As part of our 2012 season review, we’re counting down the top 25 players in the ACC this season, from no. 25 to no. 1. Obviously these lists are always completely subjective — and thus completely bulletproof, obviously — so feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments, too.
A few weeks into 2012, EJ Manuel was on a short list of Heisman frontrunners and the leader of a national title contender. And then that dreaded NC State game happened. and suddenly all the old criticisms about the FSU senior — inconsistent, unable to close out big games, inaccurate — came rushing back. The Seminoles only lost two games this year, but the Manuel they saw in those games (2 TD passes, 4 INTs) was vastly different than the one they saw in the 12 games they won (21 TD passes, 6 INTs). But it’s the latter version that truly made the difference in 2012 between underwhelming ‘Noles teams of the past and this year’s team that did exactly what they were supposed to: win the Orange Bowl. In spite of any previous issues, Manuel still finished his time at Florida State with a perfect 4-0 bowl record (if you include a long relief effort freshman year), beat rivals Florida and Miami twice apiece, and holds the school’s career record for passing yards (7,736). The jury may still be out on where exactly the quarterback falls in this Spring’s NFL Draft, but his place in FSU history has been firmly assured.