Step into my office ...
Dawson in Avon, NC writes: Is next year the year the ACC will round the corner into a respected football conference? The addition of Louisville is an upgrade, especially if Bridgewater stays. FSU is great and Clemson still has a lot of talent but what about the coastal? AA has pinned UNC as the super early favorite for 2014. Would a flagship program in the coastal help the ACC's image or is it better to have dog fights every week?
HD: I think a dominant program in the Coastal would do wonders for the ACC -- especially if it's Miami or Virginia Tech that separates, but nobody is going to complain about a top-10 North Carolina or Georgia Tech team, either. Right now it's just so lopsided and top-heavy in the Atlantic Division, and the parity in the Coastal -- which was caused by several mediocre teams, not a bunch of great teams -- didn't help the league's image. As for the overall perception of the league, though, I think having Florida State in the national title game has already given the ACC a big boost that will roll right into next year. You're right, the addition of Louisville will help, and so will adding Notre Dame into the schedule, but the ideal situation would be to have all of that AND a great team in the Coastal.
Joseph Wilcox in West Palm Beach, Fla. writes: Why has there been so little talk of FSU's defensive line going into the National Championship game? Have people forgotten about the big ugglies? Jernigan, Jones, Goldman, and Edwards are going to set the tone up front and negate Auburn's linemen allowing the linebackers and defensive backs to make plays. Auburn might have an amazing offensive line, however, they have not seen a front four as good as FSU.
HD: And likewise, FSU's defensive line hasn't seen an offensive line as good as Auburn's. To me, that's the matchup of the game.
Kevin in Washington, DC writes: HD, The ACC is on top of the world right now: a national championship game, The Heisman winner (in a landslide), Offensive POY, Defensive POY, and a second team in a BCS bowl. Then add ranked ND and Louisville teams to the schedule next year. My question is this: can the rest of the conference parlay this success on the recruiting trail? Ole Miss, Vandy, and Kentucky are recruiting better on the back of "we play in the SEC." Can ACC schools do the same thing?
HD: The power of a conference definitely helps on the recruiting trail, but it can only go so far with fickle teenagers who are more caught up in the bling of facilities and color of unis. A lot of recruits care less about what conference they're playing in and more about the location of the school, its tradition, its facilities, its uniforms, academics. I asked a lot of players from Pitt and Cuse about moving to the ACC, and it didn't really seem to matter to them too much. How much is "playing in the ACC" going to help Boston College recruiting? Wake? Duke? NC State? To me those schools have to sell themselves first, not the conference -- and they all do have plenty to pitch.
Robert in Cumming , Ga writes: Why has Virginia Tech been in a decline for the past two years?
HD: They haven't had the playmakers on offense. Logan Thomas has been average at quarterback, and it's been a reflection of the cast around him. Coaching has also been a problem, as evidenced by the staff changes Frank Beamer made on the offensive side. It's not the Xs and the Os, though, it's the Jimmys and the Joes. They've been missing a physical, standout wide receiver, an elite running back, and the dominant blockers up front. Whether or not they turn things around next year depends heavily on how much those aspects of the game improve, but the defense has always been dependable.