2013 ACC Football Preview: Atlantic Division
So after the year of ACC football that will forever be known as "The Year of #goacc," let's take an early look at the upcoming ACC football season, which promises to be unlike any year of ACC football ever (well, mainly because of the addition of Syracuse and Pittsburgh, and pending future additions of Louisville and Notre Dame). Let's start with the Atlantic Division:
Florida State: (2012 Record: 12-2, (7-1))
Oh, what could've been for this FSU team. That one point loss to NC State is still completely baffling to me. Even with the Seminoles' predispotion for blowing games every season they absolutely shouldn't, that one to the Wolfpack is just inexplicable. Let's just move on. Gone is E.J. Manuel to the Buffalo Bills, and backup QB Clint Trickett transferred to West Virginia. But fret not, FSU fans, you'll be in good hands behind center with Jameis Winston, a two-sport stud with an absolute howitzer of an arm (if you didn't get to see him play baseball for FSU this year, you missed out - holy moly can he throw hard).
In reviewing the 2013 schedule, even with the uncertainty of the offense, and the turnover with Jimbo's assistant coaches, the Seminoles should still have a fantastic record. A monday night opener against ACC newcomer Pittsburgh to begin the season and a season-ending matchup against in-state SEC rival Florida bookend a incredibly mediocre schedule for the Seminoles, in part due to the weak nonconference schedule (Bethune-Cookman? Seriously?) and the mediocrity of the ACC in general. One other unusual quirk about the Noles' season? There's not a single Thursday night game. There's simply no reason why the Seminoles shouldn't be battling with Clemson for the top spot in the Atlantic Division again, and their place within the division could be cemented as early as halfway through the season, as FSU has a stretch of four straight division games against Boston College, Maryland, Clemson and NC State.
Predicted 2013 Finish: 10-2, (6-2)
Clemson: (2012 Record: 11-2, (7-1))
The division runner up from 2012, the Tigers were rewarded with a trip to the Chick-Fil-A bowl against LSU, squeaking out a victory 25-24, sparking a string of hilarious insults lobbed at the always arrogant SEC. So naturally, the Tigers start the 2013 season against another SEC foe in Georgia. The best thing Clemson has going? Tahj Boyd is back, and is poised to have a tremendous season. It'll be interesting to see if he gets any sort of Heisman push this season - a victory over the Bulldogs would be a good start.
Conference play gets underway early for Clemson, with a Thursday night test on the road in Raleigh against the Wolfpack. Obviously on paper, this is a game Clemson should win (though we really don't know a lot about NC State yet...more on that in a minute); however, ask Florida State how their trip to Raleigh went last season. Even better for Clemson? They won't have to play UNC or Miami this season, the two best teams out of the Coastal Division. If the Tigers can get past Florida State on October 19th, they'll be in the driver's seat for the division title. Of course, as usual, Clemson wraps their season up against their bitter in-state rival, South Carolina, which is always an entertaining tussle. Despite the ever constant threat of the Clemsoning, this could shape up to be a season to remember for Clemson. After all, they'll be out to avenge the vandalism of Howard's Rock (sidenote: I hope they prosecute the hell out of the boneheaded morons that damaged Howard's Rock).
Predicted 2013 Finish: 11-1, (7-1)
North Carolina State (2012 Record 7-6, (4-4))
Hard not to call the 2012 season a disappointment for the Wolfpack. This team had plenty of talent on the roster, just for some reason could not string together any kind of consistent winning. Obviously the best win of the year was the last minute win over Florida State, but there were a few head scratching losses, none moreso than the 33-6 drubbing at the hands of UVA. At any rate, Debbie Yow felt like a change was needed, and Tom O' Brien was shown the door (RIP #TOBing).
