Three things ACC must do in 2012

A new season is upon us, so this is the perfect time for new beginnings. That means forgetting about that crummy BCS record and looking ahead to what could be a very, very good year for the ACC.

Here is a look at three things the ACC must do in 2012 to turn a good season into a great one.

1. FSU must live up to expectations. Let us flash back to a year ago, when FSU started the season ranked No. 6. A three-game losing streak dropped the Seminoles to 2-3, and they ended the season 9-4. Expectations are high once again with a No. 7 preseason ranking to start the year.

Coach Jimbo Fisher has embraced the high ranking, saying Saturday, “I love being up there. I think it helps. The higher up you are the easier it is to climb. … I think it’s a good thing. Hopefully we’ll deal with it very well. I think we will. We’ve just got to play ball and quit worrying about that. They’ve got us there and now we’ve got to take care of our business."

The entire nation has been waiting for Florida State to get back to its heyday. If it can do that, the ACC will get an automatic credibility boost. The one thing that is a constant in college football is this -- when the more traditional teams in your conference have success, your league is perceived to be better. Florida State has everything in place to compete for a championship this year -- a veteran quarterback, a top-notch front seven and an established coaching staff. Now the Seminoles have to put everything together.

2. Sweep the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff. The ACC only has a few games a year in which it has the opportunity to prove itself on the national stage in meaningful regular-season games. The potential is there to strike right at the beginning of the season with a sweep of the SEC in the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff from the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. NC State plays Tennessee on Friday night, while Clemson plays Auburn on Saturday night. While neither SEC team is considered to be among the best in their league this year, both schools are name brands that have traditionally been solid programs.

Neither may have had the success they wanted last year, but anytime you can beat some of the better SEC programs to start the season, you get a pat on the helmet and help set a strong tone for the season.

"We are so excited to get ready for this game," NC State receiver Rashard Smith said. "Since the end of the bowl game last year against Louisville, we've had this game circled on the calendar. We've worked hard all winter and summer to be ready for this game."

Perhaps the momentum from wins in those games carries over to the end of the year, when the ACC must try to sweep its rivalry contests (Florida State-Florida, Clemson-South Carolina, Georgia Tech-Georgia).

3. Have a Heisman contender. Whatever you think about the popularity contest that is the Heisman Trophy, there is no question that having a contender for the bronze statue bumps up league cred and pub. Naming contenders for the Heisman has become a sport unto itself, and criticism has followed because players from the most popular schools seem to be the ones who get showered with national love.

But ACC fans saw for themselves last season what a huge difference it makes when folks outside the conference are paying attention to the league's players. Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins got a few Heisman head nods during Clemson's hot start and before you knew it, the two players were being spotlighted on a regular basis. None of that hurts a league that is eager to get as much positive publicity as possible.