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Wednesday, December 4, 2013
ACC class rankings analysis

By Jared Shanker

It’s championship week in college football, and the ACC could have what is considered to be the most lopsided contest of the weekend. No. 1 Florida State and No. 20 Duke meet in Charlotte for the ACC title.

In a few more seasons, this game might not have a 29-point spread in favor of the Seminoles. Coach David Cutcliffe has the Blue Devils on the rise after leading them to their first double-digit win season in school history. Duke’s ACC Championship Game appearance coupled with Cutcliffe’s desire to finish his career in Durham has the Blue Devils poised to make a future splash in recruiting.

Before we take a look at the latest from the ACC, here's the most recent class rankings and BCS conference class rankings.

Trending up: A successful season usually impacts the next cycle of recruiting more than the current one as a large number of BCS schools have at least half of their spots filled by December. So Duke’s best season in school history should pay dividends in 2015 more so than 2014. After talking with several 2015 recruits from the state of North Carolina, many are looking at Duke more seriously. Three-star Corey Bell (Cornelius, N.C./Hough), who has offers from Duke, NC State and UNC, already has Duke as his No. 1 school. He won’t be the last North Carolina prospect to place Duke at the top in the coming months. Cutcliffe has a lifetime contract at Duke essentially, and his job security is on the level of Urban Meyer and Nick Saban. He’s not going anywhere. If the Blue Devils do not crack the top 40 in the class rankings in 2014, there is a very good chance it will happen in 2015.

Trending down: It is not quite a “the night is darkest before dawn” scenario, but Florida State has suffered a few recruiting hits recently. Receivers Markell Pack (Purvis, Miss./Purvis) and Ryan Sousa (Orlando, Fla./Lake Nona) decommitted over the last few weeks and Dexter Wideman (Saluda, S.C./Saluda) may do the same. After having the No. 1 class in the summer, FSU is down to No. 6 and behind Miami for the ACC’s top class. By signing day, though, only the Pack decision could be looked at as a loss. A month ago, Florida State was in on several of the country’s elite prospects but spots were just too limited. This could open up some room, so the Noles could and should skyrocket between now and February. Top juco prospects Kareem Are (Fort Scott, Kan./Fort Scott), Chad Mavety (Garden City, N.Y./Nassau) and Jordan Prestwood (Tampa, Fla./Arizona Western) are all high on the Noles and so are four-star offensive linemen Roderick Johnson and Frank Ragnow (Victoria, Minn./Chanhassen). Elsewhere, elite recruits such as Marlon Humphrey (Hoover, Ala./Hoover), Florida commit Dalvin Cook (Miami/Miami Central) and Malachi Dupre (River Ridge, La./John Curtis) have Florida State near the top of their list. In fact, FSU might lead for five-star CB Humphrey and Cook.

What to watch for: Three-star running back Shai McKenzie (Washington, Pa./Washington) makes his official visit to Pittsburgh this weekend, and we’ve been saying since the end of the summer it will come down to nearby Pitt and ACC foe Virginia Tech. He has visited both schools more than once, and his most recent official visit went to the Hokies. Pitt has been the longtime leader, but the Virginia Tech visit might have swayed McKenzie toward Blacksburg. A successful trip to Pittsburgh very well could seal the deal for the Panthers, though. This one looks to be tougher to call than it was a few months ago.

Bold prediction: While Duke’s remarkable season will be felt mostly in 2015, there is one major 2014 target the Blue Devils have their eyes on. They have never signed an ESPN 300 recruit, but that could change on signing day. Trevon Lee (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./Cardinal Gibbons), No. 241 in the rankings, is high on Duke. The RecruitingNation Hot Board has him projected to Vanderbilt, and a decision will likely come down to the Commodores and Blue Devils.