ESPN's Mark Schlabach is out with his "Too Early Top 25" for the 2012 college football season. A total of five of Boston College's 2012 opponents are ranked. Let's have a look at those teams, in order.
8. Florida St. Seminoles: We're taking the bait on the Seminoles again, even after they failed to live up to very high aspirations with a 9-4 finish in 2011. But FSU's lofty preseason billing might have been a year premature and injuries plagued the Seminoles throughout the season. FSU's defense is as good as advertised and it might be even better in 2012 with nine starters coming back. Defensive end Brandon Jenkins and cornerback Greg Reid both passed up entering the NFL draft to return to school. If FSU is going to become a legitimate BCS contender, though, its offense has to be better and more explosive. The Seminoles had young skill players in 2011 and they started four freshman offensive linemen against Notre Dame in the Champs Sports Bowl. Another concern will be replacing All-American punter Shawn Powell. FSU plays seven home games, but will travel to Virginia Tech during ACC play.
I, too, will take the bait. While it was Clemson and Virginia Tech playing for this year's ACC title, I still like the Seminoles as the preseason favorite to win the conference. If Florida State can get out of its game with West Virginia next season and the Seminoles stay reasonably healthy, you have to like Florida State's chances to win the ACC for the first time since 2005. And maybe even as a BCS darkhorse in 2012. BC travels to Tallahassee next season ... ick.
18. Virginia Tech Hokies: If there's one thing you can count on every season it's that Virginia Tech will win at least 10 games and be in contention in the ACC title race. With a new quarterback and revamped defense, the Hokies went 11-3 in 2011. Virginia Tech will have to rebuild its offense to do it again in 2012. Quarterback Logan Thomas will be back for his second season as a starter, but the Hokies won't have record-setting tailback David Wilson, who is leaving for the NFL draft as a junior. They're also losing four starting offensive linemen and top receivers Jarrett Boykin and Danny Coale. The good news is as many as nine starters might be back on defense -- if junior cornerback Jayron Hosley comes back. The Hokies play nonconference games at Pittsburgh and against Cincinnati at FedEx Field in Landover, Md., and also play ACC road games at Miami, North Carolina and Clemson.
I'm not as high on the 2012 Hokies as Schlabach. This year's team was one of the least impressive Hokie teams I can remember going back to our Big East days. The defense will be an elite unit again next season, but as Schlabach notes, they will have to replace significant production on the offense. Virginia Tech also faces a much tougher schedule in 2012, with two more BCS AQ opponents than this year (zero) on the sched, as well as Clemson (away) and Florida State (home) from the Atlantic Division. That said, Virginia Tech is probably still the team to beat in the Coastal next season.
22. Clemson Tigers: Tigers coach Dabo Swinney can only hope his team uses its embarrassing loss in the Orange Bowl as motivation during the offseason. Clemson won an ACC title and started 8-0, but a 2-4 slump down the stretch left some serious concerns. Quarterback Tajh Boyd should be better in his second season running offensive coordinator Chad Morris' high-octane attack. Tailback Andre Ellington is considering jumping to the NFL draft, and junior tight end Dwayne Allen has already decided to turn pro. The Tigers must also replace four starting offensive linemen and there isn't a lot of depth in the trenches. Five starters must be replaced on defense, including top linebacker Andre Branch. The Tigers will open the season against Auburn in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game and play ACC foes Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech at home.
As Shakin The Southland points out, the defending ACC champs lose 60 percent of its defensive line and 64 percent of its defensive line snaps. Most seem to agree that Clemson will take a bit of a step back in 2012, but so long as they retain the services of OC Chad Morris, I don't think you'll see the Tigers stray too far from the top of the Atlantic Division standings. BC gets Clemson at home next year.
23. Notre Dame Fighting Irish: The jury still seems to be out on whether coach Brian Kelly can return the Fighting Irish to national prominence. There's no question the Irish are a better defensive team under Kelly, but the offense continues to struggle because of turnovers and poor quarterback play. Kelly will again oversee a quarterback battle during the offseason, with Tommy Rees, Andrew Hendrix and Everett Golson battling for the starting job. They'll be without star receiver Michael Floyd, but tight end Tyler Eifert decided to come back for one more season. The defense should continue to improve as young linemen like Aaron Lynch and Stephon Tuitt get stronger. Notre Dame's schedule in 2012 is daunting, with nine games against teams that played in bowl games, including road contests at Michigan State, Oklahoma and USC.
Take a look at this schedule. If the Irish win 8 or more games next year, I will be impressed. This is too high of a preseason billing with such a daunting schedule and major questions on offense.
24. N.C. State Wolfpack: After a 2-3 start, in which Wolfpack coach Tom O'Brien was criticized for turning quarterback Russell Wilson loose, NC State rallied to win six of its last eight games, including a 31-24 victory over Louisville in the Belk Bowl. Quarterback Mike Glennon ended up being a more-than-capable replacement for Wilson, throwing for 3,054 yards with 31 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He'll be without three of his top four receivers in 2012, with wideouts T.J. Graham and Jay Smith and tight end George Bryan each departing. Seven defensive starters are expected back, but the Pack will have to rebuild its defensive line and linebacker corps. The secondary should return intact, including ball-hawking cornerback David Amerson. NC State opens the '12 season against Tennessee in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game and also plays nonconference games against Connecticut (road) and FCS foes South Alabama (home) and The Citadel (home).
Good on ya, TOB. N.C. State getting some preseason love! N.C. State will easily go 3-1 in non-conference play with a schedule that includes South Alabama, UConn and The Citadel (though the Pack will have to once again win seven games to become bowl eligible next season). A Coastal Division slate of Virginia, at Miami and at North Carolina is manageable, particularly when you factor in the TOB in rivalry games factor. Though I'm not as sold on Glennon as QB as others (probably could have used RW this year, eh Tom?). BC faces N.C. State in Raleigh this year.