Yesterday we began our ACC roundtable discussion by talking about Florida State and whether or not this would be their year. Today we continue the ACC talk. In addition to the usual contributors here at College Football Zealots (myself, Jay and Pete) we have also gathered some of the best ACC writers on the web. Joining us for our roundtable will be Adam Tolliver from the FSU based site Unconquered Noles. In addition to Adam, we have not one but two Clemson writers as Cory Fravel and Jody Whitt from Cemetery Hill also join us.
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QUESTION: Clemson, FSU and Virginia Tech appear to be the top three teams to beat in the conference this season. Give me one team that could realistically challenge those teams for the conference title.
Adam Tolliver: I like NC State in this slot, although I do feel it is a long shot. They were decimated by injuries in 2011 and really struggled to overcome that at times, but still managed to reel off 8 wins, including one slaughter of the eventual ACC champs. Mike Glennon returns for his second year as starter after throwing for 3,000+ yards and 30+ touchdowns and they return eight starters on each side of the ball. This includes their leading rusher, James Washington, who finished 2011 just shy of 900 yards on the ground and also proved to be an asset out of the backfield with 42 receptions.
Cory Fravel: NC State- The Wolfpack played everyone very tough last year. This year NCST return offensive fire power and an experienced defense. O'Brien has been plagued every year by injuries. If the Wolfpack stay healthy, pull off an upset of Clemson or FSU, the Pack could find their way to Charlotte in December.
Jay: Right now, I really feel like the Coastal division is due for another one of those years where it will only take 5, maybe 6, wins to take the division title, and with that in mind, you have to keep an eye on Georgia Tech as a dark horse candidate. Paul Johnson's option offense is so difficult to prepare for on a week to week basis that they can surprise anybody on any given Saturday. They won't be good enough to go 7-1 or 8-0, so they're done for if a strong front runner emerges, but if the division turns into a quagmire like I expect, I can't imagine them not in the mix. And if they should sneak into the conference title game and face, say, Clemson (who's number Johnson seems to have), GT could be heading back to the Orange Bowl.
Jody Whitt: There is no question Florida State, Clemson and Virginia Tech are the top teams in the ACC. However, if there is another team that could challenge those programs it will without question come from the highly competitive Coastal Division. Outside of Duke, the other five programs are all solid, and Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Virginia and Miami are all capable of challenging the Hokies for Coastal supremacy.
Georgia Tech will always present a challenge in defending Paul Johnson's triple option offense, but may lack the upper end talent to compete on a consistent basis with the league's big boys. Miami and North Carolina are recruiting well, but are hampered to some extent by NCAA sanctions and may be a year or two away from joining the league's elite teams. As a result, Virginia may be the program in the best position to challenge at this time, as Mike London is building a solid program from the ground up in Charlottesville. London is changing the culture at Virginia by stressing player development, discipline and physical play, while simultaneously upgrading the talent base with back to back Top 25 recruiting classes. Virginia surprised everyone by winning 8 games in 2011, including a late season win over Florida State in Tallahassee. In 2012 wins such as this will come as no surprise, and another good season is expected from the Cavaliers.
Pete Sonski: Toward the end of last season, Virginia looked like a program that could be a spoiler. Then the Cavaliers lost badly to Virginia Tech to raise all sorts of doubts. If Mike London’s team can fill the gaps they lost and learn to play up to expectations they could be a factor. But I’m not sure they’re ready to bring home a division title.
Kevin: Lock up Virginia Tech in the Coastal. In my mind, if a darkhorse comes into play it will be in the Atlantic. The Atlantic is the stronger division on paper because it has both FSU and Clemson but that also means that one of those two teams is going to have a loss no matter what. Boston College and Maryland automatically get disqualified here because...let's be honest...they suck. That leaves us with NC State and Wake Forest. NC State returns seven starters on offense and seven on defense so there will be a lot of familiarity. Mike Glennon is back and he had an impressive TD to INT ratio of 31:12 (11:2 in his final three games). The biggest reason I like the Wolfpack is that they went 6-2 down the stretch. Yes, the lost to Boston College but they also beat some decent football teams in Louisville, Clemson, UNC and Virginia. The pivitol stretch will be Miami and FSU at the end of Oct/beginning of Sept. Those two games will decide if it's going to be a good season for the Pack or a great season.
Come back tomorrow as our ACC roundtable discussion finishes up as we will tell if we think Paul Johnson has taken Georgia Tech as far as he can.
Next week is our Big 12 roundtable. If you'd like to submit any questions please e-mail them to us at collegefootballzealot at gmail.com or hit us up on Twitter or Facebook.