Monday, July 2, 2012
ACC's impact game: Atlantic Division
By ESPN.com staff
Clemson and Florida State have both been luring in some of the nation’s most elite high school athletes. They both appear to be on the brink of becoming legitimate national title contenders. And they both have starting quarterbacks who could play their way into the Heisman conversation in 2012.
Only one problem: They’re in each other’s way.
It’s possible the ACC’s two best teams are in the same division this year (I know, I know, I hear you, Hokies, but until proven otherwise, Clemson gets the nod after last year). The good news is that ACC fans won’t have to wait long for the most important game of the season in the Atlantic Division.
Clemson and Florida State -- the two projected frontrunners for the division -- will play on Sept. 22 in Tallahassee. Clemson, the defending ACC champs, will likely be the underdogs, as Florida State should be a preseason top-10 team. Quarterbacks Tajh Boyd and EJ Manuel will take center stage, but one of the keys to the game will be how Clemson’s revamped offensive line fares against a deep and talented Florida State defensive line. One thing the Tigers have that the Noles don’t is a true go-to player at receiver. Sammy Watkins was one of the best players in the country last year as a true freshman, and has said he doesn’t even know what a “sophomore slump” is. Florida State's defense, though, should be one of the best in the country.
With 18 starters returning -- more than any other team in the ACC -- Florida State is the team to beat this year. It’s a bit of a stretch to call any September game a “must-win,” but if Clemson is going to defend its ACC title, it will dramatically increase its chances by leaving Tallahassee with a win. It’s only the first conference game of the season for the Tigers, and it will no doubt have arguably the biggest impact on the Atlantic Division standings.