Preview 2012 - ACC Predicted Finishes
The early summer look at where we think each team will finish.
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Preview 2012 - Predicted Conference Finishes
- ACC |
Big 12 |
Big East |
- Mountain West |
Here's out mid-summer guess on the final pecking order in each
conference based on how we think the teams might end up.
1. Florida State
2011 Record: 9-4, 2012 Roughly Projected Record: 10-2
Will this finally be the year Florida State lives up to its talent level and its billing? There aren't many excuses thanks to a defense that should be among the best the program has had since its national title-level days with only two players gone off the two-deep depth chart. Quarterback E.J. Manuel has elite skills, and if he can take a step up in his production to make up for the weak running game the offense will do enough to get by; it won't take that many points to let the defense take care of the rest.
On Thursday, November 8th the Seminoles have to go to Virginia Tech and should be the underdog for the only time all season. Going to NC State won't be easy, the South Florida away game is a landmine, and road trips to Miami are always entertaining, but the schedule is manageable even with five road games in seven weeks. Florida and Clemson have to come to Tallahassee.
2. NC State
2011 Record: 8-5, 2012 Roughly Projected Record: 9-3
This is supposed to be the year coach Tom O'Brien has been building for. A ten-win season is possible with a favorable schedule with several of the key games at home, and with a veteran team that should be able to come up with a balanced effort from the start. Facing Tennessee in Atlanta to kick off the season could be a showcase moment, but the Wolfpack need to make its biggest statement at Miami to start off ACC play. A midseason run of three road games in four will be the one big test, especially with the home game against Florida State, but the veterans should be able to handle it. The receiving corps is the biggest question mark, but the running game should be better with four starters returning up front and James Washington a nice back to work around. The entire secondary returns and the pass rush should once again be terrific.
2011 Record: 10-4, 2012 Roughly Projected Record: 7-5
There's a ton of talent returning from the defending ACC champion, but the horrendous end to 2011 could be a sign of things to come. Will WR Sammy Watkins' off-the-field issues be a concern? Will QB Tajh Boyd be more consistent? The defensive front loses three starters and the offensive line has to undergo an overhaul, but the team had better be ready from Day One with a huge date in Atlanta against Auburn to kick things off. Try this out for the start of the ACC schedule: at Florida State, at Boston College, Georgia Tech, and Virginia Tech. Follow that up with two more road games and with the South Carolina showdown still to deal with late, and it could end up being a rocky season with plenty of adversity.
4. Wake Forest
2011 Record: 6-7, 2012 Roughly Projected Record: 6-6
Somewhat quietly, the Demon Deacons came up with a good season with an opportunistic offense and just enough defense to get by. Five starters return to a defensive front seven that has to be far better at getting into the backfield, while the secondary needs to find replacements at safety. Losing NFL receiver Chris Givens will take away the explosion, but the running game will work just fine. If Wake Forest can win the ACC opener against North Carolina, a 4-1 start is possible with home games against Liberty, Army and Duke wrapped around a road trip to Florida State, but then things get nasty with four road games in six weeks. The regular-season ender against Vanderbilt might be a must to get to six wins.
2011 Record: 2-10, 2012 Roughly Projected Record: 5-7
Are the Terps really that bad? Did Randy Edsall suddenly forget how to coach? The program was miserable last year, but there's reason to be excited right away with nine starters back on offense and all five starters returning on the line. The defense didn't do anything against the run, but it should be stronger with a little bit of time and helped by the return of terrific DT Joe Vellano. Ten starters are back on a defense that will get tune-ups against William & Mary, Temple, and Connecticut before getting a chance to make a statement against West Virginia. It's a strange schedule without any road or home games in a row, alternating between road and home dates through all 12 weeks.
6. Boston College
2011 Record: 4-8, 2012 Roughly Projected Record: 5-7
Will being plucky be enough? The team will be better but the record might not necessarily show it. The Eagles won't have RB Montel Harris, booting the offensive star from the team this offseason, but the backs are in place to once again pick up the slack. The passing game is experienced with Chase Retting getting his top targets back. Even without LB Luke Kuechly
eight starters return to a defense that was a rock against the
run, but has to start getting into the backfield. The schedule
isn't exactly a breeze even Northwestern and Notre Dame on the
non-conference slate, and there's a brutal stretch of four road
games in five weeks, and five in seven weeks, before closing out
with Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, and a trip to NC State.
