The ACC Atlantic is at the head of the charge against the SEC. Not only is it home to the defending National Champions, but also a Florida State team that is absolutely loaded. In terms of prestige, it might already be better than either of the SEC divisions. It’s stacked with playoff contenders, Heisman candidates, some gigantic defensive lines, and Dabo Swinney. Here’s how the division will shake down this season, with record predictions included.
- Florida State Seminoles 12-0 (8-0)
The Seminoles return two of the best players in the country in quarterback Deondre Francois and safety Derwin James, both of whom have a shot to be Heisman candidates. They have a top-5 defensive line in the country and an improving offensive line that should be able to protect their Heisman-caliber quarterback. If Francois can continue to be the absolute man, Florida State should have no problems running the ACC and walking into the CFP this season. A huge opening game against Alabama looms, but if they can get past the Tide and get their confidence going early this team could be nearly unstoppable.
- Clemson Tigers 10-2 (6-2)
Dabo and company are coming off a National Championship season, but they lose their key piece, with Deshaun Watson now a Houston Texan. Regardless, a team like Clemson no longer has to rebuild, they just simply reload. Expect the Clemson Tigers to roll out a number of different quarterbacks this season: Kelly Bryant, Zerrick Cooper and Hunter Johnson. Clemson will unarguably have the best defensive line in the country with Big Dexter Lawrence and Christian Wilkins playing on the inside, both of whom will end up being top-ten picks. If Clemson can find a way to beat Auburn and Jarrett Stidham in week 2 and get some confidence rolling with a single starting quarterback, look out for them to make another playoff run.
- North Carolina State Wolfpack 9-3 (5-3)
This NC State team has a chance to be great. It all rests on the shoulders of Boise State transfer quarterback Ryan Finley who will be in his second year starting with the program. The Wolfpack was a missed field goal away from upsetting the eventual national champion Clemson Tigers last season. Ultimately, this should be considered head coach Dave Doeren’s make or break season, in his 5th year he will bring back a bunch of returning starters on the offensive and defensive side. Bradley Chubb, a potential top-5 pick in the NFL draft next year, should anchor this defense and lead them to a big opening weekend win versus South Carolina setting the tone for the rest of their season.
- Louisville Cardinals 9-3 (5-3)
Lamar Jackson put up record numbers in 2016 and won a Heisman trophy, but none of that matters anymore. Late in the season the flaws of this Louisville team became clear to the country: most notably their offensive line falling apart. They lost a lot of pieces on defense, but Bobby Petrino always finds a way to bring in a couple stud athletes who have been kicked out of other schools and takes chances on guys nobody else wants. If Lamar Jackson and his offensive line can hold up, the sky is the limit for this Cardinals team. That’s a big “if” though. If this Louisville team can beat Clemson at home and beat Florida State in Tallahassee late in the season, Petrino and the bunch could find themselves in a New Years 6 bowl game.
- Syracuse Orange 6-6(3-5)
Dino Babers will be looking for redemption in 2017 after winning just 4 games in his first season as the head coach of the Orange. They open with 3 should-be wins, but then head to Baton Rouge for a tough game against LSU. Quarterback Eric Dungey has the potential to be a really good leader, and if he can stay healthy, the ‘Cuse faithful should be happy at seasons end with a decent bowl game. Dino Babers is out to prove Syracuse isn’t just a basketball school anymore, and he has a good shot to prove that this season.
- Wake Forest Demon Deacons 6-6 (3-5)
Coming off a bowl win against Temple, Coach Dave Clawson looks to rebound with another strong season in the toughest division in football. The Deacons will run a two quarterback system with John Wolford and Kendall Hinton. Up-and-coming running back Matt Colburn has the chance to be the star of this team and rush for over 1,000 yards this season. Wake Forest has a big game late in the season against Notre Dame in South Bend, which would be a monumental win for a Wake Forest team that could be vying for bowl eligibility.
- Boston College Eagles 6-6 (2-6)
Boston College finished the 2016 season with a defense in the top 15. They return Harold Landry, the nations leading sack specialist from last season (recorded 16.5 sacks), who will expect to be a top-10 pick in the 2018 NFL draft. Steve Addazio is going to have to find a quarterback to get some offense going if he wants another postseason appearance this year. The Eagles finished last season with a victory over Maryland, a former ACC foe. If the Eagles can win 6 games this season it will be considered a success for Addazio and company. They open the season with a game against a strong Northern Illinois team, with a win there it will set the tone for the rest of their season.
Pac 12 North
Pac 12 South