This is why you go first, ACC.
ACC, part deux! The Atlantic finds itself in a situation oddly similar to the one it found itself in last season. FSU is supposed to be a title contender, there are a couple teams that could jump into a contending role, and Clemson is… Clemson. As they always are!
Largely due to an injury to E.J. Manuel Florida State lost to Oklahoma and Clemson. Not due to that injury, FSU lost to Wake Forest and Virginia. So, basically, Florida State did exactly what they’ve done every season since they joined the ACC; garner high expectations then fail to meet them. In the mean time a new head coach and some superiorly skilled offensive players jettisoned Clemson to an ACC Championship. Can FSU return to power? Can Clemson build using their young talent and their recent acquisition of the #1 prospect in the nation? Will NC State rally behind their potential first-round QB? And what of the equally mysterious seasons from Wake Forest, BC, and Maryland last year? Without further ado, your 100% accurate final standings for the ACC Atlantic division after the jump:
Team Overall W-L Conference W-L
Clemson 10-2 6-2
Florida State 10-2 6-2
North Carolina State 10-2 6-2
Wake Forest 7-5 4-4
Boston College 3-9 1-7
Maryland 2-10 1-7
Clemson: Too much talent to fail to win this division. They have to step up on defense, and they’re replacing several members of last year’s D, but that shouldn’t matter very much considering their defense wasn’t very good last season anyway. Tajh Boyd, Sammy Watkins, and Andre Ellington are the most vicious offensive combination in FCS, and they should be able to compensate for the usual confusing Clemson losses (I have them winning at FSU and at home vs. VaTech, but losing at Wake Forest and at home against GaTech). Best possible inaccuracy: This depends on who Clemson turns out to be these days. Are they the old Clemson that fails despite a team loaded with talent or are they maturing into a team able to handle its business? Honestly they could go either 12-0 or lose both games I predicted then also lose
at FSU and at home vs. VaTech.
Florida State: Oh, FSU. You’re second only to Notre Dame in terms of being overrated in the preseason. E.J. Manuel is getting far more hype than he deserves. His running ability is offset by his habit of taking sacks, and for every solid game he has he disappears in another. The defense is fantastic, but they’ll need to score with Clemson and they don’t have the firepower. I have them losing at home to Clemson and at Virginia Tech, giving the Tigers the tie-breaker to win the division. Best Possible Inaccuracy: They have a tricky game at NC State on Oct. 6. That game against Clemson is for the division. If that defense can manage to keep Clemson to 30 points it’ll fall to Manuel to have a great game and potentially put FSU at 9-0 going into a game at VaTech on Nov. 8.
NC State: Because of how I went through this process there were a few instances where I finalized a team’s record and shook my head because the record just didn’t look plausible. NC State is not a 10-2 team, but looking at their schedule I promise this makes more sense. Their two losses are at home against FSU and at Clemson. After that they only have to go on the road to play UNC, Miami, Maryland, and UConn. Each of those games is very winnable for a team with the #3 or #4 QB prospect under center and an excellent secondary. The run defense will be the question mark, but by a magical stroke of luck NC State misses both Virginia Tech AND Georgia Tech. Suddenly 10-2 seems pretty reasonable, huh? Best possible inaccuracy: They play at UNC on Oct. 27 and a home game vs. Virginia on Nov. 3 could be dif
ficult. Both are coin-toss games.
Wake Forest: Wake always seems to hang around even when most people think they have no business doing just that. The Deacons have a very talented and young QB, Tanner Price, returning for his sophomore season after starting all of last year as a freshman. They need to work on their run game and replace both safeties, but overall their steps forward and backwards should even out. This is the stereotypical ACC team to the core. Best possible inaccuracy: They could win at NC State on Nov. 10 or Virginia on Oct. 20 to get to 8-4 or lose at home vs. UNC to drop to 6-6. Either way this team will stay in the 6 to 8 win range.
Boston College: Under their current coach Boston College has managed to win less games each season. Last year didn’t allow for much hope for a change this year. With out of conference games at Northwestern and at home against Notre Dame this year, it’s likely the Eagles will fail to reach the four wins they managed last year. Hopefully this is the year Spaziani finally gets the axe. Best possible inaccuracy: Their best chance at 4 wins comes in game one at home vs. Miami. Otherwise, BC has a whole lot of unwinnable games.
Maryland: Here we have a team which made the ultimate mistake: force out a coach who got you nine wins. And just as Nebraska discovered when they got rid of Frank Solich and Michigan discovered when they removed Lloyd Carr, karma will kick your ass for a few years. Maryland is in year two of the karma nut-kicking, and now they have a new OC and DC with two entirely new systems to run for a team that went 2-10 to begin with last year, lost their starting QB to Wisconsin (He wasn’t very good anyway), and has very little good to build on. Here sits a doormat. Best possible inaccuracy: This is the ACC, so the Terps could very well pull off a home win versus Wake Forest as I predicted… or they could lose that game and finish with one win. It was a mistake to schedule Temple, UConn, and WVU this year.
ACC Title Game: Clemson vs. Virginia Tech: I don’t think Virginia Tech has changed enough to shore up the issues that have plagued them against Clemson. For the fourth straight game, Clemson beats the Hokies, 42-20.
CODE RED RESPONDS:
The exact standings will be as follows:
FSU 11-1, (8-0)
I'm uncomfortable with this, as FSU has struggled to win big despite serious talent since 2001. Clemson, however, has struggled to win big despite serious talent since, well, how long has football existed? FSU will run the table in conference but lose inexplicably to South Florida, and then lose their rematch with Virginia Tech in the title game.
Clemson 9-3, (6-2)
I just can't trust Clemson. They'll most likely end up with back to back ten win seasons after their bowl, and that, for Clemson, should be considered a victory.
NC State 8-4, (5-3)
Lots of talent here. A tough schedule, though, and Tom O'Brien likes to take his 8 wins and go home to a nice bowl of oatmeal.
Wake Forest 7-5, (4-4)
Because this is Wake Forest every year. I'd like to see what Jim Grobe could do at a real football school.
Boston College, 3-9, (1-7)
Still paying for that decision to can Jeff Jagodzinski after he interviewed for an NFL head coaching job. You know why he had the interview, BC? Because he was a good fucking coach.
Maryland 2-10, (1-7)
Iggins! Said it best.
In conclusion: The differences here are apparently just how hard NC State’s schedule really is and whether Clemson will stop being Clemson or Florida State will stop being Florida State. My ACC Champion is Clemson, Red’s is Virginia Tech. Doubtful either of us have the ACC champ in the national title game, but stranger things have happened……… wait. No they haven’t! The Pac 12 is up next…