Now or never – that’s the theme of the ACC in 2012.
For Florida State, this is the year they can finally reestablish themselves as a college football power.
For Virginia Tech, this is their last chance to win an ACC title before the league surges to “mega-conference” status next year with the additions of Pittsburgh and Syracuse.
Even for Boston College and Duke this season represents a key moment for the respective program. Will they be able to raise their level of play and be players in the ACC? Or are they both headed for rebuilding efforts (again) that should weaken their teams for another half decade?
100% bonus up to $500
at GT Bets
There is an air of desperation throughout the ACC this year and it should make for an incredibly competitive and cutthroat season. Here is a look at my 2012 ACC football predictions and futures odds, with the college football odds courtesy of 5Dimes:
The Favorite: Florida State (+100)
If not now, when? The college football world has been waiting for Florida State’s return to greatness after a decade of mediocrity. Well, this is the moment for the Seminoles.
FSU has 17 starters back from a team that went 9-4 and won its fourth straight bowl game. The Noles have nine starters, including four three-year starters and seven future pros, back from the No. 4-ranked defense in the country. They also have a senior, three-year starter at quarterback and an embarrassment of riches, in terms of athleticism, at the skill positions.
Further, Florida State gets Atlantic Division rival Clemson at home and, outside of a key trip to Virginia Tech on Nov. 8 (which comes after a bye week), they will be favored in their other 11 games.
For FSU it is BCS or bust. And anything less than a serious run at the national title will have to be viewed as a disappointment for this program.
The Challenger: Virginia Tech (+300)
The Hokies are really one of the few things standing in the way of Florida State and a potential National Championship run. Tech, because they are in the Coastal Division, could have two cracks at knocking off FSU – once at home on a Thursday night and once in the ACC title game. Stud quarterback Logan Thomas leads this crew. But Thomas has just two other returning starters on offense to work with. Last year the defense brought only two starters back and was a question mark. Now it is the anchor of the team, with nine key players back from the No. 7 scoring D in the land. Tech has won 10 or more games in nine of 10 years. And despite the Virginia Tech Hokies football schedule being daunting, I know I won’t be in a rush to bet against Beamer Ball.
The Dark Horse: Clemson (+550)
The Tigers finally reached the mountaintop last year, winning their first ACC title in 20 years. They went out and celebrated by getting embarrassed, 70-33, by West Virginia in the Orange Bowl.
The Tigers are trying to defend their title and avenge that loss this year behind a high-powered offense. Tajh Boyd, Andre Ellington and Sammy Watkins are as talented of a QB-RB-WR trio as there is in the country. Mix in other key veterans on both sides of the ball and this is another Clemson team that should threaten double-digit wins. And if they can somehow beat Florida State in Tallahassee on Sept. 22 they have the inside track to a slot in the conference championship game.
The X-Factor: North Carolina (+650)
UNC’s 2011 academic scandal has cost this year’s team a shot at postseason play. That means the ceiling for this team is an ACC Coastal title, and their group will likely have to settle for being a league spoiler.
Despite a host of suspensions, distractions, coaching and personnel changes last year the Heels still went 7-5 during the regular season. New Coach Larry Fedora inherits one of the biggest and most underrated offensive lines in the nation, eight three-year starters on offense and defense (including junior quarterback Bryn Renner), and a schedule that grants them both Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech in Chapel Hill.
The Heels have four very winnable ACC road games and if this team catches a couple of breaks they could find themselves winning 10 games and making a nice statement for the program.
The Disappointment: Miami (+1700)
I’m confident that Al Golden is a decent coach with a solid future ahead of him. But this is the year that things may come off the rails for a Miami program that hasn’t been relevant in nearly a decade.
Miami went just 6-6 last year and has won more than seven games just once in the last six seasons. Guess what: they aren’t topping that total this year either. The Canes have been fending off an NCAA investigation into their program that began last fall, and that can only further distract this mess of a team.
The Miami Hurricanes football schedule is also brutal. And outside of games against Bethune-Cookman and N.C. State the ‘Canes might be underdogs in the rest of their home games.
I am calling for Miami to miss a bowl game this year for the first time since 2007.
