ACC Football Predictions
Clemson was one of the biggest stories in college football in 2011, and it was the story in the ACC. The Tigers got out to an 8-0 start and ended up 10-4. They finished the regular season at 6-2 in league play and claimed the conference championship with a 38-10 victory over Virginia Tech.
The Tigers and Hokies both accepted BCS bowl invitations and both lost. Clemson was crushed 70-33 by West Virginia in the Orange Bowl and VA Tech was defeated 23-20 in overtime by Michigan in the Sugar Bowl. Tech has rattled off eight consecutive 10-win seasons, but it is just 1-5 in BCS bowls. Overall, the ACC is only 1-10 in BCS bowl since 1999.
1. Florida State - Florida State is coming off a 9-4 campaign that failed to meet expectations. Despite not meeting those expectations, the Seminoles remain the favorite to win the ACC, and they are once again considered national title contenders. They boast one of the top defenses in the nation and the offense shows promise as well. In addition, the conference schedule sets up nicely with Clemson at home and a bye week before taking on Virginia Tech.
2. Clemson - Last year, Clemson looked like a national title contender early on when it jumped out to an 8-0 start with wins over Auburn, Florida State and Virginia Tech. However, it faded down the stretch, losing four of its final six games. The defense was exposed during the late swoon, and it will keep the Tigers from repeating as ACC champs.
3. NC State - After consecutive winning seasons, the 2012 Wolfpack believe they have what it takes to become the second team in program history to reach double-digit wins. A 10-win season isn’t impossible, but I believe they’ll fall short. So much of last season’s success can be traced back to a very opportunistic defense. Matching last season’s plus-14 turnover margin, which was the best in the ACC, won’t be easy.
4. Wake Forest - After a couple down years, Jim Grobe was able to get the Demon Deacons back to a bowl. They tied for second in the Atlantic division and ended up 6-7 overall after falling to Mississippi State in the Music City Bowl. Getting back to a bowl in 2012 won’t be easy. For one thing, the schedule is tougher. Two of last year’s victories were home contests against Florida State and NC State. The Demon Deacons play those schools on the road this season, and I don’t see them walking away with wins.
5. Maryland - Looking for an upgrade over Ralph Friedgen, Maryland turned to Randy Edsall. Whether that decision ends up being a good one is yet to be determined, but it didn’t look too smart when the Terrapins lost their final eight games to finish 2-10. Friedgen won eight games or more six times in his 10 seasons.
6. Boston College - An offense that ranked dead last in the ACC held the Eagles back in 2011. I don’t expect to see much improvement on the offensive side of the football, and the defense figures to take a step back after losing All-American linebacker Luke Kuechly.
1. Virginia Tech - The Hokies have developed into a national powerhouse under Frank Beamer, who is 209-98-2 in 25 seasons on the job. He has guided VA Tech to 19 straight bowl games, and that streak is not in jeopardy this season. The Hokies will sit atop the Coastal behind a stellar defense that held foes to 17.6 points per game last year.
2. North Carolina - The Tar Heels jumped out to a 5-1 start in 2011 but dropped five of their last seven games to finish 7-6. While they won’t be eligible to play postseason football, I like their chances of improving on last year’s win total under Larry Fedora, who led Southern Miss to 12-win season. If he can keep the team motivated, there is enough talent for the Heels to win eight games.
3. Georgia Tech - The Yellow Jackets won their first six games last season, but then dropped five of their final seven. Their success stemmed from a rushing attack that ranked second in the nation with 316.5 yards per game. The running game will be strong again, but a lack of a passing game will keep them from dethroning Virginia Tech, which plays the run well.
4. Virginia - The Cavaliers tied for second in the Coastal division with a 5-3 record last season, but I don’t see them seriously challenging Virginia Tech for this year’s title. They were embarrassed 38-0 at home by the Hokies in 2011, and they travel to Blacksburg this year.
5. Miami - Al Golden led the Hurricanes to a 6-6 mark in his first season, which wasn’t bad considering all the distractions. He’s bringing in lots of talent, but the wins won’t start piling up just yet. This year’s non-conference slate, which features games against Notre Dame, South Florida and Kansas State, is challenging, and the Canes aren’t ready to compete with Florida State and Virginia Tech.
6. Duke - The Blue Devils were more competitive than last season’s 3-9 record might lead you to believe. They took three losses of four points or less. Still, the Dukies have plenty of work to do. They ranked 11th in the ACC in both scoring offense and scoring defense.
ACC Championship Game – Florida State over Virginia Tech
|Boston College||Clemson||Florida State||Maryland|
|NC State||Syracuse||Wake Forest|
|Duke||Georgia Tech||Miami||North Carolina|
|ACC||Big 12||Big East||Big Ten|
|Conference USA||Independents||MAC||Mountain West|