|Florida State was on top of the ACC in 2012. Can they repeat in 2013? Photo USA Today Sports|
Crystal Ball Run will be previewing each conference for the 2013 season with week-by-week coverage. Today we continue our 2013 conference previews with a look at the ACC.
We have taken a look at the MAC, Conference USA, American and Sun Belt. Now it's on to the big boys as we turn our attention to the ACC. From Florida State and Clemson looking to battle it out for another conference championship in 2013 to the additions of Pittsburgh and Syracuse and more, this year the ACC has a little bit of everything for college football fans.
2012 In Review
The ACC could have entered the 2012 on a sour note after the way 2011 ended. Clemson was fresh off a blowout loss in the Orange Bowl, North Carolina was serving a postseason ban and the University of Miami continued to have an NCAA investigation loom large. Things did not start all that well either, with Virginia Tech losing dropping out of the Top 25 by mid-September, Georgia Tech being blown away by Middle Tennessee State and North Carolina State losing to Tennessee in one half of the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic. But there were plenty of bright spots for the ACC in 2012.
Florida State had their best season since the glory days of the Bobby Bowden era, winning 12 games highlighted by an ACC title and Orange Bowl victory. It used to be that Florida State was the runaway winner in this conference but that trend had passed a while ago. Since the incarnation of division play and a conference title game, Florida State had won just one ACC championship and they did that with an upset victory over favored Virginia Tech. Last year the Seminoles took back the conference, starting the season as a preseason favorite and following through at the end of the season with a conference championship. For Jimbo Fisher's program, this was just the next step in Florida State's hopeful return to glory.
Duke surprised just about everybody by putting together a winning season that led to a bowl appearance. Clemson's Tajh Boyd had an MVP season in leading the Tigers to 11 wins, including two against SEC West competition (Auburn, LSU) and running backs at North Carolina (Giovani Bernard) and Miami (Duke Johnson) gave us reasons to pay attention to the teams regardless of postseason bans. Offense can be easy to get carried away with sometimes though, so we cannot forget about the defense. Some great defensive performances in 2012 were turned in by Florida State's Bjoern Werner (13 sacks), North Carolina's Kevin Reddick (18 TFL, tied with Werner), and Virginia Tech's Antone Exum, Duke's Ross Cockrell and North Carolina State's David Amerson (tied for most INT in ACC, with five each). Boston College's Nick Clancy led the ACC with 145 total tackles as well.
Unfortunately the ACC was not able to send their best representative from the Coastal Division to the ACC Championship Game. In fact, the conference was not able to send either of their top two teams from the conference. With North Carolina serving a postseason ban and Miami opting to impose a second straight postseason ban on their own as an NCAA investigation continued, Georgia Tech was sent to Charlotte to take on the Seminoles. The three Coastal Division members had ended the year with identical 5-3 conference records. Georgia Tech had lost to Miami but had beaten North Carolina in a wild 68-50 decision in November. That was followed by a 42-24 victory over Duke but the Yellow Jackets limped in to the ACC Championship Game after getting beaten down by SEC rival Georgia, 42-10.
Florida State had limped in to the conference championship game as well after a fourth quarter collapse against Florida left an empty feeling in Seminole Nation. Florida State would regroup though to capture their first ACC Championship Game victory since 2005. The Seminoles would go on to the Orange Bowl to take on BCS busting MAC champion Northern Illinois.
The ACC in Bowl Games
|Offensive MVP Tajh Boyd and Clemson stunned LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Photo: USA Today Sports|
The ACC went a very respectable 4-2 in bowl games this past bowl season. Florida State's victory in the Orange Bowl would normally be regarded as the best overall victory, and some may debate it still is, but the Seminoles were paired up with BCS-busting Northern Illinois. The Seminoles over-matched the feisty Huskies and pounded the MAC champions by a score of 31-10. Instead, the best postseason victory may have come from Clemson, who rallied to stun LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl in Atlanta on New Year's Eve. Down 24-13 going in to the fourth quarter, Tajh Boyd and company took control in the fourth quarter and moved in to position for Chandler Catanzaro to boot a game-winning 37-yard field gal as time expired. Clemson's 25-24 victory seemingly came out of nowhere but they dominated LSU in total yardage (445-219) and picked up 32 first downs to LSU's nine.
