- Jared Shanker, ESPN Staff Writer
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Phil Steele looked at the combined experience returning to each FBS team in 2014.
Steele considers five factors and uses a formula to create a grade between 0 and 100. The higher the grade, the more experience a school returns. Steele accounts for senior starters and senior backups, percentage of lettermen returning, percentage of returning offensive yards, percentage of total tackles returning and career starts returning on the offensive line.
Of the Power Five conferences, the ACC had the lowest average ranking. The league’s 14 teams averaged a ranking of 79.78 and an average score of 56.55. That means there should be a lot of new faces in the ACC, and adding to the potential warning sign is the number of new starting quarterbacks expected in the league. (It worked out fine for Florida State last season, we should add.)
The Big Ten (54.64) had the highest average ranking, followed by the Big 12 (58.7), Pac-12 (62.08) and SEC (70.14).
The reigning national champions come in at No. 39 despite some significant losses on both offense and defense. Helping Florida State’s grade is the starts accumulated by the offensive line, which returns five players with starting experience and 113 career starts overall. Defensively, the Seminoles lose their top three tacklers, but a number of players along the unit lettered a season ago.
Of note: Alabama is ranked No. 107, Auburn No. 8, Ohio State No. 109 and Oregon No. 31. Those are the four teams with the next best odds to win the national championship, according to Bovada.
Syracuse had the highest score (71.41, No. 17) among conference teams, which should be a good sign in Scott Shafer’s second season as coach. Virginia coach Mike London is hoping the experience he returns will help the Cavaliers to a bowl game. London, whose team has the 18th-highest score, is on the hot seat and might not survive another losing season in Charlottesville.
Few are projecting David Cutcliffe to bring Duke back to the ACC championship game, but the Blue Devils' score of 69.75 is 25th-best in the country. Cutcliffe can count on senior leadership, as 12 seniors are expected to start. Only two schools in the top 25 of Steele’s calculations have more senior starters.
Here is a complete look at where each ACC team fell and what its score was:
17. Syracuse (71.41)
18. Virginia (70.98)
25. Duke (69.75)
39. Florida State (66.06)
77. Louisville (57.92)
79. North Carolina (57.69)
80. Miami (57.03)
92. Virginia Tech (55.37)
105. Pittsburgh (51.45)
106. Georgia Tech (50.39)
113. Clemson (48.99)
114. NC State (48.73)
125. Wake Forest (43.40)
127. Boston College (42.54)