1. Florida State Seminoles– This will be a transitional period of some sorts for Jimbo Fisher and his football team. Jameis Winston is now in the NFL and former Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson has transferred to Florida State. The Seminoles have a few holes to fill, but they have the personnel and the talent to make another run at a third straight ACC title. With Jameis, star receiver Rashad Greene, tight end Nick O’Leary and four offensive linemen gone, Florida State will be challenged to fill those holes. The defense will look to improve after giving up almost 5.5 yards per play in 2014. Despite losing Eddie Goldman and Mario Edwards Jr, they have exceptional depth in the trenches. Life after Jameis Winston begins in Tallahassee in 2015.
2. Clemson Tigers – This will be the biggest competition to Florida State this upcoming season. Despite key losses on both sides of the football, they have just enough to make a run at the ACC title. Deshaun Watson will be ready to go after tearing his ACL and he will be surrounded by skilled players on offense in Mike Williams and Artavis Scott. This is Watson’s team. They will go as far as he takes them if he can stay healthy. In 2014, Clemson had one of the best defenses in the country. They allowed 260 yards per game. In 2015, only two starters return from that unit but that’s where recruiting comes in. Junior Shaq Lawson will be expected to lead this defense and put up some big numbers. With depth all around, Clemson can be a sleeper pick for the College Football playoff.
3. Louisville Cardinals– There are a lot of questions surrounding this team as the fall approaches. In the last two seasons, they’ve lost both quarterback Teddy Bridgwater and star receiver DeVante Parker to the NFL. With Louisville losing Parker and two other top receivers, expect them to run the football heavily with Brandon Radcliff who showed us all his potential in the final three games last season. The defense was a strong point for Bobby Petrino and the Cardinals last year. They ranked in the top five in scoring defense and total defense. Former TCU Horned Frog Devonte Fields has transferred to Louisville and he will have an immediate impact on an already stout defense. I see this Louisville team being competitive throughout the season though others aren’t sold.
4. North Carolina Wolf Pack– They were a much improved team in 2014. Three wins in 2013 and eight wins in 2014. The talent and the potential is there. We saw a glimpse of that when they faced Florida State last September. Though they didn’t win, we saw they can stick around with the best competition in the nation. Jacoby Brissett put together a solid all around season for NC State. He threw 26 touchdown passes and only threw five interceptions. The running game will be a big part of this offense again as both Shadrach Thornton and Matt Dayes both return. The defense will be a question mark as the fall approaches. Seven starters on defense return. The sky is the limit for Dave Doeren and his football team.
5. Boston College Eagles– They are coming off back to back bowl games and Steve Addazzio has given Boston College a personality as a football team. They play with fire on both sides of the football. 2015 will be a different year for Addazzio and the Eagles as only nine starters from last season return. Darius Wade will be the starter this year. He’s a dual threat quarterback that will have to get off to a good start if Boston College wants to make any type of noise in the conference. The defense will be the strong point once again under defensive coordinator Don Brown. His schemes always include a lot of blitzes. I expect to see that once again especially if they want to repeat as one of the best defenses in the country again.
6. Wake Forest Demon Deacons– They won only three games under Dave Clawson last year. It’s definitely safe to say they experienced more downs than ups. There is always a positive to every situation. Thirteen starters from last year return so he will have something to work with next season. They will also be the youngest team in the country. Everything that could go wrong for a football team went wrong for Wake Forest last season. Their offense ranked at the bottom of the FBS last season. This team just needs to improve all around next year on both sides of the football. The offense will potentially feature eight underclassmen and they are about a year or two away from being competitive.
7. Syracuse Orange– They definitely took a step back last year as they won only three games. They will be a very inexperienced team on both sides of the football. Scott Shafer will have his work cut out for him after a 3-9 season. They will bring a new offensive scheme and there will be eight new defensive starters.
Prediction: I like the Florida State Seminoles to win the Atlantic once again. The running game will be key as Everett Golson feels this offense out. The offense will be very young and the defense is retooling so a run at a National Title will be somewhat stretching it. A run at another ACC crown will definitely be an achievement.