2017 ACC football power rankings: Will we finally get our FSU-Miami title game?
This part was pretty easy to anticipate, I’m guessing. The two teams that have combined for 138 wins and six conference titles over the past six seasons are going to start out ahead of the pack. And I think it’s pretty safe to say that, because of the quarterback position, the Noles are the more trustworthy team out of the gates.
Clemson’s not only having to replace its best quarterback ever; the Tigers start the year with games against Auburn, Louisville, and Virginia Tech in September. That will either kickstart a surprising repeat run or position them into Rebuild Season mode. They still host FSU, though, so that could make the division race fun.
The new defensive coordinator hire makes me nervous, but Louisville will basically start 2017 with all the same strengths and weaknesses as last year. Fourth-year Petrino teams tend to undergo massive breakthroughs; it would be a surprise if the Cardinals were too much better than last year, but they’re still going to be very good.
If the Hurricanes have a QB, they'll win their first ACC divisional title.
Justin Fuente set the bar high in his division-winning debut. Can he clear it in 2017?
It’s a reset year for Larry Fedora's Heels. How far will they fall?
Here’s where things get interesting. The ACC rose to (or near) the top of college football last year, in part because the conference’s middle class was awesome. But Miami, Virginia Tech, Pitt, UNC, and Georgia Tech are also replacing their starting quarterbacks. Some of them will end up just fine with their replacements, but it’s hard to know who.
Within this pack, I think Miami starts out ahead. And if the Canes have a QB, they shoot to third in the conference, at least. Quite the if.
So yes, in the 14th year of Miami’s ACC membership, and in the 13th year of the ACC title game, we might finally get the Miami-FSU conference title game the league planned for (by creating awful divisions) long ago.
Meanwhile, I find myself trusting NC State an alarming amount. This will end badly.
The top four teams, all in the ACC Atlantic. Divisions are so, so stupid.
Dino Babers is all about the year 2 leap. Now he's got one of the country’s most experienced teams.
Duke's schedule has grown difficult, and the Blue Devils haven't improved.
Dave Clawson’s rebuild is already a year ahead of pace, so he’s earned patience.
Becoming good is gonna take a while. Can the Eagles become watchable?
Syracuse needs more damn defensive talent, Duke needs another year, Wake needs a little more offensive talent, BC needs a lot more offensive talent, and ... I’m just punting on Virginia until 2018.
How does S&P+ see things?
Here’s how my statistical system has the ACC laid out for 2017, with zero equating to an average FBS team. (You can find full 2017 S&P+ projections here.)
2017 projected standings (per S&P+)
Projected conference wins, with overall wins in parentheses.
- Florida State 6.5 (9.5)
- Clemson 5.9 (9.3)
- Louisville 5.5 (9.1)
- NC State 3.9 (6.6)
- Wake Forest 2.7 (5.0)
- Syracuse 2.6 (5.3)
- Boston College 1.9 (4.1)
- Miami 4.9 (8.1)
- Virginia Tech 4.7 (8.1)
- Pitt 4.2 (6.7)
- Georgia Tech 4.1 (6.6)
- North Carolina 3.6 (6.3)
- Duke 2.8 (5.4)
- Virginia 2.6 (5.0)
How these teams looked in 2016
ACC offenses heading into 2017
The ACC had a lot of nicely balanced teams last year, plus three or four more that were at least good at either offense or defense. This year’s offenses will regress.
Best 2017 offensive players by team (best overall in bold):
- BC: WR Jeff Smith
- Clemson: WR Deon Cain
- Duke: QB Daniel Jones
- Florida State: QB Deondre Francois
- Georgia Tech: Well, it was FB Dedrick Mills, but he was dismissed in August
- Louisville: QB Lamar Jackson
- Miami: WR Ahmmon Richards
- NC State: OG Tony Adams
- North Carolina: OT Bentley Spain
- Pitt: RB Quadree Henderson
- Syracuse: WR Steve Ishmael
- Virginia: WR Olamide Zaccheaus
- Virginia Tech: WR Cam Phillips
- Wake Forest: TE Cam Serigne
Remember Lamar? He’s still pretty good.
The ACC has more often than not been a defense-friendly conference. Should be the case again.
Best 2017 defensive players by team (best overall in bold):
- BC: DE Harold Landry
- Clemson: DT Dexter Lawrence
- Duke: LB Ben Humphreys
- Florida State: FS Derwin James
- Georgia Tech: CB Lance Austin
- Louisville: DE James Hearns
- Miami: LB Shaquille Quarterman
- NC State: DE Bradley Chubb
- North Carolina: CB M.J. Stewart
- Pitt: CB Avonte Maddox
- Syracuse: FS Antwan Cordy
- Virginia: DE Andrew Brown
- Virginia Tech: LB Tremaine Edmunds
- Wake Forest: DE Duke Ejiofor
Really, this is a tie between Landry and all-everything Derwin James. But in this instance, tie goes to the guy who didn’t get hurt last year.