Just days before kickoff, we’ve compiled our final offseason power rankings before the new ACC football season begins. Starting after week one (this weekend), these will go back to their typical, weekly format. Read the full rankings below, and enjoy the season!
1. Florida State Seminoles (LW: 1): Florida State’s hype has gone through the roof as we’ve gotten closer to the season. On top of the typical talk of an ACC title, notable pundits have also pegged them as a true national title contender (and perhaps, winner, too). In the end, it’ll all come down to EJ Manuel‘s readiness to take them to the next level. It’s obvious the defense is fully capable already, despite the loss of Greg Reid (not as vital as some would have you think).
2. Clemson Tigers (LW: 2): Things won’t be easy without game-changing receiver Sammy Watkins during the first two games of the season. But there’s still plenty of firepower in this offense, even in his absence. We know they can score. But unfortunately, we’re still unsure whether or not this defense can stop anyone. Week one versus Auburn will be a tough test early on.
3. Virginia Tech Hokies (LW: 3): As always, the Virginia Tech defense (led by Kyle Fuller) is on board. Now, we’ll have to see just how well this revamped Hokies offensive line holds up. If Logan Thomas can get some time to throw — instead of being relegated to scrambling too often — they’ll be just fine.
4. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (LW: 5): Manageable schedule, veteran group; the whole thing seems to lead to a big year for the Ramblin’ Wreck. The key, as mentioned far too many times before, is Tevin Washington‘s ability to throw the ball. If he’s made strides, and the passing game at least appears to be a threat to the defense, the triple-option becomes that much more dangerous.
5. NC State Wolfpack (LW: 4): We’ll know a lot about this Wolfpack team after its week one test against Tennessee. How will the linebacking corps stand up to a team that should be able to throw the ball a bit? What about the State running game? And can Mike Glennon show improvement against faster, more aggressive defensive fronts? The answers will all appear to us at the Georgia Dome.
6. North Carolina Tar Heels (LW: 7): Year one of the Larry Fedora experiment will be a fun one for the Heels. The new coach brings along some fun schemes — both the spread offense and 4-2-5 defensive package — which should really play to the strengths of stars like QB Bryn Renner and LB Kevin Reddick. Postseason or not, UNC will be a fun group to watch this year.
7. Virginia Cavaliers (LW: 6): The offseason-long quarterback controversy appears to be over for now, but the true test will be how well Michael Rocco can handle the pressure of winning a competition like that. He’s got some impressive opponents to start off the year with. If he’s able to rack up more wins than losses, he’ll be firmly entrenched. Otherwise, we may see an early start to the Phillip Sims era in Charlottesville.
8. Pittsburgh Panthers (LW: 8): Some fall injuries, and a lot of question marks around star running back Ray Graham, give the Panthers a few more concerns than they would’ve preferred heading into 2012. That said, it’s a mostly veteran group, and under new leadership, may be able to weather the storm until he returns — unlike past years.
9. Syracuse Orange (LW: 9): From all indications, it appears that Iowa transfer John Raymon will be able to line up at defensive end for the Orange, which is a huge boost for a line looking for bodies this season. Elsewhere, SU finds itself dealing with its fair share of injuries, and some indications say the offense isn’t fully figured out yet. Definitely not the start fans were hoping for after last year’s disappointing campaign.
10. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (LW: 10): On defense, the Deacs will try to create some semblance of a pass rush — something that has been virtually non-existent for the team lately. The offense, on the other hand, has a lot of work to do on the ground. If Josh Harris is back at full strength, it should be a much more efficient attack than we saw in the second half of 2011.
11. Miami (FL) Hurricanes (LW: 11): Ray-Ray Armstrong, despite his issues, was the best player on this ‘Canes roster. Now? It could be any number of players that, frankly, aren’t all that impressive at first glance. Given their tough schedule and lack of apparent playmakers, there’s not a whole lot of hope going around Coral Gables right now (or at least there shouldn’t be).
12. Boston College Eagles (LW: 12): At one point, the Eagles appeared to be a team that could surprise us and pick up five or six victories, en route to a slight resurgence. After a rash of injuries on both sides of the ball (several season-ending), I’d say they drop right back down to where they were slated to be to begin with: A team that could win three or four games, and be fairly unimpressive while doing so.
13. Duke Blue Devils (LW: 13): Duke’s schedule may not allow them to show their improvement, but it’s there. This team is as nondescript as they come. So even while senior receiver Conner Vernon is likely breaking most of the league’s pass-catching records, very few people will notice outside of the Tobacco Road media circle.
14. Maryland Terrapins (LW: 14): No one was all too high on this squad prior to C.J. Brown‘s season-ending injury. At this point, after a few more players have gone down with their own respective issues, it appears the Terps are cursed. Though they added offensive weapons, it’s unlikely they’ll have anyone to throw them the ball. On defense, Joe Vellano and Demetrius Hartsfield can’t play every position on the field.