1. Virginia Tech
2011 Record: 11-3, 2012 Roughly Projected Record: 10-2
It's Virginia Tech, so the holes will be filled, but there's a lot of work to do on offense. The line loses four starters and most of the top skill players are gone, but there's a chance that QB Logan Thomas grows into this year's superstar NFL prospect with the size, arm, and experience to make everyone around him better. Fortunately, the O won't have to do too much thanks to a D that should be its typical dominant self with nine starters back from a young group that matured throughout last season. The line took its lumps and now should be ready to roll, while the linebacking corps should be terrific.
The schedule isn't too bad with an entire offseason to prepare for the season opener against Georgia Tech and its quirky offense, and while going to Pitt will be dangerous and facing Cincinnati will be a fight, the Hokies are good enough to win both. Surviving through the second half, though, will be a problem with three road games in four dates and four in six, including back-to-back games at Clemson and Miami. However, Florida State has to come to Blacksburg on a Thursday night in early November and Virginia is a home game to close out the regular season.
2. Georgia Tech
2011 Record: 8-5, 2012 Roughly Projected Record: 8-4
This should be Paul Johnson's best team yet, including the one that won the 2009 ACC title that was later taken away by the NCAA. QB Tevin Washington is a veteran playmaker who knows how to run the option, and he has the running backs to crank out yards in chunks. The ultra-efficient passing game loses Stephen Hill, but the O line gets all five starters back and should be good enough to pick up the slack and make the running game even better. Eight starters are back on defense with a good, active front line, but will it be enough to rock right out of the box?
The Yellow Jackets start out the season at Virginia Tech and get Virginia and Miami before the end of September. On the plus side, after going to Blacksburg they have just one road game from September 8th until going to Maryland on November 3rd, but that one away date is at Clemson and three of the four November games are on the road, closing out at Georgia.
2011 Record: 8-5, 2012 Roughly Projected Record: 8-4
Can the program take another big step forward under Mike London? The talent level is improving and there's just enough talent returning to expect a solid season with a run to be in the ACC title mix. The O line will be a rock and should lead the way for RB Perry Jones and a good year for the ground game, while the passing attack should be fine with enough good targets coming back to do more. While the defense has to replace several key players, there's depth with good options across the board. It all has to come together early on with Penn State coming up early before starting out the ACC season at Georgia Tech. If the Cavaliers lose to the Nittany Lions, and with a road game at TCU on the horizon, 1-3 wouldn't be a shocker. However, there's a nice stretch of five home games in seven weeks with one of the road games at Duke.
4. North Carolina
2011 Record: 7-6, 2012 Roughly Projected Record: 7-5
It's a new era for North Carolina football and it's not going to be a walk in the park for new head coach Larry Fedora. There's a good base of players in the offensive backfield led by QB Bryn Renner and RB Giovani Bernard working behind a nice-looking line. Six starters are back on what should be a good defense, but it'll be thin without a ton of developed depth. There's just enough talent for a good season, but the schedule will be a bit tough to make it a great one even though the conference road slate isn't all that bad going to Wake Forest, Miami, Duke, and Virginia and missing Florida State in interdivisional play. There isn't a game on the slate the Tar Heels can't win – especially considering Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech come to Chapel Hill – but it'll still be an uneven season.
2011 Record: 6-6, 2012 Roughly Projected Record: 5-7
Al Golden is doing his best to juggle the expectations of a second season and the fears of what could happen from the NCAA's investigation of the Nevin Shapiro case. The problem is that the schedule will be a bear. The Canes go on the road three times in the first four weeks including dates at Kansas State and Georgia Tech. If they can't beat Boston College to open the season a 1-3 start wouldn't be a shocker before hosting a tough NC State team. If that wasn't enough to work on in the first half of the season, going to Chicago to face Notre Dame could be a make-or-break moment for the season. If that wasn't bad enough, even though four of the next five games will be at home, Florida State, Virginia Tech, and South Florida could all come away with wins. But will the team be good enough to keep up? It'll be a young team with promise, but it's going to take some major lumps with so much turnover.
2011 Record: 3-9, 2012 Roughly Projected Record: 4-8
The team might be better under David Cutcliffe, but it'll still be hard to show it with a tough ACC schedule facing Virginia, at Virginia Tech, North Carolina, at Florida State, Clemson, at Georgia Tech, and Miami over the final seven games of the year. Even with a date at Stanford early on the first part of the season isn't too bad, and with that back half anything less than a 4-1 start will all but end any dreams of a winning season. The ground game that was so ineffective last year has to be far better, while QB Sean Renfree needs to improve after a disappointing season. Nine starters return to a defense that might not be night-and-day better, but it'll be experience and should improve.