Little things that could mean a lot, Atlantic Division

April, 6, 2010
4/06/10
3:36
PM ET
Greetings, ACCers. This is your friendly Big East interloper, filling in for Heather today.

I did this for the Big East a little while back and thought it might be fun to do for the ACC today. The margins of victory in college football are usually tiny, especially in a league with as much balance and parity as the ACC. So even a few small improvements can mean a lot.

Where are some small areas where each team can make progress this spring in order to make up a few points here or there in 2010? Let's take a look at the Atlantic Division (and I'm 85 percent positive I know who's in each division).

Boston College: Third-down efficiency.

The Eagles ranked last in the ACC and 116th in the FBS in converting third downs, doing so at a paltry 30.2 percent. (Though they did make seven of 11 fourth downs). Turning more thirds into firsts keeps the defense off the field and improves field position. Of course, a lot of that can be blamed on an unseasoned quarterback (Dave Shinskie) trying to convert too many third-and-longs. More experience might help the cause in '10.

Clemson: Punting and kicking.

You don't have to remind Clemson fans of Richard Jackson's crucial misses against Maryland and in the ACC title game against Georgia Tech, although they were long ones. As good as the Tigers' kick return game was, their own kickers took away points and yards by missing 11 of 32 field goals, five of 50 extra points and ranking next to last in punting average with a net of only 33 yards per attempt. The same guys are back this year at both spots; they need to find their strokes.

Florida State: Penalties

No doubt the Seminoles have a lot to fix, especially on defense. But they also ranked last in penalty yardage at 62.5 per game. There's something to be said for being aggressive, but more mental discipline could have saved Florida State some valuable yards. Those could have been helpful for a team that lost three games by a touchdown or less in 2009.

Maryland: Red zone offense

The Terps went 2-10 but lost five games by a touchdown or less. That record might have looked a lot better with a more efficient red zone attack. Maryland missed five field goals and scored touchdowns at a less than 50 percent clip (15-of-31) on its trips inside the opponents' 20. That conversion percentage tied for last in the ACC.

NC State: Turnover margin

The Wolfpack probably would have gone bowling had the turnover battle gone more in their favor. They ranked last in the ACC and 114th in the FBS in turnover margin. They lost the ball a lot (25 times) but also ranked last in the league in gaining turnovers. The good news is, those kinds of stats seem to even out on a year-to-year basis.

Wake Forest: Field goals

The Demon Deacons were just 12-of-19 on field goal attempts, the lowest percentage in the ACC. That includes costly misses in close losses to Boston College and Miami. Jimmy Newman was just a freshman last year, and he did hit some big ones. But more consistency would help Wake Forest get on the right side of these slim margins of victory in the ACC.

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