2012 CFN ACC Preview
Clemson QB Tajh Boyd
Clemson QB Tajh Boyd
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Aug 3, 2012


Will the ACC ever become a superpower league? Is this the year?


Preview 2012

ACC Preview


ATLANTIC
- 2012 Boston College Preview | 2012 Clemson Preview
- 2012 Florida State Preview | 2012 Maryland Preview
- 2012 NC State Preview | 2012 Wake Forest Preview 
 
COASTAL
- 2012 Duke Preview | 2012 Georgia Tech Preview
- 2012 Miami Preview | 2012 North Carolina Preview 
- 2012 Virginia Preview | 2012 Virginia Tech Preview 

- 2012 ACC Preview
- 2012 ACC Unit Rankings
- 2012 CFN Schedules & Picks
- 2012 CFN All-ACC Team & Top 30 Players
- 2012 ACC Atlantic Team By Team Looks & Predicted Finish
- 2012 ACC Coastal Team By Team Looks & Predicted Finish  

By Richard Cirminiello

The Atlantic Coast Conference is in the market for a good shrink.

The league of 12, which expands to 14 with the arrivals of Pittsburgh and Syracuse in 2013, has an inferiority complex in football, low self-esteem if you will. The ACC, so prominent in basketball, has performed to tepid football reviews for many years. Sure, it sends a swath of its student-athletes to the NFL every year, but where are the postseason moments that define the power of a conference?

The ACC hasn’t produced a national champion since 1999, and worse yet, is an unthinkable 2-14 all-time in BCS bowl games. In winnable games this past January, Clemson was trounced by West Virginia in the Orange Bowl, and Virginia Tech fell short to Michigan in the Sugar Bowl.

And now this.

The ACC has spent the offseason getting smacked in the mouth with the reality that it’s not a power conference. It’s essentially just north of the Big East, but still excluded from the tony neighborhoods of the SEC, Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12.

As debates and discussions have raged on about the future of college football’s postseason, the ACC has been a silent bystander, with its opinion on the process carrying little or no weight.

The fallout? Rumors have begun to swirl that prominent members, like Florida State and Clemson, might want to hang out with the cool kids over in the Big 12. It’s a situation that bears a close watch in the coming months.

The ACC’s best chance of improving its image this fall will come from a gaggle of quarterbacks that’s going to force NFL scouts to spend a lot of time along the Eastern Seaboard. The league believes it can put its best hurlers up against anyone in the country, a bold statement coming from this region of the map. However, the conference can make a rather compelling argument. For beginners, every program returns a player with starting experience.

Virginia Tech’s Logan Thomas, Florida State’s E.J. Manuel and NC State’s Mike Glennon are all capable of being high NFL Draft choices in 2013. Clemson’s Tajh Boyd and Carolina’s Bryn Renner are coming off banner debuts in the lineup. And Wake Forest’s Tanner Price and Duke’s Sean Renfree are underrated performers. The ACC might go another year without winning a BCS bowl game, but it’s going to fill the airways with accurate passes like at no point in its recent history.

The league’s two divisions are going to be tightly-packed, as is often the case. The Atlantic Division will be headed by Florida State and Clemson, whose defense and offense, respectively, could rank among the best in the country. With so many starters returning, the ‘Noles will be looking to do what they couldn’t in 2011, begin building that long-awaited bridge to the glory years. NC State and Wake Forest are going to feisty, teams that should never be taken lightly. Maryland and Boston College will likely pull up the rear, though getting to six wins can’t be entirely ruled out for either.

Virginia Tech is favored to win the Coastal Division. What else is new? The Hokies have taken the division in six of its eight years in the ACC, and could be piecing together one of Bud Foster’s best defenses in Blacksburg. After the Gobblers? It’s a crapshoot.

Duke is furthest from contention, and Miami is at least a year away after being hit hard by graduations and early departures. Carolina has a lot of remaining talent, but learning Larry Fedora’s new systems could cap its potential in 2012.

While Virginia is a shooting star under Mike London, the Cavs have a lot of holes to fill, especially on defense. Georgia Tech is going to be a very interesting team if it can mine reinforcements along the D-line. The Yellow Jackets and Hokies, by the way, square off in Lane Stadium on Labor Day night.

The ACC isn’t the SEC. That’s been painfully obvious to the former for quite some time. However, the league has a lot to feel good about entering 2012. New members are packing up and heading south. The conference is flush with next-level quarterbacks. And both divisional races ought to be intriguing until the end of November. It’ll have to suffice for now, as the league braces to protect itself from poachers, and improve its national reputation.

Team That'll Surprise
Maryland – And no, this is not one of those “the-only-way-is-up” sentiments. Yes, the Terps went to hell and back in last season’s 2-10 face plant. However, there’s a feeling around College Park that the worst may mercifully be behind the program. Head coach Randy Edsall had to flush the roster of malcontents in his first year, which was a painful process for everyone. What he has now is a better climate in the locker room, new energy on the staff with the additions of coordinators Mike Locksley and Brian Stewart and a very good recruiting class looking to contribute right away. The offense might struggle, but don’t sleep on the D. Now that LB Kenny Tate and S Matt Robinson are healthy enough to join DT Joe Vellano and LB Demetrius Hartsfield, Maryland is going to be feisty in 2012. Edsall is too good of a coach to allow a repeat of last year, with bowl eligibility not out of the question.

