ACC Football Predictions 2012
Will this be the year the ACC breaks out with a national championship caliber team? Virginia Tech is the closest team in the past four years. Only once in those four years did they finish in the top ten in the final AP Poll. The hype surrounds Florida State every year. This year is no different, but this team may have the depth to take Noles the distance. Clemson was impressive last year until bowl season came and West Virginia put up 73 points on the Tigers. Take a look at last year's roster and you'll find that they had a very young team. Virginia and NC State will have big tests early with Virginia facing Penn State and NC State facing off vs. Tennessee. With wins these teams could be competitors in their divisions. Miami and Al Golden could be a year away before competing for the ACC crown. Only one new coach to the ACC, UNC's Larry Fedora. Both Bryn Renner and Giovani Bernard should have big seasons in Larry Fedora's offense. Georgia Tech always a dangerous team on offense. Defensively they will need to step up for a chance at the coastal crown. Wake returns three year starter Tanner Price, problem is only two other offensive starters return. Duke hasn't been to a bowl since 1994. Cutcliffe has a total of 15 wins at Duke in four years. How much longer does he have at Duke if they aren't bowl eligible this year? Can Boston College and Maryland complete a turnaround to get out of the bottom of the ACC.
2012 ACC Recruiting Class Rankings
#1. Florida State
#4. Virginia Tech
#7. Georgia Tech
#8. North Carolina
#9. North Carolina State
#11. Boston College
#12. Wake Forest
Top Freshman to Watch in the ACC 2012
DL Mario Edwards-Florida St.
WR Stefon Diggs-Maryland
CB Tracy Howard-Miami
LB Eli Harold-Virginia
ATH Joel Caleb-Virginia Tech
K Ross Martin-Duke
ACC Coaching Rankings
#1 Frank Beamer Virginia Tech
#2 Paul Johnson Georgia Tech
#3 Jimbo Fisher Florida State
#4 Dabo Swinney Clemson
#5 Al Golden Miami
#6 Mike London Virginia
#7 Larry Edsall Maryland
#8 Tom O'Brien NCST
#9 Jim Grobe Wake Forest
#10 Larry Fedora UNC
#11 David Cutcliffe Duke
#12 Frank Spaziani Boston College
ACC Football Awards 2012
Offensive Player of the Year
Defensive Player of the Year
Brandon Jenkins-Florida State
Coach of the Year
Paul Johnson-Georgia Tech
2012 Atlantic Predictions
Doak Campbell Stadium-Florida State
#1 Florida State
Coach: Jimbo Fisher
Returning Starters: 15; 7 offense, 7 defense, kicker
Stadium: Doak Campbell Stadium (82,300) #1 ACC stadium capacity
Offense: Like Clemson the Noles are thin on the O-line. EJ Manuel will see familiar faces at the play-maker positions as they all return. The running game will improve as long as the line gels. The play-makers at the WR position are their and will make stopping Florida States attack tough. The Noles should be dangerous in the redzone with both Rodney Smith and Kelvin Benjamin standing at 6-6.
Defense: The defense is the main reason FSU are the favorites to win the ACC. Florida State has the best D-line in the country. Both Jenkins and Werner will be first round draft picks at the DE position. The rotation up front will keep the players fresh considering they could go 5 or 6 players deep. The secondary is experienced and talented. The linebackers may take a few games to adjust, but with a strong line and secondary they should be fine.
Overview: This is the year that the Noles breakout and establish themselves. Last years team was over hyped and failed to live up to it. The experience is their at all positions except for O-line. This is the year Florida State makes it way back to a BCS bowl.
Coach: Dabo Swinney
Returning Starters: 15; 7 offense, 7 defense, kicker
Stadium: Clemson Memorial Stadium (81,473) #2 ACC Stadium Capacity
Offense: Last year Clemson ended the season 26th in scoring. Good news Boyd, Ellington, and Watkins are all back for the Tigers. Skill positions are a none issue and Clemson has one of the best WR cores in the nation. Boyd proved that he can handle the starting role emerging as one of the best QB in the league. The issue for the Tigers comes at the O-line. Two starters return, but after that what type of production are they going to get?
Defense: The Clemson defense was below average last year and Steele likely lost his job after West Virginia hung 70 points in the bowl game. The front four will be young, but it's a talented group. The secondary is deep and talented and will be the strength of the defense.
Special Teams: Kicker Catanzaro was solid last year and was pretty accurate from deep. Sammy Watkins will return kicks and punts after an electric 2011 season.
Overview: The offense will be great with key play makers returning. The defense should be improved from last year. An easy road schedule for the Tigers outside of the Florida State game. The game vs. the Noles will be big. Last year Clemson struggled on the road. Will this be the case in 2012?
