ISLE OF PALMS, S.C. - Despite losing 14 starters from last season, Florida State has been tabbed the preseason favorite in Atlantic Coast Conference football by the media.
The Seminoles, gunning for a record 10th-straight ACC title, picked up 64 of the 70 possible first-place votes. Georgia Tech, which returns a league-high 18 starters, drew five first-place votes and was picked second.
Clemson had the other first-place vote and was picked third.
Florida State has won or shared the league crown in each season since its ACC debut in 1992. The Seminoles haven't opened a season with this few returning starters since their national championship season of 1993, when the team returned only nine.
"This is going to be a very precarious year for us," said Florida State coach Bobby Bowden. "I think if we can get those first three games and beat Georgia Tech, then maybe we have a chance. Until we can do that, we don't know."
The Seminoles lost Heisman Trophy candidate Chris Weinke, who led the ACC in passing and total offense; the conference's leading receiver in Marvin Minnis; and the team's leading rusher, Travis Minor.
Florida State returns five defensive starters but lost former Aiken standout Jamal Reynolds, who was Green Bay's first-round draft pick after winning the Lombardi Award.
Still, many still believe the Seminoles have enough ammunition to win the conference.
"I think they played 28 guys a game on defense and lost eight ... Well, that's 20 guys coming back that played like starters," said Clemson coach Tommy Bowden, a son of Bobby Bowden.
Georgia Tech, which shared the ACC crown with Florida State in 1998, returns nine starters from a defense that ranked 12th nationally last season against the run and forced 30 turnovers.
The Yellow Jackets return the conference's second-leading passer in George Godsey, their second-leading receiver in Kelly Campbell and their fifth-leading rusher in Joe Burns. Plus, three starters return on the offensive line.
Georgia Tech must survive a tough September schedule that includes a trip to Florida State on Sept. 15 and a home date with Clemson on Sept. 29.
"I think we have as good of a chance as anybody else," said Yellow Jackets coach George O'Leary. "The key is to go out and play."
Reach Tim Morse at (706) 823-3216 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
|The voting breakdown for the 2001 Atlantic Coast Conference preseason football poll as voted on Monday by 70 media members attending the ACC Football Kickoff at Wild Dunes Resort. First-place votes in parenthesis:|
1. Florida St. (64) 624
2. Georgia Tech (5) 554
3. Clemson (1) 492
4. N.C. State 402
5. Virginia 315
6. North Carolina 299
7. Maryland 248
8. Wake Forest 123
9. Duke 93