2012 ACC Football Simulated Preview From WhatIfSports.com image

2012 ACC Football Simulated Preview

We simulate the ACC football season

By Jake Westrich - WhatIfSports.com
August 21, 2012

Using our college football simulation engine, WhatIfSports.com simulated thousands of college football games to create this ACC Preview. Team ratings, player ratings and depth charts are accurate as of August 17th. What you see in the ACC Predictions table is the most likely outcome based on the computer simulations. The team-by-team schedules use Absolute Records, which you can learn more about below. Those same game-by-game simulations also generate average points per game for both teams.

ACC Predictions
AtlanticWLOverall Record
Florida State629-3
North Carolina State447-5
Wake Forest356-6
Boston College265-7
CoastalWLOverall Record
Virginia Tech629-3
Georgia Tech538-4
North Carolina538-4
Miami (FL)446-6

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For this analysis, thousands of college football games are simulated, with the sum of the winning percentages of those games being our final predicted record. As can be noted, sometimes a team is "favored" (wins more than 50% of the time) in a different number of our games than the expected record shows. We list this record as the Absolute Record. The assumption of the Absolute Record is that the more likely scenario always happens. Since we know that it does not, our expected record (in the table above) is far more accurate. Also, especially since we are rounding, it is possible for a team to win a game more often, yet score the same or fewer points on average. In those cases, for Absolute Records, we always take higher winning percentage and are not predicting a tie or a win by an underdog. This is another reason why the expected records are more accurate, as the teams are so evenly matched, the game could easily go either way.

Florida State

Brandon Jenkins

The Seminoles will essentially be looking for a do-over in their return to glory, which took a sudden detour in the wrong direction a year ago. Pegged as the program's long-awaited breakthrough following a decade of mediocrity, Florida State went a disappointing 9-4, failing to even capture the ACC Atlantic Division. However, with as many as 18 starters back from last year's underachieving squad, the 'Noles are hell-bent on putting it all together, and possibly vying for national championship contention in 2012.

The Seminoles will begin the season with a fifth-year senior, EJ Manuel, behind center who'll be playing as if his career in the NFL depends on it … it does. He'll have no shortage of playmakers with which to connect, including an embarrassment of riches at running back and wide receiver. On defense, Florida State is SEC-caliber, and will have few peers across the country.

The 'Noles are stacked at every level, but especially along the line and in the secondary, where no less than a half-dozen players might be drafted next April. With Brandon Jenkins and Bjoern Werner rushing the passer, and Xavier Rhodes, Greg Reid and Lamarcus Joyner locking down receivers, it's going to be vintage Florida State, potentially drawing comparisons to some of the great teams of the 1980s and 1990s.

The 'Noles believe that they're ready to finally get back to standing atop the ACC, and even carrying the league banner in the national title discussion. Seeing is believing, of course. After having a false start in its return to glory, a potentially loaded Florida State team is more determined than ever to follow through and complete the journey in Jimbo Fisher's third season as the head coach.

- Richard Cirminiello, College Football News

Absolute Schedule/Records

2012 Florida State Seminoles
WeekOpponentWin%Avg Score
1Murray State Racers9555-7
2Savannah State Tigers9551-7
3Wake Forest Demon Deacons7128-17
4Clemson Tigers5727-24
5@South Florida Bulls6525-19
6@North Carolina State Wolfpack6225-20
7Boston College Eagles8530-16
8@Miami (FL) Hurricanes7227-19
9Duke Blue Devils8432-18
11@Virginia Tech Hokies5324-22
12@Maryland Terrapins8831-16
13Florida Gators6323-18


Tajh Boyd


The score resonates in the minds of the Tigers players like an unyielding, five-month nightmare. For all of the good that took place at Clemson last fall, the lasting memory was the program's epic, record-breaking collapse versus West Virginia in the Orange Bowl. It'll spend the next few months attempting to recapture the swagger that led to 10 regular season wins and the 2011 ACC championship, its first in two decades.

Naturally, a big chunk of the offseason will be spent trying to correct an ailing defense that's now under the guidance of Brent Venables, the longtime caretaker of Bob Stoops' defense in Norman. For Tigers head coach Dabo Swinney, it marked the second straight year that he looked to the state of Oklahoma for much-needed help on his staff.

