The Clemson Tigers gather in the tunnel prior to taking the field to play against the West Virginia Mountaineers during the Discover Orange Bowl at Sun Life Stadium on January 4, 2012 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Sports Illustrated's Andy Staples came out with his post-spring Top 25 last Thursday. Four of Boston College football's 2012 opponents made Staples list, though, somewhat surprisingly, none of BC's 2012 opponents were ranked in the Top 10.
Clemson is the highest ranked team in Staples' post-spring Top 25 coming in at #16.
Notice the lack of key returnees on defense? When a team gave up 70 -- and could have easily allowed 100 had West Virginia not backed off the gas -- it's best not to celebrate the defense too much. Venables came to Clemson from Oklahoma to fix that defense -- and to prove he's good enough to be a head coach, even though he already has. Venables inherited a young, athletic group that includes Goodman and former five-star linebackers Stephone Anthony and Tony Steward. We know the offense will click, but can the defense hold up its end of the bargain?
The Tigers D certainly didn't hold up its end of the bargain in 2011. Clemson's defensive unit ranked 83rd nationally in rushing defense, 50th in passing defense, 81st in scoring defense and 71st overall. And for those that think the D isn't going to be a problem for Boston College next year, kindly note that BC's rankings in those categories were 59th, 81st, 43rd and 70th (one better than Clemson), respectively.
Next up was fellow ACC Atlantic Division rival Florida State at #17.
I'm not getting tricked by Florida State this year, even though every time I look at the roster I wonder why I don't have the Seminoles ranked higher. They're going to have to prove it on the field, but it's hard to see why they wouldn't. Jenkins and Werner are pass-rushing monsters, and the linebackers and secondary should be ultra-athletic. If the offensive line isn't snake-bit by injuries the way it was last year, FSU could prove me wrong in a much more entertaining way.
Staples ranking of Florida State at number 17 is probably the lowest preseason ranking you'll find for the 'Noles in 2012. I get Staples' skepticism surrounding the Seminoles, but FSU has two things going to itself this year -- healthy players and a favorable schedule. The Florida State roster was ravaged by injury in 2011 -- even moreso than BC's roster -- and several key contributors look to return in 2012. Second, the schedule less a non-conference game against West Virginia is very favorable. Two I-AA programs to start the season, Wake Forest, BC and Clemson (a big one) at home in Atlantic Division play, Florida at home and Duke from the other side, who's still Duke. I think when it's all said and done, Florida State beats Staples' way-too-early post-spring expectations based solely on these two factors alone.
Next up is Boston College's cross-divisional permanent rivals, the Virginia Tech Hokies at #19.
The Hokies lost their grip on the ACC last year thanks to a pair of losses to Clemson. They'll be challenged immediately this year with a Labor Day visit from Georgia Tech. They should be ready. Thomas has the tools to be one of the nation's best quarterbacks, and a deep defensive line returns.
Virginia Tech, who scheduled its way to 11 wins and a BCS bowl last year, have a mixed bag when it comes to the schedule in 2012. An easy non-conference schedule of Austin Peay, at Pittsburgh, Bowling Green and Cincinnati in Landover, Maryland is counterbalanced by conference games at Clemson, at Miami, Florida State and Georgia Tech in the season-opener. I'm not very high on the Hokies in 2012, but until proven otherwise, it's the Hokies division to lose.
Finally, the one program that could conceivably challenge Virginia Tech for the Coastal Division crowd in 2012 comes in at #25.
Washington, who now has started for a season and a half, will run the option behind an experienced offensive line. With Paul Johnson's offense, that usually means terrible things for opposing defenses. Defensively, the Yellow Jackets are deep in the secondary and stout on the defensive line. Barnes has dropped about 25 pounds and is playing well at a svelte 340. Meanwhile, defensive end Euclid Cummings might be the most appropriately named Georgia Tech player ever. In fact, only Navy safety Wave Ryder has better name-school juxtaposition.
I'm not looking forward to BC's road trip to Atlanta, the third straight road trip in a brutal three week stretch of road games at Army, at Florida State and at Georgia Tech. The only positive on that stretch of games is that BC will have already prepared to face an option team two weeks earlier in Army.
Staples next five included Missouri, Baylor, BYU, Louisville and Ohio State. No Notre Dame. No N.C. State. So there's that, too.