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Va. Tech is early favorite in ACC
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GREENSBORO, N.C. — Virginia Tech is again picked for a familiar finish in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

The Hokies earned 50 of a possible 98 votes from media members at the league's two-day preseason media event, marking the third time in four seasons the Hokies are the preseason favorite. Virginia Tech claimed the ACC crown in its debut season (2004) and won the league championship game in both 2007 and 2008.

"I think it kind of makes a statement about our program in general, that we would be picked where we are," Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said. "I'm appreciative, but you've got to go earn it, and that's their challenge right now."

Florida State was the runaway choice to win the Atlantic Division and has the league's preseason player of the year in quarterback Christian Ponder. Ponder earned 45 votes to easily outdistance Hokies running back Ryan Williams (16) and quarterback Tyrod Taylor (11).

"You have this big job, you have to embrace expectations," said Jimbo Fisher, who is preparing for his first season as Bobby Bowden's successor at Florida State. "Here's the thing you've got to understand: expectations don't win games."

The Hokies earned 62 votes to be the favorite in the Coastal Division, followed by Miami (20), defending ACC champion Georgia Tech (11), North Carolina (5), Duke and Virginia.

In the Atlantic, the Seminoles received 78 votes and were followed by Clemson (16), Boston College (4), North Carolina State, Wake Forest and Maryland.

The division winners meet Dec. 4 in the league championship game, which is moving to Charlotte for the first time.


POINTS TO PONDER: Christian Ponder is probably the ACC's best chance to be a Heisman Trophy contender, and he isn't shying away from the attention that comes with it. That includes a website launched by Florida State:

"I'm just trying to enjoy the whole moment and enjoy the whole process," said Ponder, the league's preseason player of the year. "They came to me at the beginning of the whole process and asked me if I'd be comfortable with it. I told them, 'Yeah.' I already put so much pressure on myself and have such high expectations for myself, and this doesn't really change anything."


CERTAIN TERPS: After a two-win season last year, Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen will be under some extra pressure this season. But to listen to linebacker Alex Wujciak, speculation about Friedgen's job security isn't leading to an overwhelming amount of stress around the program.

"Obviously toward the end of last season, things got a little hectic, but once they said he was still going to be our coach, everybody was like, 'OK' and just went back to work," Wujciak said. "Plus we've got (assistant) coach (James) Franklin, who is coach-in-waiting, so there's not like that much uncertainty around the program."

Even Friedgen could find reason for optimism.

"I liked them last year and they were 2-10, so I'm going to like them even more this year, because I know what this team can turn into," he said.


BIBLE'S BACK: N.C. State offensive coordinator Dana Bible worked with the Wolfpack through spring drills even as he still recovers from treatment for leukemia. Coach Tom O'Brien said it's important for Bible to pace himself as he works with the team through training camp's August heat.

"He's got to understand there are going to be times when he's going to feel good and he'll be able to do things out there and there are times when he can't," O'Brien said. "But he gets stronger each and every day so it's a process for him. So I have to trust him to help us make the right decisions on how he's going to get through preseason camp."


EXTRA POINTS: North Carolina coach Butch Davis said he hasn't decided the punishment for linebacker Quan Sturdivant following his recent citation for marijuana possession. ... O'Brien said N.C. State cornerback Rashard Smith would miss the season after undergoing knee surgery to correct an injury originally suffered in a loss at Boston College, though the injury didn't surface until after spring drills. O'Brien compared the injury to the cartilage trouble that plagued now-departed running back Toney Baker. ... Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson is looking forward to working with a former rival in ex-Virginia coach Al Groh, now the Yellow Jackets' defensive coordinator. "His idea of a vacation was going up and spending 2-3 days with (New England Patriots) Coach (Bill) Belichick watching film," Johnson said.