This September is huge in college football, because it contains five Saturdays. That’s right, for most teams, their seasons will be almost half over when October arrives. So we asked our InsideTheACC.com bloggers what the key is to their teams having a good September and getting off to a great start to the season.
Before we proceed, we’d like to give a hearty welcome to NC State blogger Spencer Hardison, who joins us this week and brings the Wolfpack Nation with him. Welcome, Spencer!
We’re still looking for bloggers on InsideTheACC.com for four schools: BC, Clemson, Maryland, and Wake Forest. Till then, we fill in with our own thoughts on those schools.
Boston College, by InsideTheACC.com
Play disciplined. BC is beginning the season with Miami. The key to beating the Hurricanes is to play a more disciplined football game. Miami has talent, though not as much as they used to possess. However, they have a bad habit of not playing disciplined, particularly in pass coverage. Chase Rettig needs to take a step forward this year and have a good season at quarterback, otherwise the Frank Spaziani era will be over soon. If BC can knock off the Canes, they’ll have a chance to start 3-0.
Clemson, by InsideTheACC.com
If Clemson beats Auburn in Atlanta, they will start the season 3-0. The key to beating Auburn is finding guys to replace some key cogs in the passing game: the departed Dwayne Allen, and the suspended Sammy Watkins. Both guys were a huge part of Clemson’s offense a year ago. If no one steps up to fill the void, an Auburn defense that returns nine starters will have a chance to get revenge for their poor game against Clemson a year ago.
Duke, by Mike Kline (@DukeBlogMKline)
Be Aggressive, B-E Aggressive: That is pretty much the key for Duke to get off to a good start this season. Last year when their season was for all intents and purposes ended with their week one loss to FCS Richmond, the Blue Devils came out pensive and played not to lose. If there is a cliché that should be avoided with regard to Duke Football it is don’t play to not lose, play to win. Duke has to come out this season and put everything into every game. That starts with Sean Renfree takings shots down field, the defensive putting pressure and blitzing and hopefully forcing turnovers and it includes making big plays on special teams. Duke is a much better team but the results have not shown that and they are not a team that is so good they can play their B game and still win. Now is the time for Duke to play aggressively and confidently each and every game and they need to do that from the start because Florida International is not a push over and another season opening loss at home just isn’t going to cut it. They need to play with a chip on their shoulder because for all the positive press the program has been getting leading up to the season it all means nothing if at the end of the day on September 1 they are 0-1 in the record book, because that is the only stat that matters.
Florida State, by Adam Tolliver (@primediscussion)
For Florida State, the keys in September are establishing confidence, consistency and continuity. Last season, injuries plagued the Seminoles in a major way, specifically on offense. By season’s end, 10 different offensive linemen would start, the offense would miss 41 starts due to injury, and the unit as a whole would look disjointed and spotty down the stretch. If Florida State is going to have the type of success it covets, it will have to escape September unscathed, which includes beating Wake Forest and Clemson, the two teams that conquered the Noles 35-30 in 2011. Two early cupcakes will be used to help relieve jitters and get young players along the offensive line into the groove of things before the real tests start to roll into town. Injuries are inevitable in football, but the degree to which they will happen is always anyone’s guess. The odds of FSU suffering the same type of bad luck they had last season are slim to none.
Georgia Tech, by Geofferson P. Burdell
The key for Georgia Tech football 2012 is fundamentals. There will be injuries and outstanding opponents (VT, a VERY strong VT, opener), and these are part & parcel for any season. Ultimately, each individual player *must* remember their assignments. Get your hands up on defense on a pass. Block downfield on offense. It always sounds easy, but the temptation to shirk your charge is great when you know the action is, or will be, elsewhere. The players need to stay hungry. If they do, a fun season will ensue. The opener will test every player, hard, and NOBODY at Georgia Tech is looking beyond that right now.
Maryland, by InsideTheACC.com
The Terps are unlikely to get good quarterback play this year with C.J. Brown injured. However, they return nine starters on defense. Maryland must get good play from the defense, because their offense isn’t likely to keep up if games turn into a shoot out. They face William & Mary, Temple and UConn to begin the season, so there is a chance of a 3-0 start.
