Consistent with the format we used last season, we'll give our rankings, then share our thoughts on Clemson and the rest of the conference. Mark Gordon will be taking this section on some weeks when I'm on our new MarkRogersTV/SB Nation ACC Breakdown show, but nothing much else should change. Well, except that Notre Dame is back in the rankings.
Keep in mind these are not projected standings. A team like VT, who avoids Clemson, FSU, and Louisville, will logically get a bump in projected finish, but not Power Rankings. So, without further delay...
1. Florida State (Returning Starters:11)
2. Clemson (Returning Starters:11)
3. Notre Dame (Returning Starters:19)
4. Louisville (Returning Starters:9)
5. Georgia Tech (Returning Starters:13)
6. North Carolina (Returning Starters:17)
7. Virginia Tech (Returning Starters:16)
8. Duke (Returning Starters:12)
9. NC State (Returning Starters:14)
10. Pittsburgh (Returning Starters:15)
11. Miami (Returning Starters:11)
12. Boston College (Returning Starters: 9)
13. Virginia (Returning Starters:10)
14. Wake Forest (Returning Starters:16)
15. Syracuse (Returning Starters:11)
Expectations for Clemson
We'll have a thorough post with win-likelihood percentages from a whole host of bloggers coming, but here's a sneak preview. Clemson should win nine games, and a 10th isn't unrealistic. If they're able to reach 10 wins, and then add an ACC Championship, I'll be dancing!
Last year's loss to FSU still stings, and though they're coming to the Valley this year, I'm not quite ready to favor us. I'm still a bit skittish about our offensive line, especially after losing Isaiah Battle. My hope is that by the time FSU comes to town, LT Mitch Hyatt will be playing at the top of his game and Jay Guillermo will be in shape and doing a great job at Center.
Don't forget, we're also breaking in new Co-Offensive Coordinators. I feel surprisingly good about our defense, despite returning just four starters. I suppose it helps to have possibly the best DC in the country.
Around the ACC
I was drinking the orange Kool-Aid until I heard that FSU landed transfer Everett Golson. He was turnover prone last season, but still showed flashes of the QB that led Notre Dame to a National Championship
stomping appearance. Between him and Sean Maguire, they should be OK at QB. They lost so much on offense, they're bound to take a step back. Then again, they've also won three straight ACC titles. Therefore, I'm not ready to bet against them until we get a look at them against real competition. That should come when they play BC on the Friday following Clemson's game in Louisville. After those weekday games, I'll have to consider moving Clemson into the top spot if Clemson looks like the better team.
Notre Dame is back in the ACC Power Rankings and coming in quite high at #3. The Irish collapsed down the stretch, losing five of six after starting 6-0. They recovered to beat LSU in their bowl game and did so with their new QB Malik Zaire, who is a scrambler. They return 19 starters, which is just scary. They should bounce back from their terrible finish. They have Texas, Georgia Tech, and Clemson all in their first five games. For those who say they don't play anyone, wake up! We'll find out a lot about them very quickly!
Louisville only returns nine starters and lost a lot on defense. They had more players drafted than Clemson. They're bound to take a small step back unless QB Reggie Bonnafon breaks out. Georgia Tech lost all their receivers and backs, but return QB Justin Thomas and a whole slew of O-linemen. Their defense should also improve. It's hard to judge just how key those skill guys were, but they've averaged a decline of three wins after each double-digit win campaign since joining the ACC in '79.
I like UNC or Virginia Tech to win the Coastal. If you had UNC's offense with Virginia Tech's defense you'd really have a legitimate team. I also like what Fedora did to bring in Gene Chizik to coach the defense, but I worry that he needs more time, and I'm still not confident about the culture there. After the bowl game, players commented that it didn't seem like everyone cared about winning. That's a bigger issue than talent level or Xs&Os. Virginia Tech may be playing the swan song for Frank Beamer. I hear they named a street Beamer Way in his honor, which is nice, but how long can you keep a coach that keeps winning seven games? Their defense should really be stout, but we'll have to see about the offense.
Duke, NC State, Pitt, Miami, and Boston College are... fine. Duke is so well coached you can certainly see them winning the Coastal behind a solid offense. NC State appears to be on the rise. You've got to be excited for Pitt with new head coach Pat Narduzzi. With WR Tyler Boyd and RB James Connor, they certainly have an argument for the best WR and best RB in the conference. Miami has fallen short of expectations for so long that there are finally no expectations. Al Golden badly needs a bounce-back season. Boston College has been much improved under Steve Addazio, but they only return 9 starters, so continued progress may have to wait.
Virginia, Wake Forest, and Syracuse look bad. There is some hope for Virginia, though. Their recruiting hasn't been atrocious, but they only returned 10 starters. I, for one, wouldn't mind seeing White Meat break the streak against VT. That might be enough to save Mike London's job! Wake is rebuilding, and Dave Clawson is a solid re-builder, but Jim Grobe left them nothing. He needs more time. Things in Syracuse look bleak. It's hard to get excited about a poorly coached offense and a 12th place ranking in the Rivals ACC Recruiting Ranks.
If you're looking for more, SB Nation also did a nice write-up with a video to boot for ACC Power rankings.