Here is an in-depth look at our preseason ACC ballot for the Atlantic Division and the reasons behind our picks. We have submitted our ballot to the ACC office and the official results will be announced Monday morning.
ATLANTIC DIVISION PREDICTIONS
1. Florida State
Florida State and Clemson are close, really close, and while the Tigers have Deshaun Watson, Florida State has Dalvin Cook. Watson received nearly all of the accolades last season, and he was terrific, but we believe Cook is the best player in the conference. With a strong defense returning, an emerging talent at wide receiver in Travis Rudolph, and expected solid quarterback play, the Seminoles are loaded.
Simply put, Florida State has the talent in place to be the preseason pick to win the division.
Scheduling Note: The Noles host Clemson this year... another reason why we're going with FSU.
Clemson has the league's best quarterback in Watson, arguably the preseason Heisman favorite, and also a proven commodity at tailback in Wayne Gallman. The Tigers must replace a lot of talent defensively, and that is where Florida State has the edge.
With that being said, when you have offensive talents like Watson, Gallman, Jordan Leggett, Mike Williams, and Artavis Scott, you have a chance to win every single weekend.
Scheduling Note: The Tigers play at Florida State and at Georgia Tech normally is tough as well. The winner of that FSU-Clemson game likely wins the league.
Expectations are high at Louisville, as the Cardinals return a lot of talent on both sides of the ball, including quarterback Lamar Jackson who really emerged late in his true freshman season. In fact, a lot of experts believe Louisville is the third-best team in the ACC.
The question is, will they be able to take the next step and defeat Clemson or Florida State?
Scheduling Note: Louisville hosts Florida State and NC State and travels to Clemson. The Cards also draw Duke and Virginia from the Coastal, a great setup.
4. NC State
NC State has the talent to compete with the top three teams in the division, and the Wolfpack did it for much of their matchups in 2015. However, the question remains... who will replace Jacoby Brissett and will he be effective? The quarterback position was a mess in Dave Doeren's first season, and the results weren't pretty.
However, the Wolfpack has eight starters back defensively and plenty of skill talent in Matt Dayes, Jaylen Samuels, and Nyheim Hines among others.
Scheduling Note: NC State has the toughest draw in the ACC, with road games at Clemson, Louisville, and North Carolina and home matchups versus Miami and Florida State.
5. Wake Forest
The bottom three in the Atlantic could probably be picked from a hat, and for us the tiebreaker is Wake Forest hosting both Syracuse and Boston College. There really isn't much difference between the three schools.
Dave Clawson is recruiting well but has struggled his first two seasons, posting back-to-back 3-9 records. The Deacs return both quarterbacks, but when you have two quarterbacks, do you really have a starting quarterback?
Scheduling Note: Wake Forest hosts Boston College and Syracuse and draw Virginia and Duke from the Coastal.
Eric Dungey really flashed as a true freshman at quarterback. Wake Forest and Boston College lacked consistency at the position, but Dungey, if he can stay healthy, will be effective. He should flourish in the new system under head coach Dino Babers.
Scheduling Note: Syracuse plays at Wake Forest and at Boston College while hosting NC State.
7. Boston College
Boston College's biggest loss in the offseason may have been defensive coordinator Don Brown, who cashed in on his success by accepting a lucrative offer from Michigan. Will BC still be strong defensively? They better, because the offense has been brutal with a lack of playmakers and unstable quarterback situation.
The Eagles are coming off an 0-8 league record. Not good.
Scheduling Note: Boston College heads to Wake Forest and hosts Syracuse.