting Q & A session with commissioner John Swofford. How will the ACC respond to potential paradigm shifts in college football?
3. Coaching stability
Rivals.com ranked the top 14 coaches on the hot seat entering the 2011 season, and only Clemson's Dabo Swinney appeared on the list from the ACC. Swinney's seat was rated as the eighth hottest.
With Jimbo Fisher turning around the Florida State program, with Paul Johnson proving the option game can work at the FBS level and with Randy Shannon having been replaced at Miami might the conference be entering a period of coaching stability? Perhaps Butch Davis's situation could change at North Carolina, but he has survived a year under an NCAA investigation. New coaches like Randy Edsall at Maryland and Al Golden at Miami give the conference an injection of coaching talent and should have several years to build programs.
4. ACC on the 'agenda for change'
The SEC often sets the pace and conversation in college football. At the SEC media days, Slive present his "agenda for change" which included the following:
--Increase the benefits available to student athletes; currently there is an estimated $3,000 gap between a full scholarship and the cost to attend school per year
--Make scholarships multi-year contracts instead of renewable year-to-year agreements
--Raise the minimum GPA in core courses for incoming freshmen and transfer students from 2.0 to 2.5
--Modernize recruiting rules
The SEC's coaches weren't all on board Slive so it will be interesting to see what ideas have support in Pinehurst.
5. Is Florida State back to elite status?
Florida State was once the unquestioned flagship football program of the conference and after a relative down period the Seminoles are expected to be back competing as a top 10 program.
The Seminoles won the Atlantic Division last year and despite losing their starting quarterback, enough talent returns along with a top-10 recruiting class to make FSU the favorite in the Atlantic Division again. With the Seminoles on the verge of becoming a force again, might Clemson have missed an opportunity to raise its prestige?