With the college football season just a week away, I’ve got some more predictions for you. Here’s how I see the ACC Atlantic Division playing out. Check out my Coastal Division predictions from a few days ago.
1) Florida State 11-1 (7-1) – ACC Champions
Every year it seems FSU gets that top 10 or 15 ranking only to underachieve and lose 4 or 5 games. Honestly though I think most people familiar with the FSU knew that’s what the Noles were. A slightly better than average team with overrated talent. This year, I think it could be a special year in Tallahassee, and it’s because of the defense.
After October 8 of last year the Seminoles gave up more than 19 points exactly zero times. This is a deep and talented defense that quite a few people have called the country’s best.
When Florida State struggled it was with the offense and an inconsistent running game. If EJ Manuel has a solid year at QB and the offensive line comes together, the Noles can make a run at an ACC title and possibly national title. The schedule is favorable, but has a enough meat that SOS won’t be called into question. Games at South Florida and Florida dot the schedule. Clemson comes to Florida State, but there is a huge game at Virginia Tech. Also a game NC State could be tricky. Anything less than ACC Title in 2012 would be a disappointment for Jimbo Fisher and his team.
2) Clemson 9-3 (6-2)
Clemson on paper should provide the Florida State Seminoles their toughest challenger in the Atlantic. Offensively there isn’t a better team in the ACC, but both lines of scrimmage lost a lot of talent, and the defense is a big question mark. I think the opening game against Auburn is huge. I wrote a couple of days, that Dabo Swinney and Clemson need this game to prove this program is still rising. If the Tigers lose that game they could be staring at 2-2 start to the season with Florida State in week 4. They’ll have to beat Auburn without Sammy Watkins. If they do then it could be a monster ESPN Gameday matchup with FSU on September 22.
That’s the kind of game big time teams get into. I can see the Tigers going 11-1 or 7-5, it all depends how they open the season, and whether they can put their tendency for inexplicable performances away.
3) N.C State 8-4 (4-4)
It’s funny I’ve never been a Tom O’Brien fan, but I’m starting to warm up to him. Coming a 9 and an 8 win season, if I had to name a darkhorse in the Atlantic it’s NC State. They won their final 3 games of last year including a route of Clemson. They return one the ACC’s best passers in the Mike Glennon and the country’s best cornerback David Amerson.
If the Auburn game is big for Clemson, N.C State’s opening game with Tennessee is just as big for them. It’s very possible that the Wolfpack could open the season 4-0 before a road date at Miami. Win that one and a 5-0 N.C State squad could be getting FSU in Raleigh. That would be biggest regular season to hit NC State in quite a awhile. I like this team. The Wolfpack are dangerous.
4) Maryland 5-7 (2-6)
Last season was a complete disaster at Maryland. After an opening win at against Miami, the Terps lost 10 of their last 11 games often in blowout fashion. There were a slew of transfers and plenty of dissension. Quarterback C.J Brown is now out for the season after he tore his ACL. There are still a couple of reasons why I think the Terps will be better though.
First the players that committed to Edsall and his way of doing things remain. Second we’ve seen what impact a talented freshman receiver like Sammy Watkins or Calvin Johnson can have. The Terps may have that kind of impact player in Stefon Diggs who appears as good as advertised so far. No bowling this year, but I think Maryland will show some improvement over last season. Well it couldn’t be much worse to be honest.
5) Wake Forest 5-7 (2-6)
One the one hand Wake Forest came within an eye lash of winning the Atlantic Division. One the other hand they lost 5 of their last 6 games, and two games they won last year FSU and NC State don’t look likely in 2012. The offensive line is inexperienced; their best receiver Chris Givens is gone. Tanner Price is a real underrated QB, and him alone makes me think Wake Forest could still get to a bowl game.
Also Jim Grobe will never let the Deacs get to an uncompetitive level, but I just see to many losses on the offensive side. Playing in a division with 3 potential top 25 is just too much to ask.
6) Boston College 3-9 (2-6)
Remember when BC was making annual trips to the ACC Title game? That’s seems like an eternity ago. There’s no Luke Kuechly and no Montel Harris, but there are a lot of question marks to go around. Frank Spaziani gets some credit for late wins NC State and at Miami last year. The Eagles nearly won at Notre Dame, but they need a real splash this year.
That means at least a bowl game, but even with QB Chase Rettig returning where are the wins going to come from? There are games Georgia Tech, FSU, NC State, and at Northwestern. The get Clemson, Virginia Tech, and Notre Dame at home, but they will be underdogs in all 3. Miami and Maryland at home are winnable maybe at Wake Forest, but what else? It could be a long season in Boston.