2013 College Football Preview: ACC

Continuing with my 2013 College Football Preview, today I will look at the Atlantic Coast Conference!

The often disappointing ACC may be the best conference in basketball this year, but the conference’s gridiron game is still struggling. The ACC Coastal, which was represented by a Georgia Tech team that lost seven games in the ACC Championship Game last season, still looks very mediocre. The Atlantic meanwhile, is suspect outside of Clemson and Florida State. The conference isn’t nearly as sexy as, say, the SEC or the Pac-12, but it might take a step forward this year if Coastal teams such as Miami and V-Tech are improved and weaker Atlantic teams like BC and Maryland recuperate after nightmare 2012 seasons.

Here is a ranking and team-by-team look at the ACC, starting with the Atlantic. As always, I’d love to hear where I’m right and where I’m wrong in the comments!

Atlantic

1. Clemson (No. 6 in the country)

The Tigers, who finished off last season by rolling up 445 yards on a superb LSU defense in a narrow Chick-fil-A Bowl victory, should again have a uniquely formidable offense this season. Add in a defense that is on the rise and you have your team to beat in the ACC. If the Tigers, who will be led by a potential Heisman contender at QB in Tajh Boyd, open up the season with a win over Georgia, watch out!

Not even vandalism to Howard's Rock will stop Clemson this season!

Not even vandalism to Howard’s Rock will stop Clemson this season!

2. Florida State (No. 18 in the country)

FSU is losing a bunch of guys from last season’s team, including quarterback EJ Manuel, but I somehow don’t see a big drop off. Their defense still has a lot of NFL level talent and they probably should have won even more games than they did last year. Will they be great? Probably not, the Noles always seem to stub their toe against weaker competition once or twice a season and their offense should continue to come and go, but I think FSU should be good enough to get to double-digit wins, even if they don’t get there in impressive fashion.

3. Maryland

The fact that I’ve got the Terps, a team with six wins the past two seasons, here does kinda show that the ACC Atlantic is quite weak after FSU. That said, I do think Maryland has the stuff to flip their 4-8 record last season (a deceptive record–they floundered down the stretch when all their quarterbacks got injured) into something like 8-4. They play good, gritty football, and their defense should be the best Coach Randy Edsall has had at Maryland. And, hey, the Turtle is due for some good luck.

Randy Edsall should have more reasons to clap this year.

Randy Edsall should have more reasons to clap this year.

4. NC State

A lot of people expected big things from the Wolfpack last fall, although NCSU fell short of expectations. NC State did beat (then third ranked) Florida State in October but later lost to a bad Virginia team by 27 during a stretch that included three losses in four games. After a 7-5 regular season, NC State decided to part ways with coach Tom O’Brien, who won 40 games in six seasons in Raleigh. The new head man for the Pack is Dave Doeren, who led Northern Illinois to 23 wins the past two seasons. Doeren is a heck of a coach, and should have good times on the way for the Wolfpack faithful, but first-year magic seems unlikely due to questions both defensively and on the offensive line. NC State is also replacing QB Mike Glennon.

5. Wake Forest

Last season, Wake Forest was not very good on either side of the ball. They were even worse in the final three games, when they got crushed back-to-back-to-back by NC State, Notre Dame, and Vanderbilt. They could be poised for an improvement going into this fall, with so many of their starters returning, but plenty of questions remain on both lines and throughout the offense. To make a bowl, Wake Forest will probably need to improve considerably offensively.

6. Boston College

BC is my favorite team and watching them flounder through a 2-10 season last year was less than fun. The good news on The Heights is that the Eagles have replaced coach Frank Spaziani with Steve Addazio (who has been killing it on the recruiting trail) and QB Chase Rettig is back for his senior season. Beyond that, there are a lot of questions. BC was atrocious in almost every area last season. There is plenty of room for improvement, and the Eagles could score a fair amount, but I can’t see Addazio turning BC into contenders in one season.

One of the only good things about BC's 2012 season was seeing the Eagles play in these jerseys.

One of the only good things about BC’s 2012 season was seeing the Eagles play in these jerseys.

