ACC Atlantic Division Preview
CLEMSON, FLORIDA STATE WILL DOMINATE DISAPPOINTING ACC "ATLANTIC" DIVISION
It hasn't been the best of times for the ACC in recent years. The best high school athletes in the Southeast still prefer playing in the SEC. And, a period of offensive innovation that brought exciting play to the league was soon trumped by defensive adjustments that turned coaching "guru's" into former coaches.
Clemson and Florida State still know how to play. They'll likely dominate the "Atlantic" Division of the ACC this year. The rest of the group is trying to get things moving in the right direction after a down stretch that's made many wonder if the league as a whole was in a permanent decline. Syracuse joins the collective this year (with Pittsburgh joining the "Coastal" Division that we'll discuss tomorrow). Do you upgrade your football conference by adding Syracuse and Pitt?!
Let's run some numbers. Note that the returning starter data comes from the respected Athlon publication. Be sure to check out JIM HURLEY'S big display ad on page 173 opposite of Notre Dame.
ACC ATLANTIC DIVISION
Returning Starters: 6 on offense, 7 on defense
Quarterback: Tajh Boyd
Head Coach: Dabo Swinney
Athlon gives Clemson the nod over FSU because the Tigers return star quarterback Boyd. FSU will be breaking in a new signal caller, and will return fewer starters on defense. That being said...Florida State won by double digits last year...and it's not like they had a great quarterback! We have the Tigers and Seminoles neck and neck in our own proprietary Power Ratings. We're aware of some places that have FSU as the better side. We're anxiously awaiting Clemson's season opener at home against Georgia. That could be one of the best games all year and it will be played before September even arrives on the calendar! Clemson will be expensive in ACC play. We'll only back them against the most vulnerable defenses.
Returning Starters: 6 on offense, 4 on defense
Head Coach: Jimbo Fisher
FSU must replace E.J. Manuel. There was a lot to like about his talent and leadership. But, he really wasn't a high impact quarterback consistently. In his senior year, he lost his regular season finale at home to Florida, barely led his team past a soft Georgia Tech side in the ACC Championship game, then drew a pretender from Northern Illinois in the Orange Bowl. What we're saying is...he's more replaceable than the media is suggesting. We're also suggesting FSU is tough to trust over the course of a full slate. Their peaks are very high. You can count on two or three valleys each season. The meeting with Clemson comes in mid-October on the road. Half a season to get ready.
Returning Starters: 5 on offense, 4 on defense
Quarterback: C.J. Brown
Head Coach: Randy Edsall
Brown was hurt last year...which led to a stunning slew of injuries that killed Maryland's offense. There's not a lot of experience back overall...and Edsall has seemed in over his head since coming up to the ACC from the Big East (UCONN). It's a real indictment of this division as a whole that Athlon picks Maryland to finish third out of seven teams! They may be double digits worse than the front runners in neutral field Power Ratings.
Returning Starters: 4 on offense, 4 on defense
Head Coach: Dave Doeren (new)
A 7-5 campaign wasn't enough to save Tom O'Brien's job. Doeren made headlines last year at Northern Illinois, and hopes to become the next former MAC head coach to succeed at a bigger program. We like Doeren. But, this team only returns four starters on both sides of the ball, and must figure out who the quarterback is going to be. And, to make a splash in the ACC, they'll need to have things figured out by mid-September when Clemson comes to town. If Doeren is having a positive impact, we'll definitely look to back the Wolfpack in the second half of the season. By the end of the year, State could be anywhere from #40 in the nation to #90. Volatile.
Returning Starters: 7 on offense, 8 on defense
Quarterback: Tanner Price
Head Coach: Jim Grobe
There are times you watch Wake Forest...and they strike you as a real sleeper because they play smart and hustle. But, they'll mix those performances in with stunning no-shows that make you wonder about the 12-game readiness of the program. You can pick live dog spots with them...but be careful asking for too much. We definitely have an eye on the Deacons this year because of their experience and returning quarterback. They could make a big leap forward in the standings after a disappointing 3-5 mark in 2012.
Returning Starters: 6 on offense, 6 on defense
Head Coach: Scott Shafer (new)
The pieces really came together in the second half of last season. Syracuse stunned Louisville in a blowout (that's the Louisville team who beat Florida in the Sugar Bowl!), scored a road upset of Missouri of the SEC, then dominated their bowl against West Virginia in the snow at Yankee Stadium. Unfortunately, everybody left! The quarterback graduated. The head coach is now running the Buffalo Bills in the NFL. There's nothing but question marks now as the Orange make their move to a new conference. The good thing about question marks is that oddsmakers have to make guesses to. It's our job to figure things out first. Early games with Penn State and Northwestern will give us a very quick read.
Returning Starters: 8 on offense, 8 on defense
Quarterback: Chase Rettig
Head Coach: Steve Addazio (new)
It can only get better. BC was 2-10 last year, with one of the wins coming over Maine, and the other coming in a nail-biter over injury riddled Maryland. Addazio comes over from Temple...where he didn't exactly make everyone forget Al Golden. And, it's not like Golden set the world on fire when he joined the ACC in Miami. We like the experience here. And, Rettig has a chance to keep BC within the point spread if the market doesn't give the Eagles enough respect. A tough September features USC and Florida State.
We'll pick up with Virginia Tech, Miami, and defending "Coastal" champ Georgia Tech on Sunday as our summer series of conference previews continues. Don't forget that great early-bird rates are available online for JIM HURLEY'S FULL SEASON OF COLLEGE AND PRO FOOTBALL. If you have any questions about our program, call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453.
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