FSU will live up to hype
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For more than a decade, national analysts have clamored for Florida State to make its triumphant return to the BCS scene. The Seminoles have mostly disappointed them. But with a loaded defensive line, an experienced quarterback and a bevy of play-making options at receiver and on special teams, it looks like FSU may finally deserve the hype.
Virginia Tech is the logical pick to play the Seminoles in the ACC championship, but an improved defense, tough-to-solve offense and mostly down Coastal Division could get Georgia Tech to the title game.
Clemson has issues
North Carolina State hasn't finished better than 5-3 in the conference since 1994, but with a manageable schedule, quality quarterback in Mike Glennon and All-America cornerback David Amerson, the Wolfpack is poised to be the league's surprise squad.
Clemson is a consensus top-15 pick and has proven skill players such as QB Tajh Boyd and tailback Andre Ellington. However, a suspect defense and offensive line, not to mention nonconference games against Auburn and South Carolina, will derail the Tigers.
The ACC title game will be a rematch of the Nov. 8 contest between Florida State and Virginia Tech. Each has an NFL-caliber QB (EJ Manuel and Logan Thomas), and both should have suffocating defenses. Hokies by a safety.
N.C. State has high hopes
North Carolina State took heat from its fans for splitting with quarterback Russell Wilson, who went to Wisconsin. But Mike Glennon passed for more than 3,000 yards last season, pushing the Wilson episode into the past. Glennon is back, along with interception king David Amerson and renewed hopes for more surprises in Raleigh.
It was a breakthrough season in 2011 for Clemson, but the Tigers surrendered 70 points to West Virginia in the Orange Bowl and enter the season with a new defensive coordinator and questions about their defense.
Last year was to be Florida State's year. It wasn't. But consider the dreams of Seminole Nation to be deferred, not denied. That's because the bulk of the defense returns.
Watch out for Miami
It's hard to pick against Florida State in the preseason. It has the talent, coaching and health at this point. The Seminoles didn't live up to expectations a year ago, but they were playing with an abnormally short deck due to injuries.
Clemson has the best chance to disappoint, not considering the talent it returns but the way the Tigers closed last season. The 70-33 loss to West Virginia canceled out the ACC title game win over Virginia Tech. The Sept. 22 trip to Tallahassee could expose this group.
For a surprise, Miami has the lowest ceiling and the most potential. The Hurricanes don't lack talent, they're just new to college. If the young guns survive a brutal September, the schedule is heavy on home games late in the year.