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ACC Football Power Rankings: Week 1

Three teams comprise the “upper-middle class” in the conference. They may not be who you expect.

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NCAA Football: Notre Dame Spring Game Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

We are back with our ACC Power Rankings, and yes, we’ve included Notre Dame. We keep this one short because little has happened since we published this ACC Coastal Preview and a full ACC Preview in our 2017 Clemson Season Preview eBook.

(Note, numbers in parentheses are the 2017 S&P+ projections. These will become much more reliable as data from this season aggregates, but for now, it’s the best we’ve got.)

  1. Clemson (6)
  2. Florida State (2)
  3. Miami (18)
  4. Louisville (14)
  5. Notre Dame (16)
  6. Virginia Tech (24)
  7. NC State (26)
  8. Georgia Tech (28)
  9. Pittsburgh (36)
  10. North Carolina (37)
  11. Syracuse (60)
  12. Duke (63)
  13. Wake Forest (67)
  14. Virginia (71)
  15. Boston College (75)

Last year the ACC finally got the credit it deserved as a quality football conference. It took a few years longer that it should have, but going 9-3 during bowl season with wins in the Fiesta, Orange, Belk, Independence, and Music City bowls - not to mention winning the National Championship - did the trick.

Now, after a banner year for the conference, the ACC may lose its signature fantastic QB play. Deshaun Watson (Clemson), Brad Kaaya (Miami), Justin Thomas (Georgia Tech), Jerod Evans (Virginia Tech), Nathan Peterman (Pittsburgh), and Mitchell Trubisky (North Carolina) all depart from their respective teams. As such, the first few weeks of ACC Power Rankings will be especially fluid.

Clemson begins at the top. This decision was tough, but will quickly sort itself out in the first two weeks as FSU plays Alabama in week 1 and Clemson hosts Auburn in week 2. FSU is ranked higher by most media members and the S&P+, however there is something that is holding me back from completely buying into the hype. Maybe it’s the weak pass blocking or the inexperience at WR - neither of which help Francois who doesn’t seem like elite QB. Maybe it’s just that the loss of Dalvin Cook isn’t being talked about enough. Whatever it is, Clemson is going for their first three-peat in the ACC since ‘87-’90 (before FSU joined).

It’s not as much a negative commentary on Florida State, who is elite, as a positive commentary on Clemson. Keep your eyes open for Friday’s depth chart analysis which compares Clemson back to last year’s national championship squad. The talent is there for Clemson to win the conference.

After the ACC’s elite duo, Miami, Louisville, and Notre Dame comprise the “upper-middle class” of the conference. Miami has yet to win an ACC division crown, but this should be their year. Jr. Malik Rosier will get the first start at QB and will have good talent around him putting him in a position to succeed. They return star RB Mark Walton along with WR Ahmmon Richards, and TE Chris Herndon. On defense, they finally have a quality defensive line, something that has been long missing for the program. They’re my (and most of our writers’) pick to win the Coastal division.

Louisville loses a ton of talent on defense along with their defensive coordinator. They looked like a bad team down the stretch of last season as their offensive line, which consists largely of two and three star talent was exposed. Expect them to have an explosive offense, but a rebuilding defense.

Notre Dame struggled all of last year en route to an ugly 4-8 season. A lot of that can be blamed on injury, dismissals, and some bad luck. That should revert to the mean this year. They’ll also get a boost with Mike Elko from Wake Forest joining the program as the new defensive coordinator. He did a great job with limited talent in Winston-Salem and should help in South Bend.

Virginia Tech loses a great deal of talent, but there is confidence with Justin Fuente leading the program. Jerod Evan’s inexplicable leap to the NFL draft could really hurt their offense this year.

NC State jumps Georgia Tech due to the news of RB Dedrick Mills’ dismissal from Georgia Tech. He led the team in rushing last season. NC State has received a lot of offseason hype, largely due to their strong D-line and the return of 17 total starters. They lose star RB Matthew Dayes and are very thin in the secondary though. With games against South Carolina, Florida State, Louisville, Notre Dame, and Clemson they may struggle to reach eight regular season wins. Since an 10-win regular season under Chuck Amato in 2002, they’ve only reached eight regular season wins once (in 14 seasons).

Syracuse brings back the most starters in the conference and has some good experience at QB with Eric Dungey. Dino Babers is doing a good job up there, but needs to find a way to bring in more talent.

Duke, Wake Forest, Boston College, and Virginia bring up the rear in the conference. Compared to the bottom of other P5 conferences this is a strong bottom portion. All of these teams would fare well against Kansas, Illinois, Purdue, or Rutgers. Maybe that’s just commentary on the Big 10, but we’ll end there.