2012 ACC Schedule Analysis

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<p> Athlon takes a look at some of the key matchups, notes and observations for the 2012 ACC schedule.</p>

By Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter) and Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)

Related: Athlon's Early College Football Top 25 for 2012
Related: Athlon's Early ACC Predictions for 2012

Boston College

Sept. 1 Miami
Sept. 8 Maine
Sept. 15 at Northwestern
Sept. 22 Bye Week 
Sept. 29 Clemson
Oct. 6 at Army
Oct. 13 at Florida State
Oct. 20 at Georgia Tech
Oct. 27 Maryland
Nov. 3 at Wake Forest
Nov. 10 Notre Dame
Nov. 17 Virginia Tech
Nov. 24 at NC State

* The Tom O’Brien Bowl. The Eagles will close out the 2012 season with a road trip to Raleigh to take on former coach Tom O’Brien. Boston College has won four out of the last five games against the Wolfpack, including a 14-10 victory in Chestnut Hill last season.

* Coach on the hot seat? There’s no question coach Frank Spaziani needs to get into a bowl game to save his job. If the Eagles are to get back into the postseason, they will have to make up some ground in the early portion of the schedule. November is a brutal month with road trips to Wake Forest and NC State (likely bowl teams) and home games against Notre Dame and Virginia Tech.

* A tricky non-conference schedule. Boston College should be able to beat Maine on Sept. 8, but there’s no guarantee it beats Army, Northwestern or Notre Dame. The Black Knights are a difficult team to prepare for after a short week, while the Wildcats beat the Eagles 24-17 in Chestnut Hill last season.

* The Eagles finished 2011 with a 24-17 victory over Miami. The first opponent for 2012: the Hurricanes. These two should be quite familiar with each other by the end of the game on Sept. 1.

* Road trip. The Eagles didn’t get a break in terms of the schedule in October as they have to travel for back-to-back games against Florida State and Georgia Tech.

* Crossover opponents with the Coastal: Miami, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech

Clemson

Sept. 1 Auburn (Atlanta)
Sept. 8 Ball State
Sept. 15 Furman
Sept. 22 at Florida State
Sept. 29 at Boston College
Oct. 6 Georgia Tech
Oct. 13 Bye Week
Oct. 20 Virginia Tech
Oct. 25 at Wake Forest
Nov. 3 at Duke
Nov. 10 Maryland
Nov. 17 NC State
Nov. 24 South Carolina

* The Tigers will open the 2012 season in Atlanta as the second game in the Chick-fil-A College Kickoff. NC State and Tennessee will meet in the first matchup of the ACC-SEC/Chick-fil-A challenge on Friday night in Atlanta. Clemson hosted Auburn last season, posting a 38-24 victory on Sept. 17. Last year’s win snapped a 14-game losing streak to Auburn. 

* ACC Atlantic title game? Clemson and Florida State are the early favorites to claim the 2012 Atlantic Division and the Sept. 22 matchup will be huge for both teams. The Tigers’ revamped offensive line will face a huge challenge as it goes against Florida State’s defensive line. Clemson has not won in Tallahassee since 2006.

* The open date comes at a good time for Clemson. The Tigers are off on Oct. 13, one week before hosting Virginia Tech. Clemson easily handled the Hokies in two meetings last year, but this will be a key matchup as both teams try to stay alive in the national title picture.

* The back half of the schedule isn’t overwhelmingly easy, but getting Wake Forest, Duke, Maryland and NC State is a pretty favorable run for Clemson.

* Trap game? After hosting Virginia Tech on Oct. 20, the Tigers have a five-day turnaround to take on Wake Forest in Winston-Salem.

* As usual, Clemson will close out the year with South Carolina. The Tigers have lost the last three matchups to the Gamecocks. The season finale with South Carolina is the final matchup in a three-game home-stand to close out 2012.

Duke 

Sept. 1 Florida International
Sept. 8 at Stanford
Sept. 15 North Carolina Central
Sept. 22 Memphis
Sept. 29 at Wake Forest
Oct. 6 Virginia
Oct. 13 at Virginia Tech
Oct. 20 North Carolina
Oct. 27 at Florida State
Nov. 3 Clemson
Nov. 10 Bye Week
Nov. 17 at Georgia Tech
Nov. 24 Miami

* The schedule doesn’t start with any favors. Mario Cristobal has built FIU into a Sun Belt power and a 2,800-mile trip to Palo Alto — with or without Andrew Luck — will be downright impossible for Duke.

