The ACC‘s college football season starts tonight when North Carolina State takes on Tennessee in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game in Atlanta.
While everyone starts the season 0-0, not all the teams – or coaches – are on equal footing. Here’s the rundown of which ACC coaches are facing some added pressure to perform in 2012:
FEELING THE HEAT
Frank Spaziani, Boston College
There’s not really any way to sugarcoat this: 2012 is a must-win season for Spaziani. The long-time defensive coordinator got a promotion when former head coach Jeff Jagodzinksi interviewed with the New York Jets without permission, violating his contract, but the team has gone downhill since. The Eagles don’t have a ton of talent to turn things around, but they need to improve on last season, when they finished last in the ACC in scoring and total yards. Four offensive coordinators in three years haven’t helped, but that’s not going to save Spaz if the team’s in the same spot by the end of the season.
David Cutcliffe, Duke
Cutcliffe’s seat won’t truly get warm until the end of the year, if Duke doesn’t get back to a bowl game. After three seasons, Cutcliffe has the highest winning percentage of any Duke coach since Steve Spurrier in the late ’80s – but that’s not too hard when his two immediate predecessors were a combined 13-90. It’s been tough to win at Duke over the last few decades, but the team has to continue to improve if Cutcliffe wants to get past the five-year mark.
Tom O’Brien, N.C. State
O’Brien’s team got a shaky start in 2011 but salvaged the season with a late run. The coach thinks this year’s team might be the deepest Wolfpack squad he’s had. If they don’t play like it, get ready for the fanbase to start asking for a change.
Randy Edsall, Maryland
A lot of folks have him on the hot seat already after a 2-10 finish in his first year. Ticket sales are down 18%, and the team has been depleted by transfers and injuries, but I give Edsall two more seasons before he’s in danger of being axed. This year was always a given, and losing quarterback C.J. Brown to an ACL injury bought Edsall another one. No matter how poorly the team does in 2012, Edsall will be back for 2013.
Al Golden, Miami
Miami was supposed to be an upgrade after Golden turned Temple into a winning program, but then the NCAA came around. With sanctions looming, Golden chose to stick with the Hurricanes through whatever storms the looming penalties bring. Miami’s lucky he did, but the boosters might be expecting a faster return to prominence than feasible under the circumstances.
Dabo Swinney, Clemson
Swinney started last season on the hot seat, and then his team opened 8-0. The Tigers won the ACC title after a disappointing home stretch, but Swinney’s just 1-3 in bowl games, including the memorable-for-all-the-wrong-reasons 70-33 loss in the Orange Bowl. If Clemson doesn’t start 2012 strong, and if Swinney doesn’t finally get a win over South Carolina, Death Valley’s going to get a little hotter.
Jimbo Fisher, Florida State
Recently, Florida State has been a favorite to win the league. So far, it hasn’t happened. This year might be their best shot, and if the ‘Noles can’t pull it off again, Fisher will be under more pressure in 2013.
Larry Fedora, North Carolina
Fedora will have a few years to turn things around for the Tar Heels. He stepped into a messy situation in Chapel Hill, and he’ll get plenty of leeway to clean it up and get the team back to its winning ways.
Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech
Johnson’s lucrative contract means his flexbone offense will be a fixture in Atlanta for awhile, but if that 0-4 bowl record doesn’t get a little better, a buyout might look tempting to Tech administrators.
Mike London, Virginia
London has infused energy into the formerly listless Cavaliers. They were a win away from the ACC title game last season, and there’s no reason to think they won’t be in the same spot – or better – for several seasons to come.
Jim Grobe, Wake Forest
Grobe’s job isn’t in jeopardy. He’s taken Wake Forest to four bowl games in six years and he might do the same thing again over the next six. This year’s Demon Deacons might struggle quite a bit and if so, people will start grumbling about Grobe, but it won’t amount to anything anytime soon.
Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech
Beamer is college football’s active winningest coach. He’s won four ACC titles and Virginia Tech and he’ll have plenty of chances to snag a few more, because his seat’s as cool as they come.