College football fans are loyal, passionate, and love to predict how well their team will or won’t do during an upcoming season and the Carolina region is no different. With seven major universities in North and South Carolina, college football is always a hot topic from August through the early days of January. Last year of the seven schools five went to bowl games.
Here are my rankings and record predictions for the teams in the Carolinas (*Note: only regular season games are calculated in my 2011 record prediction):
#7 – Wake Forest Demon Deacons – Last year the boys in Winston-Salem disappointed many with a 3-9 campaign. Their defense allowed almost 36 points per game and they almost lost a home game against Duke. This year they will only fair slightly better going 4-8.
#6 – East Carolina Pirates – Despite playing in a weak Conference USA and not playing any Top 25 teams (at the time of their game), the Pirates only managed 6 wins in 2010. Their defense was atrocious and gave up a whopping 48 points per game. There is a lot of hype surrounding the ECU offense this season, but the defense will continue to give up a lot of points during a lackluster 5-7 year.
#5 – North Carolina Tarheels – After an 8-5 year, the Tarheels had a tumultuous off-season that resulted in the firing of head coach Butch Davis. The downfall from potential NCAA violations may not be over and it won’t help the team on the field. I expect UNC to lose the last 3 games of the year and finish 5-7.
#4 – Duke Blue Devils – Although the Devils only went 3-9 last year, 4 of their losses were by less than a touchdown. Coach Cutcliffe is optimistic about the Duke’s chances and will have his experienced team ready to win those close games this year. QB Sean Renfree and WRs Conner Vernon and Donovan Varner will lead the Blue Devils to their first bowl game since the 1995 Hall of Fame Bowl, with a much improved 7-5 record.
#3 – Clemson Tigers – Last year the Tigers went 6-6 before losing the Car Care Bowl, a season that also included 4 losses by less than 7 points. This season Clemson looks to start better and could end up 4-0 if they catch a potentially over-rated Florida State team. The first true test for the Tigers will be Oct. 1st on the road at Virginia Tech. Clemson should go 8-4 and make another appearance in a bowl game.
#2 – North Carolina State Wolfpack – After a decent 8-4 season, the Wolfpack manhandled West Virginia in the Champs Sports Bowl 23-7. The loss of quarterback Russell Wilson, who transferred to Wisconsin, will hurt the team, however NC State has a very easy schedule. The only tough game on their schedule is a road game at preseason #6 Florida State. That could be the only hiccup in a stellar season for the Wolfpack as they try to make their first ACC Championship game appearance. If my 11-1 prediction comes true it will be the 1st time in school history they have reached that win total without conference championship or bowl game victories.
#1 – South Carolina Gamecocks – After the Gamecocks won their first SEC East Championship last year, Coach Spurrier has his team primed for what could end in the university’s first BCS game appearance. With a plethora of players already being mentioned for post season awards, the ‘Garnet & Black Attack’ is back and better than ever. Although South Carolina plays 5 teams ranked in the preseason Top 25, it only has 4 true road games. Look for the Gamecocks #12 national ranking to improve as they march towards a 12-0 season.