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2019 ACC power rankings: Nobody’s overtaking Clemson, but please read anyway

The ACC was the most disappointing conference in 2018. The league should rebound a bit, but Clemson’s still on a different plane.

ACC Championship - Clemson v Pittsburgh
Dabo Swinney
Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

At the end of each conference previews run-through, I take a look at how I perceive the conference’s balance of power heading into the season. This is in no way based on schedules, so they are not predictions. This is just how I would rank the teams after writing thousands of words about each of them. We have already completed the MAC, Conference USA, Sun Belt, AAC, and MWC.

Bill C’s ACC power rankings

Here’s a link to every team’s data, and each team’s name below is linked to its preview.

Tier 1

1. Clemson

Duh. Let’s just move on to the interesting part.

Tier 2

2. Miami
3. Florida State
4. Virginia
5. Virginia Tech
6. Syracuse
7. NC State

Any of these teams could end up the second-best team in the conference without surprising me too much, though because of pure upside, the top two have slightly better odds.

We know Miami’s and FSU’s issues pretty well by now — Miami had shaky QB play in 2017 and downright bad play last year, and FSU attempted to field a team without an offensive line, with predictably awful results. (Okay, they tried to field an offensive line. You just couldn’t tell.) If either team gets back to average in these units, they’ll have enough proven pieces elsewhere to do well. They just won’t catch up to Clemson.

Tier 3

8. Pitt
9. Wake Forest
10. Duke
11. North Carolina
12. Boston College

Pitt won the Coastal last year with barely more than a month of quality play — they were 5-1 from October 6 to November 17 and 2-6 otherwise. If the Panthers beat both Virginia and Miami at home, they could make a run at a repeat. But they, like all the other teams in this group, have deficiencies that give them slightly longer odds.

Tier 4

13. Georgia Tech
14. Louisville

Year Zero situations. The goal is to be better in November than September and hit the offseason with optimism. Don’t worry about win totals.

How does S&P+ see things?

Here’s how my statistical system has the ACC laid out for 2019, with zero equating to an average FBS team. (You can find full 2019 S&P+ projections here.)

What leagues like C-USA and the MAC lack in quality, they could make up for with tight conference races.

The ACC is the anti-C-USA. It’s got an obvious national title contender and plenty of teams that could, if they get breakthroughs, play at a top-25 level or so. It also has zero teams within 16 points of Clemson — the Tigers’ projected S&P+ rating is plus-29.9. Miami’s is plus-13.9, and the Tigers don’t even play the Canes. FSU is the only top-45 conference foe on the schedule.

2019 projected standings (per S&P+)

Projected conference wins, with overall wins in parentheses.

Atlantic Division

  1. Clemson 7.5 (11.0)
  2. Florida State 4.6 (7.1)
  3. NC State 4.2 (7.4)
  4. Syracuse 3.7 (6.7)
  5. Wake Forest 3.4 (6.2)
  6. Boston College 2.9 (5.5)
  7. Louisville 2.1 (4.0)

Florida State is projected second in the Atlantic ... with a conference win total closer to last place Louisville’s than Clemson’s.

Coastal Division

  1. Miami 5.6 (8.7)
  2. Virginia Tech 5.2 (8.3)
  3. Virginia 4.5 (7.6)
  4. Pitt 3.8 (5.9)
  5. Duke 3.6 (5.4)
  6. North Carolina 3.1 (5.1)
  7. Georgia Tech 2.1 (3.7)

While Clemson would be a massive favorite against anybody in the ACC title game, we could have an interesting division race in the conference, just like last year. Miami is the favorite, with not only the highest projected win total but potential tie-breaker edges from getting Virginia Tech and Virginia at home. But it would take only one upset to make this a brawl, and, well, until we know happier things about Miami’s QB situation, upsets wouldn’t be all that surprising, would they?

ACC offenses heading into 2019

Of the most efficient offenses, only one had big-play power. And of the three big-play teams, only one was anywhere near efficient enough to take advantage of the explosives.

(It was Clemson. In the ACC, the answer is always Clemson.)

ACC defenses heading into 2019

The answer. Is always. Clemson.

Best 2019 offensive players by team (best overall in bold):

  • Boston College: RB AJ Dillon
  • Clemson: QB Trevor Lawrence
  • Duke: RB Deon Jackson
  • Florida State: WR Tamorrion Terry
  • Georgia Tech: RB Jordan Mason
  • Louisville: WR TuTu Atwell
  • Miami: RB DeeJay Dallas
  • NC State: C Joe Sculthorpe
  • North Carolina: RB Michael Carter
  • Pitt: WR Taysir Mack
  • Syracuse: OG Evan Adams
  • Virginia: QB Bryce Perkins
  • Virginia Tech: WR Damon Hazelton
  • Wake Forest: RB Cade Carney

This conference has quite a bit of exciting skill talent this year, but there are lots of questions at QB. Among teams that aren’t the defending champ, anyway.

College Football Playoff National Championship Presented By AT&T - Alabama v Clemson
Trevor Lawrence
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Best 2019 defensive players by team

  • Boston College: LB Max Richardson
  • Clemson: NB Isaiah Simmons
  • Duke: S Marquis Waters
  • Florida State: NG Marvin Wilson
  • Georgia Tech: S Tariq Carpenter
  • Louisville: DE Amonte Caban
  • Miami: CB Trajan Bandy
  • NC State: DT Larrell Murchison
  • North Carolina: DT Jason Strowbridge
  • Pitt: CB Dane Jackson
  • Syracuse: DE Alton Robinson
  • Virginia: CB Bryce Hall
  • Virginia Tech: LB Rayshard Ashby
  • Wake Forest: CB Essang Bassey

A two-star high school prospect, Hall chose UVA over offers from the likes of Albany and Duquesne. And he went from six havoc plays as a redshirt freshman, to 14 as a sophomore, to 29.5 as a junior. He is the personification of head coach Bronco Mendenhall’s building job at UVA.

Virginia v North Carolina
Bryce Hall
Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images