Florida State’s winning streak came to an end in the Rose Bowl last year, but it didn’t change the fact that the Seminoles are the dominant program in the ACC. Entering 2015, a few teams will try to unseat the ‘Noles atop the ACC standings. Many will look to the departure of former Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston as a reason for why the Seminoles will fade. Will Florida State take a step back? Can Clemson finally get over the hump? Will Duke remain competitive or fall back to the cellar? Is the triple-option at Georgia Tech still effective? We have these answers and more in our 2015 ACC Conference football preview.
There are two contenders – Florida State and Clemson. Despite the loss of Jameis Winston, the Seminoles are still the favorites in the ACC. They had one of the best defenses in the nation last year and return 7 starters on that side of the ball. Cornerback Jalen Ramsey is an All-American candidate that makes it difficult for opposing QB’s to throw on the ‘Noles. Offensively, Florida State has some questions to answer.
They must replace 4 offensive line starters, a QB, and 3 other starters. That’s usually not a good combination, but Jimbo Fisher has done an excellent job recruiting offensive talent and developing offensive lineman. The ‘Noles offense does have a returning 1,000-yard rusher (Dalvin Cook), so they’ll be fine. Clemson, on the other hand, must prove they can get over the hump, beat Florida State, and avoid the bad loss if they want to accomplish their goals. Deshaun Watson showed great promise in limited action last year at quarterback. It’s his team now. They’ll go as far as he can lead them. November 7, when Florida State comes to town, we’ll know if the Tigers are ready for prime time, or if they’re still a pretender.
Pat Narduzzi is a good football coach. He enters his first season as the Pittsburgh Panthers head man. He inherits a team that was more talented than its 6-7 record a season ago. Pittsburgh probably won’t win the conference, but they very well could be a surprise ACC Coastal division champion. Pittsburgh returns 15 starters, but must overcome a difficult non-conference schedule that includes a road trip to Iowa and a home game against Notre Dame.
The ACC always seems to have quite a few teams that are hopeless. This year is no different. Boston College, Syracuse, Wake Forest, and Virginia fans had better have a lot of beer handy when watching football games this fall. Those teams have about as much of a chance of competing in this conference as Donald Trump has of winning the presidential election.
The ACC has long been a conference full of average teams. 2015 looks to be another year where the ACC is packed with a whole heck of a lot of average football. Louisville, North Carolina State, Miami, Duke, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, and Virginia Tech will all be in contention for bowl games, they just won’t be major bowl games. We expect the conference to have 5-6 teams that finish between 6-6 and 8-4. The team on this list most likely to contend for the conference title is Virginia Tech simply because Frank Beamer’s teams are almost always competitive.
- ACC Atlantic Champ: Florida State
- ACC Coastal Champ: Pittsburgh
- ACC Champ: Florida State
- ACC Offensive POY: Dalvin Cook, RB Florida State
- ACC Defensive POY: Jalen Ramsey, CB Florida State
- CFB Playoff Teams: Florida State