ACC Media Days - Predictions & More
Miami RB Mike James
Before the ACC media days kick off, here are the quick predictions for each team.
ACC Pre-Media Days Predictions
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- 2012 ACC Media Days
The Big Questions
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Conference champion: Florida State.
The Seminoles are essentially a carbon copy of the Hokies, their likely opponent in the Dec. 1 ACC Championship Game. Both programs are tenacious on defense, led by voluminous quarterbacks and more than a little worried about their situation along the offensive line. The difference could come down to special teams, an area that Florida State has mastered in recent years, while Virginia Tech has uncharacteristically struggled. If these two schools do meet at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, strong-legged ‘Noles PK Dustin Hopkins could end up being the difference between a coveted title and BCS bowl berth and another deflating campaign. Florida State is as ready as it’s been in many years to fulfill the mission of building a bridge to the good old days of top 5 finishes.
Player of the year: Virginia Tech QB Logan Thomas.
There’s palpable excitement surrounding the second—and possibly final—year of the Thomas era in Blacksburg. The junior is a walking enigma at quarterback. At 6-6, he has the length of a blindside protecting left tackle. At 262 pounds, he possesses the girth and the mass to be a pass rushing end. When he stays in the pocket, he throws tight darts on both intermediate and deep routes. And to opposing defenders, when he pulls the ball down and takes off, he might as well be a locomotive, especially in short yardage situations. He is literally an immense talent who got exponentially better as his starting debut unfolded in 2011. In terms of overall ability, think former NFL first-rounders Cam Newton of Carolina or Josh Freeman of Tampa Bay. If Thomas continues to improve his technique, namely his footwork, the sky is the limit for a budding superstar whose best days are clearly ahead of him.
Biggest surprise: The Maryland defense.
Shhh. The Terps are quietly harboring one of the better-kept secrets of the ACC as the 2012 season quickly approaches. Although it’ll get somewhat lost in the haze of being in College Park, this unit could wind up being the next best thing to Florida State and Virginia Tech in the conference. New coordinator Brian Stewart, who’s installing a 3-4 alignment, inherits all-star contenders at each level. The nucleus is exciting, particularly in the front seven. DE Joe Vellano is a sparkplug-type player, and one of the nation’s most underappreciated players. Kenny Tate, Demetrius Hartsfield, Darin Drakeford and L.A Goree will give Maryland one of the sneaky-good linebacker corps in the ACC. And the secondary has just a single starter to replace, and a couple of knockout punchers at safety.
Biggest disappointment: NC State.
The Wolfpack is one of this year’s trendy sleeper picks in the Atlantic Coast Conference, but why? Sure, QB Mike Glennon and CB David Amerson are talented next-level players, but after the dynamic pair, the roster in Raleigh is somewhat mediocre. The Pack couldn’t run the ball a year ago, and won’t be able to stop it this fall. The front seven, especially at linebacker, has been gutted by injuries and departures, leaving the defense vulnerable to opponents who won’t want to test a terrific secondary anyway. And what about Glennon’s supporting cast? The backs are average, and three of last year’s top four receivers are gone. State will be back in the bowl picture, but those expecting serious league contention are going to be disappointed.
Best game: Clemson at Florida State, Sept. 22.
At stake when these two rivals meet at Doak Campbell Stadium will be an enormous head start in the Atlantic Division title chase. Plus, the winner keeps its longshot national championship hopes alive, while the loser could be entirely out of the BCS bowl race. The subplots of the one-time Bowden Bowl are going to be tantalizing. The Tigers’ high-octane offense versus one of the nation’s premier defenses tops the list. There’s also EJ Manuel’s second crack at coordinator Brent Venables, whose Oklahoma D shut down the Seminoles quarterbacks in Tallahassee last September. Venables is now trying to resurrect a Clemson defense that imploded a year ago. This is a huge event for both head coaches, Florida State’s Jumbo Fisher and Clemson’s Dabo Swinney, who’d love to use it as a launching point for the balance of the season.
1. Florida State
Steeped in talent, and dominant on defense, the ‘Noles are an improved offensive line away from being one of the country’s half-dozen or so best teams. 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.
The offense will roll behind the triplets, QB Tajh Boyd, RB Andre Ellington and WR Sammy Watkins. The evolution of the D will dictate this team’s ceiling in 2012. There’s hope to repeat as ACC champions, 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.
3. NC State
The Pack is going to be a landmine in the Atlantic, but it needs to be more than just QB Mike Glennon and CB David Amerson in order to close the gap on Florida State and Clemson. 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.
4. Wake Forest
Tanner Price is one of the sneaky-good hurlers in a quarterback-rich league. The Deacons should not be overlooked, especially if the revamped O-line meshes early. If they 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.
If the offense could carry its weight, the Terps might be this year’s sleeper in the league. Ten starters are back on a strong 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
The offense is toothless, the defense loses LB Luke Kuechly and the coach is on life support. It shapes up as another frustrating season on the Heights for the Eagles because the schedule isn't exactly a breeze with Northwestern and Notre Dame on the non-conference slate. 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
The class of the Coastal will be spearheaded by monstrous QB Logan Thomas and a sensational defense that’s yet to peak. Staying healthy and gelling on the O-line are on the August to-do list. 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. North Carolina
While ineligible for the division title, the Heels are as deep as any team this side of Blacksburg. QB Bryn Renner and RB Giovani Bernard form a terrific backfield tandem, and the D always seems to house pro-caliber players. 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.
3. Georgia Tech
The Yellow Jackets are the division’s wild card. There are enough returning starters to contend, yet also enough question marks, especially on defense, to be very worried. 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.
The Hurricanes only return nine starters, less if S Ray-Ray Armstrong and OT Seantrel Henderson are suspended for any length of time. This program has lost a ton of talent from last year’s middling 6-6 squad. The big problem is a bear of a schedule. 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.
The Cavaliers should be improved on offense, but more vulnerable on D. The pass defense is a particular worry now that three starters are gone from both the D-line and the secondary. 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.
The Blue Devils will once again be one-trick ponies. They’ll be able to throw the ball with QB Sean Renfree, but every other facet of the game will be sketchy. 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.
- 2012 ACC Media Days
The Big Questions