Welcome to our newest contributor Steve Callahan. This is his first submission. Please give him a follow on twitter @scallahan4091
When you bring up ACC Football, only two football teams come to mind in regards to legitimate national title contenders: #2 Clemson Tigers and #4 Florida State Seminoles. Those two teams will be the cream of the crop in the ACC, but who follows them? The rest of the conference seems balanced, with no team having a huge gap of talent and expectation above the others. Here’s a ranking of the best ACC teams, not named FSU or Clemson.
1) North Carolina Tarheels
The Tarheels are coming off an eleven-win season, finishing the season as the #15 team in the country. The offense will feature a new quarterback in Mitch Trubisky, but also is bringing back four starters on the offensive line and talented running back Elijah Hood. The defense raises question, but the Tarheels offense is good enough for them to rank near the top off the ACC once again.
2) Miami Hurricanes
The Hurricanes took a huge step in the right direction when they hired Mark Richt as head coach. Richt averaged 10 wins per season in his 15 years at Georgia; immediately changing the culture in Miami. With top NFL prospect Brad Kaaya at quarterback and a new aggressive defense in place, the Hurricanes deserve recognition in the ACC.
3) Louisville Cardinals
Many people are high on the Cardinals due to their dual-threat sophomore quarterback Lamar Jackson. As a freshman, he totaled 960 yards on the ground, 1,840 yards through the air, and 23 touchdowns. On the defensive side, Devonte Fields is one of the best defensive ends in the country. The Cardinals may be a young team, but they are talented.
4) Pittsburgh Panthers
With a roster filled with upperclassmen, returning starters at quarterback and on the offensive and defensive line, the second year under head coach Pat Narduzzi is coming with lifted expectations.
5) Virginia Tech Hokies
In his first full season as the Hokies head coach, Justin Fuente has named transfer quarterback Jerod Evans his starting quarterback. With Isaiah Ford, Bucky Hodes, and Travon McMillian returning on offense, the Hokies have their playmakers set.
6) Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Even though the backfield lacks experience, history tells you that the Yellow Jackets have actually had more success when they feature a younger backfield in their rushing attack.
7) N.C. State Wolf Pack
The old saying is, if you have two quarterbacks, you don’t have one. Head coach Dave Doeren plans on playing both Jalen McClendon and Ryan Finey in the opener. Until the quarterback decision is decided, it’s hard to fully analyze the Wolfpack.
8) Duke Blue Devils
The defense returns four starters this season, but they may be the only positive for the Blue Devils.
9) Wake Forest Demon Deacons
The Deacons are expected to improve from their 3-9 record, but don’t expect them go higher than .500.
10) Syracuse Orange
With ESPN listed the Orange last in defensive line rankings, it may be foreshadowing for the Orange’s entire 2016 season.
11) Virginia Cavaliers
The Cavaliers have a new coach with an awesome name in Bronco Mendenhall who brings a winning record to the program, but expect a 1-2 year rebuild for the Cavs.
12) Boston College Eagles
With 0 conference wins last season, it’s hard to pick out a conference win when you look at the schedule.