7. Syracuse

QB Ryan Nassib is off to the NFL and so is coach Doug Marrone, so ‘Cuse probably won’t win eight games, like they did in 2012, especially as they transition to a better conference. On the bright side, the Orange still should be strong at the linebacker position and they should continue to run the ball well. But this is a Syracuse team that is going to be rebuilding.

Coastal

1. Miami

The super-green ‘Canes were still good last season, using an explosive offense to rack up seven wins in a season that did not include a bowl visit thanks to a self-imposed post-season ban. Al Golden’s Hurricanes should be even better this season, thanks to tremendous speed on both sides of the ball and the return of QB Stephen Morris. If defensive problems can be solved, they could be double-digit win-good. Their week two game against Florida will be one to watch.

Stephen Morris and the 'Canes are on the rise!

Stephen Morris and the ‘Canes are on the rise!

2. Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech was supposed to win 10 games every season without fail. And then they fell apart last season, at one point losing six of eight games, before rebounding to win their last three games and finish with a middling 7-6 record. It feels like they should be better this season, with so many returning to an already good defense and QB Logan Thomas (who had a nightmare 2012 season) also back. This might not be a 10 win team, but they’ll be better than they were last year.

3. Georgia Tech

G-Tech had a really weird 2012 season. Despite a ridiculously thin defense, the Yellow Jackets won six regular season games, found themselves in the ACC Championship Game thanks Miami’s self-imposed post-season ban, gave FSU a good game in Charlotte, and then proceeded to drill pre-season no. 1 USC in the Sun Bowl. Now they bring back most of the guys from last season’s team. I think the fact that they won 7 games last fall was fluky, but they should be very good this year, and should have their eyes set on the ACC Championship Game again.

4. North Carolina

Oh, Larry. In Larry Fedora’s first season at UNC, he transformed the Heels from a defensive minded team to one of the most offensively explosive teams in the nation. While they played a fairly easy schedule, UNC’s 8-4 2012 season was impressive. They should score a lot this year again, even without running back Giovani Bernard, but they might take a small step back on that side of the ball due to losses on the O-line. The defense, which surrendered 68 points to Georgia Tech last year, is still a major concern.

Larry Fedora has brought  explosive offense to Chapel Hill.

Larry Fedora has brought explosive offense to Chapel Hill.

5. Pitt

After losing to Youngstown State (yeah…) in their season opener last year, Pitt showed major improvement. In his first season at Pitt, coach Paul Chryst led the Panthers to a six win season that included victories over V-Tech and Rutgers and a narrow 3 point, 3-OT loss to Notre Dame (one of the best games I’ve ever seen). This year, they enter the ACC, and, like ‘Cuse, they’re also making a QB change. They should be strong defensively, but getting to six wins again will be tough.

6. Virginia

Despite a revamped coaching staff, the Cavaliers could be in for another long season. Their defense, which is supposed to be their strength, is losing a lot up front, and questions are still lingering at QB and RB. The Cavs will also face a brutal non-conference schedule. Even if they improve from last season, the improvement may not manifest itself in the win column.

7. Duke

Despite the fact they lost their final five games, 2012 was a landmark season for the Blue Devils as they made their first bowl game since 1995. But don’t expect them to make another this season–they’ll miss quarterback Sean Renfree, his favorite receiver Conner Vernon, and need to replace basically their entire defensive secondary. The chances aren’t bad that they will lose more games than the basketball team.

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17 Comments

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17 responses to “2013 College Football Preview: ACC

  1. FSU has won 31 games in the past three years ,only 6 teams have won more. NIU was one of those teams which they defeated,South Carolina is tied with FSU they have beaten them in the same 3 year period. So are you saying that unless FSU goes undefeated they are not producing to the level they should ? Stanford was beaten by an unranked Washington , KST was trounced by an unranked Baylor. Are those toe stubs ?Please name a current head coach entering his 4th season that has accomplished more than FSU’s .

    • Thanks for the comment. To respond to some of your questions:
      A. I think FSU has been very good the past three seasons.
      B. FSU probably should have had a better record than 9-4 in 2011, I think the losses to Wake and UVA show that they underachieved slightly that season.
      C. Obviously they don’t have to go undefeated to be playing to produce to the level they should. Outside of last year, they always seem to lose 4 games or more.
      D. Those are excellent examples of toe stubs.
      E. I like Jimbo. However I might point to Brian Kelly–built Notre Dame back toward elite level.

