The storyline that’s been driven home during the offseason in the ACC is pretty clear.
While the Coastal Division is kind of up for grabs, the Atlantic Division – and the conference title – is going to come down to two teams – Florida State and Clemson.
The two teams couldn’t be more different. Clemson is riding high after a stellar defensive performance against LSU in its bowl game last season. It’s boosted by the return of senior quarterback Tajh Boyd.
Florida State, which won the conference and the Orange Bowl last year, is looking to true freshman quarterback Jameis Winston to lead a very young team – with just four returning starters on defense and a new defensive coordinator – back into the national picture yet again.
It’s experience versus youth. In this offseason, the nod has gone to experience, even if experience’s name is Clemson. This is your year, Clemson. That’s what the talk has been.
Fortunately for college football fans across the nation, these two teams will actually meet on the field to determine supremacy. And depending on how you spin the statistics, that’s either the best thing ever or the worst thing ever for the Clemson faithful.
Clemson holds an all-time record of just 8-18 against Florida State. That’s the bad news. The better news is that over the past 10 years, Clemson leads the series, 6-4. But the best news is that the two teams have been alternating wins over the past five meetings. Florida State won the game last year, meaning yes, Clemson, this is your year.
Now, let’s see if you can get past Georgia this weekend, and we’ll start getting serious.
IN: Pittsburgh, Syracuse
The two former Big East members head, erm, East to join the conference this fall. Pitt, which isn’t located anywhere near a coast, unless you count the banks of the Monongahela, Allegheny or Ohio rivers, is in the Coastal Division. Syracuse, which actually would appear to be more coastal, situated closer to Lake Ontario, will join the Atlantic because … well, we all know how much conference naming makes sense by now, don’t we?
OUT (Maybe? Hopefully? With any luck at all?): Miami’s sanctions
The dark cloud that’s been hanging over the Hurricanes may finally be over, but no one’s exactly sure just yet. Miami, which just came out of a self-imposed postseason ban thanks to the Nevin Shapiro scandal, is still waiting to hear from the NCAA whether or not more sanctions will be handed down. School officials met with the NCAA in June … and everyone is still waiting. For now, Miami is postseason eligible. And after the nice season the Hurricanes put together last year, let’s hope it stays that way.
IN: Steve Addazio, Dave Doeren, Scott Shafer
Three new coaches will join teams in the ACC this season. Addazio, who rose to prominence as an offensive assistant at Florida, then promptly shuffled off the radar after going 13-11 in two years as the head coach at Temple, escaped a bit further north to take the reins at Boston College. Doeren was the offseason coaching superstar after he led Northern Illinois to an Orange Bowl appearance last season. Now, he’s the coach at N.C. State. Shafer becomes a head coach for the first time in his career, moving up from defensive coordinator to head coach at Syracuse after former Orange head coach Doug Marrone took the coaching job with the Buffalo Bills.
Game of the Year
1. It has been quite the turnover in the offseason coaching circuit in the ACC. Not counting the three new head coaches and their new staffs, there are seven new coordinators on sidelines this year. Virginia Tech, Virginia and Miami all hired new offensive coordinators, while Virginia, Pitt, Georgia Tech and Florida State all hired new defensive coordinators.
2a. Florida State has been in a bowl game every year since 1981. To put that in perspective, this year’s graduating seniors were born in 1991.
2b. On the other end of the spectrum, Duke played in a bowl game last season, ending an 18-year bowl drought.
3. Clemson’s hopes at a national championship could be doused in the very first week of the season as it doesn’t have a strong history against Georgia. Clemson’s all-time record against the Bulldogs is just 17-41-4, with its last win coming in 1990. The two teams last met in 2003, with Georgia winning 30-0.
4. The ACC has rolled out the red carpet in the offseason to welcome its new members to the conference. But once the season gets underway? Forget about it. Other than the fact that both newcomers play their conference openers at home, that’s about all the hospitality they get. Pitt opens this weekend against Florida State. Syracuse has to wait until October 5 to play its first ACC game, where it will host Clemson. Welcome, indeed.
All three of the preseason magazines that make bowl predictions have Clemson winning the ACC and representing the conference in the Orange Bowl.
- Athlon: Orange Bowl vs. Notre Dame
- Sporting News: Orange Bowl vs. Louisville
- Lindy’s: Orange Bowl vs. Louisville
Predicted to be the runner-up in the Coastal Division to Clemson, Florida State is predicted to represent the ACC in a major bowl game. One magazine, though, has Florida State shaking things up a bit in the postseason.
- Athlon: Chik-Fil-A Bowl vs. South Carolina
- Sporting News: Chik-Fil-A Bowl vs. Georgia
- Lindy’s: Sugar Bowl vs. Texas A&M
Your Guess is as Good as Ours
The four preseason magazines didn’t really agree on much on anything when it comes to Virginia Tech this season. USA Today has Virginia Tech winning the Coastal Division title with a 9-3 overall record, tied with Miami but apparently winning the tiebreakers as Virginia Tech is listed above Miami in its projected standings. Athlon Sports has the Hokies finishing with an 8-4 overall record and second in the Coastal, with a Sun Bowl appearance. Lindy’s has Virginia Tech finishing third in the Coastal, behind both Miami and Georgia Tech.
But the kicker might be the Sporting News, which puts the Hokies in fourth place in the division, behind Miami, North Carolina and Georgia Tech, with a lowly Independence Bowl appearance. Not only that, it lists Virginia Tech as the team in the conference that is “descending.” So, anything from playing in the ACC title game to barely qualifying for a bowl. Yep, sounds about right.
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