As far as the skill positions go, few programs are going to be more stacked this fall than the Tigers. From the offense that erupted under Chad Morris last season returns QB Tajh Boyd, RB Andre Ellington and receivers Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins.

Clemson is going to move the ball, maybe with more potency now that it has that first year in a new system committed to memory. Building on the momentum that the school captured in 2011, though, will require more than just a bunch of highlight-reel plays and offensive explosions. The Tigers need to get tougher at the point of attack, especially on defense, or else their potential won't exceed last year's ceiling.

70-33. It's become a symbol of where Clemson was in January, a place it hopes to never again visit in the future.

- Richard Cirminiello, College Football News

Absolute Schedule/Records

2012 Clemson Tigers
WeekOpponentWin%Avg Score
1Auburn Tigers6727-22
2Ball State Cardinals8935-18
3Furman Paladins9554-8
4@Florida State Seminoles4124-27
5@Boston College Eagles7328-19
6Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets5027-26
8Virginia Tech Hokies4224-26
9@Wake Forest Demon Deacons7028-20
10@Duke Blue Devils7932-24
11Maryland Terrapins8230-18
12North Carolina State Wolfpack5025-25
13South Carolina Gamecocks5323-24

North Carolina State

Tom O'Brien

The Wolfpack is going to begin the upcoming season with concerns, but also a healthy amount of optimism in head coach Tom O'Brien's sixth season with the program.

NC State has won 17 games over the last two seasons, including a pair of bowl games, and returns Mike Glennon, a bona fide threat to be a high NFL Draft pick in 2013. However, now that the Pack has ditched its malaise under O'Brien, it's aiming for much bigger goals this fall. Capping the year with a postseason game that dwarfs recent destinations, the Belk Bowl and Champs Sports Bowl, for instance, is on the very top of the to-do list. The Wolfpack, comprised mostly of veterans on offense and defense, is shaping up as a possible sleeper contender in the ACC, a designation it'll wear with pride.

If the Pack is going to elevate a little higher, and even contend in the Atlantic Division, it'll need to do a much better job along the offensive line. Last season's unit, which returns all but one starter, had issues opening holes for the running backs, and ranked 98th nationally in sacks allowed. With Glennon being the obvious face of the 2012 edition, it'll be incumbent upon the blockers to provide far more support for the franchise this fall.

On defense, NC State is going to be especially vulnerable right up the gut. The starting tackles are new, the linebackers are undergoing an extreme makeover and the staff is holding its breath regarding run defense. Fortunately, the D should be outstanding on the perimeter, where there is a boundless supply of quality ends and one of the game's premier lockdown corners, junior CB David Amerson.

- Richard Cirminiello, College Football News

Absolute Schedule/Records

2012 North Carolina State Wolfpack
WeekOpponentWin%Avg Score
1@Tennessee Volunteers4821-22
2@Connecticut Huskies6922-16
3South Alabama Jaguars9535-12
4Citadel Bulldogs9549-7
5@Miami (FL) Hurricanes4822-22
6Florida State Seminoles3620-25
8@Maryland Terrapins7226-19
9@North Carolina Tar Heels5024-25
10Virginia Cavaliers4922-22
11Wake Forest Demon Deacons6424-20
12@Clemson Tigers5025-25
13Boston College Eagles7227-19

Wake Forest

Tanner Price

Now that the Demon Deacons have found their footing—sort of—they're hoping to maintain and build upon it in 2012.

The program snapped its two-year bowl drought, meeting Mississippi State in last December's Music City Bowl, yet still wound up a game below the .500 mark. Wake Forest got out of the chute very quickly with a 5-2 start, including wins over NC State, Boston College and Florida State, but won just two of its final eight games. If the school is going to participate in the postseason once again this winter, it'll need dramatically improved play from both lines.

On offense, just one starter, Garrick Williams, remained in Winston-Salem. Defensively, the Deacons are coming off a feeble, 11-sack season, and must do a better job of generating pressure from someone other than disruptive NG Nikita Whitlock.

