The ACC’s Atlantic Division was a two horse race in 2011 between Florida State and Clemson. The Seminoles were the favorite to win but underachieved as Clemson slowly pulled away to eventually become the conference Champion. These two teams met in week 4 last season and Clemson was able to win the game by a score of 35-30, but Florida State starting quarterback E.J. Manuel was out due to an injury he sustained the previous week in a loss to Oklahoma. The Seminoles and the Tigers will once again meet in week 4 this year (on September 22nd to be exact), but will this game be for the Atlantic Division?
The simple answer is no, neither Florida State or Clemson are unbeatable (a fact proven last year). As long as Florida State is losing to the Wake Forest’s and Virginia’s of the world and Clemson is losing to up and comers like N.C. State then this game won’t determine the Atlantic Division on its own. The team that could end up determining the winner of the Atlantic Division, interestingly enough is in the Coastal Division. Virginia Tech will play both Clemson and Florida State in 2012. If the Hokies beat one of the two then it will put either Clemson or FSU in a major hole and may knock the team out of the race altogether.
This is all under the assumption that the Atlantic will be won be either Florida State or Clemson, but there is a dark horse in the division. N.C. State will have something to say about the outcome of the Atlantic. The Wolf Pack has one of the best quarterbacks in the conference with Mike Glennon and they took some major strides last season. Last season N.C. State was destroyed by Florida State (34-0) but then embarrassed Clemson (37-13). If the Pack could put a full season together then they could be dangerous.
The winner of the September 22nd matchup between Florida State and Clemson will receive a major leg up in the Atlantic race, but it is far from enough to win. The matchup between these two will be neck and neck until the end, but if they don’t pay any attention to N.C. State the Wolf Pack could steal it away.