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Va. Tech again the pick to win ACC crown

GREENSBORO, N.C. - Frank Beamer isn't worried about the pressure of being picked to win the Atlantic Coast Conference again. The Virginia Tech coach has had plenty of practice dealing with high expectations.

The Hokies are the overwhelming preseason pick to win a third straight league championship, earning 69 of 87 votes from media members at the ACC Football Kickoff preseason event in results released Monday. Virginia Tech was picked to beat Florida State - predicted to win the Atlantic Division - in the title game.

The Hokies have claimed three league titles since joining the ACC in 2004, winning the past two championship games. They return 16 starters from their fifth straight 10-win team.

'I do like this football team,' Beamer said. 'I tell them, 'I don't mind high expectations as long as you don't forget what got those high expectations,' and that's a lot of togetherness and a lot of hard work and grinding.'

Virginia Tech earned 78 votes to win the Coastal Division, while Georgia Tech earned the other nine. North Carolina was picked third, followed by Miami, Virginia and Duke.

In the Atlantic, Florida State earned 56 votes, followed by Clemson (14), North Carolina State (10), Wake Forest (7), Maryland and Boston College.

'You can't stay on top forever,' said Florida State coach Bobby Bowden, whose Seminoles won at least a share of the ACC title their first nine years in the league. 'But it's a cylinder. It'll come back. I think now, we're on the way back. We'll get back up there.'

Georgia Tech's Jonathan Dwyer was named the preseason player of the year, earning 39 votes to outdistance Clemson's C.J. Spiller (28) and N.C. State's Russell Wilson (16).

Worth his weight

Maryland has a smaller 'Fridge' these days.

Terrapins coach Ralph Friedgen said he has lost 95 pounds during the past 10 months, and hopes to bring his weight down another 55 pounds.

The 62-year-old coach said he considered weight-loss surgery in recent years and dropped 30 pounds using former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee's diet before a Maryland fan introduced him to the Medifast diet plan.

He said it helped him lose about 60 pounds by the Humanitarian Bowl last December in Boise, Idaho - where the mother of former receiver Darius Heyward-Bey told him 'Coach, that blue field makes you look skinny. I said, 'We've got to get one of them in Maryland.'

Wilson's intangibles

N.C. State coach Tom O'Brien admits it: Even he was surprised by the way Russell Wilson played as a freshman for the Wolfpack.

Wilson last year became the first freshman quarterback picked to the all-conference team and was rookie of the year. Wilson made plays with his arm - he threw 17 touchdowns with one interception - and his mobility to help the Wolfpack put together a late-season surge and reach a bowl game.

'He has great confidence in himself and his ability,' O'Brien said. 'He's never down. I mean, he's the most upbeat person there is, and I think that's one of his greatest strengths - that he's always positive and always thinks he can make something happen.'

Stormy start?

Miami certainly won't have the chance to ease into the season.

First comes a Labor Day trip to Florida State, followed by a home game against Georgia Tech and a trip to preseason league favorite Virginia Tech.

Next comes the 'breather' from ACC play: a home game against Oklahoma.

'Players take it like this: it's an opportunity to see where we're at after four games,' coach Randy Shannon said. 'It's not a deal where you have to sit there and beat yourself up and say, 'Oh, it's Florida State, and next week it's Virginia Tech or Georgia Tech.' ... If you have a team that's going to worry about everybody that you play, well, you're not going to be very good.'

AP Sports Writer Joedy McCreary contributed to this report.