* An 0-2 start is likely before winnable non-conference tilts with North Carolina Central and Memphis.

* The road schedule, while impossibly brutal in conference, actually works out for a team of Duke’s stature. The Blue Devils have little chance of upsetting ACC powers Virginia Tech, Florida State or Georgia Tech, so why not play them on the road? That gives Duke a better chance of upsetting lesser teams like Virginia, North Carolina and Miami at home. It feels like fuzzy logic, but if Duke wants to make a bowl, it has to upset the “lower-tiered” teams in its division.

* Surprisingly, the Blue Devils don’t end the 2012 season with North Carolina. Duke has played the Tar Heels in the season finale six out of the last seven seasons.

* Duke caught a bad break in scheduling as its bye week is two weeks before the season finale.

* Crossover opponents with the Atlantic: at Wake Forest, at Florida State, Clemson

Florida State

Sept. 1 Murray State
Sept. 8 Savannah State
Sept. 15 Wake Forest
Sept. 22 Clemson
Sept. 29 at South Florida
Oct. 6 at NC State
Oct. 13 Boston College
Oct. 20 at Miami
Oct. 27 Duke
Nov. 3 Bye Week
Nov. 8 at Virginia Tech
Nov. 17 at Maryland
Nov. 24 Florida

* Two FCS opponents. With West Virginia backing out of a scheduled non-conference matchup, the Seminoles were forced to scramble and add Savannah State to fill the Sept. 8 date. Only one FCS win will count to bowl eligibility for Florida State in 2012.

* Home cooking. The Seminoles won’t have to leave Florida until their Oct. 6 date against NC State. The first four games are at home, with a trip to South Florida on tap for the fifth week of the season.

* Trap game? One week after traveling to take on South Florida, the Seminoles have to hit the road to play NC State on Oct. 6. The Wolfpack has defeated Florida State two out of the last three times in Raleigh.

* Rematch? It’s interesting the ACC scheduled the Florida State-Virginia Tech showdown so late in the season (Nov. 8). These two teams are the early favorites to meet for the ACC title on Dec. 1, so there could be two meetings within three weeks between the Seminoles and Hokies.

* A trip to Blacksburg. Florida State’s trip to Blacksburg on Nov. 8 will be only the third meeting with Virginia Tech as an ACC member during the regular season (not counting ACC Championship Game appearances). The Seminoles lost their last appearance at Virginia Tech, falling 40-21 in 2007. However, the schedule makers gave Florida State a break, as the Seminoles have a bye before playing the Hokies this season.

* ACC Atlantic Championship Game? With Clemson and Florida State expected to be the frontrunners to win the ACC Atlantic, the Sept. 22 meeting could have a significant impact on the division race. Considering the Tigers have some heavy losses on the offensive line, Florida State catches a break by getting Clemson early in the season.

* Instate rivals. Can the Seminoles continue their string of recent success against their rivals in the Sunshine State? Florida State has won three out of the last four against Miami and two in a row against Florida.

* Crossover opponents with the Coastal: at Miami, Duke, at Virginia Tech

Georgia Tech

Sept. 3 at Virginia Tech (Labor Day)
Sept. 8 Presbyterian
Sept. 15 Virginia
Sept. 22 Miami
Sept. 29 Middle Tennessee
Oct. 6 at Clemson
Oct. 13 Bye Week
Oct. 20 Boston College
Oct. 27 BYU
Nov. 3 at Maryland
Nov. 10 at North Carolina
Nov. 17 Duke
Nov. 24 at Georgia

* Either Virginia Tech or Georgia Tech has represented the Coastal Division in all seven ACC Championship games with the winner of the Techie Bowl earning the division crown all seven years. The game holds even more importance in 2012 as these two budding rivals will play on Labor Day night to wrap-up the first weekend of the 2012 season. Fans won’t have to wait long for what could be the most important Coastal Division contest of the year.

* Georgia Tech didn’t want to be victim of a FCS upset after a Labor Day matchup. Remember Virginia Tech in 2010? The Yellow Jackets will have to play on a short week after matching up against the Hokies, but Presbyterian should pose little threat to Georgia Tech.

* The top three teams in the Atlantic Division will be Florida State, Clemson and NC State. While the Jackets have to play at Clemson to start October, Paul Johnson’s bunch misses Florida State and NC State this fall.

