Florida State Leads Early ACC Atlantic Division Rankings
Both of these teams are familiar with sitting at the top of the conference standings. However, there is a new contender in Louisville this season. Will this change the status quo in the Atlantic?
Let’s take a look at look at what could be one of the toughest divisions in the country after breaking down a hectic ACC Coastal Division.
1. Florida State Seminoles
This should be no surprise as the Seminoles are expected to defend its crown this season. Not only is the Heisman-winning quarterback Jameis Winston returning, but four members of his starting offensive line will be protecting him again in 2014.
Surely this team will miss players like Timmy Jernigan, LaMarcus Joyner, Kelvin Benjamin and Devonta Freeman, but at this point Florida State is expected to reload year after year. That’s where great recruiting pays off.
2. Louisville Cardinals
This one may come as a bit of surprise, mostly due to the fact that Louisville may be facing more change than any other team in the country in 2014. The Cards lost head coach Charlie Strong to Texas, Teddy Bridgewater to the NFL, while also changing conferences.
But have no fear; Bobby Petrino is here—with everything to prove.
It looks as though Will Gardner will assume the starting quarterback position and he has a three-headed monster at running back—featuring Dominique Brown, Michael Dyer and L.J. Scott. I’m confident that this offense will be able to carry the load for Petrino and will feature one of the best receivers in the country in DeVante Parker. The Cards need to find the end zone a lot in 2014 and I expected them to do so.
3. Clemson Tigers
Clemson returns seven starters on defense this season, including All-American defensive end Vic Beasley. In fact, Beasley will be joined by the rest of the previous starting defensive line—this defense should be special.
But my main concern with the Tigers this season is the offense, along with its regular brutal non-conference schedule featuring games against Georgia and South Carolina. The offense loses a ton of fire power in Tajh Boyd, Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant. I’m not confident that Cole Stoudt can do the job at quarterback this season.
4. Syracuse Orange
Syracuse is coming off an impressive win in the Texas Bowl against Minnesota and also return Terrel Hunt at quarterback.
Hunt showed his dual-threat ability last season and has his star left tackle Sean Hickey back to protect his blind side again. The offense should improve on last season’s 22.7 points per game.
But the real strength of the team in 2014 will be its defense, as it returns seven starters—which also includes five of their top six leading tacklers. Expect to see Durell Eskridge making big plays at safety all season long.
5. NC State Wolfpack
The Wolfpack didn’t win one game in ACC last season but there is reason for optimism in 2014.
The answer may be at the most important position on the team, quarterback. Florida transfer Jacoby Brissett will be leading the charge for the Wolfpack this season. Brissett not only features a strong arm but is also mobile. He is similar to Jordan Lynch, who Dave Doeren had plenty of success with at Northern Illinois.
Brissett may be just what the doctor ordered for the Wolfpack.
6. Boston College Eagles
Boston College lost a ton of seniors for this season, including quarterback Chase Rettig, star running back Andre Williams and wide receiver Alex Amidon—these three were responsible for basically the entire offense in 2013. But even with all of those guys last season, the Eagles were only able to go 4-4 in ACC play.
Florida transfer Tyler Murphy was just named the starting quarterback for the upcoming season. Murphy doesn’t have the strongest arm, but can buy time with his legs. This will be crucial for the offense as Boston College won’t feature the most impressive receiving core this year.
As for the defense, the hope will be in the secondary as it returns all four starters. Steven Daniels is the only returning linebacker and the defensive line will also be without three guys who started last season. This could be a rough year for head coach Steve Addazio.
7. Wake Forest Demon Deacons
New head coach Dave Clawson is coming off a MAC Championship with Bowling Green, but he shouldn’t expect anything like that in his first season at Wake Forest.
The Deacons will be without most of their playmakers from 2013 in wide receiver Michael Campanaro, defensive tackle Nikita Whitlock, running back Josh Harris, safety A.J. Marshall and quarterback Tanner Price.
This will be a long first year for Clawson.