Clemson is the preseason favorite to claim the Atlantic Coast Conference football championship, according to a poll of 158 media members in attendance at the 2015 ACC Football Kickoff at Pinehurst Resort.
The Tigers were also picked over three-time defending ACC champion Florida State to capture the Atlantic Division, while Georgia Tech was favored to repeat as the Coastal Division winner.
Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, who established himself as one of the nation’s rising stars as a true freshman last season, was voted the 2015 ACC Preseason Player of the Year.
The Tigers were picked the likely overall champions of the ACC on 84 ballots, followed by Florida State with 41 and Georgia Tech with 20. Virginia Tech (7 votes), North Carolina (3), Miami (2) and NC State (1) rounded out the balloting.
In the Atlantic Division preseason voting, Clemson received 101 first-place votes and finished with 1,032 total points. Florida State received 56 first-place votes and placed second with 992 points, while Louisville had one first-place vote and was third in the voting with 746 points.
NC State was tabbed for a fourth-place Atlantic Division finish, followed by Boston College, Syracuse and Wake Forest.
Georgia Tech was selected the likely Coastal winner by 96 voters and finished with 991 total points, followed by Virginia Tech with 44 first-place votes and 841 points. Miami received seven first-place votes and was third in the voting with 632 total points.
Duke (four first-place votes) placed fourth, followed by North Carolina, Pitt and Virginia. Four voters chose UNC to claim the Coastal Division, while three gave Pitt the nod.
Watson will lead a Clemson offense that also returns talented wide receivers Mike Williams and Artavis Scott. The Tigers, who have won at least 10 games each of the past four seasons, seek their 15th ACC championship and first since 2011.
Watson led the preseason ACC Player of the Year balloting with 69 votes, followed by 2014 ACC leading rusher and Player of the Year James Conner of Pitt with 46. Georgia Tech quarterback Justin Thomas placed third with 13 votes,
Injuries sidelined Watson for part of his freshman season, but the Gainesville, Georgia native still threw for 1,466 yards and 14 touchdowns against only two interceptions in 330 snaps over eight games (five starts). He also made his mark as a rushing threat with 200 yards and five touchdowns on 63 carries.
Watson finished last season ranked first in Clemson history in passing efficiency and completion percentage by a freshman, as well as first in school history in passing yards, passing touchdowns and total offense by a first-year freshman.
ACC Championship Votes1. Clemson - 84
2. Florida State - 41
3. Georgia Tech - 20
4. Virginia Tech - 7
5. North Carolina - 3
6. Miami - 2
7. NC State - 1
Atlantic Division(First place votes in parenthesis)
1. Clemson (101) – 1,032
2. Florida State (56) - 992
3. Louisville (1) - 746
4. NC State - 673
5. Boston College - 473
6. Syracuse - 291
7. Wake Forest - 217
Coastal Division(First place votes in parenthesis)
1. Georgia Tech (96) - 991
2. Virginia Tech (44) - 841
3. Miami (7) - 632
4. Duke (4) - 615
5. North Carolina (4) - 590
6. Pitt (3) -535
7. Virginia -220
ACC Player of the Year1. Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson - 69
2. James Conner, RB, Pitt - 46
3. Justin Thomas, QB, Georgia Tech - 13
t-4. Jalen Ramsey, CB Florida State - 7
t-4. Brad Kaaya, QB, Miami -7
t-6. Marquise Williams, QB, North Carolina - 6
t-6. Kendall Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech - 6
8. Tyler Boyd, WR, Pitt – 3
9. Jacoby Brissett, QB, NC State - 1