Team That'll Disappoint
NC State – The Wolfpack is one of this year’s trendy sleeper picks in the ACC, but why? Sure, QB Mike Glennon and CB David Amerson are 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, 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.

Game of the Year
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 delicious. The Tigers’ high-octane offense versus one of the nation’s premier defenses tops the list. There’s also E.J. 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 fell apart 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 rest of the season.

5 Big-Time Players Who Deserve a Bigger Spotlight
1. DT Joe Vellano, Sr. Maryland
2. RB Perry Jones, Sr. Virginia
3. OG Brandon Linder, Jr. Miami
4. RB Orwin Smith, Sr. Georgia Tech
5. CB Kyle Fuller, Jr. Virginia Tech

Coach on the Hot Seat
Frank Spaziani, Boston College – It’s beginning to look as if Spaziani is the classic case of a very good coordinator who just hasn’t been able to maintain a high standard as the head coach. A key cog on the defensive staff when the Eagles were rolling under Tom O’Brien, Spaz is just 20-19, without a bowl victory, since taking over in 2009. His teams have been notoriously necrotic on offense, precipitating a revolving door on the offensive staff. The program hit rock bottom by going 4-8 a year ago, the first BC squad to miss the postseason in 13 years. If Spaziani fails to finish above .500 in 2012, it’ll be next to impossible for him to avoid AD Gene DeFilippo’s hatchet.

5 Non-Conference Games the ACC Had Better Take Very, Very Seriously
1. Florida State at South Florida, Sept. 29
2. Miami at Kansas State, Sept. 8
3. North Carolina at Louisville, Sept. 15
4. Virginia Tech at Pittsburgh, Sept. 15
5. Middle Tennessee at Georgia Tech, Sept. 29

Bold Statements
- By the middle of October, draft experts will begin debating whether or not Virginia Tech QB Logan Thomas might be the first overall pick in next April’s draft.

- No single unit will be analyzed with more scrutiny than the Florida State O-line. If the young group can exceed expectations, the rest of the talent in Tallahassee is good enough to compete for a national championship.

- New coordinator Brent Venables will have such a positive impact on the Clemson D that 2012 will be his final year as an assistant. A large chunk of his new salary will be owed to sophomore LB Stephone Anthony, who is ready to erupt into an all-star.

- Paul Johnson will have Georgia Tech in the hunt for the Coastal Division title on the final weekend of the regular season. The ground game will continue to steamroll opponents, but it’s Al Groh’s defense that’ll help boost the Jackets to higher ground.

- Maryland will bowl, getting plenty of help from rookies and second-year players. Randy Edsall will never again be on the hot seat in College Park.

- It won’t matter who wins Miami’s quarterback competition between Ryan Williams and Stephen Morris. Neither will play very well this year.

- Boston College will miss LB Luke Kuechly, naturally, but a little less than most assume. Kevin Pierre-Louis, Sean Duggan and Steele Divitto are an underrated trio just itching to prove naysayers wrong.

- Neither team will score an offensive touchdown when Florida State travels to Blacksburg to play Virginia Tech on Nov. 8. The defenses and special teams, though, will produce three.

Without a lot of help from those around him, NC State QB Mike Glennon will still play his way into the first round of next spring’s NFL Draft.

No backfield in the ACC will be better than Carolina’s, which has Bryn Renner at quarterback and Giovani Bernard at running back. The Heels will still struggle to digest Larry Fedora’s system in Year 1.

5 Best Pro Prospects
1. CB David Amerson, Jr. NC State
2. QB Logan Thomas, Jr. Virginia Tech
3. DE Brandon Jenkins, Sr. Florida State
4. OT Oday Aboushi, Sr. Virginia
5. QB Mike Glennon, Sr. NC State

5 Biggest Shoes to Fill
1. LB Sean Duggan for Luke Kuechly, Boston College
2. RB Michael Holmes for David Wilson, Virginia Tech
3. LB Jimmy Gaines for Sean Spence, Miami
4. DE Corey Crawford for Andre Branch, Clemson
5. RB Mike James for Lamar Miller, Miami

ATLANTIC
- 2012 Boston College Preview | 2012 Clemson Preview
- 2012 Florida State Preview | 2012 Maryland Preview
- 2012 NC State Preview | 2012 Wake Forest Preview 
 
COASTAL
- 2012 Duke Preview | 2012 Georgia Tech Preview
- 2012 Miami Preview | 2012 North Carolina Preview 
- 2012 Virginia Preview | 2012 Virginia Tech Preview 

- 2012 ACC Preview
- 2012 ACC Unit Rankings
- 2012 CFN Schedules & Picks
- 2012 CFN All-ACC Team & Top 30 Players
- 2012 ACC Atlantic Team By Team Looks & Predicted Finish
- 2012 ACC Coastal Team By Team Looks & Predicted Finish