Duke Blue Devils
The six wins to become bowl eligible have been tough to come by for the Duke Blue Devils. Their last bowl appearance came in 1995. However, entering David Cutcliffe’s fifth season as the Blue Devil’s coach, it may be time for the Blue Devils to go bowling. Senior quarterback Sean Renfree looks capable of running Cutcliffe’s pass heavy offense. Renfree is surrounded by an experienced offense and a standout receiver in Connor Vernon. The Blue Devils’ biggest concern is on defense. They allowed 180 yards per game on the ground which has to be improved upon if Duke is to make a bowl game in 2012.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
The Yellow Jackets started out hot in 2011 by winning their first six games, but they quickly cooled off losing five of their last seven. Coach Paul Johnson and his triple option offense look to improve upon last season’s start. Georgia Tech had the No. 2 ranked rush offense in the country last season and look to keep it that way by returning their top three rushers. One is talented quarterback Tevin Washington, who will attempt to improve the Yellow Jackets passing game without star wide-out Stephen Hill. This will be Georgia Tech’s third season implementing defensive coordinator Al Groh’s 3-4 defense and therefore should finally start seeing the results.
A player to watch out for on defense is junior linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu who is expected to build on a solid performance last season. Johnson and the Yellow Jackets have made a bowl appearance the last four seasons but have failed to win a single one. They look to change that trend entering 2012.
Al Golden will find things no easier entering his second season as Miami’s coach. With the departure of numerous seniors, young players on the Miami roster will be called upon to fill some big shoes. Tailbacks Mike James and highly recruited Duke Johnson will look to lead the Miami offense. This team will rely on Seantrel Henderson and the rest of their massive offensive line to open holes for these two backs. Miami’s typical lockdown defense was missing in 2011, and with the inexperience on the defensive line, don’t expect things to change soon. Miami had big problems plugging up the running lanes last season allowing over 160 yards on the groundh per game. Senior linebacker Ramon Buchanan and defensive back Vaughn Telemaque will need to help shape up the defense if the Hurricanes are to improve upon a mediocre 6-6 record last season.
North Carolina Tar Heels
The Tar Heels will be the only team in the conference that will head into the 2012 season with a new coach. Former Southern Mississippi Coach Larry Fedora will take over the reins at North Carolina. Fedora will be implementing his pass heavy spread attack. However, it will be difficult for North Carolina to smoothly convert from their pro-style offense, and therefore the offense may get off to a slow start. Luckily for him, he is inheriting an offense that lost just three starters from the 2011 team. A big surprise last season was the emergence of freshman tailback Giovani Bernard. With the help from a talented offensive line, Bernard rushed for over 1,200 yards in 2011. It will be interesting to see how Fedora uses him in his new offense. The Tar Heels defense will return eight starters which should take the pressure off an offense learning a new system but the key to a successful season for the Tar Heels is how well the current players can adapt to a new coach.