There are a lot of unknowns for the Wolfpack heading into the season, but new head coach Dave Doeren and his staff have certainly made waves on the recruiting trail for 2014. Just follow @CoachMcNutt and you'll see what I mean. The future is certainly bright, but there could be a few growing pains this year. It'll certainly be interesting to see who plays quarterback, as it's a three way battle between Arkansas transfer Brandon Mitchell, Pete Thomas and Manny Stocker. The Wolfpack have a decently tough schedule, with a difficult back-to-back sandwiched in the middle against FSU on the road and UNC at home, in addition to opening conference play against Clemson on a Thursday night in Raleigh. The potential is there to have a solid season, and Doeren did a fantastic job at Northern Illinois, but time will tell how the Wolfpack fare in 2013.
Predicted 2013 Finish: 7-5 (3-5)
Wake Forest (2012 Record 5-7 (3-5))
The Demon Deacons had a nice start to their 2012 season, beating Liberty and North Carolina...and then managed to only win three games the rest of the season. Most of the losses, particularly towards the end of the season ended up being absolute blowouts, so not a lot of momentum was generated heading into the offseason.
But, the Deacs still have Michael Campanaro, their sensational wide receiver, and somehow, Tanner Price is still on this team (I feel like he's been on the team since 2006). And of course, Jim Grobe is still at the helm, so WFU is in good hands. The schedule is not quite as difficult this season, and the first four games are all absolutely winnable for the Deacs (against Presbyterian, Boston College, LA-Monroe and Army), and there are enough wins left on the schedule that the Deacs should be going bowling come late December, even with the difficult stretch of @Miami, @Syracuse and FSU at home all back-to-back-to-back.
Predicted 2013 Finish: 7-5 (4-4)
Syracuse (2012 Record: 8-5 (5-2)*)
*Note: Member of Big East in 2012
2012 was a wild year for Syracuse. Even though their season began 0-2, the Orange rebounded nicely to finish 8-5, capping the season off nicely with a drubbing of West Virginia in the Pinstripe Bowl. Then the changes happened. Doug Marrone left to become coach of the Buffalo Bills. Now, they're heading to the ACC. But, the team still has some continuity from the Marrone era, with his defensive coordinator Scott Shafer now leading the team.
I'll be honest, I don't know much about the Cuse football program, other than they one time let this guy be their starting quarterback. But, given their success last year, I expect 2013 to be a similar year for the Orange. The schedule is somewhat difficult, opening with Penn State and on the road against Northwestern, but not having to play Virginia Tech, Miami or UNC is certainly a plus for the Orange.
Predicted 2013 Finish: 7-5 (4-4)
Maryland (2012 Record: 4-8 (2-6))
Yeah, how's that Randy Edsall era working out Terps? After starting the 2012 season 4-2 that included a putrid 7-6 win over William and Mary, Maryland proceded to lose six straight games to close out the season. To be fair, the injury bug absolutely decimated the Terps during the losing streak, to the point that even players who had their redshirts burned ended up getting hurt.
Even if all the players are healthy (the ones that didn't transfer away), there's not much for Edsall to work with. What's more unfortunate for the Terps is their schedule is fairly brutal. Seven of the teams on the schedule played in bowl games last season, and after the Old Dominion game, I just don't see another win on the schedule until Boston College. Truthfully, the only interesting thing about Maryland's season for 2013 might end up being (again) their atrocious uniform combinations. Their exit from the ACC will not be a memorable one.
Predicted 2013 Finish: 3-9, (1-7)
Boston College (2012 Record: 2-10 (1-7))
Can't say that was a season anyone in Chestnut Hill wants to remember. Gone is Frank Spaziani and with him, his epic Tom Selleck esque stache. Not much else to say about that dumpster fire of a year...except someone at Wikipedia hasn't gotten the memo that Spaziani was fired.
Even with new coach Steve Addazio taking over the reigns, the Eagles certainly have their work cut out for them. Not only do they have to play UNC, VT, FSU AND Clemson, somehow the Eagles ended up with a non-conference game against Southern Cal. Welp.
Predicted 2013 Finish: 2-10 (0-8)
Be on the lookout for my Coastal Division preview on Friday!
Will blogs about all things college football for IHJJR. He is also frequently found on Twitter, with thoughts covering most all sports, pop culture and totally random trivia.
Follow Will on Twitter: @thrillis4