ACC Atlantic: Seminoles Still in the Chips
Florida State is still basking in the glow of its third national championship as its title defense is now only three weeks away.
And it's no surprise the Seminoles are heavy favorites to win the ACC again, even though they're in the much tougher Atlantic DIvision.
The Noles return Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston, and if he stays out of trouble, the Seminoles will be favored to win every game. Winston has Karlos Williams in his backfield and Rashad Greene downfield as key elements in what should once again be a dynamic offense. The defense is always good, and with two of their toughest games -- Nôtre Dame and Clemson -- at home, Florida State should indeed rule again in 2014.
Clemson is keen for revenge over last season's 51-14 shellacking at home to Florida State, but Dabo Swinney and the Tigers must replace quarterback Tajh Boyd and all-everything receiver Sammy Watkins. Cole Stoudt takes over at quarterback; he'll have to learn in a hurry as Clemson opens at Georgia and plays Florida State three weeks later.
Louisville is now a full-fledged ACC member and could challenge Clemson for the second spot in the division. Bobby Petrino is back as the head coach and is hoping that Will Gardner can adequately replace Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback. The schedule is tough, however, as the Cardinals have to travel to Clemson and Nôtre Dame, while getting Miami and Florida State at home.
The rest of the divison will be fighting for winning seasons and bowl spots. Syracuse is rising but not there yet under coach Scott Shafer. The Orange have a brutal stretch in late September and early October where they play Nôtre Dame, Louisville, and Florida State in successive weeks. That may just knock them out of contention early. The Cuse's old rival, Boston College, will have to go without running back André Williams, but the Eagles are on a gradual arc of annual improvement under coach Steve Addazzio after getting to a bowl game last season. But they still have a long way to go to match their memories of the 1959 team's national championship:
North Carolina State and Wake Forest are rebuilding, so it'll likely be tough going for them in this division. Jacoby Brisset hopes to slide in at quarterback for the Wolfpack, who were 3-9 last year.
Wake Forest, 4-8 last season, has a new coach in Dave Clawson. Most of the offensive specialists have graduated, so Clawson must start from scratch and let his defense carry him for now.
The early game of the campaign in this division is Clemson at Florida State on 20 September. If the Tigers pull the major upset, they'll host Louisville three weeks later in Death Valley on a Thursday night, which could turn into a game for the ages. Whoever wins this division will be a solid favorite to win the ACC title game in December.