You have the defending National Champion, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, and a couple of old powers looking to get back to the top. Let’s see how the Atlantic Coast Conference will shake out this season.
Champion: Florida State
Three years removed from their last national championship, the Seminoles are ready to make another run. Yes they have to play #1 Alabama to open the season, which has not been great for opponents, but Florida State could very well run the table after that. Heck even with one loss in conference, the fact that they play Alabama has to look good in the eyes of the playoff committee.
Florida State is of course loaded with talent. Deondre Francois is a proven leader despite being just a redshirt sophomore. Hopefully the offensive line improves so he does not get as beat up this season. As for replacing career rushing leader Dalvin Cook? I would not worry too much. Jaques Patrick is capable, plus the Seminoles got the #1 tailback recruit in Cam Akers.
Best of the Rest: Clemson
Just losing do everything QB Deshaun Watson would have been enough, but the Tigers also lost WR Mike Williams and RB Wayne Gallman. That is a lot of production to replace. However, Dabo Sweeny has recruited well and he has quite possibly his best defensive unit this season, which can help by the Tigers some time for the offense to get on track. Plus they get Florida State at home in November with the division title quite possibly on the line.
Louisville still has the reigning Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson under center which will make the plenty dangerous. However he might have to do even more heavy lifting this season as there are no returning starters at the other skill positions.
North Carolina State has 17 returning starters from a team that was a missed 33 yard field goal away from a win at Clemson and a dropped interception away from a win over Florida State. This is a veteran team that gets Louisville and Clemson at home. Do not be surprised if the Wolfpack break through and possibly win 10 games.
When the ACC expanded and broke into two divisions, the hope was the Florida State and Miami would occasionally square off in the championship game. That has not happened yet, but this looks like the best chance. Miami does have to replace QB Brad Kaaya, however an experienced offensive line and veteran skill players will make the transition easier.
The defense is young but very talented. Mark Richt is an experienced coach and got this team to believe in itself again. If the Hurricanes can keep the injuries low to avoid any depth problems, they can make some noise not just in the conference, but nationally.
Best of the Rest: Virginia Tech
While Justin Fuente has done a fine job so far replacing Frank Beamer as the head man in Blacksburg, this season will along to defensive coordinator Bud Foster. The Hokies are loaded on defense and Foster has had some great ones in his time at Virginia Tech. Fuente will have some work to do on offense as it is very inexperienced. Although Fuente is kind of an offensive guru so let’s see what he can do.
Georgia Tech and their triple option will always drive opponents mad even if they did just kick top rusher Dedrick Mills off the team
Pitt could also make some noise if USC transfer Max Browne is effective at quarterback.
ACC CHAMPION: FLORIDA STATE
The schedule is not very kind to the Seminoles. Opening the season at Alabama and then having to play at Clemson and at Florida in November is tough for any team. Nevertheless, the Seminoles have the talent on the field and a winner as head coach to get Florida State to the championship and back to the playoffs.