No front-runner for 2012 ACC race -- yet

January, 5, 2012
1/05/12
5:00
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There are too many decisions still lingering to get an accurate feel for what the 2012 ACC race could look like, as players like Andre Ellington, David Wilson and Dwayne Allen have yet to announce whether they are leaving school early to enter the NFL draft. Those decisions should come soon, though (Wilson's is scheduled for 11 a.m. ET on Friday), but there are three teams that should be ranked in the top 25 polls heading into 2012: Clemson, Florida State and Virginia Tech. The question is how high, and those decisions will play a role in it.

All three of those teams should be considered favorites heading into 2012, regardless of who stays and who goes because of the young talent waiting in the wings and the recruiting classes that are currently being compiled, and also because of the quarterbacks. As I mentioned in the video from the Orange Bowl this morning, Clemson should be considered a front-runner to repeat as league winners despite the ugly loss to West Virginia, but Florida State's defense will likely earn it a lot of respect in the preseason polls. Once again, Virginia Tech's consistency will be a major factor in the votes of confidence in the Hokies.

Two teams not to sleep on: NC State and North Carolina. The Wolfpack finished strong, and Tom O'Brien can work some magic when his roster is at full strength. And Larry Fedora inherited a talented quarterback and outstanding running back. If he can fill some big shoes on defense, the Tar Heels could be a surprise in the Coastal Division race. Both Mike Glennon and Bryn Renner could be two of the ACC's best quarterbacks in 2012.

Two teams still snoozing: Maryland and Miami. Both of these programs have major issues to deal with. For the Canes, it's an ongoing NCAA investigation and the departure of eight offensive starters at last count. For the Terps, it's turnover on the roster, unhappiness with the coaching staff, and just general misery after a 2-10 season in Randy Edsall's first year. Aside from Miami's recruiting, there are few signs that either one of these programs will catch anyone by surprise in 2012.

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