The strength of the current edition at Wake Forest can be located in the backs—quarterback, running back and cornerback. QB Tanner Price is the prototype at quarterback for the Deacons. While not physically overwhelming, he's smart, and will distribute the ball without making too many mistakes. RB Josh Harris may be coming off a trying sophomore year, but now that he's healthy again, fingers are crossed that he can recapture his freshman form. And the corner trio of Merrill Noel, Kenny Okoro and Kevin Johnson is about to cause all kinds of problems for opposing passers.

- Richard Cirminiello, College Football News

Absolute Schedule/Records

2012 Wake Forest Demon Deacons
WeekOpponentWin%Avg Score
1Liberty Flames9545-8
2North Carolina Tar Heels3521-29
3@Florida State Seminoles2917-28
4Army Black Knights7225-16
5Duke Blue Devils5425-24
6@Maryland Terrapins5222-19
8@Virginia Cavaliers3720-25
9Clemson Tigers3020-28
10Boston College Eagles5922-19
11@North Carolina State Wolfpack3620-24
12@Notre Dame Fighting Irish3320-25
13Vanderbilt Commodores4018-21

Boston College

Frank Spaziani

Make-or-break. Do-or-die. Now-or-never. All of the trite phrases assigned to struggling head coaches apply to Frank Spaziani, who is just a game above .500 in three seasons on the Heights.

Even worse for the Boston College program, last year's squad went 4-8 to become the first one since 1998 to miss out on a bowl game. Yup, this is going to be a huge season for the Eagles. At the very top of a growing to-do list during fall camp will be to get the new offensive assistants, four of them, further in synch with the personnel on hand. If Boston College is going to distance itself from the memory of last season, it'll have to start with a moribund attack that ranked in the ACC basement in total offense and scoring offense. In fact, the only man on campus who'll be under more scrutiny than Spaziani is new offensive coordinator Doug Martin.

Defense will continue to be the cornerstone of this school, even in the aftermath of All-American LB Luke Kuechly's early departure to the NFL. The Eagles are sound up the middle, and will once again be tough to throw upon. However, someone has got to start pressuring the quarterback from the edge after the team produced just 11 sacks all season.

This is the end of the line for Coach Spaz if he's unable to reverse course at the school he's been employed by for the last 15 years. Boston College used to be one of college football's steadiest programs, the school that could be perennially penciled in for seven or eight wins. At an institution so accustomed to a certain level of success, it's hard to imagine back-to-back losing seasons being tolerated by the administration.

- Richard Cirminiello, College Football News

Absolute Schedule/Records

2012 Boston College Eagles
WeekOpponentWin%Avg Score
1Miami (FL) Hurricanes3520-24
2Maine Black Bears9544-8
3@Northwestern Wildcats3522-27
5Clemson Tigers2719-28
6@Army Black Knights7225-17
7@Florida State Seminoles1516-30
8@Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets2519-28
9Maryland Terrapins4821-22
10@Wake Forest Demon Deacons3919-22
11Notre Dame Fighting Irish2320-28
12Virginia Tech Hokies2616-25
13@North Carolina State Wolfpack2819-27


Joe Vellano

Mike Rubin of TurtleSportsReport.com is our Maryland Terrapins insider:

The biggest question mark for the Terps is at quarterback after starter C.J. Brown suffered a season-ending injury in practice, leaving true freshmen Perry Hills and Caleb Rowe competing for the starting job. Along with new offensive and defensive schemes, the Terps brought in a very talented recruiting class headlined by wide receiver Stefon Diggs and most of last season's defense is returning as well. The front seven on defense should be a strength with All-American defensive lineman Joe Vellano returning for his senior season, but the secondary lacks depth and could be a problem. The Terps have a solid running back and wide receiver group and preseason All-ACC pick Matt Furstenburg is solid at tight end. If Hills or Rowe performs well, the Terps should improve on their 2-10 record last year, but if they struggle, Maryland could find itself at the bottom of the ACC and head coach Randy Edsall could be put on the hot seat after his second year at Maryland.

For more from Mike Rubin and the Terrapins, check out TurtleSportsReport.com.

