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Hold (off) that Tiger!

The Atlantic Coast Conference returned to Pinehurst Resort this past week for its annual Football Media Day (er, make that ‘Days’, since the players came in on Monday and the coaches on Tuesday … I mean, did they have to get them back for summer school?  Or maybe the assembled media got an extra day where they could go out and tear up more turf on Pinehurst No. 5 – because they sure as heck weren’t going to let this bunch loose on No. 2!).  Besides, I’ve heard there’s a severe lack of pine trees at the famed Golf & Country Club.  As a fellow wag opined upon seeing it this summer: are they going to start calling it, ‘Scrub-hurst’ with so much sand and saw grass?

Back in the days when I used to attend, what used to be a nice mid-summer powwow to shoot the breeze with the likes of Danny Ford, Dick Sheridan, and Mack Brown has apparently now morphed into an affair that can’t be contained by one day or even one ballroom. I’ve heard this year’s event was scattered throughout the venerable Resort, where it’d been before, but this time having to contend with a media hoard on the scale of the U.S. Open Golf Championship.

Commissioner John Swofford once again reminded the assembled in his “State of the ACC” address that there’s no ACC Network yet (a la, the Big-10 or SEC), but when you’ve won as many major sport championships over the past two years (FSU: football AND women’s soccer; Duke: basketball; Virginia: baseball AND men’s soccer AND men’s tennis) maybe this league is on TV enough, and still hasn’t come anywhere close to over-exposure.  And, I didn’t even mention there’s probably a lot less money to split up without a network deal; after all, the pie has to be cut into 14 slices now, not the 10 it once was, or even for those older like me may remember: eight.

All the TV money talk brings me to opening weekend (only six weeks away, folks!), where ACC grid teams will be all over TV landscape. The must-see games, and this is just a portion, are:  North Carolina-South Carolina in Charlotte; Virginia at UCLA; Louisville at Auburn; even Duke at Tulane; and the ‘biggie’: defending champ, Ohio State, at Virginia Tech, where those Buckeyes will be looking to hunt turkey against those Gobblers.  Like I said in the last paragraph, just show me the money.

The league kicks off its season in Charlotte, and that’s also where it’ll end in December with the ACC Football Championship game.

In Pinehurst, a majority of the wags picked the Clemson Tigers to wear the league crown and hopefully crack the football Final-4 like the Seminoles a year ago.

But in the words of the ubiquitous Lee Corso: Not so fast my friend!

I’m saying the Tigs not only won’t win the Atlantic Division, but despite all the problems they’re facing now – and it’s only the off-season – I think the ‘Noles will be back atop that heap.

Annnd I’m picking Georgia Tech to take it all.

It’ll be tough for Jimbo’s bunch to claim a spot in the January soiree again, especially with my ‘Player of the Year’: Dalvin Cook out, probably for the year, with his off-the-field troubles. Still, they’re FloridaState.  They’re getting a national championship-tested signal-caller under center in Everett Golson, coming over from Notre Dame; and somewhere in that bunch I just know they’ve got to have a quality running back stashed away. I mean, they’re Florida State, aren’t they!?!

The team that had better find a running back is the one I’m picking to be packing up and headed back up I-85 when it’s real cold outside: the Ramblin’ Wreck.

Georgia Tech returns this season with an impressive quarterback in Justin Thomas and an improving defense, and should be viewed as one of the conference favorites.  But maybe with their appearance in Charlotte last year, the bar in Atlanta has been raised a bit high.  They do have to find something Paul Johnson coached teams specialize in: a running game built around a running back.  As I said about the ‘Noles earlier, Tech will be fine. They’ll have someone to step up.

They’ll also be tearing down, as in the goal-posts in Bank of America Stadium come December.  And, don’t worry, folks: they won’t be taking down the same crossbars Cam Newton and the boys in teal use anyway.

Gene Motley is a Staff Writer with Roanoke-Chowan Publications. He can be contacted at gene.motley@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7211.