#3 NC State
Coach: Tom O'Brien
Returning Starters: 15; 6 offense, 7 defense, kicker, punter
Stadium: Carter-Finney Stadium (57,583) #7 ACC stadium capacity
Offense: The offense will be clicking on all cylinders with an experciend O-line and Mike Glennon under center. Glennon threw for 31 touchdowns last year. The receiving core will miss tight end George Bryan and wide receiver T.J. Graham. Senior Tobias Palmer looks to be the go to guy and Bryan Underwood is set to have a breakthrough year. Running back James Washington is back and will look to improve on last years season rushing for over 800 yards and 7 touchdowns.
Defense: The pack secondary led the nation in interceptions a year ago. All four secondary players are back and poised for another big season. David Amerson led the way for the pack with an ACC record 13 interceptions. The linebacking core holds the biggest hole for NCST. Leading tackler Audie Cole is gone and Terrell Manning jumped early to the NFL. Who will step up at the LB position? Sterling Lucas is a likely candidate as well as JUCO LB Robert Caldwell.
Special Teams: Nicklas Sade returns, but he struggled at kicks 40 yards or more. Wil Baumann is back at punter.
Overview: This Wolfpack team has all the components of a great team. The only problem is Clemson and Florida State are in the Atlantic Division. Carter-Finley Stadium will host Florida State in a game that will make or break their chances at the Atlantic title. A good test vs. Tennessee should let us know where this team is headed.
#4 Wake Forest
Coach: Jim Grobe
Returning Starters: 12; 3 offense, 7 defense, kicker, punter
Stadium: BB&T Field (31,500) #12 ACC stadium capacity
Offense: Biggest concern for Wake is the O-line. Only one starter returns and the line will be made up of mostly sophomores. Good news is QB Tanner Price is back who threw 20 TD's last year. Junior Micheal Campanaro will be back at WR and will have to step up even more now that Chris Givens is playing on Sundays. The running back position should make or break this team. If Orville and Harris can become a solid 1-2 punch the Demon Deacons could surprise.
Defense: Junior nose guard Nikita Whitlock starts things upfront for Wake Forest. Zach Thompson is back at defensive end and could have a breakthrough year. All four linebackers return and will be even more improved in the 3-4 defense with a year under their belt. The secondary will need another player to emerge after corner Merrill Noel as a solid corner last season.
Special Teams: Jimmy Newman hit 14 field goals in a row last year. Alex Wulfeck returns at punter and will continue a solid career.
Overview: The defense will continue to improve after great strides last year. The offense could be held back by an inexperienced O-line. This could be a sleeper team in the ACC.
Coach: Randy Edsall
Returning Starters: 13; 5 offense, 6 defense, kicker, punter
Stadium: Byrd Stadium (54,000) #9 ACC stadium capacity
Offense: C.J. Brown showed promise last year, but needs to stay in the pocket longer( he is out for the 2012 season due to a knee injury). Freshman Perry Hills will get the nod at QB. He will have 2 returning senior WR and highly touted freshman Stefon Diggs to throw to. The running back position will be a committe approach with several players getting a shot at the starting job. The O-line could be a problem as two players transfered out leaving the Terrapins thin up front.
Defense: The D-line could be the strength of the team with Joe Vellano and Keith Bowers return on the ends. AJ Francis takes over at NT in the new 3-4 scheme and has 23 starts under his belt. Senior LB Demetrius Hartsfield will be a player to watch after a solid 2011 campaign. Senior LB Kenny Tate returns after an injury last year. He was an all ACC at safety in 2010. The secondary has potential with 2 returning starters, but theirs not much depth behind them.
Special Teams: Nick Ferrara handle all kicking duties last year. It's likely that freshman Nathan Renfro will take over a the starting punter, though.
Overview: Randy Edsall recieved his dream job in 2011 and won two games. 26 players have left the program leaving him with little depth. The 2012 campaign won't be much better. How much longer does Edsall have at Maryland?
#6 Boston College
Coach: Frank Spaziani
Returning Starters: 15; 9 offense, 5 defense, kicker
Stadium: Alumni Stadium (44,500) #10 ACC stadium capacity
Offense: The Eagles return nine starters from an offense that only produced 18 points a game last year. New offensive coordinator Doug Martin will be in charge of turning around the stagnant BC offense. Four of five starters return on the line and will be key to the success for the Eagles. Junior quarterback Chase Rettig will need to improve on a 12 touchdown and nine interceptions 2011 season. If Rettig shows progress this season 2013 could be a promising season for BC.
Defense: Luke Kuechly is gone, but the linebacker positions should be the strength of the team. Keep an eye on Kevin Pierre-Louis to be the next great Boston College LB. The secondary is inexperienced with little depth. The defensive line has potential to be disruptive.
