2012 Record-11-2 (7-1 ACC)
Returning Starters- Offense/Defense (6/6)
This Week: vs. Georgia
Clemson returns reigning ACC Offensive Player of the Year, Tajh Boyd. The anticipation is truly palpable in Tiger Town, as the Clemson faithful are gearing up for their highly anticipated matchup against the Georgia Bulldogs on opening night in Death Valley. Needless to say, expectations are not low for Clemson faithful. Their two most difficult matchups this season are both non-conference opponents in Georgia and South Carolina. Clemson gets to face Florida State at home, and that will give them a huge advantage in the race for the Atlantic. If Clemson can win that one, then it's very unlikely they will lose two additional conference games. Their secondary and new skill position players will dictate just how far this team will go.
2. Florida State
2012 Record - 12-2 (7-1 ACC)
Returning Starters- Offense/Defense (7/4)
This Week: at Pittsburgh (Monday)
Not many teams could lose a quarterback who was a 1st round NFL Draft pick and still be an excellent contender for a conference championship, but Florida State is one of those teams. A huge reason for this is redshirt freshman quarterback Jameis Winston, who was the number one rated quarterback in the class of 2012 according to Rivals. Joining Winston in the backfield will be a very talented pair of tailbacks in Devonta Freeman and James Wilder Jr., who combined for 19 rushing touchdowns last season. Winston will also have speedster Rashad Greene on the perimeter. This defense allowed fewer than 15 points per game last season. Look for the winner of the Florida State vs. Clemson matchup on October 19th to determine the winner of the Atlantic and probably the entire ACC. Don't count out Florida State just because they'll be on the road.
2012 Record-7-5 (5-3 ACC)
Returning Starters-Offense/Defense (10/8)
This Week: vs. Florida Atlantic (Friday)
Miami returns the most starters of any team in the ACC and is the preseason favorite to win the Coastal division. Their potent offense will be led by senior quarterback Stephen Morris and sophomore sensation Duke Johnson at running back. Their offensive line should be exceptional and their receiving corps is all back. We will find out just how good this team is in their second game of the season when they take on the Florida Gators. Outside of that, their October 17th game at Chapel Hill will be absolutely critical in determining who wins the Coastal. Miami definitely drew the short straw with regards to scheduling as they have to travel to Chapel Hill and Tallahassee, while Carolina doesn't even have to play Florida State. I believe, however, that this Miami team can overcome that and win the Coastal. I wouldn't be shocked at all to see them win 10 games and go 7-1 in the ACC.
4. North Carolina
2012 Record-7-5 (5-3 ACC)
Returning Starters-Offense/Defense (6/7)
This Week: at South Carolina (Thursday)
North Carolina is not getting enough recognition. They may lose Giovani Bernard, but they return Bryn Renner. I also believe that Quinshad Davis is set to have a breakout season, and could easily have 10 touchdowns this season. They start off the season with a very difficult game at South Carolina, but that won't have an impact on their chances to win the Coastal. The game at Georgia Tech should be tough, but they do get the opportunity to play Miami at home, and they don't have to play either Florida State or Clemson. Maybe they'll be repeat "champions?"
5. Georgia Tech
2012 Record-7-7 (5-3 ACC)
Returning Starters-Offense/Defense (7/8)
This Week: vs. Elon
I really like their quarterback Vad Lee and think he's a big upgrade over Tevin Washington. They have a difficult schedule, but I think the are capable of handling it. They return 8 defensive starters, including 8 of their 9 leading tacklers, and also return almost all of their skill position players on offense. They do have to travel to Miami and Clemson, but it's far from inconceivable that this team can win the Coastal. I feel very good about this team making another bowl game.
P.S: I have no defense for them losing to Middle Tennessee State by 3 touchdowns last season.
6. Wake Forest
2012 Record-5-7 (3-5 ACC)
Returning Starters-Offense/Defense (7/8)
This Week: vs. Presbyterian (Thursday)
Throughout the season I promise to do my best to remain objective with how Wake stands compared to the rest of the conference. At the outset, it's looking pretty promising. Wake has a four year starter at quarterback in Tanner Price as well as Michael Campanaro in the flanker position. Wake also has very strong defensive line and secondary. Mike Olson and Justin Jackson are both NFL caliber linebackers. This team can absolutely win 7 or 8 games and is set up to finish third in the Atlantic.
7. Virginia Tech
2012 Record-7-6 (4-4 ACC)
Returning Starters-Offense/Defense (6/9)
This Week: vs. Alabama
Last season Virginia Tech finished 4th in the ACC Coastal division and a large reason for that was Logan Thomas' relatively poor quarterback play. Thomas actually entered last season as a potential first round NFL draft pick, but his play came nowhere near those expectations. Thomas was last in the ACC in completion percentage at 51% and had the second most interceptions in the conference with 16. That kind of play from a quarterback is not going to get it done for the Hokies, especially against this Alabama defense. In order to win the Coastal, Logan Thomas is going to have to develop into the player NFL scouts were talking about last off-season. Virginia Tech had the second best scoring defense in the conference last season and return 9 defensive starters. Games at Miami and Georgia Tech are not favorable in terms of winning the Coastal, but Virginia Tech's defense should keep them in most games (outside of Alabama of course).
