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Aug
30
2016

2016 ACC Atlantic Division Predictions from @AllSportsDACC

DerwinJames

 

Yesterday we posted our blog contributors and friends predictions on the ACC Coastal Division. Today we have their ACC Atlantic Division Predictions and closing ACC thoughts as we head into the first week of the season. Here is our panel below.

Jeff - (@TalkinACCSports)

Matthew - (@HokieSmash)

Zach - (@ztevans)

Jerran - (@HereGoJayAgain)

Dave - @Res4Six

Dan - (@treadmillhorse)

Team

Jeff

Matthew

Zach

Jerran

Dave

Guest Picker #2:  Dan

Florida State

11-1

11-1

10-2

11-1

11-1

12-0

Clemson

11-1

12-0

11-1

11-1

11-1

11-1

North Carolina State

6-6

6-6

6-6

5-7

5-7

5-7

Louisville

10-2

9-3

11-1

9-3

9-3

9-3

Boston College

6-6

6-6

5-7

5-7

 5-7

4-8

Wake Forest

4-8

4-8

5-7

6-6

6-6

7-5

Syracuse

4-8

3-9

2-10

3-9

3-9

3-9

ACC Atlantic Division Winner

Jeff: Florida State

Matthew:  Clemson

Zach: Clemson

Jerran: Florida State

Dave:  Florida State

Dan: Florida State

Name a team that could surprise you and win the Atlantic:

Jeff: Louisville has enough talent to really be a thorn in the side to FSU and Clemson. If they win that early game at home against FSU, then they will be in the mix all year. It will be stretch to leapfrog FSU and Clemson, but Louisville has a chance.

Matthew: How about if I say Florida State – yes, this doesn’t sound like a surprise pick because the Seminoles (#4) have a ton of experience back – and maybe the best running back in the nation in Dalvin Cook.  And I did pick Florida State to go 11-1.  The Seminoles, however, host Clemson in Tallahassee – and Doak-Campbell is going to be lit.  But it would be a surprise to me for Florida State to defeat Clemson – because you have to beat someone in Deshaun Watson who is going to be Superman all year for the Tigers and the #1 NFL Draft Pick – and that’s a tough row to hoe.

Zach: Without even knowing about Dave’s piece on a “chaotic” season in the Atlantic Division (see below), I envisioned almost the exact scenario he painted. My only difference – I’m a homer, and I think UNC will beat Florida State in Tallahassee. If that doesn’t happen, however, then the chaos theory comes into play, which makes Louisville’s chance at the Atlantic quite real.

Jerran: Louisville has a lot of talent on both sides ot the ball and could muck up the Atlantic Division if they pull out a victory against Clemson or FSU or if both happen. Lamar Jackson is a darkhorse Heisman candidate that should get some national spotlight before its all said and done in 2016. The development of the Louisville receivers has been worth some mention as well, if they can get the rushing attack together, the Cardinals could win the Atlantic and be in the ACCCG.

Dave:  I wrote a whole piece about the possibility of a chaotic season where UL beats FSU, FSU beats Clemson, and Clemson beats UL. Read it here: http://bit.ly/CardChaos16

Dan: Louisville. If this team were in the Coastal division, I think they would run away with the division. Lamar Jackson is an excellent quarterback and should be even better in his second season. He has all the weapons he needs around him on offense to move the football. They should see a big improvement in their offensive ranking this season. The defense also remains strong. They return eight starters on defense and return the entire defensive backfield. This should be a team that feasts on turnovers. They will be a problem for every team they face. They have three key games on the schedule: Florida State, @Clemson and @Houston. That Houston game is just as difficult as the other two. What Louisville needs to do to win the division is beat Florida State at home and turn this into a three team race. If Louisville beats Florida State and Florida State beats Clemson, anything can happen. Watch out for Louisville. They could challenge the top two for the Atlantic crown.

ACC Champion:

Jeff: Florida State – I love Clemson. They are good enough to win the national title. They have the best Quarterback in the country but The Noles haven’t lost a home game since 2012. That’s where Clemson has to go to win the ACC title, and the Noles are good enough themselves to win the national title.

Matthew: Clemson – hell, did you think I’d pick anyone else.  Well, I admit – I was very close to picking Florida State – it’s hard to win a primetime game in Doak-Campbell, but when you have Deshaun Watson, those things can be done at Doak-Campell.

Zach: North Carolina. I said I was a homer, alright? There will probably be a step down at quarterback with the loss of Marquise Williams, but the second year of the Chizik regime in Chapel Hill should provide enough of a defensive improvement to counteract that. Besides, Mitch Trubisky is surrounded by veteran wideouts, an experienced offensive line … and Elijah Hood. He should be alright.

Jerran: Florida State. Their defense should be wired this season lead by safety Derwin James and defensive end Demarcus Walker.

Dave: Florida State’s defense returns 9 guys with starting experience and is built to stop spread teams with running QBs like DeShaun Watson and Lamar Jackson.  Nobody says it’s going to be easy, but if anyone is up to the task it’s FSU and Charles Kelly this season.  There has been lots of consternation among ‘Nole fans about the QB situation and starting a rFresh QB against a team like Ole Miss.  Rightfully so, but when you look at the weapons around him, you have to think he won’t have an enormous amount of pressure to carry the team, especially with the reported strides the offensive line has made and the fact that Dalvin Cook is healthy this season and will ease the burden tremendously.  And even if Francois is a dud this year, talking worst-case here, Seam Maguire pulled a wolverine and it appears his surgically repaired foot healed freakishly fast and he will be available in time to take on Louisville in Papa John’s stadium in week 3 if the need should arise.

