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Mark Schlabach's 2013 Early Top 25

1/8/2013

Can the ACC count Louisville yet? Please?

There has been a change in the balance of power -- or at least perception -- in the ACC. Clemson has leapfrogged Florida State without beating the Noles on the field yet. Heading into 2013, colleague Mark Schlabach has Clemson No. 9 in his Early Top 25 -- the highest-ranked team for the ACC.

(Unless you are cheating and counting Louisville, which is No. 8 but hasn't officially joined the ACC yet.)

Schlabach is spot-on in putting Clemson ahead of No. 16 FSU entering 2013, as the Noles will undergo some significant changes both with the staff and the two-deep roster. Most importantly, the Noles have to find a new starting quarterback to replace EJ Manuel. Clint Trickett, Jacob Coker and Jameis Winston are the frontrunners, and it should be one of the more interesting competitions to follow in the ACC this offseason. Clemson, meanwhile, will have the best quarterback in the ACC if Tajh Boyd decides to return for his senior season. And while the Noles will be breaking in a new defensive coordinator, the Tigers should be more comfortable in the second season under Brent Venables.

Clemson and Florida State are again going to be neck-and-neck in the Atlantic Division race, and their regular-season game should again determine the division winner. Based on what we know right now, and considering the changes happening in Tallahassee, it makes sense to give Clemson the early nod.

The two Atlantic Division teams are the ACC's only representation in the top 25, and that's how it should be until another team or teams play their way in.