  2. Were you aware of a guy named Bobby Bowden who had to be forced to retire at the end of 2009 ?And the damage that he had wrought upon his own creation ? In 3 of those losses the 2nd string QB was forced into action name another 31 game winner which had that adversity ? Brian Kelly , who was the last team to defeat the Irish prior to the BCS title game vs Alabama ? And it was with an all freshman OL and a QB who played the 2nd half with a broken leg.

  3. FSUfan

    I have no problem with your comments about FSU. (I do not have to like the comments) It has been true that FSU has found a way to lose a game each year of the Jimbo Fisher era to a team they should beat. I give Jimbo a lot of credit for bringing FSU back to the verge of being on the national stage from the mess he inherited. Some people do not realize what a mess FSU was at the end of the Bowden era. This is Jimbo’s first head coach job, with so much to learn, and at the same time dealing with the life threatening situation of his son. The first step to become an elite team is to learn to play with a target on your back for every team and beat the teams you are supposed to beat. Then you need to be winning some games against highly ranked opponents.

    I for one appreciate that last year Clemson was able to take first step, in a season that saw Clemson lose to FSU and USCe and had a win over LSU. In 2013 I think if Clemson wins the games they are suppose to win, and wins 2 of three against Georgia, FSU and USCe they will be in the conversation for the NC game.

    • Thanks for the comment! That FSU-Clemson game on October 19th is gonna be great.

      • FSUfan

        The FSU-Clemson game should be one of those great college games we all love. I look at it as a big test for Clemson if they are going to make a run at a national title game. I look at the game as a great learning experience for a new FSU QB building for a run in 2014. If FSU wins, that means the defense has really adjusted to the new coaches, and that QB FSU is expected to play….Maybe you have heard of him a kid named Winston, might be pretty good.

        I would love to see FSU win at least 10 games in the regular season, but would not be shocked with 9 wins. UF and Clemson are both on the road. A new QB, a new defense being installed. A 10 win season to me would mean a very good transition to the many new coaches.

        I still do not have to like the truth….@#^%*&.

        I look forward to seeing if Miami can take that first step of winning the games they should. A win over UF would be a small upset given the offensive talent UM has. The problem over a season is that it has been a long time since Miami won a big game, or been consistent. I think they are turning things around.

  4. With all the criticism I am glad to see this blog and look forward to your continued growth. I hope that BC will regain its spoiler role and make some headway under Addazio. Head scratching ? You mean RIP YOUR ^%$#@!ing HAIR OUT in a Thermonuclear Meltdown . The growing curve is a HARSH task for both those watching and the one who is learning. Thanks Tim ,may I call you Tim?

  5. Nice ACC Preview! I’ve go to say, I am a HUGE Virginia Tech fan, so what do you say about our chances of winning the Coastal? I see you have Miami as the winner of the division, and I realize that they will have great offensive production in Stephen Morris and Duke Johnson, and I also realize that Logan Thomas had an off year in 2012, but aren’t the expectations still the same in Blacksburg? I mean, if Logan Thomas were to have a bounce back year in 2013, and if our defense (which is returning 9 starters) is the best in the Coastal as expected, do we not have a good chance to get to the conference title game?
    Again, VERY good preview though, I really enjoy reading stuff like this. One more thing, would you mind checking out my blog if you get the chance? I write about sports as well, and would really enjoy the views. Thanks!

    • Thanks! I think the Coastal is up for grabs and the Hokies have a pretty good shot at winning the division. The big question ofc for me is offensively–particularly up front (I do like J.C. Coleman a lot), but the defense should be ferocious. It is nice that they dodge FSU and Clemson on the schedule.

  6. This is a great preview Tim. Besides Clemson and a few others, the ACC looks pretty weak again this year. The Coastal division is up in the air though. Miami may win it, but so might Virginia Tech or North Carolina. And Georgia Tech has a shot also.

    It looks like Virginia is putting together a top 10 recruiting class this season, so they may still be a few years away.

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