Boston College (+7500)
Frank Spaziani’s seat is getting hot in Chestnut Hill. The Eagles have seen their wins decrease each of the last four seasons, and last year they were one of the ugliest teams in the nation to watch play.
Spaziani has 17 returning starters and a hungry team this season. But they need some offense. B.C. was No. 112 in the nation in offense last year, which kind of mutes the excitement over 10 offensive starters back.
This team is willing to bang heads on both sides of the ball. But if they can’t score some points they won’t be able to handle a schedule that is among the toughest in the nation after mid-October.
North Carolina State (+2300)
This is a team that I definitely have my eye on this year in the ACC. Tom O’Brien seems to be settling in at Raleigh, and he has another tough, physical team to work with this year.
Quarterback Mike Glennon broke out last year. He has an excellent offensive line to work with this year, and if the young skill players grow up quickly they should significantly improve on last year’s pedestrian scoring numbers.
Also, the defense has only six starters back. But they have the potential for a superb pass defense, led by all-American David Amerson.
They avoid Virginia Tech and they get Florida State at home. And if they can spring an upset over Tennessee in their season opener this team will be in the Top 25 by the end of September. From there, anything goes.
Year 1 of the Randy Edsall Era was a disaster. Edsall cleaned house and a lot of guys on the roster didn’t like his love-it-or-leave-it approach. The result was Maryland’s second 2-10 season in three years.
We will find out if the attrition and the personnel movements were for the betterment of the program. In the meantime, Edsall will have to conjure up some of the fortune that he benefitted from in Connecticut in order to get this group bowling.
Wake Forest (+5000)
Tanner Price is one of the best quarterbacks that no one knows about. And outside of Logan Thomas, Price might be the best signal caller in the league. But will that be enough to get Jim Grobe’s group back to a bowl game? I’m not sure.
The defense is full of the type of veteran players that have been the core of Grobe’s successful teams in the past. But they were just No. 74 in the nation last year on that side of the ball and they need marked improvement if this group is going to go anywhere.
A rugged Wake Forest football schedule with no “gimme” wins after the opener against Liberty doesn’t help matters, and I think Wake will be home for the holidays this year.
Georgia Tech (+1200)
People just keep on doubting Paul Johnson and his option offense. And the Yellowjackets just continue to win games and hurl themselves into the thick of the conference title race.
Tech will once again be a major player in the ACC race. Senior Tevin Washington could have a breakout season, and with four offensive linemen back from last year the Jackets could be even better than last season’s No. 21 scoring offense.
After a 6-0 start this group faded fast last year. And with three of their last four games on the road (and a tough home game against BYU) the Jackets again face a back-loaded slate. But if they can steal a win in Blacksburg in a shockingly difficult season opener then Tech could have the inside track to the Coastal title.
Virginia overcame a slow start in 2011 to win eight games, and Mike London is trying to take this program to the next level of respectability by posting back-to-back winning years.
They caught a lot of bounces last year with an extremely veteran team. I don’t think that will happen again this year, and they need to find a passing game to compliment Perry Jones’ underrated work out of the backfield.
Virginia has just five games on the road and should be in the hunt for another bowl bid. But I wouldn’t expect the same type of magic out of the Cavs this fall.
This is now David Cutcliffe’s fifth year in Durham, and it is really a make-or-break season for him. He has one of the most experienced teams in the nation, with eight three-year starters and potentially 10 seniors on the first team.
Duke has been more competitive the last three seasons but has yet to break through. This year’s schedule is not easy. But there is a chance for the Blue Devils to start off 5-1 if they can snap a 12-game losing streak to Wake Forest and if they can take down Virginia in Durham. After that they are just one upset away from the bowl bid that has eluded them for 18 years.
2012 ACC Conference Predictions: Predicted Order of Finish
1. Florida State
3. N.C. State
4. Boston College
6. Wake Forest
1. Virginia Tech
2. North Carolina
3. Georgia Tech
Robert Ferringo is an NFL and college football handicapper and is coming off an exceptionally profitable 2010-11 football season (college and pro). Over the last year his clients have more than tripled their bankrolls with his predictions in all sports. He is looking forward to building on his stellar football handicapping resume again this fall and you can check him out here.