Absolute Schedule/Records

2012 Maryland Terrapins
WeekOpponentWin%Avg Score
1William & Mary Tribe9542-8
2@Temple Owls4020-24
3Connecticut Huskies4719-20
4@West Virginia Mountaineers2522-31
6Wake Forest Demon Deacons4619-22
7@Virginia Cavaliers3819-25
8North Carolina State Wolfpack2719-26
9@Boston College Eagles5122-21
10Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets2318-28
11@Clemson Tigers1818-30
12Florida State Seminoles1216-31
13@North Carolina Tar Heels2521-30

Virginia Tech

Logan Thomas

The Hokies were not at all pleased with the way last season ended, losing to Clemson in the ACC Championship Game and Michigan in the Sugar Bowl. This offseason has been all about clearing the air, and charting a new course for 2012.

Spring practice was Virginia Tech's first chance to make sure that a similarly disappointing finish doesn't hound the team this fall. The Hokies will be in a very familiar position when Georgia Tech visits on Labor Day evening, contending for a league championship and one of the coveted spots in a BCS bowl game. Under Frank Beamer, this has become a program folks can set their watches to, stringing together eight consecutive seasons of at least 10 wins.

However, despite playing in five major postseason games over the last eight years, the Hokies are still trying to reach a new level of prosperity—namely competing for a national title. Bud Foster's championship-caliber defense figures to hold up its end of the bargain, especially after so many talented sophomores were employed in 2011.

The offense? It could take time since only a couple of starters are back from a year ago. The pressure will firmly be on junior QB Logan Thomas to make the leap from RB David Wilson's complement in 2011 to the engineer of the attack in 2012. His biggest challenge, besides tuning out the buzz regarding his NFL future, will be to carry a youthful attack that will have no proven players in the backfield and four new starters in the trenches.

- Richard Cirminiello, College Football News

Absolute Schedule/Records

2012 Virginia Tech Hokies
WeekOpponentWin%Avg Score
1Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets5324-23
2Austin Peay Governors9551-6
3@Pittsburgh Panthers7125-19
4Bowling Green Falcons8531-17
5@Cincinnati Bearcats7526-18
6@North Carolina Tar Heels5325-24
7Duke Blue Devils7829-19
8@Clemson Tigers5726-24
10@Miami (FL) Hurricanes6426-21
11Florida State Seminoles4622-24
12@Boston College Eagles7425-16
13Virginia Cavaliers6325-21

Georgia Tech

Tevin Washington

The Yellow Jackets would like to figure out their identity before the start of another season. Are they the team that began 2011 6-0, rising deep into the Top 25? Or the one that finished on a dismal 2-5 slide?

Fifth-year head coach Paul Johnson is looking for improvement from his kids on a macro level, from his vaunted triple-option ground game to the play of a defense that frequently got bullied around the field last fall.

The offense should once again be prolific, as it welcomes back a slew of starters, including senior QB Tevin Washington, top backs Orwin Smith and David Sims and all but one starter on the line. However, if Georgia Tech wants to get back to its 2009 level, when it won the ACC, it'll need a revival out of coordinator Al Groh's 3-4 D.

Groh's kids allowed at least 30 points in each of the final four games, three of which were losses, a damning trend that needs to be reversed as quickly as possible. The pass rush, so impactful in September, went into hibernation for the balance of the season.

Johnson and his program are looking to recapture the swagger and respect they had on the evening of Dec. 5, 2009, when Tech wrapped up its first ACC championship in nearly two decades. Since then, the Yellow Jackets have gone 14-13, with no more than one or two signature wins. With another incomplete season, the school will run the risk of completely obliterating the momentum and goodwill that was stockpiled just a couple of years ago.

