ACC Atlantic Division Preview

REBUILDING FLORIDA STATE, CLEMSON WILL FIGHT IT OUT ATOP THE ACC'S ATLANTIC DIVISION

Both the Florida State Seminoles and Clemson Tigers are coming off successful seasons. Florida State reached the Final Four before losing to Oregon. Clemson made it to 10 victories after throttling Oklahoma 40-6 in the Russell Athletic Bowl...and one of their three losses was in overtime at FSU.

Strong stuff!

Both programs are getting decent media run heading into 2015...but both were hit VERY hard by graduation. FSU only returns 3 starters on offense. Clemson only returns 2 starters on defense! Will program momentum by way of recruiting allow these two to continue dominating their division? Or, is there somebody waiting in the wings to make a run at the top? Let's get to the numbers (as published by the respected Athlon preseason annual)...

Florida State
2014 Record: 13-1
2014 Rankings: 35 on offense, 61 on defense
Returning Starters: 3 on offense, 7 on defense
Head Coach: Jimbo Fisher
Notebook: As we documented often last year, FSU was lucky to stay undefeated until the playoff. They kept surviving nailbiters against a schedule that shouldn't have been so demanding. Note those stat rankings suggest a team that shouldn't have even made the Top 25! Everett Golson has transferred from Notre Dame to replace Jameis Winston. That will help the inexperienced offense. But...this program may be heading in the wrong direction given the lack of intensity last year. Championships can mess with your head! A very easy early schedule will help the Seminoles get their bearings. Road games at Georgia Tech, Clemson, and Florida don't appear until the second half of the slate. Just remember that FSU was throttled in the stats by Oregon...and was well below the other three finalists (Ohio State, Oregon, Alabama), in terms of resume depth.

Clemson
2014 Record: 10-3
2014 Rankings: 58 on offense, 1 on defense
Returning Starters: 4 on offense, 2 on defense
Head Coach: Dabo Sweeney
Notebook: There's a lot to like about what Sweeney's done with the program. That #1 defense was helped a bit by facing so many lousy ACC offense. But, the shutdown of Oklahoma was for real in the bowl. No way to know for sure how all the new starters will perform. Pay close attention to Game Three at Louisville...which will be a vital tune-up for Notre Dame and Georgia Tech that follow immediately on the schedule. Fascinating division. FSU and Clemson could fall off the map and it will take more than a month to know! And, as you're about to find out...the WHOLE DIVISION could be horrible and we won't know until the bowls!

Louisville
2014 Record: 9-4
2014 Rankings: 69 on offense, 6 on defense
Returning Starters: 3 on offense, 4 on defense
Head Coach: Bobby Petrino
Notebook: Normally you'd look at Louisville as the next team in line to make a statement. But, they were ALSO ravaged by graduation. At least Petrino is a known quantity in terms of getting results. The team has to settle on a quarterback quickly if they want to be ready for Clemson and FSU in the first half of the schedule. The season opener vs. Auburn in Atlanta will tell them (and us) a lot very quickly. So much new talent in the ACC East...the fact that Petrino has a proven record with new talent might be the tie-breaker.

Boston College
2014 Record: 7-6
2014 Rankings: 80 on offense, 11 on defense
Returning Starters: 3 on offense, 6 on defense
Head Coach: Steve Addazio
Notebook: Wow...more new faces. What's going to happen with these mediocre offenses trying to rebuild with newcomers? BC was a feisty dog last year, hanging tough with both Clemson and FSU but struggling to find consistency. Same story...they'll only matter if the new starters can execute. Both Louisville and BC have a chance to be sleepers, but picked the wrong time to rebuild. A lot to like about this program's defensive chops.

North Carolina State
2014 Record: 8-5
2014 Rankings: 57 on offense, 46 on defense
Returning Starters: 7 on offense, 7 on defense
Head Coach: Dave Doeren
Notebook: Well...having seven back on both sides of the ball seems like this is pro football by comparison to those listed prior. Jacoby Brissett is back for his senior year at quarterback. If he can figure out how to cut down on mistakes while continuing his big play potential...things could get very interesting for the Wolfpack. Don't overreact to good results in a very weak September. The season doesn't really start until October for these guys. Decent sleeper. Particularly if Brissett takes another step forward.

Wake Forest
2014 Record: 3-9
2014 Rankings: 125 on offense, 40 on defense
Returning Starters: 6 on offense, 7 on defense
Head Coach: Dave Clawson
Notebook: More like a 1-11 team last year. Two of the wins were over Gardner-Webb and Army. Then, there was a miraculous 6-3 overtime victory over Virginia Tech...who just managed to be more horrible than Wake for a day. We're not impressed at all with Coach Clawson at the major conference level. At least experience returns relative to the rest of the division.

Syracuse
2014 Record: 3-9
2014 Rankings: 113 on offense, 26 on defense
Returning Starters: 4 on offense, 3 on defense
Head Coach: Scott Shafer
Notebook: Shafer goes on the list with Clawson as a head coach who seems over his head at this level. Syracuse beat Villanova in overtime, Central Michigan, and then that horrible Wake Forest team you just read about for their three victories a year ago. And, now they combine rebuilding with being bad. What a mess this Atlantic Division is!

Well...there's very little reason for optimism anywhere. Only NC State has experience back off a bowl season with its starting quarterback. It's possible that the ultimate survivors will have misleadingly good records in November because it's such a weak division. Handicap with caution.

Back tomorrow to look at Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, and the ACC "Coastal" Division. Be sure you keep building your bankrolls with summer baseball! Daily BEST BETS can be purchased right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions about extended baseball or football packages, call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453 Saturday or Sunday before the early baseball begins.

We'll finish the ACC tomorrow in what's going to be a very busy football week. A couple of quick baseball previews Monday and Tuesday...and then a huge finishing salvo to our summer series of conference coverage.

Sunday: College Football Preview...ACC Coastal
Monday: MLB Series Preview...Chicago Cubs at Pittsburgh
Tuesday: MLB Series Preview...Kansas City at Detroit
Wednesday: College Football Preview...Pac 12 North
Thursday: College Football Preview...Pac 12 South
Friday: College Football Preview...Big 12
Next Weekend: NFC North Preview to get you ready for the Hall of Fame Game (Vikings vs. Steelers)

We hope you're printing out all of these conference previews. You can refer to them all through the first month of regular season action. And, keep priming the pump with BIG, JUICY WINNERS from JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK!

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