Sep 02, 2015

ACC & Big 12 Season Preview

Get ready for an exciting season of college football with our preview for the ACC and Big 12.

ACC Preview

Two seasons ago, the Atlantic Coast Conference finished the BCS era on a high note as Florida State capped an undefeated season with the conference’s first national championship since the ‘Noles last title in 2000. Clemson added to the conference’s highlights with an Orange Bowl win over an Ohio State team that fell just short of the BCS Championship Game. The first year of the College Football Playoff era was not quite as kind but still showed that the ACC was a contender among the Power Five conferences.

Here are a few things to watch this year in the ACC:

Can the conference continue its run of football success?

The ACC sent 12 of 15 teams (including Notre Dame) to bowl games last year, tied for most among all leagues. Though they struggled to a 5-7 overall record, that recorded included several high-profile wins, including a New Year’s Six win with Georgia Tech’s exciting comeback to beat Mississippi State, Notre Dame sneaking by LSU in the Music City Bowl and Clemson’s dominating victory against Oklahoma in the Russell Athletic Bowl.

Coming into this season, three teams lead the ACC in the polls, with Florida State, Clemson, and Georgia Tech all ranked in the top 20. With a top-12 Notre Dame team in the mix for the conference’s postseason slots, it could be another big year for the ACC.

Can Florida State win a fourth-straight conference title?

To replace #1 overall NFL draft pick Jameis Winston, the Seminoles will be leaning on Everett Golson, the transfer from Notre Dame, to lead the offense. With several highly-touted recruiting classes setting FSU up to “reload” rather than “rebuild”, a conference championship and playoff run for Florida State is always within reach. Clemson, one of the Noles’ strongest challengers during this recent run, should also contend for the Atlantic division with the return of quarterback Deshaun Watson and a deep pool of talent on offense. Defensively, however, the Tigers return only two starters from last season.

Who can play darkhorse in 2015?

Georgia Tech is an early favorite to defend the Coastal Division title after an 11-3 record in 2014. The schedule is tougher this season, with games against both Florida State and Clemson.

The Louisville Cardinals and the Hokies of Virginia Tech are coming into 2015 flying somewhat under the radar, but both teams are capable of making a run at the ACC title. The Cardinals can make or break their season within the first three games, taking on both Auburn and Clemson in just a 12-day span. Virginia Tech is bringing back arguably the best defense in the conference, but without a sound leader on offense, a division title run could prove too much.

Five Games to Watch:

Clemson at Louisville, Sept 17

Georgia Tech at Notre Dame, Sept 19

Notre Dame at Clemson, Oct. 3

Florida State at Clemson, Nov. 7

Virginia Tech at Georgia Tech, Nov. 12

Big 12 Preview

It’s easy to understand the motivation for each member of the Big 12 Conference this season.

The Big 12 was “odd man out” as the only Power 5 conference without a representative in the inaugural College Football Playoff. That distinction was only part of the conference’s disastrous postseason as only two of the seven participating schools won bowl games. The jilted co-champions, TCU and Baylor, split a pair of New Year’s Six games, with the Horned Frogs overwhelming Ole Miss, 42-3, in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl and the Bears losing a heartbreaker to Michigan State in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl. Add with down seasons and bowl losses from traditional conference powers Texas and Oklahoma and 2014 ended with a whimper for the conference at large. There are high expectations for a rebound in 2015.

Here are a few things to look for in the Big 12 this season:

Can TCU and/or Baylor avenge last year’s snub and make the College Football Playoff slate?

TCU is the consensus media favorite to win the Big 12 this year. QB Trevone Boykin, a preseason Heisman Trophy contender, returns with nine other starters from the nation’s second-highest scoring offense. Fox Sports’ Bruce Feldman and ESPN’s Jake Trotter predict the Horned Frogs will lose a game on the road but still finish on top of the Big 12.

Baylor returns nine starters on offense and defense, ready to avenge their CFP snub and their one-point bowl loss to the Spartans. QB Seth Russell is ready to take over the reins as Coach Art Briles believes he all the tools to lead Baylor to their third straight Big 12 title. AP writer Ralph D. Russo predicts they will be the Big 12’s first representative in the College Football Playoff.

How quickly can Texas return to the national conversation?

In Austin, fans are ready for the Longhorn’s rebuilding process to be completed in year two after year one ended  with a 6-7 record and a 31-7 Advocare Texas Bowl loss to Arkansas. Coach Charlie Strong announced both Tyrone Swoopes and redshirt freshman Jerrod Heard will see time at QB in the season-opener at Notre Dame Saturday at 6:30 p.m. on NBC. AP writer Jim Vertuno) feels freshman LB Malik Jefferson will have to set up right away and anchor the defense. WR Jaje Johnson and RB Jonathan Gray were highly touted recruits and have one last shot as seniors to make their mark on Longhorn football.

How will Oklahoma rebound in 2015?

Since 1950, Texas and Oklahoma (8-5, lost 40-6 to Clemson in the Russell Athletic Bowl) have won a combined 11 national championships. Coach Bob Stoops has never had a losing season in Norman, but when the Sooners lost three of their last five games it seemed like one to Sooner fans. Texas Tech transfer Baker Mayfield takes over at QB this year with new offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley calling the plays. RB Samaje Perine returns, looking to improve upon the Sooners nationally ranked rushing offense. Oklahoma hosts Akron Saturday at 6:00 p.m., a pay-per-view broadcast via FOX Sports Oklahoma.

Five games to watch in the Big 12:

Oklahoma vs Texas (in Dallas) Oct. 10

West Virginia at TCU Oct. 29

Oklahoma at Baylor Nov. 14

TCU at Oklahoma Nov. 21

Baylor at TCU Nov. 27

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