2012 Record-6-7 (3-4 Big East)
Returning Starters-Offense/Defense (5/8)
This Week: vs. Florida State (Monday)
The schedule makers were quite kind to Pittsburgh in their first year. Outside of their opening game against Florida State, the schedule isn't terribly difficult. They'll need Tom Savage to step up and also someone to replace Ray Graham. The opening game against Florida State will tell us a lot about this team. Look for them to be a fringe bowl contender because of the schedule.
2012 Record-4-8 (2-6 ACC)
Returning Starters-Offense/Defense (7/5)
This Week: vs. Florida International
Maryland enters this season healthy, which is the complete opposite of where they finished last season. With C.J. Brown back their passing attack should only improve. We all know about Stefon Diggs' incredible talent, but they will also have transfer Deon Long. Together, they may have the best receiver tandem in the
B1G 10 ACC. Their offensive line was dreadful last season and lost the three most experienced starters on it too. In their defense, they did have to block for a quarterback linebacker for a not insignificant portion of the season. Their schedule is reasonable, and it would not shock me if this team was bowl eligible after the season.
10. North Carolina State
2012 Record-7-7 (4-4 ACC)
Returning Starters-Offense/Defense (5/5)
This Week: vs. Louisiana Tech
The Wolfpack players probably won't experience homesickness this year, and that's because they will play 10 of their 12 games in the state of North Carolina, and won't leave the state until October 26th when they play at Florida State. They will need to replace quarterback Mike Glennon who graduated and was taken in the NFL Draft. Head Coach Dave Doeren still has yet to decide who will replace Glennon as signal caller of the Wolfpack. Doeren is also dealing with a team that returns the least amount of starters of any team in the ACC. This team's ceiling is probably a 6-7 win team. I don't see any realistic way that this team competes for the Atlantic Division title, but I do believe Doeren was an excellent hire.
2012 Record-6-7 (3-5 ACC)
Returning Starters-Offense/Defense (7/7)
This Week: vs. NC Central
Duke continues their annual tradition of scheduling a murderer's row of non-conference opponents. This year's slate includes NC Central, Memphis, Troy, and Navy. Good job, good effort. They lost Sean Renfree, Conner Vernon and Desmond Scott. Last year they got by just outscoring teams, but I'm not sure they're going to be able to do that this season. They'll be in contention for a bowl berth again, but that's mostly a result of their scheduling.
2012 Record-4-8 (2-6 ACC)
Returning Starters-Offense/Defense (9/7)
This Week: vs. BYU
Is it safe to "formerly" put Mike London's name on the hot seat? This team went 4-8 last year and their schedule is TOUGH this year. They open up with BYU and Oregon as their non-conference opponents. Their last four games are Clemson, at North Carolina, at Miami, and Virginia Tech at home. Two of their easiest ACC opponents (Maryland and Pittsburgh) are both road games. Virginia should be better than last year, but I believe the ACC will be as well. This team needs about everything to go right in order to make a bowl game, but I just don't see that happening.
2012 Record-2-10 (1-7 ACC)
Returning Starters-Offense/Defense (8/10)
This Week: vs. Villanova
The question every Boston College fan is asking themselves is how many #Dudes are on this team? The Eagles return Chase Rettig at quarterback, who has started every game for BC over the past two and a half seasons, so there's at least one. They will also feature Alex Amidon, who had over 1,200 receiving yards last year, so that's at least two. In order to be more competitive this season BC must improve their defense which gave up nearly 35 points per conference game last season. given that they return 10 defensive starters, it's almost a given that they will greatly improve on that number. I see BC's ceiling as 6 wins. They clearly have to beat Villanova, Army and New Mexico State. They would also have to beat Wake and State at home, while splitting with Maryland and Syracuse on the road. I don't think it's terribly realistic to expect all of that to go their way, but this team should be far more competitive than last season. Steve Addazio was a fantastic hire.
2012 Record-8-5 (5-2 Big East)
Returning Starters-Offense/Defense (6/6)
This Week: vs. Penn State
Syracuse is in for a significant drop off in their passing game. Not only do they lose quarterback Ryan Nassib, but they also lose a pair of receivers in Alex Lemon and Marcus Sales who combined for more than 1,900 receiving yards last season. They have a very difficult first two games of the season in Penn State and Northwestern. If they are competitive in those games, then the ACC should take note. I think it'll be a rebuilding season, however, and do not see this team making a bowl game.