Miami, by Chris Bennett
Miami’s key to September, and arguably all season, is it’s offensive line. It’s the one unit on the team that has considerable depth and experience. If the line can protect Stephen Morris, it will allow him to make solid decisions and ease along both his and the receiving corps development. The running attack will obviously benefit as well, and the ‘Canes can then consider playing a slower, ground and pound style which keeps it’s youthful and depth deprived defensive front seven on the sidelines. Think back a season ago when Miami went in to Blacksburg and the offensive line pushed their way to 236 yards rushing. This unit has the potential to be dominant, and infuse some talent into their teammates. There are only one or two clearly winnable games on this schedule – the line’s stability, leadership and calming effect will go a long way towards the season starting 3-1 or 1-3.
UNC, by Zach Evans (@ztevans)
For UNC, the key will be settling in. There’s a new coaching staff with a new system, not to mention the hubbub surrounding the program off the field, so there will be plenty of opportunities to over-think on the field and get distracted away from it. If the team can show a quick learning curve with Larry Fedora’s high-paced coaching style, then they can be very dangerous moving throughout the season. If players are questioning themselves during game action, however, mistakes and losses will follow.
NC State, by Spencer Hardison (@SpencerHardison)
For NC State the biggest key to a successful start of the season will come August 31st, in the Georgia Dome against Tennessee. If the Pack can win that game, confidence for the team will be through the roof. Beating an SEC team at a neutral site would prove to the rest of the ACC that State is a viable contender. After that game the key for State throughout September is simply to survive. Road trips to UCONN and Miami highlight the September schedule, as well as two home games against FCS teams. In all of those games the Pack should be favored to win, and they must do that. NC State cannot afford to lose any games in the month of September. Being 5-0, or at worst 4-1, going into October will set the Pack up for a run at the ACC Championship. NC State has been plagued with slow starts in the Tom O’Brien era, and for the Pack to break through finally and contend in the ACC, a slow start must not happen in 2012.
Virginia, by Brendan Cotter (@MaizeNBlueWahoo)
UVA’s key to September is to come out of the first four games of the season with at least a .500 record. If they can do that, it means they won a game that will be considered at least a mild upset – either at home against Penn State or on the road against Georgia Tech (picked two spots ahead of UVA in the ACC’s media poll) or at TCU (ranked #20 in the preseason AP poll.) That would set up the Hoos very favorably for a second consecutive bowl invite, and in a season where the defense is rebuilding, that would be a big step in recalibrating the way UVA is viewed on the national scene.
Virginia Tech, by Don Deibler
This key for Virginia Tech to be successful in September will be the development of inexperienced talent on the offensive side of the ball. The two leading receivers (Boykin and Coale) in school history have graduated and the talented David Wilson was lost to the NFL draft. Marcus Davis is the likely candidate for the “go-to” receiver but it’s not a foregone conclusion as of yet. Davis caught 30 passes for 510 yards and five touchdowns in 2011. He has a good combination of size and speed with the ability to make big plays but he has never had the role of the primary receiver before. We will also see Dyrell Roberts at the other receiver position who brings amazing speed but questionable durability. At running back we will likely see a group contribution until a clear star emerges. The current pecking order has freshman Michael Holmes on top, and junior Martin Scales has impressed the coaches enough recently to be promoted to the #2 spot. Also keep an eye out for the speedy freshman JC Coleman to contribute and battle for playing time. All of the above players are talented and this coaching staff has a great reputation for developing and replacing talent. The question for September will be how quickly these guys develop. The schedule for September doesn’t allow for too many growing pains (Season opener September 3rd vs Ga Tech and week 3 is a road test against a gritty Pitt team). Beamer and his staff will need to have these guys ready to go right away if they expect to win 10+ games and compete for another conference championship.
Wake Forest, by InsideTheACC.com
The Demon Deacons return their starting quarterback and seven starters on defense. However, they must replace four new starters on the offensive line. September will be a tough task for that new line, with games against North Carolina and Florida State. For Wake to have a chance in those games, their offensive line has to give Tanner Price a chance to complete passes.
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