1. Is this the year N.C. State puts together all the missing pieces?
Whether it’s injuries, slow starts, or just mediocre play, the Wolfpack has yet to enter the club of ACC’s elite under head coach O’Brien. This year, quarterback Mike Glennon will have an entire year as starter under his belt and we won’t be comparing him to Wilson at Wisconsin every weekend. Add a healthy Mustafa Greene and speedster Tony Creecy at running back, and an experienced offensive line, and the Pack should have one of the league’s better offenses. Questions remain at linebacker after Terrell Manning left early for the NFL. If David Amerson and a talented secondary can make up where Sam, Mike, and Will lack, this team could be a surprise in the Atlantic.
2. Does FSU have a running game powerful enough to compete with the big guys?
They’ve got the defense. They’ve got the favorable schedule. And they’ve got a proven quarterback. FSU is expected to be a national title contender this year, but I don’t see that happening unless one of their running backs takes their game to a new level. Florida State hasn’t had a 1,000 yard rusher since 1996! Sophomore Devonta Freeman finished last year with 579 yards and back to back 100 yard games, but those numbers need to improve. FSU adds very highly touted freshman Mario Pender, however, and the Noles could end up being A-ok at this position. If FSU doesn’t struggle with the high expections (I have my doubts), watch out.
3. Will Clemson have that linebacker that can take over a game?
We know what Sammy Watkins will do. We know Clemson’s got a coaching staff that rivals anyone in the country (In terms of salary, at least). We even know the secondary should take a huge step forward. We’re wondering if those linebackers ranked so highly in high school that will now be college sophomores will leave Brent Venables satisfied. Tony Steward the 5-star sensation tore his ACL last October and missed much of the season. Yesterday, Swinney told the media, Steward ‘looks great’ and will have people talking this year. Hopefully so, as Clemson’s linebackers were slower than molasses getting to the outside in 2011.
4. How much will Maryland improve?
Remember when we all thought Maryland was gonna be the team to beat last year after they handed it to Miami in their first game of the season on ESPN Monday night? Yeah, well, those uniforms turned out not to be game-changing after all. In Edsall’s first year, the Terps finished 2-10. That’s awful. This year, C.J. Brown, a dual-threat but hasn’t proved accurate through the air, takes the reins at quarterback. A true freshman is expected to start at running back. And Maryland finishes the season vs. GT, at Clemson, vs. FSU, and at UNC. Edsall’s got his haaands full.
5. Can Clemson and N.C. State come up big for the rest of the ACC?
They’ve sure got the perfect opportunity. In the Chick-fil-A Kickoff to start the season, the Pack will face Tennessee Friday night, and the Tigers will play the Tigers of Auburn on Saturday. Tennessee and Auburn are two very winnable opponents, but N.C. State and Clemson victories would also be enough to give the ACC some credit. The SEC has had the ACC’s number year after year it seems, and this year, it’s got to change… and it starts in Atlanta.
5.5 Is it September (August 31st) yet?