It was the ACC Coastal on Monday so today I’m previewing the ACC Atlantic.
Florida State 1/6 – The defending conference and national champs return their Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback and six other guys on offense while the defense returns six starters. With the great recruiting of the Seminoles’ staff, there are more than capable players ready to stand in. There are just two potential bumps on the home schedule and those would be Notre Dame and Florida. The ‘Noles open with Oklahoma State in Arlington but that should be a victory. Other road trips include at Louisville and rival Miami. FSU should find it’s way into the ACC Title game once again.
Clemson 13/2 – Head Coach Dabo Swinney returns just five starters on offense. Among those he needs to replace are Tahj Boyd, Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant. In other words, it won’t be easy. The defense returns seven starters but are they enough to carry the Tigers against a brutal first half of the season that includes road trips to Georgia and Florida State. They do get stubborn rival South Carolina at home to end the season. Sports books like the Tigers a bit if FSU stumbles but I don’t see it happening.
Louisville 13/2 – The Cardinals make the jump to the ACC and automatically become one of the top teams in the conference despite losing guys like Teddy Bridgewater and Calvin Pryor to the NFL. Bobby Petrino returns for his second stint in Louisville and I believe he’ll have this team up to speed quickly. Just four returning starters are back on defense and that will be an issue. The Cards have road trips to Syracuse, Boston College, Clemson and Notre Dame while getting tough home games against Miami in the opener and Florida State on a Thursday night. This could be a nine-win season.
Boston College 33/1 – Head Coach Steve Addazio did a nice job by getting the Eagles back to a bowl game in 2013 but the task in 2014 will be more difficult because he only has three starters back on offense. One that is gone is running back Andre Williams who rushed for over 2,000 yards last season. I find the schedule to be too much for the Eagles as they host Pitt, Clemson, USC and Louisville while hitting the road to Virginia Tech and Florida State. If Addazio can get this team to six wins it will be a terrific effort.
Syracuse 33/1 – Want a surprise team to lay some money on in this division then here you go. Second-year coach Scott Shafer returns eight starters on offense and seven on defense from a team that finished the year with a nice bowl win over Minnesota. The non-conference schedule should result in at least three wins out of four with only Notre Dame in MetLife Stadium being a challenge. They get division heavyweights Florida State and Louisville at home as well as ACC foe Duke. If they can stay healthy, they could make a bit of noise.
NC State 40/1 – The Dave Doeren era enters year two and he welcomes 14 starters (7/7) back from a team that won just three times and was winless in the ACC. The non-conference schedule is pathetic and the Wolfpack also get Florida State and Georgia Tech at home. They must travel to Louisville, Clemson and North Carolina. I see more than three wins but I wouldn’t count on much more than that.
Wake Forest 100/1 – Dave Clawson comes to Winston-Salem in hopes of rebuilding a once-competitive program. The Deacons had just four wins in 2013 and lost their last five games. Clawson’s Bowling Green teams were very solid in the MAC and he looks to build the same type of program here with ten starters (5/5) returning. The conference schedule starts brutally on the road against Louisville, Florida State and Duke but they do get Clemson and Virginia Tech at home. A six-win season and bowl berth would be a great start to the Clawson era.
The Pick: FSU has too much darn talent to go against so don’t. If you’re feeling crazy though, Syracuse could fit the bill.