August 17, 1999 - by
ACC Football Preview

Aug. 17, 1999


By DAVID DROSCHAK


AP Sports Writer

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – As a group, college football coaches can be some
of the
more guarded people around. Then, there’s Florida State’s Bobby Bowden and his
“dad-gum good-lookin’ ballclub.”

Bowden, eight wins shy of victory No. 300, is once again talking national
title as the preseason No. 1 Seminoles return 16 starters from a club that
lost
to Tennessee 23-16 in the Fiesta Bowl with a third-string quarterback.

“I said last year we were a very talented team with no experience. This
year, we’re a very talented team with experience,” said Bowden, who could get
his victory milestone on Oct. 23 against Clemson, coached by his son, Tommy.

“But there is a human element to this thing,” Bowden added. “How bad do
you want it? Will they make the sacrifice? What is the chemistry between the
players and the coaches?”

Bowden, who turns 70 on Nov. 8, has gotten better with age. He had a .667
winning percentage in the 1970s, .752 in the ’80s and is 96-12-1 this decade
for an .882 clip.

The Seminoles lost only their second ACC game in 56 tries last
September at
North Carolina State, but still managed a share of the ACC crown with Georgia
Tech. That marked the seventh straight season since joining the league that
Florida State has either won or shared the title.

“There is nobody in the country more talented than them,” NC State coach
Mike O’Cain said. “They win because of their TEAM. Last year, we had to win by
outscoring people. They don’t win by outscoring people. They can score 10
or 17
points and have a chance to win a lot of games.”

Wide receiver Peter Warrick passed on the NFL draft and returns to an
explosive offense that averaged 32.1 points a game.

“Peter Warrick came back primarily because he does not want to go out
on a
losing note,” said Bowden, referring to last year’s loss to the Volunteers.
“That looks like the kind of attitude that can make a team hungry.”

Chris Weinke is healthy after suffering a neck injury that knocked the
quarterback out of the final three games. Add Travis Minor running behind five
returning linemen and it looks like the Seminoles have unmatched firepower.

In addition, seven starters return from the nation’s No. 1-ranked
defense,
which allowed only 215 yards a game. By contrast, the ACC’s second-best
defense
– Clemson – gave up 320 yards a game.

The Seminoles play their closest ACC competition in the second week of
the
season when Georgia Tech, 10-2 last year, pays a visit. That’s bad news for
the
Yellow Jackets, considering Florida State has a 40-game unbeaten streak at
Doak
Campbell Stadium.

Florida State beat Georgia Tech 34-7 in Atlanta last year.

The Yellow Jackets, ranked No. 11 in the preseason poll, will count on
5-foot-9 quarterback Joe Hamilton and a host of solid runners. Tech’s 10 wins
were the most since the program shared the national title with Colorado in
1990.

“The key for us is the kid pulling the trigger,” coach George O’Leary
said. “He has an uncanny knack of taking something that isn’t there and making
something out of it.”

Virginia went 9-3 in ’98, giving the program seven or more wins an
ACC-record 12 straight seasons under coach George Welsh.

The Cavaliers, ranked 24th entering the season, return the league’s only
1,000-yard rusher in Thomas Jones, who averaged 5.5 yards a carry with 13 TDs.
But Dan Ellis, who threw only six passes last season, takes over for Aaron
Brooks, who finished third on the school’s career passing list.

“Not much experience, but a lot of practice time, a lot of scrimmage
time,
a lot of meeting time, so I think he’s ready to step in,” Welsh said of Ellis.

Welsh’s major concern is on defense, where six starters return from a
team
that finished 32nd in the nation in yards allowed.

“If we can’t stop anybody on defense, it’s not going to be a real good
year. I don’t like to feel like I have to outscore people to win,” said Welsh,
who begins his 18th season at Virginia.

The Cavaliers do have Florida State and Georgia Tech at home on
consecutive
weekends late in the season, but face a tough early slate with road games at
North Carolina, Clemson and Brigham Young.

North Carolina State could sneak up in the ACC despite the loss of
All-American wide receiver Torry Holt.

The Wolfpack’s offense may be one of the best in the league with Jamie
Barnette poised to become the ACC’s all-time leading passer. The tailbacks are
Ray Robinson (822 yards in ’98) and Rahshon Spikes.

The Wolfpack opens at Texas in the BCA Classic on Aug. 28.

“I did check to see that Ricky Williams had graduated,” O’Cain said when
asked about scheduling a game against the Longhorns and former North Carolina
coach Mack Brown, who is 5-0 against O’Cain.

North Carolina contended for the ACC title in ’96 and ’97, but slipped to
7-5 under first-year coach Carl Torbush. The Tar Heels will rely heavily on
sophomore quarterback Ronald Curry.

The league has two new coaches in Clemson’s Tommy Bowden and Duke’s Carl
Franks, a Steve Spurrier disciple who inherits 19 returning starters – most in
the ACC.

The younger Bowden will try to revive a Clemson program that slipped
to 3-8
under Tommy West – its worst mark since 1975.

Five of Clemson’s losses were by seven points or less. In fact, four of
those games slipped away in the final minute.

“Is it one great player? Is it conditioning? Is it philosophy? What I
have
to do is find out,” Bowden said. “Whatever that fine line is, I’ve got to
find it quick.”

Wake Forest was the nation’s worst rushing team in going 3-8 last season,
while Maryland is 2-14 in ACC play under third-year coach Ron Vanderlinden.

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