- Richard Cirminiello, College Football News

Absolute Schedule/Records

2012 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
WeekOpponentWin%Avg Score
1@Virginia Tech Hokies4723-24
2Presbyterian Blue Hose9552-8
3Virginia Cavaliers5527-23
4Miami (FL) Hurricanes6028-24
5Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders9335-17
6@Clemson Tigers5026-27
8Boston College Eagles7428-19
9Brigham Young Cougars5326-24
10@Maryland Terrapins7728-18
11@North Carolina Tar Heels5728-25
12Duke Blue Devils6529-22
13@Georgia Bulldogs2622-30

North Carolina

Larry Fedora

It's been a gut-wrenching couple of years for Carolina, both on the field and especially away from it. Following a 20-month NCAA investigation, the Heels were slapped in March with a series of penalties that include a postseason ban in 2012, a reduction of 15 scholarships over the next three seasons and three years of probation.

North Carolina finally knows the exact size of the hill it's facing. The man in charge of restoring some order to the football program is Larry Fedora, one of the game's up-and-coming offensive minds. Beyond implementing radically different systems on both sides of the ball, the objective for Fedora and his collection of coaches will be to keep the players, especially the seniors, focused now that a bowl game is no longer an attainable goal this fall. They'll talk about leaving a legacy, playing for pride and building something special that the underclassmen can carry forward into the future. Motivating will be just as important as teaching and coaching this fall.

Fedora inherits a team that certainly would have been talented enough to compete for a fifth straight bowl appearance, or even contend in the Coastal Division. The strength of the Heels will be on offense, a unit littered with all-stars and future pros. The backfield duo, in particular, of RB Giovani Bernard and QB Bryn Renner lends hope that the new up-tempo spread might not take as long to digest as originally feared.

- Richard Cirminiello, College Football News

Absolute Schedule/Records

2012 North Carolina Tar Heels
WeekOpponentWin%Avg Score
1Elon Phoenix9551-7
2@Wake Forest Demon Deacons6529-21
3@Louisville Cardinals5626-24
4East Carolina Pirates8533-20
5Idaho Vandals9538-13
6Virginia Tech Hokies4724-25
7@Miami (FL) Hurricanes6727-22
8@Duke Blue Devils7232-23
9North Carolina State Wolfpack5025-24
11Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets4325-28
12@Virginia Cavaliers5427-24
13Maryland Terrapins7530-21


Perry Jones

Virginia is coming off its best effort in four seasons, and has recruited the fertile Commonwealth extremely well over the last two years. However, the program must replace a slew of key starters from that 8-5 squad, including two all-star offensive linemen, three veteran defensive linemen and three quality defensive backs. If the Cavaliers' unmistakable ascent is going to continue showing up in the standings, a handful of underclassmen, even freshmen, will have to play above their experience level.

The Cavs are particularly hopeful that the quarterbacks are ready to take the next step forward this fall. A sore spot last year, the program now has substantially more potential at the position. Michael Rocco and David Watford have a full season of experience behind them. Greyson Lambert graduated early from high school to participate in spring drills. And former Alabama mega-recruit Phillip Sims is awaiting word on whether he'll be eligible in 2012 or 2013.

The offense ought to be more potent, especially with the return of leading rushers Perry Jones and Kevin Parks, and next-level tackles Oday Aboushi and Morgan Moses, but the D is a genuine concern.

Virginia has not only lost more than half of last year's defensive starters to graduation, but the pass D is going to be particularly vulnerable. Three new starters must be broken in up front and in the secondary, as many of those heralded recruits from the past three years begin to get their first really good opportunities to make a statement. The unit is going to be very talented, but also very young, especially in the early stages of the 2012 campaign.

- Richard Cirminiello, College Football News

Absolute Schedule/Records

2012 Virginia Cavaliers
WeekOpponentWin%Avg Score
1Richmond Spiders9551-8
2Penn State Nittany Lions6824-18
3@Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets4523-27
4@TCU Horned Frogs3624-28
5Louisiana Tech Bulldogs7229-21
6@Duke Blue Devils6228-22
7Maryland Terrapins6225-19
8Wake Forest Demon Deacons6025-20
10@North Carolina State Wolfpack5122-22
11Miami (FL) Hurricanes5425-23
12North Carolina Tar Heels4624-27
13@Virginia Tech Hokies3621-25

Miami (FL)

Brandon Linder

Mike Bakas of CanesTime.com is our Miami Hurricanes insider:

