2012 upset watch

During the regular season, the ACC blog features a weekly “upset watch” post, a prediction of the top three games most likely to feature an upset. In 2011, the majority of games highlighted in that post came to fruition. So let’s have a little fun and take an early look at the top three potential upsets for 2012. Here’s a look at which top contenders will fall, in order of the most likely:

1. Clemson at Wake Forest (Oct. 25): Don’t underestimate the Deacs. They’ll have home-field advantage for a rare Thursday night game in Winston-Salem, they’ve got a talented QB-WR duo of Tanner Price and Michael Campanaro, a solid running back in Josh Harris (if he can stay healthy), and a talented defensive backfield that includes the ACC’s defensive rookie of the year, Bud Noel. They’ve also got one of the best coaching staffs in the ACC. Last year, Wake Forest scored 21 points in the third quarter to take a 28-14 lead. The Deacs came within a field goal of controlling the Atlantic Division.

2. Florida State at NC State (Oct. 6): I know, I know. The Noles blanked NC State 34-0 last year, and Florida State’s defense should somehow be even better this year. Give quarterback Mike Glennon some credit, though. He’ll have four starters back on the offensive line, along with the help of running back Mustafa Greene. NC State’s secondary is also one of the best in the country. The question is whether the Pack can handle the Noles up front on both sides. Despite much uncertainty about Florida State’s offensive line this offseason, word has it those guys are going to be good -- really good. This is going to be a tall task for Tom O’Brien. Florida State is the better team. But the Noles have been known to make a penalty or two, a turnover here and there. NC State can beat a top-10 team -- just ask Clemson.

3. Miami at Duke (Nov. 24): Most of you have heard me write about Duke needed to beat a team it’s “not supposed to.” Well, here you go. As of right now, it looks like Duke will have the better quarterback in veteran Sean Renfree. The Blue Devils also have 17 starters returning, compared to Miami’s 12 -- and only four of them are on offense. Receiver Conner Vernon has a chance to end his career as the ACC’s all-time leader in pass receptions and receiving yards. Times have changed. The gap between these two programs no longer spans the globe.