Monday, August 26, 2013
ACC preseason power rankings
By David M. Hale
Ranking the teams in the ACC heading into the first weekend of the regular season:
1. Clemson: There's no questioning the talent at Clemson, where Tajh Boyd is in the hunt for a Heisman and Sammy Watkins looks to regain his place among college football's elite playmakers. But the burden of massive expectations will be with the Tigers from the start, and they'll be tested early with a season opener against Georgia.
2. Florida State: A lot of talent has left Tallahassee since last year's ACC championship, but the cupboard isn't bare for Jimbo Fisher. There are bound to be some growing pains with a new quarterback and a new defensive scheme, but Florida State still might be the most talented team in the conference.
3. Miami: The black cloud of NCAA sanctions has passed, and Al Golden has a team poised to finally take a step back toward relevance on a national stage. Stephen Morris and Duke Johnson headline a potent offensive attack, and the Hurricanes return one of the most experienced teams in the conference.
4. North Carolina: The Tar Heels need to replace Giovani Bernard and find some answers on both sides of the line, but Bryn Renner & Co. are now well versed in Larry Fedora's system, making North Carolina a legitimate threat in the Coastal Division.
5. Virginia Tech: After last season's implosion, Virginia Tech figures to enjoy something of a rebound, but there are still some major questions looming. The offensive line could be a significant issue, meaning more pressure on QB Logan Thomas. And, with a showdown versus Alabama to start the season, the Hokies could find themselves in an early hole.
6. Georgia Tech: The defense improved down the stretch last season, and new coordinator Ted Roof seems to have found a system that fits the legitimate talent Georgia Tech has on that side of the ball. Vad Lee takes over at quarterback for what could be a prolific offense, giving the Yellow Jackets a legitimate shot at another ACC championship game appearance.
7. Wake Forest: The Deacons have a veteran roster and a manageable schedule, so improving on last year's 5-7 finish shouldn't be a reach. The key will be finding some success offensively after ranking 116th nationally in scoring offense and struggling mightily to run the football last season.
8. NC State: New coach Dave Doeren inherits a roster in transition, but there is some talent returning. NC State has a solid stable of receivers, even if the quarterback position remains a question mark. The Wolfpack should be thrilled with another winning season, but there's plenty of work to be done.
9. Maryland: At the very least, Maryland should have a more settled situation at quarterback this season after sifting through five starters at the position in 2012. Add a potentially strong defense and an impressive playmaker in Stefon Diggs, and the Terps have a shot at leaving the ACC on a high note.
10. Pittsburgh: The ACC didn't exactly roll out the welcome mat for the Panthers, who have the misfortune of opening their season against the defending conference champs. But if Paul Chryst's crew can hold its own against Florida State on Labor Day, the outlook for Pitt could improve markedly.
11. Syracuse: A new coach, a new quarterback and a new conference mean plenty of question marks for the Orange as they enter 2013, but Syracuse figures to have one of the better defenses in the league, led by linebacker Dyshawn Davis.
12. Duke: There's no question 2012 was a big step forward for the Duke program, which reached a bowl game for the first time in nearly two decades. But there's plenty of rebuilding to do, even if new QB Anthony Boone looks ready to take over the offense. Plus, for all of last year's success, Duke still lost six of its final seven games.
13. Virginia: Mike London appears to be finding his footing at Virginia, but the rebuilding process continues. The Cavaliers lost both of last year's quarterbacks, and major question marks remain on both sides of the ball.
14. Boston College: The Eagles won just one game against an FBS opponent last season, and, not surprisingly, a massive overhaul of the coaching staff followed. Steve Addazio has injected some life into the program, but Chase Rettig & Co. still have a long way to go.