Know Your Other Conferences: The ACC Atlantic (The One With FSU and Clemson)
So, I have long attempted to defend the ACC on this blog and living in the heart of SEC country.
I’m not going to do that this year. The 2015 Atlantic is like the B1G West with two better teams at the top, and Louisville. Difference is, the Coastal is…well, check back tomorrow. I still don’t know how to rank the top six teams in that division.
What Happened Last Year?
Florida State rode a pretty ridiculous string of late game luck to a molly-whopping by Oregon in the CFP.
Clemson had another 10-win season, and proved that he could be the next great QB in the Southeast WHEN HEALTHY. (Disclaimer: he was not often healthy). Louisville acquitted itself to its new league pretty well, winning 5 conference games.
The rest? Welp.
7-6: This year’s worst Power-5 team is…
7) I’m going with Syracuse. While Wake has room to improve, the Cuse has gotten progressively worse in its two ACC seasons. They opened last season with a double-OT win over Villanova, and things pretty much got worse from there. Aside from their other two wins (Central Michigan and Wake), they were 0-9 on the scoreboard and 2-7 against the spread. Their two ATS wins? Florida St. and Clemson. #goACC.
6) Wake Forest: But they’re so bad too. With great improvement over the last three games, their running game mustered 1.3 yards per carry for the season. Read that again. ONE POINT THREE. They did cause this, however, so 2014 Wake Forest will remain in our hearts forever.
5-4: Good running games, long-term improvement: Steve Addazio’s two years at (5) Boston College have been pleasant surprises. A pair of close losses to Florida State, a win against USC, and a Wisconsinish running game have the Eagles of Chestnut Hill looking forward to better days.
4) N.C. State: They could be a sneaky Atlantic darkhorse, as I go throw up in my mouth. They’ve ridden patently absurd nonconference schedules (Louisiana Tech, Richmond, Central Michigan, Georgia Southern, Old Dominion, USF, and Presbyterian) to 7 easy wins over the first two years of the Dave Doeren era. Difference for 2014? They won 4 of 5 to end the season. With Florida transfer Jacoby Brissett and 14 other starters returning, the Pack may be on to something.
For the record, their nonconference slate this season: Troy, Eastern Kentucky, at Old Dominion, at South Alabama. Yeah, they are playing return games against Old Dominion and South Alabama.
3: (with a bullet or speeding motorcycle) Louisville: Petrino is…actually returning from a quiet offseason as of this posting, as is Todd Grantham. Speaking of Georgia connections, Shaq Wiggins and Josh-Harvey Clemons are eligible and slated to start in two of the DB spots. We’ll see how long they can ride Charlie Strong’s exceptional recruiting and player development, as they only bring back two OL starters, lose De’Vante Parker, and…well. Petrino jokes.
2: No O-line, new D, still far and away the second best team in this conference: Clemson. Remember beating Clemson last year? Remember that random white dude that was playing QB? Well, I’m here to say this: that may have been a different ballgame if Yabba Dabo Doo had gone with his gut and started DeShaun Watson against Georgia’s green secondary.
Five games with Watson starting: 43.2 points per game.
The rest, with Cole Stoudt, including a 40-6 win over Oklahoma in the Russell Athletic(AKA the brand that only Georgia Tech wears) Bowl: 23.1 points per game.
Watson’s health, or lack thereof, makes Clemson either a contender or a 7-win team this year. It doesn’t help that they lost 8 starters off the nation’s #2 defense or 4/5 of their starting O-line.
They had…well, a very Georgia offseason. Isaiah Battle, their starting LT and projected 1-2 round pick, was just kicked off the team. Their kicker got arrested for cocaine possession. *knocks on wood* maybe ‘lost control’ is a term up 106 to 85 into South Carolina now.
1: The champ until they’re not: Florida by God State. They famously brought in Everett Golson, making the loss of Jameis Winston (who had an objectively terrible season, BTW) palatable. Somehow RB Dalvin Cook is only a sophomore. And what their defense loses in name recognition (Eddie Goldman, Ronald Darby) they return in production (top four tacklers, stud DB Jalen Ramsey).
Their D, assuming the loss of Jeremy Pruitt and coinciding downfall was coincidence, should bounce back. Their O? Who knows?
Top Five Games
1. Florida State at Clemson, Nov. 7: One could logically assume both teams have a couple of conference losses by this point in the season. One still logically KNOWS that this game likely decides the ACC.
2. Notre Dame at Clemson, Oct. 3: I kinda want to go to this disguised as a Clemson fan and be aggressive towards Notre Dame fans. That’s healthy, right?
3. Clemson at Louisville, Sept. 17: Petrino under the lights at Papa John’s Stadium on a Thursday night!
4. Florida State at Georgia Tech, Oct. 24: Well, for many reasons, I hope this isn’t one of the top five games from the Atlantic.
Troy E. Kentucky at N.C. State at Old Dominion South Alabama
5. (let’s try again) Louisville vs. Auburn, Sept. 5, Atlanta: Just to be real with you for a hot second…we get to learn a LOT about both of these teams coming out of the gate. Will Muschamp’s revamped D. Louisville in year two under Petrino. I reserve the right to pick Louisville as ACC Champs if they win this game.
Five Players to Watch
– Dalvin Cook, RB, FSU: If you squint real hard, you can see Reggie Bush in this guy. He doesn’t contribute to special teams or the passing game yet, but hey, he could. In three starts as a freshman, he ran for 1008 yards.
– Jalen Ramsey, CB/S/Rover/Whatever, FSU: Probably the best player in the league. He started every game of Florida State’s 2013 championship run at safety as a true freshman. Last year, he played all over the back four. This year, the intent is for him to be a lockdown boundary corner. I talked about box safeties in my Pac-12 South preview. Ramsey could do that too.
– DeShaun Watson, QB, Clemson: See above.
– Jon Hilliman, RB, Boston College: Why is it that BC always finds a bruising running back to inflict pain on young college men? Fun fact: former Florida QB Tyler Murphy ran for 1184 yards in this offense last year, so I guess watch for Darius Wade too.
– Shaq Wiggins and Josh Harvey-Clemons, DB, Louisville: Remember them? F you Josh. That’s clearly Tray Matthews’ ball. *looks up Tray Matthews* F you too, for that matter.
This is Chad’s angry signoff.