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Thursday, January 12, 2012
Who will challenge the Hokies in 2012?

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Judging from the comments in the chat and in my mailbag this week, there seems to be a growing frustration among ACC fans with Virginia Tech's inability to represent the league with BCS bowl wins. It almost seems as if ACC fans are ready for a new leader to emerge, but it's not going to be easy to knock the Hokies off their perch. They're still the team to beat in the Coastal Division heading into 2012, but every team has questions to answer this offseason. Which Coastal Division opponent will have the best chance at sneaking up on the Hokies this year?

Prediction: Georgia Tech.

Three reasons:

1. The Jackets return eight starters on offense, including the entire offensive line.Roddy Jones, Stephen Hill and Tyler Melton are the only starters who won't return, and with several offensive linemen who were redshirted this past season, this could be the deepest group of linemen coach Paul Johnson has had.

2. The defense returns seven starters.The improvements in Al Groh's second season were subtle, but they were there. Georgia Tech needs to take another step forward in Groh's third season, and the defense was definitely a weak link in the loss to Utah.

3. Special teams can't get any worse. The muffed punt against Miami, two punts of less than 20 yards, three missed field goals against Utah ... the list goes on and on. This phase of the game has to be better for Georgia Tech, and with both the kicker and punter returning, it should be.

The biggest concerns for Georgia Tech remain the talent level, the defense and the fact there are no superstars on this roster. If Georgia Tech is going to win the Coastal Division title in 2012, it's going to be a true team effort. Tevin Washington will enter the spring as the team's clear-cut starter at quarterback, but there's no question he will be pushed by Synjyn Days and Vad Lee the entire offseason. Georgia Tech should be a good team, but not a great one. With so many starters returning, though, Georgia Tech fans should expect more in 2012.