Two weeks ago we kicked off our off-season roundtables by discussing new coaches, National Championship long-shots and teams that might be ripe for a fall from the top. Last week we covered the best assistant coaching hires, which coaches are on the hot seat and the most intriguing spring battles. Today kicks off our first of three roundtables where we will discuss the ACC. In addition to the usual contributors here at College Football Zealots (myself, Jay and Pete) we have also scoured the interwebs for some of the best opinions in the ACC. Joining us for our roundtable this week will be Adam Tolliver from the FSU based site Unconquered Noles. In addition to Adam, we have not one but two Clemson writers as Cory Fravel and Jody Whitt from Cemetery Hill also join us.
Feel free to chime in down below in the comments section or you can shoot us an e-mail at collegefootballzealot at gmail.com. If there is a question you would like to see discussed you can also leave it in the comments, shoot us an e-mail or hit us up on Twitter or Facebook.
Adam Tolliver: I think the hype that surrounds FSU in most years are more on people's desire to see a major brand succeed than actual, tangible team makeup and projection. It's important to remember a couple of things when discussing Florida State in recent years and keeping things in perspective. In 2009, the Seminoles barely won 7 games, had one of the worst defenses in the entire nation and laughable depth all over the field. In the past two years, Jimbo Fisher's first two as head coach, only 12 BCS teams have won more games than Florida State (19). With the knowledge of the poor shape the program was in from 2005-2009, it is a wonder how anyone would have hyped FSU to be breaking through anything at all during those times. Having actually performed like one of the top 15 teams in the nation over the past two seasons, the argument becomes more valid for it now. Regardless, I recognize that when people hype FSU going into a season, 12 and 13 wins is more so the target they have in mind, as opposed to 9 and 10 wins. With all that being said, 2012 lines up to be a very good year for the Seminoles if and only if the offensive line can establish a solid starting five and serviceable backups. They had neither in 2011. The FSU schedule lines up favorably and they return 90% of their entire three deep on what was a top 5 defense last season, as well as a senior QB and 80% of their receiving yards.
Cory Fravel: It could and it might not be either.
Here's how it could be: Loaded defense, great defensive coordinator and talent rich defensive line. FSU's defense has the ability to keep it in every game. They are big, fast, developed and play sound. For this to be FSU's year their defense will have to be the identity of this team. Clemson comes to Tallahassee in a game that will likely determine who goes to the ACC Championship from Atlantic Division. Clemson has dominated this series for ten years. All eyes will be on this exciting matchup.
Here's how it could not be: Ever since the Jimbo era has started FSU has stubbed it's toe multiple times through the season. It's my opinion that as long as FSU lacks an OC and Jimbo calls the plays the Seminoles will continue to stub it's toe. After all; 4th quarter down by 7 who is going to make the play? This year FSU has a more experienced OL but very little experience in the run game with a freshman or sophomore starting at RB. How healthy will EJ Manuel coming back after a fracture in the bowl game? Manuel is injured every year, will it happen again?
Jay: Sure, why not? It better be. I mean, if you look at the recent history of college football, any time a new coaching staff has come in and recruited as well as this Florida State staff has, those teams have typically achieved dramatic improvements and won championships within 3 seasons. Well, this will be Jimbo & Co.'s 3rd season at FSU. If it doesn't happen this year, you have to wonder if it's ever going to happen. But I'm going to play the percentages and say the Noles win big this year.
Jody Whitt: If Florida State is going to break through under Jimbo Fisher, 2012 is the time. Under Fisher's direction, the Seminoles have amassed the most talent of any program in the league, ranking inside the top 10 in recruiting rankings for four straight seasons. Offensively, the Noles return talented quarterback EJ Manual, who should be improved in his second season as the starter. However, Manual will need his offensive line to gel and provide better pass protection and running lanes than they did in 2011 if the offense is to thrive.
Pete Sonski: Whether Florida State can recoup from and avoid injuries will determine its success. RB Chris Thompson is recovering from a broken back last season. WR Willie Haulstead had two concussions last year. QB EJ Manuel was dinged up throughout the season, due in large measure to failed protection from an injury-plagued offensive line. On the plus side, RB Devonta Freeman played well as a true freshman. James Wilder had a decent season too but it sometimes seems RB may not be his true position.
The Noles have the talent and the coaching to succeed, but the will and focus could have been questioned after the season started to get away from them. I’m on the side of a return to past form.
Kevin: If I'm buying or selling Florida State being a top ten team this year then I'm selling. I think Florida State will continue to be one of the top teams in the conference but their running back position feels even thinner than Georgia's did last year and that's troublesome when you have an offensive line that was scattered, smothered and covered last year and a quarterback who was banged up last year as well. With FSU, I'm in a holding pattern. I'm waiting for them to show me that they can do it before I buy their stock. I put them in the same bucket as Notre Dame. Both are teams that make college football better when they are great but both teams also have failed to live up to high expectations in the recent past. I'm buying FSU as a top twenty team but selling them "breaking through" to the other side.
Come back tomorrow as our ACC roundtable discussion continues as we will tell you which teams we think can contend with Clemson, FSU and Virginia Tech for the conference crown in 2012.