* The Yellow Jackets will need to have a great summer camp because the first month of the season will determine just how good they will be in 2012. After the brutal opening weekend trip to Blacksburg, Georgia Tech plays key division foes Virginia and Miami before the calendar flips to October. And with a road trip to Clemson looming on October 6, Tech plays its toughest four ACC games in the first six weeks of the season.

* The non-conference slate for Georgia Tech is always highlighted by some clean, old-fashioned hate and 2012 is no different. The season culminates with a trip to Athens — which isn’t a bad thing for Tech, where three of the last four wins in the series have come Between the Hedges. An intriguing visit from BYU at the end of October will offer an interesting change of pace in the heart of the ACC schedule.

* Crossover opponents with the Atlantic: at Clemson, Boston College, at Maryland.

Maryland

Sept. 1 William & Mary
Sept. 8 at Temple
Sept. 15 Connecticut
Sept. 22 at West Virginia
Sept. 29 Bye Week
Oct. 6 Wake Forest
Oct. 13 at Virginia
Oct. 20 NC State
Oct. 27 at Boston College
Nov. 3 Georgia Tech
Nov. 10 at Clemson
Nov. 17 Florida State
Nov. 24 at North Carolina

* The Terrapins finished 2011 riding an eight-game losing streak. Maryland should be able to start the year 1-0 with William & Mary visiting College Park on Sept. 1. The Tribe finished 5-6 last year and was decked 40-3 by Virginia in the season opener.

* The Randy Edsall Bowl. Edsall’s tenure at Maryland is off to a horrible start, but how much more scrutiny will he face if Connecticut beats the Terrapins on Sept. 15? Edsall coached the Huskies for 12 seasons, leading them to a 74-70 record and one BCS bowl appearance. Remember when Edsall took over he proclaimed Maryland to be his dream job? You can bet the Huskies haven’t forgotten that or how Edsall left them for Maryland after the Fiesta Bowl loss to Oklahoma.

* Maryland and West Virginia is a solid rivalry, but it’s a series that has been dominated by the Mountaineers recently. West Virginia has won six in a row over the Terrapins and this year’s game will be the final non-conference game for both in 2012. With conference play starting up after this matchup, it’s the final tune-up opportunity for both teams.

* Maryland has met Virginia every year since 1957. The Terrapins have lost four out of the last five games in this series.

* The Terrapins have a brutal stretch to close out the 2012 season – Georgia Tech, at Clemson, Florida State and at North Carolina. A lot can change before November, but it’s not out of the question the Terrapins will be at least a touchdown underdog in each of those matchups.

* Insignificant note: Maryland’s schedule alternates home and road games all year.

* Crossover opponents with the Coastal: at Virginia, Georgia Tech, at North Carolina

Miami

Sept. 1 at Boston College
Sept. 8 at Kansas State
Sept. 15 Bethune-Cookman
Sept. 22 at Georgia Tech
Sept. 29 NC State
Oct. 6 at Notre Dame (Solider Field, Chicago, Ill.)
Oct. 13 North Carolina
Oct. 20 Florida State
Oct. 27 Bye Week
Nov. 1 Virginia Tech
Nov. 10 at Virginia
Nov. 17 South Florida
Nov. 24 at Duke

* For a young team that has to replace most of its leaders, Miami gets no favors in non-conference play. A nasty trip to the Little Apple in Week 2 is a likely loss. A long road trip to Solider Field in Chicago to face Notre Dame has loads of national appeal, but the Irish should be a heavy favorite. And a home test against in-state rival South Florida is never easy — in fact, the only time these two have played in Miami Gardens, USF won 23-20 back in 2010. Bethune-Cookman is the only clear-cut non-conference win for Al Golden.

* The last regular season matchup between Miami and Notre Dame occurred in 1990.

* The Hurricanes are set-up for a strong second half push, but it might come at the expense of early season losses. Four of its first six games are on the road, including a key division game against Georgia Tech. Those types of road games — at Kansas State, Georgia Tech and Notre Dame — can be great learning tools for a young team. Yet, most learning experiences are losses and that could be the case with this first month of play. Toss in a home game against a quality NC State team and 3-3 becomes a very likely first half record for Miami.

* With those road tests out of the way early on, the Canes have a chance to make some big statements over a four-week period of time. Right in the heart of the conference slate, Miami plays three straight home games and gets its bye week. Now, those games are North Carolina, Florida State and Virginia Tech, but should Miami learn from its tough first month, it could easily pull off a key upset during its four-week home-stand.

