We’re just a couple days away! I know, this has been an incredibly drawn out offseason, but at long last, kickoff is finally (just about) here. To celebrate that, we’re unveiling the final offseason power rankings, before basing these on actual games starting next Tuesday. As always, the poll includes all 14 current ACC members, plus future member Louisville. Feel like I’m totally right or completely off-base? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.
ACC Football Power Rankings 2013 (August 27)
1. Clemson Tigers (Last: 1): Clemson will be tested very early in a rivalry redux versus Georgia, and should they get past the Bulldogs, they’ll be favored in the next 10 games. If this team has truly buried the term “Clemsoning” (and for what it’s worth, I firmly believe they have), they should be able to run through to the final weekend at a perfect 11-0. There, South Carolina awaits them, but it’s a long season and in order to be undefeated, you’ve got to go week-by-week.
2. Florida State Seminoles (Last: 3): The more preseason prep you do, the more you end up buying into this year’s Seminoles team being just as talented as last year’s edition. Though the pass-rush might be a bit weaker, the very strong back seven give this team the type of edge they’ll need to notch another season of double-digit wins. But again, the key is Jameis Winston at QB, and whether or not he’s up to the task of jumping in and producing right away.
3. Louisville Cardinals (Last: 2): Playing out a season in purgatory is a daunting task, believe it or not, and we’re about to find out if Louisville’s up to the challenge. With a very big target on their backs and favorable odds in all 12 games on the slate, this Cardinals team will be challenged to get up for each and every game. Charlie Strong can provide the motivation, but it’ll be interesting to watch nonetheless as the year keeps going and the pressure around the squad builds.
4. Miami (FL) Hurricanes (Last: 5): Miami likely has the most complete set of offensive tools in the entire conference, with certifiable playmakers at all three major skill positions. This year’s slate is also much easier than 2012’s, with no Notre Dame or Kansas State, though we’ll get a quick sense of what they’re made of in a week two matchup against Florida. Win that one, and who knows how far this team might end up going.
5. North Carolina Tar Heels (Last: 4): Like Clemson and Miami, the Tar Heels will be tested very early, as they face off with South Carolina this Thursday night. It’s unfair to say the outcome will decide the rest of UNC’s season, but a loss would sure be a buzz kill to start a very promising campaign. The offensive line will be key to their success this season, but that may never be more apparent than the first matchup against the Gamecocks.
6. Virginia Tech Hokies (Last: 6): Which Logan Thomas are we going to see this season? If it’s the 2011 version, the Hokies can ride this defense back to another Coastal Division title and a likely 10- or 11-win campaign. If he resembles last year’s model… well, this is a team that could be in for some real trouble. An opening date versus Alabama certainly doesn’t help matters either, but after the bottom fell out on last year’s offense, the pressure is on that entire group to find a way to produce points again.
7. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (Last: 9): The Demon Deacons will be guided this season by its offensive veterans, most importantly QB Tanner Price and WR Michael Campanaro. Following a breakout 2012, Campanaro is eager to take his place among the best wideouts in the conference, while Price is looking to bounce back from a rough junior year. If both are playing to their potential, Wake should ascend to fill that mysterious third-place spot in the Atlantic this year.
8. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (Last: 7): I think Vad Lee‘s an upgrade at quarterback, and the defense may end up being in better shape than people realize. But that doesn’t change the way this schedule lays out for the Wreck. With a killer four-game swing from September to October, and two top-10 opponents in their final three contests, it’s going to be an uphill battle for Georgia Tech to make it back to the postseason.
9. Syracuse Orange (Last: 8): Syracuse still doesn’t know who its quarterback is, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Whoever it may be though (I’d bet Drew Allen), they’ve got a full compliment of weapons to help them out — most notably, a very deep group of running backs headlined by Jerome Smith. The Orange will rise and fall on the success of the run game this year, and while they won’t be worldbeaters, that strength certainly gives them a chance in all but a few games on the slate.
10. Duke Blue Devils (Last: 11): All is not lost for Duke just because they lost Conner Vernon and Sean Renfree. Anthony Boone is a more mobile passer who should challenge opposing defenses, and receiver Jamison Crowder has already shown himself off to be fully capable of equaling Vernon’s production. The defense is a question, but given the Blue Devils’ schedule, it may not be enough to stand in the way of another postseason bid.
11. Maryland Terrapins (Last: 12): Another team that benefits from a light schedule, Maryland sets itself up nicely for a positive ACC departure. While the jury’s still out on C.J. Brown‘s progress compared to 2011, he’s got plenty of weapons to throw to, and that alone puts this team on better footing than they were last season. After 12 games of Stefon Diggs and 10 other guys, the Terps actually have a complete offense and it’ll show for a much more competitive team this year.
12. NC State Wolfpack (Last: 13): What will this offense look like? Who’s the starting quarterback? What will the secondary do to replace three out of four starters? — These questions seem to be pushed to the back of people’s minds when previewing the Wolfpack, and I’m still unsure why that is. Dave Doeren appears to be a great hire, but he’s certainly got his work cut out for him this year for a team very much in transition.
13. Pittsburgh Panthers (Last: 10): Pitt’s part of a collection of several ACC schools who figure to struggle in terms of scoring points this year. So the onus is set to fall on the Panthers’ defense to decide whether or not their first season in a new league ends up a successful one. Few were sold on QB Tom Savage toward the end of his time at Rutgers, so I’m curious to see what he brings to the table this season for Pittsburgh. If he struggles, they’ll struggle to keep up with most of the opponents on the schedule.
14. Boston College Eagles (Last: 15): Steve Addazio’s instilled the will in Boston College to bounce back from the depths of last year, but can they manage to do so? Chase Rettig and Alex Amidon keep the offense in decent shape, and there’s also plenty to like at the linebacker position. Everywhere else? The jury’s still out, but at least people are talking about the Eagles’ ability to compete once again, even if not win a large number of games just yet.
15. Virginia Cavaliers (Last: 14): Have you seen this team’s schedule? Even if the Hoos are a bowl-worthy team in terms of talent, I’m unsure if they can muster up enough wins to get back to the postseason based on the very difficult set of opponents. As is the case for several teams, it’ll come down to how quickly their new quarterback can get acclimated into the offense. David Watford‘s got plenty of promise, but little results to judge. If this offensive line can keep him protected though, perhaps he (and Virginia) surprises?