Special Teams: Kicker Nate Freese has a big leg and will be called on a lot this season. The Eagles will have a new punter this season and he will busy as last years starter attempted the second most punts in the ACC.
Overview: This season will be a tough year for BC, but with progress from the offense and defense 2013 could be a more promising season. A tough schedule will leave the Eagles out of a bowl bid.
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2012 Coastal Predictions
Bobby Dodd Stadium-Georgia Tech
#1 Georgia Tech
Coach: Paul Johnson
Returning Starters:16: 7 offense, 7 defense, kicker, punter
Stadium: Bobby Dodd Stadium (55,000) #8 ACC stadium capacity
Offense: One of toughest offensive attacks to stop in the country. This year's team is more experinced and poised for a big season. The offensive line leads the attack with 4 returning starters and is stared by guard Omoregie Uzzi. David Sims returns at fullback and after having one year under his belt is primed for a big year. The passing attack is always a question and Stephen Hill is gone. Washington proved he can make sound decisions, but will he get you the big play?
Defense: The Tech defense could surprise a lot of people this year. Jeremiah Attaochu leads the linebackers and look for Jabari Hunt-Days to make a big impact after red shirting last year. The secondary returns an experienced group that should land one or two on an All-ACC team.
Overview: With an experienced team on both sides of the ball and an attack that is hard to stop year after year GT could find it's way back at the top of the Coastal. The Jackets have a big test in week 1 at VT. Paul Johnson's squad should be able to handle a Hookies team that is inexperienced on offense. If they get a W at Blacksburg the team is poised for a strong season.
#2 Virginia Tech
Coach: Frank Beamer
Returning Starters: 10; 2 offense, 8 defense
Stadium: Lane Stadium (66,233) #4 ACC stadium capacity
Offense: Everything on offense will center around how well junior quarterback Logan Thomas performs. Thomas passed for over 3,000 yards last year and he managed 11 rushing touchdowns. Now for the question marks. David Wilson entered the NFL draft after rushing for over 1,700 yards. A couple freshman will get carries this upcoming season. Both starting wide receivers are gone and only one returning starter on the o-line.
Defense: The defense is stacked and will carry the team. Eight starters return and all four return on the line. The defensive ends produced 13 sacks last season. Inside they have the Hopkins brothers and Luther Maddy which will make for a nice rotation. The linebacking core will return 2 starters. The secondary will miss All-american corner Jayron Hosley, but junior Anotone Exum moves from safety to corner to fill his spot.
Special Teams: Another question for the Hokies. Who will be the starting kicker and punter? More then likely we won't know until fall camp.
Overview: Many questions on offense despite starting QB Logan Thomas and special teams uncertain lead me to believe that the Hokies won't win the ACC Coastal this year. The defense will carry this team.
#3 North Carolina
Coach: Larry Fedora
Returning Starters: 12; 7 offense, 4 defense, punter
Stadium: Kenan Stadium (60,000) #6 ACC stadium capacity
Offense: Transition into the Larry Fedora era should come pretty easy. Seven offensive starters return. Quarterback Bryn Renner is back and threw for 26 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in year one. All the excitement in Chapel Hill surrounds running back Giovani Bernard. Bernard ran for over 1,000 yards and 13 touchdowns last season. The wide receiving core returns play maker Erik Highsmith. The line is a major strength of the team and include 4 returning starters.
Defense: The Heel's will be moving to a 4-2-5 defensive scheme. Four defensive starters return. The d-line should be in good hands if Kareem Martin can step up and be a force on the end. Reddick is a NFL talent linebacker. The secondary will something to watch as it is a focal point of the new defensive scheme.
Special Teams: Casey Barth returns after and injury last year. Barth's been the UNC kicker for the past 3 years. Hibbard returns as the punter and should have another good year.
Overview: North Carolina should see success in year one under Fedora. The offense will be one of the top 4 in the ACC. The defense could be a work in progress at the start, but has talent. The schedule sets up nice for the Tarheels. They face VT at home and Florida St. and Clemson are not on the schedule. They also get Georgia Tech at home. North Carolina could be the sleeper team in the coastal division. Tech plays a tough schedule drawing both Florida St. and Clemson from the Atlantic Division.
Coach: Mike London
Returning Starters: 11; 7 offense , 4 defense
Stadium: Scott Stadium (61,500) #5 ACC stadium capacity
Offense: Offensivly the Cavilers will be great with the combo of quarterback Micheal Rocco and running back Perry Jones. Rocco threw for 2,671 last season while Jones ran for 915 yards, but is even more of a factor in the receiving game having caught 48 passes for 506 yards. The line returns 3 starters one of which is Morgan mosses who projects to be another first round linemen out of Virginia. The big question will be who steps up for Rocco at the receiving position? Miles Gooch could be one player that could emerge as a go to guy or potential play makers Darius Jennings and Dominque Terrell.