* Crossover opponents with the Atlantic: at Boston College, NC State, Florida State

NC State

Aug. 31 Tennessee (Atlanta)
Sept. 8 at Connecticut
Sept. 15 South Alabama
Sept. 22 The Citadel
Sept. 29 at Miami
Oct. 6 Florida State
Oct. 13 Bye Week
Oct. 20 at Maryland
Oct. 27 at North Carolina
Nov. 3 Virginia
Nov. 10 Wake Forest
Nov. 17 at Clemson
Nov. 24 Boston College

* The Wolfpack will open the 2012 season in Atlanta as part of the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Challenge. NC State and Tennessee will play on Friday night, while Clemson and Auburn will meet on Saturday. NC State and Tennessee have met only twice, with each team winning once. The last meeting came in 1939.

* NC State will be the first of two ACC teams to take on Connecticut in 2012. The Wolfpack take on the Huskies on Sept. 8 and Maryland hosts Connecticut on Sept. 15.

* South Alabama (NC State’s Week 3 opponent) is transitioning to FBS status and will play a full Sun Belt schedule in 2012.

* NC State is riding a five-game winning streak over rival North Carolina.

* The Wolfpack have not played Miami since 2008. NC State has won the last two matchups against Miami.

* Three of NC State’s last four games are at home.

* The Wolfpack’s matchup against Florida State on Oct. 6 could be a sneaky game in the Atlantic Division title race. NC State was shutout by the Seminoles in 2011, but knocked off Florida State in 2010. 

North Carolina

Sept. 1 Elon
Sept. 8 at Wake Forest
Sept. 15 at Louisville
Sept. 22 East Carolina
Sept. 29 Idaho
Oct. 6 Virginia Tech
Oct. 13 at Miami
Oct. 20 at Duke
Oct. 27 NC State
Nov. 3 Bye Week
Nov. 10 Georgia Tech
Nov. 15 at Virginia (Thur.)
Nov. 24 Maryland

* The road schedule isn’t all that daunting in conference for the new Tar Heels staff. Trips to Miami, Virginia, Wake Forest and Duke should all be manageable for a team that expects to compete for eight or nine wins.

* Another huge schedule break for the Tar Heels: Three of the top five teams in the ACC will visit Chapel Hill: Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and NC State.

* The crossover schedule is very manageable as well. The aforementioned trip to Wake Forest is no gimmie and NC State is a quality opponent, but there is no Florida State or Clemson on the slate. This should make adjusting to life in the ACC just that much easier for new head coach Larry Fedora — who has plenty of offensive talent to work with in 2012.

* The Tar Heels have a tricky non-conference date against Louisville in Week 3. The Cardinals should be the favorite to win the Big East title in 2012. North Carolina defeated Louisville 14-7 in Chapel Hill last year.

* By playing Georgia Tech on Nov. 10, North Carolina won’t have much time to prepare for Virginia on Nov. 15. The Tar Heels will only have five days of rest. 

* Crossover opponents from the Atlantic: at Wake Forest, NC State, Maryland

Virginia Cavaliers

Sept. 1 Richmond
Sept. 8 Penn State
Sept. 15 at Georgia Tech
Sept. 22 at TCU
Sept. 29 Louisiana Tech
Oct. 6 at Duke
Oct. 13 Maryland
Oct. 20 Wake Forest
Oct. 27 Bye Week
Nov. 3 at NC State
Nov. 10 Miami
Nov. 15 North Carolina
Nov. 24 at Virginia Tech

* The Cavaliers feature maybe the toughest non-conference schedule in the ACC this fall. Penn State at home will be a tough challenge, despite all that the Nittany Lions have gone through over the last year. A trip to Fort Worth to battle TCU is a tall order. And don’t forget about a visit from WAC champion Louisiana Tech. Those are winnable games for a team that wants to compete for an ACC title. With a road test against Georgia Tech slipped between games with Penn State and TCU, fans in Charlottesville should know all about their 2012 team by September 22.

*  The good news for Virginia in conference play is what isn’t on the schedule. Like North Carolina, the Cavs miss both Florida State and Clemson. The only way Mike London’s squad will face the Noles or Tigers will be in the ACC Championship game — a test that London would be happy to see.

