ACC Football 2012 Midseason Recap: Atlantic Division

NC State’s Upset of FSU Steals the Headlines, But There’s Plenty More to Talk About From the ACC’s First Half

At the midway point in the 2012 season, little is decided in the ACC. Neither division has a clear frontrunner, no team is assured a trip to the postseason and no team has clinched a bowl spot either. Nonetheless, it’s been an entertaining season within the conference — something we’ll try to highlight here. Along with evaluations for each team, we’ll be providing additional predictions for the second half as well.

Below is the Atlantic division midseason evaluation. Also be sure to check out the Coastal division recap too, which is now live.

Boston College Eagles (1-5) (0-3): Doug Martin’s ability to revive the Boston College offensive attack is all that saves this team from an utter abyss (and even that statement’s pushing it) in Frank Spaziani’s lame-duck final season at the helm. Despite the leaps and bounds by which Chase Rettig has grown, it just doesn’t matter when your defense plays this terribly as a whole. On the bright side, the Eagles hopefully get one more season of Martin coaching Rettig and breakout receiver Alex Amidon under a different head coach in 2013. It would take a miracle for this squad to win six games at this point.

Clemson Tigers (5-1) (2-1): Clemson’s offense has been a sight to behold this season, putting up 41.3 points per game (11th in the country). Unfortunately, the defense has seen little improvement with Brent Venables’ arrival, allowing over 27 points over six games. Thus far, they’ve had little problem just running opponents off the field, but November dates against NC State and South Carolina loom large as potential stumbling blocks to end the year. With a better, fitter Tajh Boyd on the field, there’s hope they’ll avoid the same late stumbles from last season. The emergence of DeAndre Hopkins also helps, as we’re still unsure how Sammy Watkins will finish out the season. Orange Bowl’s the goal, but short of that, another BCS game wouldn’t be out of the question if they win out.

Florida State Seminoles (6-1) (3-1): The story of the Seminoles’ first half will inevitably be their upset loss at NC State a little over a week back. But in no way does that tell you everything about this team. Not only does it ignore its superior defense (letting up just 11.6 points per game), but also the growth of EJ Manuel into a legitimate passer and game-changing player. We’d also be foolish to ignore Jimbo Fisher’s increasingly indignant attitude toward the fan base and overall questionable play-calling — a big part of the Wolfpack loss. Whether that has any repercussions remains to be seen thus far, but despite the defeat, this is still a team well-positioned for a BCS bowl game and a season of 10-plus wins.

Maryland Terrapins (4-2) (2-0): Considering the tumult this season began with, it’s nothing short of a miracle the Terps are sitting atop the Atlantic division at 2-0 right now. After C.J. Brown‘s season-ending injury, we had no idea what to expect from the then-unproven Perry Hills, nor did we have a clue about this defense. And yet, Hills has managed to push through some growing pains and has also established a fantastic rapport with fellow freshman Stefon Diggs. Most important, though, has been the arrival of this defense, whose aggressive style and tenacity at the front line has allowed this inexperienced offensive to stick around in games long enough to pull out victories. While they probably won’t keep their division lead, Maryland looks well-positioned to head to the postseason.

NC State Wolfpack (4-2) (1-1): The Woflpack scored one of the biggest upsets of the season when they took down Florida State at home. And yet, this team is still mostly an enigma. After getting blown up by Tennessee to open the season, they rebounded to reel off three straight wins before losing a heartbreaker to Miami (followed by the FSU victory). Their two strengths — the secondary and passing game — have been touch-and-go all year, and there are still tons of lingering doubts about whether or not Mike Glennon and David Amerson are truly ready to lead this group. They began to show their potential against the ‘Noles. But now it’s time to see if they can keep it up. State needs just two wins in their final six to reach the postseason, and with a very manageable schedule (just one ranked opponent remaining), they stand a very good chance at competing for a more high-profile bowl, if not the division title should they win out.

Syracuse Orange (2-4): Obviously Syracuse is not a member of the Atlantic division just yet, but as per the original concept of this site, we’ll be evaluating them here. The Orange have been an enigma through six games, going from a high-octane attack while playing little defense, to a putrid and mistake-prone offense that plays fantastic defense. Even now, we’re still not sure which squad we’ll see from week to week, though after scoring less than 20 points for three straight games (while only allowing 18 per), I’d tend toward the latter. Because of the Big East‘s own identity issues, SU could finish the year 5-0 in league play just as well as they could go 0-5. But the road toward success or mediocrity will start with this Friday’s game against Connecticut. Win and they stand a chance. Lose and this season’s dead and buried.

Wake Forest Demon Deacons (3-3) (1-3): Riddled with injuries all year, Wake’s struggled to find consistency on either side of the ball, yet still stand at .500 and well within reach of a bowl berth. Beyond what could be a frightening matchup with Clemson and their up-tempo offense, every contest remaining looks to be a low-scoring affair, which potentially plays to the Deacons’ strengths. From where I’m sitting, it all comes down to Nikita Whitlock and Tanner Price. Should both trend back upward (and it seems that Whitlock’s already doing so), Wake will find themselves back in the postseason.

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