Defense: One returning from the front four leaves a lot of questions. Last years front four finished 90th in sacks last year. Look for freshman Eli Harold to step in right away at the defensive end position. Harold 16 sacks last season in high school. The line-backing core may be the strength of the team returning 2 starters. The secondary has been depleted with only one starter returning.
Overview: Defense could be what hold the Cavs back in 2012. The defense will be tested early in the season with games vs. Penn State, at Georgia Tech, and at TCU. UVA's offense should be in the top half of the league and exciting to watch. Back to back bowl games isn't out of the question, but it won't come easy.
Coach: Al Golden
Returning Starters: 11; 4 offense, 5 defense, punter, kicker
Stadium: Sun Life Stadium (74,916) #3 ACC stadium capacity
Offense: Several key departures on the offensive side of the ball leave the Hurricanes looking for answers. One answer could be freshman running back Duke Johnson. Johnson had 70 touchdowns in his high school career and earned Florida's Mr. Football in the process his senior year. Only four starters return for Miami. Stephen Morris is back under center and will need to improve on his accuracy having already thrown 11 interceptions and only seven touchdowns.A player to watch on the O-line is 6-8, 350 pound tackle Seantrel Henderson.
Defense: The secondary looks to have a promising season after a good spring. All eyes will be on Ray Ray Armstrong who has always had the talent and flashes of greatness (he is now playing at a NAIA school folowing a suspension from Miami). The rush defense gave up an average of 161 yards a game last year. Only three starters return in the front seven.
Special Team: Jake Wieclaw returns as the Hurricanes kicker. He made 11 of 14 field goals last year. Punter Botts returns after a solid 2011 campaign.
Overview: Departures to the NFL leave Miami in rebuilding mode. The Hurricanes need to RB Duke Johnson to contribute right away and Stephen Morris to be a reliable QB for the Canes to have confidence going into next season. Defensivley the 'Canes should be above average with a great secondary returning and potential on the front seven. A tough schedule will be tough for Miami to win 6 games.
Coach: David Cutcliffe
Returning Starters: 15; 7offense, 8 defense
Stadium: Wallace Wade Stadium (33,941) #11 ACC stadium capacity
Offense: QB Sean Renfree is back as well as his top target Conner Vernon. Vernon caught 70 balls for 956 yards with 5 TD's last year. Running back Juwan Thompson only got 110 total rushing attempts last year, he made due rushing for 7 TD's and 457 yards. The Blue Devils may have their best O-line under Cutcliffe with freshman All-American Laken Tomlinson at guard and 3 other linemen started 9 games or more in 2011.
Defense: 8 returning startes return and have one year of the 4-2-5 under their belt. The secondary returns 4 starters, but they only managed 6 interceptions last year. The secondary will need the front 4 to provide more pressure. Kenny Anunike played in only 3 games before an injury, but had 4 sacks. He could be a player to keep an eye on to create the pressure Duke needs up front.
Special Teams: Two freshman will be called upon to take over the punting and kicking duties. Kicker Ross Martin is rivals top kicker in 2011.
Overview: Offensivly the Blue Devils ranked 79th in total offense and 92nd in total defense. This is a veteran team and one of the deeper teams in recent years. Duke hasn't played in a bowl since 1994, could this be the year? If not Cutcliffe could see his final days in Durham come to an end in 2012.
ACC Championship Game
ACC Games to Watch
Clemson @ Florida State Saturday, Sept. 22
Florida State @ Virginia Tech Thursday, Nov 8
Georgia Tech @ Clemson Saturday, Oct 6
Georgia Tech @ Virginia Tech Monday, Sept 3
Florida State @ NC State Saturday, Oct 6
Virginia @ Georgia Tech Saturday, Sept 15
NCST @ North Carolina Saturday, Oct 27
North Carolina @ Wake Forest Saturday, Sept 8
North Carolina @ Duke Saturday, Oct 20
Miami @ Boston College Saturday, Sept 1
ACC Non-Conference Games to Watch
South Carolina @ Clemson Saturday, Nov 24
NC State vs. Tennessee Friday, August 31
Penn State @ Virginia Saturday, Sept 8
Virginia @ TCU Saturday, Sept 22
Georgia Tech @ Georgia Saturday, Nov 24
BYU @ Georgia Tech Saturday Oct 27
Miami @ Kansas St Saturday, Sept 8
Miami vs. Notre Dame Saturday, Oct 6
Vanderbilt @ Wake Forest Saturday, Nov 24
Connecticut @ Maryland Saturday, Sept 15
Florida State @ South Florida Saturday, Sept 29