* After a brutal start to the season, Virginia gets a stretch where four of five ACC games will be played at home. Divisional swing games against Miami and North Carolina, as well as must-wins against Maryland and Wake Forest, will come in the comforts of Scott Stadium. This all, of course, leads up to a nasty season-ending road trip to Blacksburg for the Commonwealth Cup.

* The Cavaliers’ final three opponents are all from the Coastal Division.

* Crossover opponents from the Atlantic: Maryland, Wake Forest, at NC State

Virginia Tech

Sept. 3 Georgia Tech (Labor Day)
Sept. 8 Austin Peay
Sept. 15 at Pittsburgh
Sept. 22 Bowling Green
Sept. 29 Cincinnati (Landover)
Oct. 6 at North Carolina
Oct. 13 Duke
Oct. 20 at Clemson
Oct. 27 Bye Week
Nov. 1 at Miami
Nov. 8 Florida State
Nov. 17 at Boston College
Nov. 24 Virginia

* In each of the seven ACC Championship game seasons, the winner of the Georgia Tech-Virginia Tech game has gone on to win the Coastal Division. This fall should be no different as these two enter 2012 as the favorites once again. However, this year they will square off in Week 1 and I can think of no better way to end kickoff weekend with the most important game in the Coastal Division in primetime on Labor Day night. The good news? Frank Beamer will have all summer long to prepare for the Jackets’ triple option attack — which has worked well for bowl teams of late.

* There will be a three-game stretch as the calendar flips to November that will determine if Virginia Tech is a national power or merely another quality Frank Beamer squad. A road trip to Clemson to face the only team that beat the Hokies in the regular season in 2011 will resonate across both ACC divisions. Then back-to-back primetime Thursday night games following the bye week will give voters plenty of chances to see the Hokies against quality competition. First, a trip to Miami could carry division implications and finally Florida State comes to Blacksburg on November 8 in what could be an ACC title game preview. This game could carry National Championship repercussions as well should both teams develop as expected along the offensive line.

* Virginia Tech is playing its second game in Landover in the last three seasons. The last meeting in Landover was a 33-30 loss to Boise State.

* Florida State and Miami take on Virginia Tech after a having a bye week.

* Overall, this is a tough schedule that features two intriguing non-conference tests, a huge Coastal swing game right out of the gate, two potential ACC championship game previews, the Commonwealth Cup and two road trips to North Carolina and Miami. Should Hokies continue their run of ACC dominance, it will have most assuredly earned it in 2012.

* Future ACC opponents. Pittsburgh will likely join the ACC in time for the 2013 season and is slated to be in the Coastal Division. The Panthers and Hokies have not met since 2003.

* Crossover opponents with the Atlantic: at Clemson, Florida State, at Boston College

Wake Forest

Sept. 1 Liberty
Sept. 8 North Carolina
Sept. 15 at Florida State
Sept. 22 Army
Sept. 29 Duke
Oct. 6 at Maryland
Oct. 13 Bye Week
Oct. 20 at Virginia
Oct. 25 Clemson
Nov. 3 Boston College
Nov. 10 at NC State
Nov. 17 at Notre Dame
Nov. 24 Vanderbilt

* Wake Forest opens the year with a solid FCS opponent in Liberty. Interestingly enough, the Flames are led by former Buffalo and Kansas coach Turner Gill. Former North Carolina quarterback Joe Dailey is also on Gill’s staff.

* The Sept. 8 matchup with North Carolina is the only ACC conference game that weekend. The rest of the ACC will be playing non-conference games.

* The Demon Deacons have had solid success against Florida State recently, knocking off the Seminoles 35-30 last season and claiming two out of the last three matchups in Tallahassee.

* If the Demon Deacons want to get back to a bowl game, there’s an important three-game stretch in the early part of the season. Wake Forest will be favored to beat Army and Duke, and will have to travel to College Park to take on Maryland. If the Demon Deacons can pick up three wins in that stretch, combined with a win in the opener against Liberty, this team should be in good shape to reach the postseason in 2012.

* Short week. Wake Forest has to play at Virginia on Oct. 20 and then hosts Clemson just five days later.

* The Nov. 17 meeting with Notre Dame will only be the second time the Demon Deacons and Fighting Irish have played. The first matchup took place last season with Notre Dame winning 24-17.

* Wake Forest will close out the regular season against Vanderbilt for the fifth time in six seasons. The Demon Deacons have won three out of the last four against the Commodores, but lost 41-7 in Winston-Salem last season. 

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