I have FSU dropping a game somewhere during the year, maybe OIe Miss, maybe UNC, but I see them beating Clemson’s inexperienced defense that sent virtually everyone to the NFL last year and handling their business in Papa John’s to run the table in the ACC Atlantic.  FSU will have one huge hurdle to clear if the do conquer the Atlantic and that will be facing a rematch with UNC in a de-facto home game at Charlotte for the ACC Crown.  It’s hard to beat a team two times in one season and as I said earlier, I think UNC may be the team to hang the lone loss on FSU.  I see ‘Noles knocking off the Heels in another ACCCG classic, 31-27.

Dan: Florida State brings back an INSANE amount of talent this year! I feel like they have hiding Clemson’s shadow this offseason and they are a monster of a football team. They return nine starters on offense and six starters on defense. Their last 3 recruiting classes have all been top five in the nation according to 247. They will be starting former 4-star quarterback recruit Deondre Francois. He will have enough talent around him that he will not have to win games on his own. Just hand it off to Dalvin Cook and throw quick passes to Travis Rudolph and Jesus Wilson. The defense should also be top ten in the nation led by DeMarcus Walker and Derwin James. Everyone is talking about Clemson but Florida State is a loaded football team.

Closing Comments:

Jeff: The ACC is finally becoming the conference John Swofford dreamed of. With the announcement of the ACC network, a GOR signed until 2036, and several highly regarded coaching hires ACC Football is well positioned to continue to grow and improve. Tremendous strides have been made the last several years, and I don’t see anything slowing that down. The conference that some feared would get left out of the playoff scenario 4-5 years is now an emerging as a conference that has to be seriously dealt with.

Matthew:  The ACC should have at least four nine-win or more teams this year.  North Carolina and Louisville are going to have very solid seasons – and Florida State and Clemson are going to be in the national title picture all year.  Moreover, the ACC made all the right coaching hires in the off-season with Justin Fuente at Virginia Tech, Bronco Mendenhall at Virginia, Mark Richt at Miami, and Dino Babers at Syracuse.  I can’t wait for football to start!!! Week 1 is here!!!

Zach: This year it is particularly difficult to gauge how the ACC will look because of all the change, particularly with head coaches. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least to see Virginia Tech or Miami improve drastically on last season and make themselves contenders in the Coastal division, for instance. Throw in the proven top-tier teams, plus a Pittsburgh team that is poised to break out sooner rather than later, and this season could provide an exciting battle at the top of the standings. Granted, the bottom of the league is a little watered down at the moment, but there should be enough to keep us entertained around the league.

Jerran: The ACC is top heavy at the moment with Clemson and Florida State but this season should show through the progression of NC State, Wake Forest, Virginia, Miami, and Syracuse that brighter days are certainly ahead. The hirings of Dino Babers at Syracuse, Mark Richt at Miami, Bronco Mendenhall at Virginia, and Justin Fuente at Virginia Tech certainly have raised the overall stock of the ACC as a Power 5 Conference as well. No longer will teams be whipping posts for other teams on the football field. The ACC also boasts one of the best running back groups in the country as well and more should emerge out of some of the lesser known ACC programs. Louisville in the ACC has certainly changed the ACC landscape as well as the Cardinals have cracked most preseason Top 25 polls and should finish higher than expected.

Dave:  This may be the most talented the ACC has ever been.  I see potentially four ten-win teams and at the worst the ACC will have at least four nine-win programs.  I have Miami falling flat in Mark Richt’s first season, not for a lack of talent, but because their two top defensive players have been booted from the team, their secondary is suspect, and their offensive line should be improved this year but even so they were awful last year and should be maybe average at best in 2016.  Wake Forest and Duke look like .500 teams to me, Virginia Tech, Louisville, and Pitt seem to be on the verge of building programs that can compete for playoff spots in the near future, maybe even next season.  While I love the coaching hires of Bronco Mendenhall at UVA and Dino Babers at Syracuse, they inherited bare cupboards and need to find some more ingredients to cook with on the recruiting trail before they can eat dinner with the big boys.  That’s my assessment of the 2016 ACC, let’s see how wrong I am.

Dan: Going through my picks this year it’s clear that the ACC is not a bottom feeder football conference any more. The expectation is that they will win a lot big non-conference games against the Power 5. The opening weekend should see Florida State beat Ole Miss and Clemson beat Auburn. I see North Carolina giving Georgia a game but I’m not sure they win that game. Either way, the bar is higher than it’s ever been in the ACC. These games are not yawners for the SEC anymore. The playing field is more level than it’s been in years. The ACC also won the coaching carousel this year. Virginia Tech, Miami, Syracuse and Virginia all made exciting hires at their coaching positions. The hope is these new hires will infuse life into these programs to compete with the top of the ACC. Virginia Tech and Miami are the types of programs that can work their way back to the top 25 with the right coach. These look like the right hires on paper. Looks like the days of the ACC being the 4th or 5th best Power 5 football conference are behind us. The future looks bright for the conference.

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