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ACC Football 2013 : Is this the year the ACC Joins the Nation's Elite?
A Little ACC Football History
The ACC once was a powerful conference in the landscape of college football. They have 5 national championship teams in their 60 year history. Clemson winning it in 1981, Florida State in 1993, and 1999, Georgia Tech in 1990, and Maryland in 1953.
The ACC for the past few years has been classified as a middle tier conference that can't compete with the big boys of the SEC. Clemson's bowl win against perennial national title contender LSU last year may have proven some of their critics wrong. Is this the year the ACC makes up ground on the monster that is the SEC? Can Clemson make it to the final BCS title game?
This year the conference added 2 more teams to the ACC, Syracuse and Pittsburgh, who have a rich, and prestigious history in college football. They have also locked up bowl arrangements until 2016. In the following paragraphs I will predict the final standings in the ACC for the 2013 season.
The Tigers return a lot of starters from an 11-2 team that defeated LSU in the Chik-fil-A Bowl last season, including Heisman trophy hopefuls QB Tajh Boyd, and WR Sammy Watkins. In 2012 Boyd threw for 3896 yards 38 tds, and 13 ints, and I look for similar, if not better numbers this season. The Tigers lost DeAndre Hopkins to the first round of the NFL draft, but have Watkins who was a first team all-American as a freshman in 2011, and a plethora of tall speedy receivers with soft hands to take up the slack. The RB situation will be fine with DJ Howard the favorite to start. With Clemson's fast paced aerial attack there will be plenty of opportunity for whoever carries the ball to be productive in the run game.
The defense hit its stride at the end of last season, and finished up with a huge game against LSU.
The Tigers will win the ACC, and possibly face off with Alabama for the last BCS title game before the NCAA moves to the 4 team playoff on 2014,
Prediction : 12-0 1st Atlantic Division 1st in the ACC
Jimbo Fisher has revived the mighty 'Noles, and has thrust them back into the national spotlight. They are the defending ACC champions and are the favorites to be the second best team in the conference. The fact that they reside in the same division as Clemson will keep them out of the title game. They do however have enough talent, and speed on defense to win double digit games, and receive a BCS bowl invite.
Predicted Finish : 9-3 2nd in the Atlantic Division 3rd in the ACC
The new kids on the block in the ACC Syracuse, along with fellow Big East defector Pitt will join the ACC this season. Syracuse will have to replace a very good QB in Ryan Nassib, and will find the going a little rough in the ACC as compared to the Big East Conference.
There defense will need to improve dramatically if they plan on competing against offensive juggernauts in Clemson, and Florida State.
Prediction : 6-6 3rd in the Atlantic 7th in the ACC
North Carolina State
The Wolfpack were competitive last year in the ACC when they had strong armed Sr. QB Mike Glennon behind the wheel. Glennon has moved on to the NFL, and the Wolfpack must start the season with a new Head coach, and starting QB. Good news is the new coach wants to run the ball so it will help alleviate some of the pressure on the QB position.
The defense needs to improve for the Wolfpack to move up in the standings.
Prediction : 6-6 4th place Coastal 8th place in the ACC
The Demon Deacons had a rough 2012 campaign finishing ranked near the bottom of both team offense, and team defense in the FBS. I expect much of the same this season as they battle with Maryland to stay ahead of current bottom dweller Boston college.
Prediction : 5-7 5th place in the Atlantic 9th in the ACC
This will be Maryland's last season in the ACC before they move to the Big Ten in 2014. They had a multitude of injuries last year resulting in them having to use a LB at the QB position. They could be motivated to make a big push this season to "go out with a bang", but I predict it will be more of a flutter.
Prediction : 4-8 6th in the Atlantic 11th in the ACC
The Eagles were absolutely horrible on offense last season, and only mediocre on defense. I don't see things getting any better for them this season as they remain at the bottom of the ACC this year as well.
Prediction : 3-9 7th in the Atlantic 14th in the ACC
The Hurricanes appear to be headed back to the national spotlight, but haven't gotten there quite yet. They return a multitude of starters from last year including their starting QB Stephen Morris. Morris started all 12 games for the Canes last year throwing for a school record 3,345 yards, with 21 tds and only 7 ints. RB Duke Johnson is coming off of arguably the best season ever for a Miami freshman with 947 yards, and 10 tds. Jr. WR Phillipp Dorsett is a playmaker on offense, and special teams. Look for him to break a few runs or short catches this season.
They also return an experienced defense with 6 Sr. Starters from a unit that ranked among the ACC's best last season.
With the combination of experience, and speed on the offense, and the defense, look for the Canes to make some noise, and finish first in the Coastal division to set up a battle with Clemson for the ACC championship. The Canes just don't quite have enough for national powerhouse Clemson, and come up short in the Championship game.
Predicted finish : 9-3 1st in the Coastal Division 2nd place in the ACC.
The Tarheels had a great season last year finishing 8-4 overall, and 5-3 in ACC play. They return one of the nations best QBs in senior Bryn Renner. Renner threw for 3,356 yards, and 28 tds with 7 ints.
The loss of RB Giovanni Bernard to the NFL draft will hurt the running game a bit, but they always seem to find a RB to carry the load.
Prediction : 8-4 2nd in the Coastal 4th in the ACC
The Hokies had an uncharacteristic down season last year finishing in 4th place in the Atlantic division. They return strong armed starting QB Logan Thomas as they try to return to the nation's top ten, but starting the season against two-time defending national champion Alabama, and Heisman hopeful QB A.J. McCarron will almost certainly put them in a hole. But if Frank Beamer's boys can find a way to knock off Saban, and the Crimson Tide they could catapult up the top 25.
The Hokies defense has not been up to VT standards the past few years, and if they expect to get back in the ACC title hunt they will need better defensive play.
Prediction : 8-5 3rd in the Coatal 5th in the ACC
Paul Johnson's triple option attack is always dangerous, and effective. The introduction of a new QB to the system without much game experience will probably get the ramblin' wreck off to a slow start, but late in the season this may be a team no one wants to face.
The defense has been suspect the past few years, and will be looking to improve this season. I expect the Jackets to at least go bowling this offseason.
Prediction 7-5 4th place in the Coastal 6th in the ACC
Last years dual QB system worked for the Cavaliers to the tune of a 4-8 record. I look for them to be more decisive in their approach to the QB position this year to find some consistency.
The defense was suspect as well last year, and needs to improve if they want to stay ahead of newcomer Pitt in the Coastal.
Prediction : 5-7 5th in the Coastal 10th in the ACC
Pitt joins the ACC this year from the Big East in a year I expect the ACC's top teams to compete with the nation's best. Not a good time to be the new guy in the neighborhood.
The Panthers return a strong defense from last year and teams will have difficulty finding the endzone. The offense needs to find some production, or it will be a long season.
Prediction 5-7 6th in the Coastal 12th in the ACC
Last season was almost a magical one for the Blue Devils. Late in the season they still had a shot at playing in the ACC championship game. Alas it was not meant to be, and the boys from Duke came back to reality.
This year Duke will not sneak up on anyone, and I expect them to return to their normal spot in the Atlantic, the bottom.
Prediction : 4-8 7th in the Coastal 13th in the ACC