Thursday, August 23, 2012

2012 - An ACC Preview

For the past couple of years, the changing landscape has caused conferences to ebb and flow.  The ACC has tried to be a part of this, but they haven't been able to land the schools that they have wanted.  On the flip side, they haven't lost schools to other conferences.  There have been rumblings about Miami, Florida State, and Clemson leaving the conference though.  For this year, the status quo is refreshing.  The problem for the league is that the haves and have nots disparity is growing.


1.  Florida State.  I would argue that the Seminoles are the classic underachievers of college football.  When the expectations are high, something seems to go wrong.  The entire Offensive line will be Sophmores.  The skill positions are stacked for Florida State.  As well as the offense seems to be, the defense should be even better.  The Defensive line should be one of the Top 5 in the nation.  The linebackers and secondary are filled with returning starters.  Kicker Dustin Hopkins shouldn't be Wide Right or Wide Left in pressure kick situations.  If it were any other team besides Florida State, I would be looking at an undefeated season or a heartbreaking loss on a last second score.  But since it is the Seminoles, I cannot look at it that way.  10-2 Overall, 7-1 ACC.

2.  North Carolina State.  Mike Glennon did a great job replacing Russell Wilson as the Wolfpack signal caller.  I expect him to be even better this year.  The only thing that might hold back the offense is if the line doesn't improve it's pass protection.  There is speed on the outside and the Running Back tandem should provide over 1500 yards on the ground.  The strength of the defense is the secondary and the defensive line has a rotation that could go as deep as 10 players.  The problems might come with the linebacking corps with Sterling Lucas being key and he is returning from a knee injury that kept him out all of last year.  10-2 Overall, 6-2 ACC.

3.  Clemson.  After roaring out of the gate last year, the Tigers were mediocre in their last 6 games.  I predict that the mediocrity will continue in this season.  I think that Tajh Boyd is overrated and will come back to earth this year.  The offensive line is in flux but the receiving corps can be something special if Boyd can get them the ball.  RB Andre Ellington is a special running back.  Give him a crease and he can turn the play into a home run.  The defense has to improve after the debacles last year, doesn't it?  A new coordinator from Oklahoma will bring the schemes that the Sooners have run.  The linebackers have some elite talent in their ranks.  The defensive line and secondary have talent but didn't show it much of last year.  I think that a repeat of being ACC Champions is out of reach and that the Tigers will be in the middle of the pack.  7-5 Overall, 5-3 ACC.

4.  Wake Forest.  This isn't an endorsement of how good the Demon Deacons are, but how bad the other 2 teams in the Coastal Division are.  Tanner Price is an effective QB, Josh Harris needs to show that the 241 yard rushing game vs. Virginia Tech is who he is, not the back who rushed for 432 yards all of last year.  The receivers are inexperienced and the line has two players that have college experience.  Not a recipe for success in my mind.  The defensive ends need to step up and play like NT Nikita Whitlock does.  Whitlock was fifth in the ACC in tackles for loss.  But a paltry 11 sacks by Wake Forest last year tells the story of the DE's.  The Deacons are hoping that the linebackers can get pressure on the QB from the OLB and the secondary is the strength of the defense.  5-7 Overall, 3-5 ACC.

5.  Maryland.  Another year like last year might make Randy Edsall unemployed.  He is coming into this season with offensive starters getting out of the program.  Danny O'Brien is now playing at Wisconsin and the two starting tackles transferred.  That leaves a QB that is a good rusher, a running attack that was 3rd in the ACC last year, a passing game that might be stuck in the bottom of the league and an offensive line that needs to jell quickly.  The defense is switching to an attacking 3-4 base.  They should be better because of all the experience that the 2nd stringers got last year due to all the injuries to the starters and those same starters coming back and providing leadership.  The Terrapins aren't overly talented but will fight until the final whistle.  4-8 Overall, 2-6 ACC.

6.  Boston College.  Fans and alumni of the Eagles will get their wish after this year.  There will be a new head coach.  Two losing seasons in a row for a fan base that isn't used to that will do that to a Head Coach.  The offense might not be bad.  New OC Doug martin is a QB specialist and should get Chase Rettig on track to be a upper-tier ACC QB.  Montel Harris was dismissed from the team and his loss will hurt the Eagles running game.  The Eagles do not have a proven speed receiver, but hope that Spiffy Evans can fill that role.  The Offenive Line is the pride of O-Line-U.  They are good and will continue to be.  The problem is defense.  The D-Line is atrocious and there isn't a stud in the wings waiting to join.  The LB corps will miss Luke Kuechly, but will remain the best unit on the defensive side of the ball.  The defensive backs are better than advertised, but they breakdown due to the lack of a pass rush generated by the D-Line.  For Eagle fans, it might be better to watch the 12 best games that Doug Flutie had instead of the current product.  2-10 Overall, 0-8 ACC.


