Sunday Morning Quarterback has an excellent post explaining how Florida State came to be the consensus pick this year in the ACC, despite their lacksadasial performance last season and a wide-open Coastal DIvision. And in fact it's exactly that free-for-all on that side of the league that has so many people pencilling the Seminoles in the top spot. This is one of the downsides to ACC football's divisional segregation, and why I really don't want it carried over to basketball.
Atlantic Coastal Division is about five seconds of work, tops. You can do it in three steps.
STEP ONE: List last year's order of finish.
Virginia Tech (6-2)
STEP TWO: Think, "Didn't Georgia Tech lose their Heisman Trophy candidate from last year? And quarterback? Better drop 'em a spot."
STEP THREE: Beers!
Now, a fair number of sportswriters just skipped Step Two altogether, which is fine. The important thing is to have as little as possible impede Step Three. So of course nobody's picking the Heels to escape fifth place, despite the new coach, new quarterback, and equally large question mark in Miami. Everybody knows you put the North Carolina teams at the bottom. To do otherwise would be silly.
But now when you get to the
Coastal Atlantic Division:
Boston College (5-3)
Florida State (3-5)
N.C. State (2-6)
Wait. Wake Forest won this thing last year? And they're returning almost everybody? We can't pick Wake Forest. People will laugh when that one's wrong. Better drop 'em after... didn't Boston College just lose their coach? To State? Can't pick them. Who's next? Maryland? Then the Bowdens? You mean I have to rewrite the boilerplate father-and-son vying for the conference bit? It's tradition! This is going to take thought. Analysis. Voicing an opinion that could be ridiculed come December. We're losing Step Three Time, here.
In the face of this, of course everyone's going to revert to Florida State. They're the safe bet No one ever looked silly picking FSU to win the ACC. After all, they fired the coach everybody was unhappy with, and Chuck Amato's back, and there's the Florida talent, and it's still Bobby Bowden, right? Given enough time, and you can convince yourself this is the FSU of old. A contending FSU. A pre-expansion FSU. And once you've got that team in mind, who wouldn't pick them to win the ACC Championship?
In a twelve-team league, as much as it pains me to admit, Virginia Tech is the clear-cut favorite. The won their last six regular-season games, only lost in the Peach Bowl by 7, and return most of their starters. But in two six-team leagues, all eyes turn to Florida State. Once you convince yourself they'll win the Coastal, why not the whole thing?
Update [2007-6-19 17:20:38 by TH]: As Ramblin' Racket pointed out, I can't tell the Atlantic from the Coastal. But I can't tell out of protest. Yeah, that's the ticket.