Florida State Seminoles 9-4 (6-3)
Over the past three years, the Florida State Seminoles have a combined record of 39-3 and thus they’ve once again established themselves as the most dominant team in the Atlantic Coast Conference. From 1992-2005, the Seminoles won or shared the ACC Title 12 times and after a bit of a dry spell, they’ve won the last three conference titles as Florida State head football coach Jimbo Fisher has restored the school’s winning ways.
The ‘Noles were led by quarterback Jameis Winston in the past two years and once he decided to jump to the National Football League, they were expected to take a step back. But Florida State lucked out when senior quarterback Everett Golson elected to transfer to Tallahassee. Golsen comes to Florida State with a very checkered past as he formerly attended Notre Dame University. But Golson is a winner as he led Notre Dame to an undefeated regular season in 2012.
When the Seminoles begin the upcoming college football season, they’ll be inexperienced on the offense side of the football as they only return four starters from a squad that made it to the inaugural College Football Playoff. The Seminoles and Fisher will need a big season from sophomore running back Dalvin Cook who has tremendous potential, but he simply needs to put it together consistently.
Defensively the ‘Noles will have to replace some talent and Florida State defensive coordinator Charles Kelly will have his work cut out for him to improve a unit that was 63rd in the nation last season in total defense.
With a weak ACC schedule, Florida State’s 2015 college football season will come down to a three-week stretch where they’ll travel to face the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets and the Clemson Tigers which will determine whether or not that they’ll be able to make it back to the conference title game.
North Carolina State Wolfpack 9-3 (5-3)
The North Carolina State Wolfpack are coming off of their best single-season turnaround since 1972. And under head football coach Dave Doeren, the Wolfpack feel that they have what it takes to win the Atlantic Coast Conference for the first time since 1979.
After struggling for playing time at the University of Florida, quarterback Jacoby Brissett decided to transfer to NC State. 2014 marked Brissett’s first year of eligibility with the Wolfpack and he made a name for himself by throwing 23 touchdowns to just 5 interceptions. Brissett was also the third leading rusher for the Wolfpack and as a senior in 2015, he’ll be expected to put this N.C. State offense on his back. Aside from Brissett, the Wolfpack have senior running back Shadrach Thornton who needs to gain over 1,000 yards on the ground to give NC State a reasonable shot to win the Atlantic Division of the ACC and get to the conference title game for the first time in school history.
N.C. State has a very easy non-conference schedule as they’ll look to pile up the wins before they head into Atlantic Coast Conference play. The Wolfpack’s first two conference games will take place in a seven-day span as they’ll host the Louisville Cardinals before they travel to meet the always tough Virginia Tech Hokies. And if the Pack are able to survive that, they can look forward to hosting the Clemson Tigers on Halloween before traveling to meet the Florida State Seminoles on November 14 in a game that could potentially decided which school will represent the Atlantic Division in the ACC Title Game this December.
Clemson Tigers 8-4 (4-4)
For the first time since 1990, the Clemson Tigers are coming off of four consecutive seasons in which they won at least 10 games. And if the Tigers are able to win at least 10 games in 2015, it will mark the first time in school history that they’ve been able to pull of the feat in five consecutive years.
But for the Tigers to make that dream a reality, along with winning the Atlantic Coast Conference, they need sophomore quarterback Deshaun Watson to stay on the field. Watson showed flashes on being a play maker in 2014, and if he can remain healthy for Clemson head football coach Dabo Swinney this fall, he has the ability to be in the running to be named as the ACC’s Offensive Player of the Year. In recent years Clemson has become “Wide Receiver U.”, as they’ve been producing quality pass catchers that have gone on to the National Football League. And the Tigers have two more on the team this season in junior wide receiver Mike Williams and sophomore wide receiver Martavis Scott who should contend with one another to be first-team All-ACC.
The offense will have to pick up the slack for Clemson this season as the Tigers only return three starters on defense as defensive coordinator Brett Venables will have to get his unit ready on the fly to contend in the ACC.
During his time at Clemson, Swinney has been a consistent winner and his way could pay off once again in 2015 for the Tigers who’ll look to once again be in contention to win the ACC.
Louisville Cardinals 7-5 (4-4)
The first year for the Louisville Cardinals saw them contend for the top spot of the Atlantic Division in the Atlantic Coast Conference and in 2015, they want to win it. Louisville head football coach Bobby Petrino feels that he found his quarterback going forward in junior Will Gardner as Petrino loves to have system guys operating his offense.
Petrino has never had a reputation for quality defense, but it will be interesting to see how former TCU defensive end DeVante Fields will fit in as he looks to make an impact as an edge rusher this year at Louisville.