1.  Virginia Tech.  The offense will tell the tale for the 2012 Hokies.  8 starters graduated and that number includes 4 offensive linemen.  If they can jell, the Hokies have a chance to be real good.  Logan Thomas is the type of QB that is perfect for the college game and the skill positions have players that can excel if the line can play together.  The defense is reminding people in Blacksburg of the defenses that led the country in total yards back in 05 and 06.  The Hokies had 41 sacks last year and everybody returns on the D-Line.  The Backers had injuries this spring but should be able to be at 100% when the games start.  The hope is that there isn't a major injury in the defensive backfield.  If there is, that might be the unit that lets down the Hokies and their dreams of an ACC title.  10-2 Overall, 6-2 ACC.

2.  Georgia Tech.  Paul Johnson decided to get back to basics in the Spring.  The Jackets ran their base spread-option offense against the defenses that they expect to face this year, and did it again, and again, and again.  It is the attention to detail that Johnson was trying to get his offensive players to understand.  That focus should allow the Ramblin' Wreck offense to perform admirably even with Stephen Hill going to the NFL.  With most of the offense returning, I expect that the offense will be even more explosive than it has been the past couple of years.  The true test for the Jackets is going to be on their D-Line.  Let's see if Al Groh's let the linemen loose mantra for the year allows the defense to become better.  The Linebackers and secondary should hold up to most tests.  9-3 Overall, 6-2 ACC.

3.   Virginia.  Like most of the other ACC teams, the offense should show the way for the team.  The Cavaliers have a stable of running backs that along with a stable offensive line should be able to produce results.  The receivers are no longer a plodding group of "possession receivers", but a group that are quick and have speed.  If they show that they have good hands, then the Cavaliers will have a full offensive compliment to score.  And like most of the ACC, the defense could be the unit that holds the key whether or not the team is successful.  The D-Line lost 3 starters and the secondary did the same.  The Linebacking Corps could have two All-ACC players in Steve Greer and LaRoy Reynolds.  I give Mike London credit for the rebuilding job he is doing with the Virginia football program.  Next year, the Cavaliers might be the odds on favorite to win the ACC.  6-6 Overall, 5-3 ACC

4.  North Carolina.  Expect the Tar Heels and their opponents to test the theory that NCAA Football 13 is realistic.  North Carolina is implementing the no-huddle spread attack and wants to play up tempo.  The goal is for the team to have between 70 to 80 plays on offense for the entire game, have balance between the run and pass and to tire out their opponents in the 4th Quarter.  QB Bryn Renner figures to be the triggerman for the offense.  The O-Line returns 4 starters, the RB Giovani Bernard is the first Tar Heel to run over 1,000 yard in a season since 1997, and the Wide outs could become polished if a speed WR can be found.  The defense on the other hand looks like they will be going to a 4-2-5 base set and will have lots of blitzes and coverages.  They are hoping to confuse the opponent to cover up the fact that the talent level for the team isn't up to par.  I am actually thinking that Carolina and somebody will each score 50 points in a game.  My pick might surprise you:  Duke.  8-4 Overall, 4-4 ACC.

5.  Miami.  The Hurricanes is an appropriate nickname for this team.  Because this program is a strong force of nature that is out of control.  The NCAA has been sniffingaround this program for a couple of years and new allegations of improper recruiting and extra benefits for Hurricane players came out during this summer.  Al Golden still has his reputation intact from the jobn he did at Temple, but the coincidences that have happened since he took over last year could lead people to think that he has decided to do business as usual in Miami.  Anyways, the offense looks like the talent isn't up to standards.  The local fans are waiting for the 2012 class to join the team to take a look at Randy "Duke" Johnson and others.  The defense lost Ray Ray Anderson and the Line and Bakers are in a state of flux.  Look for the Miami Hurricanes teams that you remember from the glory days in name only.  These Canes might get to a tropical depression but that is all.  5-7 Overall, 3-5 ACC.

6.  Duke.  The one thing about Duke under David Cutcliffe is that they have talent under Center.  Sean Renfree is the starter with Anthony Boone and Brnadon Connette as the backups.  They are all good QB's.  The RB is by committee with none of them standing out.  The O-Line is probably the best that Duke has had under Cutcliffe.  Duke has inexperience at the receiver position but there is untapped talent at TE.  For the Defense, the question is if the Front 6 can hold up.  Last year the front end of the defense wore down late in games.  The Duke coaching staff is hoping that the influx of young players will allow for more rotation and fresher players to make plays late in the game.  The secondary should be the backbone for this defense.  Cutcliffe is in his 5th year at the helm of the Blue Devils.  Even though he has only won 15 games over 4 years, he has made the Blue Devils lots better.  Now the challenge is to get the Dukies out of the bottom of the league.  4-8 Overall, 1-7 ACC.

ACC Championship:  Florida State defeats Virginia Tech.

Bowl Predictions:

Orange:  Florida State
Chick-Fil-A:  Virginia Tech
Sun:  North Carolina State
Music City:  Clemson
Champs Sports:  Georgia Tech

Virginia does not qualify for a bowl because of a win vs. FCS Richmond and North Carolina is under NCAA Probation.  Therefore the three bowl games that do not have names behind them will be able to get other teams to fill that position that the ACC could not fill.

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