2011 ACC Atlantic Division Predictions

Did you see the 2011 Pre-Season Coaches Poll? Florida State opens the season ranked number 5. I think the Noles are very good. There are my pick to win the ACC, but that also means the coaches think Florida State is going to blow through the ACC Atlantic. This is this the deeper division of the two in the ACC, and Florida State is not good enough to just show up circa 1998 and just win games over the pretty good teams in this division. Florida at Clemson September 24 is the ACC’s regular season game of the year.

Coastal Division Predictions

1) Florida State 9-3 (6-2) * ACC CHAMPION *

The Noles haven’t gotten this much pre-season hype in quite a few years. Jimbo Fisher had an excellent first season that included wins over rival Florida and SEC East Champions South Carolina. Is this year they truly get back to Seminole football or are they still a year away?

Will finish 12-0 if: just a couple of breaks go the Nole’s way. 12-0 is not nearly the stretch you might think. If Florida State beat Oklahoma and wins at Clemson, show me another game the rest of the regular season they won’t be favored in.

Will finish 8-4 if: E.J Manual doesn’t meet expectations. A lot is expected of Manual this season. He’s shown flashes of brilliance, but he’s not very experienced. The Noles don’t have the near the intimidation factor they had 10-12 years ago. As good as the middle of the Atlantic Division, any of the four teams Clemson, Maryland, NC State, and Boston College can beat Florida State on a given day.

2) Clemson 8-4 (5-3)

How do you sort between Clemson, NC State, Maryland, and Boston College? These are all quality teams, with a solid core of players. I finally gave Clemson the slight edge in overall talent. Some of those highly touted freshman should be getting major playing time by the middle of the season.  It’s time for head coach Dabo Swinney to prove he’s just not a recruiter.

Will finish 10-2 if: Clemson can survive the stretch with Auburn, Florida State, and then a road game with Virginia Tech. If the Tigers go 2-1, they can build momentum that could carry them all season. They’ll only get more comfortable as the season progresses with Chad Morris’s new up tempo offense.

Will finish 6-6 if: Tajh Boyd gets hurt. The Tigers have no experienced depth at quarterback, and the loss of Boyd would be disastrous. Remember what I said about Clemson surviving the three game stretch with Auburn, FSU, and Virginia Tech. Well 0-3 is also a possibility. The Tigers have been a mentally fragile team for years capable of beating or losing to anyone. A 2-3 start to the season would be a major uphill battle.

3) North Carolina State 8-4 (4-4)

Tom O’Brien hasn’t always impressed me in his time at NC State. He guided the Wolfpack to a 9-4 season last year, but that was with star QB Russell Wilson. He’s at Wisconsin now. LB Nate Irving is gone too. NC State has some holes to fill, but the cupboard is not totally bare.

Will finish 10-2 if: Mike Glennon is as good as advertised at quarterback. O’Brien says Glennon is as talented any quarterback he’s coached. Strong words from a guy that coached NFLers Matt Hasselbeck and Matt Ryan. There are road games at Florida State and Boston College but overall the schedule is not bad. It’s not out of the question that NC State goes to FLorida State 7-0.

Will finish 7-5 if: The offense doesn’t come together. Other than All-ACC TE George Bryan, there are question marks on offense. How good is Mike Glennon? The leading rusher from 2010 Mustafa Greene is out till October. Can the Pack absorb his loss? The Packs top 2 wide receivers are gone. Who’s going to step up?

4) Maryland 7-5 (4-4)

The Terrapins have one thing going for them that rest of the Division doesn’t have, an experienced All-ACC level returning quarterback in Danny O’Brien. New coach Randy Edsall’s hire was met with somewhat mixed reactions in College Park. He did build the Connecticut program from the ground up, and even got the Huskies to a BCS bowl game which is mighty impressive.  He has a lot more tools to work with at Maryland.

Will finish 9-3 if: Maryland can start the season the 2-0. The Terps can make an early statement. They open the season with Miami at home, then get West Virginia. That would be two quality wins, followed by Temple and Towson which should be wins. That’s 4-0 out of the gate.

Will finish 6-6 if: Nobody steps up to be a consistent pass catcher. O’Brien is a good quarterback, but if he doesn’t have anyone to throw to, he’s going to have problems. The Terps don’t have a receiver returning that caught more than 16 passes. Load up the line stop the run and play single coverage, and the Terps won’t be able to move the ball. There’s potential at wideout but it’s only potential at the moment.

5) Boston College 7-5 (4-4)

Boston College has the ACC’s best running back in Montel Harris and the ACC’s best linebacker in Luke Kuechly. They also have the league’s most difficult conference schedule. The Eagles are consistently the most underrated football team in the ACC.

Will finish 8-4 if: QB Chase Rettig can improve on a freshman season, where he showed potential, but needs more polish. With a nightmare finish to the final 7 games, that includes 5 road games, a 5-0 start is an absolute must.

Will finish 6-6 if: The grind of the backend schedule gets the best of them. Check this out… @Clemson, @Virginia Tech, @Maryland, Florida State, NC State, @Notre Dame, and @Miami. WOW… that’s just not right. The Eagles are solid all-around, and have some elite players, but that schedule is simply ridiculous and could force a pretty decent team into a lower tier bowl.

6) Wake Forest 3-9 (1-7)

Remember when Jim Grobe was one of the hottest coaches in country after winning an ACC Title at Wake Forest? That seems like decades ago. Grobe can still coach, but the Deacs are falling further and further behind in a rapidly improving Atlantic Division.

Will finish 6-6 if: the Defense takes a giant leap forward. The Deacs defense was terrible last season. A lot of young players got experience so that unit should be better. Well they couldn’t be a whole lot worse. Josh Harris is a talented RB and QB Tanner Price showed some promise in 2011. If they continue to progress, the Deacs offense might be more dangerous than you would first think.

Will finish 2-10 if: The Deacs don’t pull a few upsets. Wake Forest will be favored against Gardner Webb. That’s the only game I’m positive Wake Forest won’t be underdogs in. Games with Duke and Vanderbilt provide the next most reasonable shots at a win. The schedule offers few breaks, and the season could spiral out of control in a hurry.

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