The Hurricanes won just six games in Al Golden's first season in 2011 and they lost many of the top players from last year's team. Stephen Morris will likely replace Jacory Harris at quarterback. Mike James will attempt to replace Lamar Miller at running back. Young receivers, including a pair of true freshmen (Malcolm Lewis and Robert Lockhart) will look to replace a pair of receivers who are now in the NFL (Tommy Streeter and Travis Benjamin). The offensive line – led by All-Conference guard Brandon Linder – is likely going to be the strength of the offense. Defensively, the Canes need some playmakers to emerge. Olivier Vernon was the team's top pass rusher a year ago and he's now a Miami Dolphin. Sophomore Anthony Chickillo might be the best player on the team. Sean Spence, now a Pittsburgh Steeler, won't be easy to replace at linebacker but sophomore Denzel Perryman leads a talented young group. The depth at cornerback will be much better than a year ago but the Canes will have to replace Ray Ray Armstrong, who was dismissed from the team recently, at safety. Kicker Jake Wieclaw and punter Dalton Botts are two of the best kick specialists in the conference.

The Canes have to replace a lot of quality starters from last year's team but they should be a better overall group. This year's team is much stronger, tougher, and more disciplined than the 2011 group. They also just signed a tremendous 2012 recruiting class – one that will likely see several key contributors in 2012. The schedule has Florida State and Virginia Tech at home this season and the Canes won't play a terribly difficult schedule.

For more from Mike Bakas and the Hurricanes, check out CanesTime.com.

Absolute Schedule/Records

2012 Miami (FL) Hurricanes
WeekOpponentWin%Avg Score
1@Boston College Eagles6424-20
2@Kansas State Wildcats3822-25
3Bethune-Cookman Wildcats9549-8
4@Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets4024-28
5North Carolina State Wolfpack5222-22
6@Notre Dame Fighting Irish3823-26
7North Carolina Tar Heels3222-27
8Florida State Seminoles2819-27
10Virginia Tech Hokies3621-26
11@Virginia Cavaliers4623-25
12South Florida Bulls4924-25
13@Duke Blue Devils6028-24


Sean Renfree

Under fifth-year head coach David Cutcliffe, Duke is pushing the rock uphill ever so gradually. However, those seeking signs of progress will have to look someplace other than the standings.

The Blue Devils are better conditioned. The talent pool is a little deeper on Signing Day. The kids are coached up better than any recent staff in Durham. The results on the field? Not as prosperous as planned. After winning nine games in his first two seasons, a breakthrough in these parts, Cutcliffe has gone 3-9 in consecutive years.

The good news around Durham is that the Blue Devils will be flush with returning starters and veterans on both sides of the ball when the season begins. The quarterback, Sean Renfree, enters his third year as the starter, WR Conner Vernon is a record-breaker and both lines are dominated by upperclassmen.

The key for Duke will be to finally parlay all of that experience and know-how into a more competitive product on the field. Better all-around execution and a few more big plays would certainly help the cause; the Devils have been far too methodical and plodding with the ball, while sacks and takeaways have eluded them on defense.

Duke needs to be more than just a year older in 2012. It has to be a year better. If it hasn't already, the window of opportunity to rally an apathetic football base at a renowned basketball school is on the verge of shutting. The coach is entering his fifth year. The depth chart is veteran-laden. If the Blue Devils are unable to break through this fall with a tangible step forward, it might be another few years before they can once again dream realistically of bowl-eligibility.

- Richard Cirminiello, College Football News

Absolute Schedule/Records

2012 Duke Blue Devils
WeekOpponentWin%Avg Score
1FIU Golden Panthers6428-24
2@Stanford Cardinal1620-31
3North Carolina Central Eagles9545-7
4Memphis Tigers8430-18
5@Wake Forest Demon Deacons4624-25
6Virginia Cavaliers3822-28
7@Virginia Tech Hokies2219-29
8North Carolina Tar Heels2823-32
9@Florida State Seminoles1618-32
10Clemson Tigers2124-32
12@Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets3522-29
13Miami (FL) Hurricanes3924-28

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Jake Westrich is the Digital Content Coordinator for WhatIfSports.com. He can be reached at jwestrich@whatifsports.com.

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