NC State Football: Can the Wolfpack Win the ACC in 2012?

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Mike Glennon should have NC State in the ACC title mix.

<p> Can NC State contend for the ACC title?</p>

NC State finished 2011 by winning four out of their final five games. The Wolfpack return quarterback Mike Glennon, and a secondary that could be one of the best in the ACC. 

Is NC State an ACC Title Contender in 2012?

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
As strange as it may seem, we may figure out how seriously to take NC State after the first two weeks of the season when the Wolfpack face Tennessee and Connecticut both away from Raleigh. Granted, these two teams each finished 5-7. If the Wolfpack is going to contend for the ACC, it should handle the rebuilding Volunteers. The Vols’ biggest strength on offense -- Tyler Bray and his receivers -- faces NC State’s greatest strength with David Amerson leading four returning starters. Connecticut should be easy work, but that’s a road game. Like Tennessee, Connecticut has some key players returning from injury, but Wolfpack quarterback Mike Glennon should feast against that secondary. If NC State wins both games comfortably, watch out.

We’re going to hear a ton about Amerson’s 13 interceptions for good reason, but turnover margin is fluky. NC State ranked sixth nationally in that category at plus-14. As much as Tom O’Brien would love for his veteran secondary to repeat its 27 interceptions, he can’t depend on it. That means every other position group is going to need to step up, starting with the run game (11th in the ACC) and offensive line (10th in the ACC in sacks allowed). And of course, there’s Glennon, whose name is unfairly linked to Russell Wilson. He’s one of the ACC’s best quarterbacks and finished last season on a tear with 11 touchdowns and two interceptions in the last three games against Clemson, Maryland and Louisville. He’ll be the key. Florida State and Clemson have proven they’re not immune to letting good things slip away. NC State could be a team ready to pounce.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
I am very high on NC State and think they can absolutely compete for an ACC crown in 2012. This is due entirely to how it is constructed. An excellent offensive line, a tremendously talented veteran quarterback, a solid defense and hard-nosed head coach. These are the most important aspects to any football team when trying to pinpoint sleepers in any league. The Wolfpack has tremendous leadership with Mike Glennon under center in his second full season as the starter and steely-eyed ACC stalwart Tom O'Brien steering the entire ship. And Wolfie will be stout up front at the point of attack – both offensively and defensively - as Athlon has ranked the O-line No. 2 in the league and the D-line No. 3 in the ACC.

Clemson and Florida State are the top picks in the Atlantic Divison, but NC State gets a few scheduling breaks in 2012. First, the Seminoles must visit Raleigh in what could be a decisive ACC bout. Second, there is no Virginia Tech or Georgia Tech on the schedule at all. And with the recent domination of instate rival North Carolina - O'Brien hasn't lost to the Tar Heels as the Wolfpack headman – NC State should feel optimistic about its ACC crossover play. It also finishes with three of the final four conference games at home.

Yes, the one road game in Novmeber is a trip down to Death Valley on November 17, but if that game turns into an Atlantic Division title game, well, just ask Tigers fans what happened when these two met last year. NC State 37, Clemson 13.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
I think Virginia Tech, Clemson and Florida State are the best teams in the ACC, but NC State isn’t too far behind. The Wolfpack got off to a 2-3 start last season, but rallied to win four out of their final five games. However, while NC State had an impressive finish, it also lost to Boston College and needed a furious second-half rally to beat Maryland.

There are a lot of positives for this team going into 2012, especially with Mike Glennon returning under center. The Wolfpack has one of the conference’s best offensive lines, but playmakers need to be found in the receiving corps. Running back James Washington was steady last season, and has plenty of help on the ground from sophomore Anthony Creecy and Mustafa Greene.

The defense allowed 24.7 points a game last season, but forced 39 turnovers and ranked eighth nationally with 3.1 sacks a game. With seven starters returning, this unit should be solid once again. Cornerback David Amerson is among the best in college football at his position, while solid depth has been established on the defensive line. Although the Wolfpack may give up some yards, if they can continue to force turnovers and sacks, they should keep this team in the hunt for the ACC title.

Will NC State win the ACC in 2012? I’d be surprised if it did. However, I could see this team finishing with nine wins and pulling off an upset against Florida State in Raleigh on Oct. 6. The Wolfpack catch a break in the crossover opponents, as they miss Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech. Considering NC State was 5-5 heading into the final three games of last year, it’s a testament to how much this team improved in the last half of 2011 and should better in 2012.

Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)
I believe NC State will be among the top three or four teams in the league, but I don’t know if I’d call the Pack a true ACC contender because they play in the more difficult Atlantic Division, home to both Florida State and Clemson.

There is, however, a ton of positive momentum in Raleigh after State won four of its last five games in 2011, highlighted by the dominating 37–13 victory over Clemson. Mike Glennon is poised to have a big senior season after throwing 31 touchdowns and only 12 interceptions. The defense, solid last year, should be strong once again. There are some concerns at linebacker, but the secondary, led by David Amerson, should be among the best in the league.

Barring a surprising rash of injuries — which has happened to this team in the past — Tom O’Brien’s club figures to win eight or nine games overall and finish over .500 in the ACC. 

Mark Ross
No. Don't get me wrong, I expect NC State to win about eight games once again this and go to its third straight bowl game under head coach Tom O'Brien. But as far as the ACC race goes, I see the Wolfpack finishing third, possibly second, in the Atlantic division.

This is a well-balanced football team with an offense led by quarterback Mike Glennon and a defense led by All-American cornerback David Amerson and the rest of the secondary, but the sum of these parts doesn't beat the strengths of the top two teams in the Atlantic - Clemson and Florida State. Clemson has the best offense in the ACC while Florida State has the best defense, and each of these units rank up there when it comes to the best in the nation.

To be an ACC title contender, NC State will have to go through both Clemson and Florida State. The last time the Wolfpack beat the Tigers and Seminoles in the same season was 2002, and I don't see that changing in 2012. This year's NC State team is a good team, but not an ACC title contender.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
Tom O’Brien’s club has a great shot at eight or nine overall wins, but I do not see the Wolfpack as a major contender for the league title. Clemson and Florida State project as the top two teams in the ACC’s Atlantic Division, and NC State looks like a clear third. To be better than that, the Wolfpack will need to be more consistent across the board. The Mike Glennon-led offense was awesome in the last three games (37, 56 and 31 points) of last season, but scored only 10, 13, and 0 in the three prior contests. The defense was great against Clemson, North Carolina and Virginia but faltered badly versus Wake Forest, Cincinnati and Florida State.

Glennon and a veteran offensive line will give the NC State attack a chance to put up big numbers, especially if Tobias Palmer and Bryan Underwood can become big-time targets at the receiver position. The defense, a group that produced 39 takeaways in 2011, may be the key to contending in the ACC. The secondary is excellent and brings back all four starters who helped lead the nation with 27 interceptions last year. The line should be solid, but there are some holes to fill with the linebacker unit.

The Wolfpack will need to at least split with tough division foes FSU and Clemson to contend in the conference. They avoid Virginia Tech in the Coastal, but road games at Miami and North Carolina as well as hosting a scrappy UVA bunch will not be easy. If NC State gets production from its front seven on defense and develops some outside threats on offense, then O’Brien’s club will be a tough out in ACC play.

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