Perhaps even more surprising was Georgia Tech's 21-7 Sun Bowl victory over lifeless USC. The Trojans began the season with BCS championship aspirations but quickly crashed and burned. It was almost as if the Trojans never showed up against Georgia Tech, picking up just 205 yards of total offense against the Yellow Jackets. Georgia Tech rushed for 294 yards and the defense picked off three passes from Max Wittek to control the game.
Virginia Tech edges Rutgers in a defensive showdown in the Russell Athletic Bowl for the other ACC bowl victory. North Carolina State had no answers for Vanderbilt in the Music City Bowl and Duke fell shy of their first bowl victory since 1961 when the Belk Bowl against Cincinnati got away from them.
Biggest Win in 2012?
No. 14 Clemson 25, No. 9 LSU 24 (Chick-fil-A Bowl): It goes without much saying that any victory the ACC can grab over the SEC is a big one. Doing so in a bowl game in Atlanta against a top ten team from the rival conference, in thrilling fashion just adds to the buzz. Now, Clemson can build some momentum to roll in to 2013, which features two of the top contenders from the SEC East (Georgia, South Carolina).
Biggest Loss in 2012? No. 10 Florida State 26, No. 6 Florida: Florida State turned the football over five times against the hated Gators, and Florida turned a 20-13 deficit entering the fourth quarter in to a 37-26 victory against the Seminoles. The loss came in crushing fashion as Florida rattled off 24 straight points in the fourth quarter before a 22-yard touchdown run by E.J. Manuel as time expired cut in to the lead. The eventual ACC champions came up small against one of the SEC powers. For a conference looking for signature wins against top opponents, Florida State came up small in the clutch.
Dishonorable Mention, Georgia Tech 28, Middle Tennessee State 49: Georgia Tech got off to a rough 2-5 start last season, but no loss was as ugly as their 49-28 home loss to Middle Tennessee State. The Blue Raiders piled up 510 yards of offense, with a pretty even split between pass and run and Georgia Tech turned the football over four times. Middle Tennessee went on to win eight games in 2012, but this was still a mighty ugly setback for Paul Johnson's program.
Who's In, Who's Out?
The ACC expands to 14 members this fall, with former Big East fixtures Syracuse and Pittsburgh following former Big East rivals to the ACC. Pittsburgh and Syracuse will be reunited with former conference rivals Boston College, Virginia Tech and Miami as the ACC moves to expand more in the north. The two newcomers will actually be split in the division alignment. Syracuse will join the Atlantic Division with Boston College, Clemson, Florida State, Maryland, N.C. State and Wake Forest. Pittsburgh will be placed in the Coastal Division with Duke, Georgia Tech, Miami, North Carolina, Virginia and Virginia Tech.
In 2014 the conference will see a couple more changes as well. Maryland will officially leave the ACC and join the Big Ten, along with American member Rutgers. Despite Maryland being a founding member of the ACC, the conference may be coming out ahead with the departure of the cash-strapped Terps. Filling Maryland's spot in the conference will be Louisville, who is coming off a fantastic sports year right now with success in many various athletic programs.
|Atlantic Division||Coastal Division|
|Maryland (Louisville in 2014)||North Carolina|
|North Carolina State||Pittsburgh|
|Wake Forest||Virginia Tech|
Head Coaching Changes
The ACC sees three coaching changes this season, with two coaches being let go and another taking an offer to coach in the NFL this off-season.
Boston College: Frank Spaziani's reign as Eagles head coach was frustrating for many in Beantown, and after seeing the program continue to dwindle and lag behind the competition it was time for a change. Spaziani was replaced by Temple head coach Steve Addazio (pictured, right), a New England-type guy with plenty of energy.
North Carolina State: Tom O'Brien had been a good coach but the Wolfpack program had gone stale. Not even an upset win against Florida State was enough to protect O'Brien in 2012, not in a year that sees Duke go to a bowl game and the Wolfpack lose to the Tar Heels. North Carolina State hired Dave Doeren as the new head coach. Doeren had coached Northern Illinois to a MAC championship and guided the Huskies to a spot in the BCS, although he did not coach Northern Illinois in the Orange Bowl loss to Florida State.
Syracuse: Syracuse head coach Doug Marrone accepted a job as head coach of the NFL's Buffalo Bills. Because the change happened in early January, the Orange had limited options. Syracuse eventually named defensive coordinator Scott Shafer as their next head coach as they prepare for the first season in the ACC.