This go round in the ACC will more than likely be a little bit tougher for Louisville and it doesn’t help them that their non-conference schedule includes games against the Auburn Tigers of the Southeastern Conference and the Houston Cougars of the American Athletic Conference.
Syracuse Orange 3-9 (2-6)
Gone are the days when the Syracuse Orange football program was a national powerhouse. Syracuse hasn’t won or shared a conference title since 2004 and they have not finished the college football season ranked in the top 25 since 2001. And with a Syracuse team that is very short on talent for head football coach Scott Shafer, 2015 won’t be any easier for the Orange. Syracuse wanted the money that came with joining the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2013, but a huge wallet isn’t amounting to that many wins of the gridiron in Central New York.
Boston College Eagles 3-9 (1-7)
The Boston College Eagles are coming off of consecutive winning seasons under head football coach Steve Addazio, but it will be difficult for them to make it three in a row. In 2014, the Eagles offense was led by dual-threat quarterback Tyler Murphy who is now in the National Football League and Addazio must find a way to replace him in order for BC to compete this year.
Boston College’s Atlantic Coast Conference schedule is a brutal one as it includes road games against the Duke Blue Devils, Clemson Tigers, Louisville Cardinals which comes after they begin conference play at home on Chestnut Hill against the Florida State Seminoles as it could be a long season for them.
Wake Forest Demon Deacons 2-10 (0-8)
The Wake Forest Demon Deacons football program will never be confused with being a national powerhouse as they’ve only had four seasons in which they finished ranked in the top 25. Dave Clawson is set to embark on his second season as the head football coach at Wake Forest, but being that the Demon Deacons lack top notch football facilities in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, they continuously are fighting an uphill battle with the top-tier programs in the Atlantic Coast Conference which means that 2015 will be another year that they’ll finish rather thin in the win column.
Virginia Tech Hokies 11-2 (8-1)
For nearly 30 years head football coach Frank Beamer has been the face of the Virginia Tech Hokies football program. Under Beamer, the Hokies have had a football program that consistently sends talent to the National Football League and they are also a squad that opposing teams aren’t exactly excited to play. The Hokies struggled through an up and down season in 2014 as they finished with a record of 7-6, but 2015 could be the year that they are able to regain their form as one of the top teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Led by senior quarterback Michael Brewer, Virginia Tech is set to return eight starters on offense. Brewer threw 18 touchdowns to 15 interceptions last season, but he should be able to be more efficient this season. Historically under Beamer, the Hokies have always had one of the top rushing attacks in the nation. But last season Virginia Tech was 89th in rushing which must improve if the Hokies are going to contend for the ACC Title in 2015.
However under Beamer, it is all about “Beamer Ball” which comes down to strong defense and solid special teams play. Defensive coordinator Bud Foster came to Virginia Tech with Beamer in 1987 and his unit could be one of the best in the nation for 2015. The Hokies return nine starters on defense and they have some players that have a future in the NFL. Led by senior defensive end Dadi Nicolas, the Hokies return their entire starting defensive line from a season ago and opposing offenses will need to avoid third and long situations against them as they can all rush the passer. Junior cornerback Kendall Fuller is one of the best cover corners in the country and he’ll feed off of the pressure that will be generated by Virginia Tech’s front four which could result in some interceptions.
The Hokies will have their hands full in their season opener when they host the Ohio State Buckeyes out of the Big Ten Conference who are the defending national champions, but outside of a road game against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets on November 12, it should be smooth sailing for Virginia Tech in the ACC.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 10-2 (6-2)
When opponents line up to face the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets under head football coach Paul Johnson, they know what they’re going to face, but it is still difficult for them to stop it. It’s all about the triple option rushing attack for the Yellow Jackets which will test an opponents discipline. Johnson’s triple option running game led the Jackets to winning the Coastal Division of the Atlantic Coast Conference last season and it could lead them to winning the conference altogether this year.
For the triple option to be effective, a team needs to have a solid quarterback. Junior quarterback Justin Thomas is coming off of a season in which he was Georgia Tech’s leading rusher and passer. Overall the Jackets had the best rushing attack in the nation in 2014, and you can expect more of the same this year.
The month of November will be a defining one for Johnson and Georgia Tech as they’ll face the Virginia Tech Hokies and Miami Hurricanes in two contests that could ultimately decide the winner of the Coastal Division before they meet their in-state rival from the Southeastern Conference in the Georgia Bulldogs to conclude the regular season.
Duke Blue Devils 9-3 (5-3)
As the Duke Blue Devils are set to begin their 94th year of football, they’ll enter the 2015 college football season holding their heads high as for the first time in school history, they are coming off of three consecutive bowl appearances. The administration in Durham, North Carolina has been patient with Duke head football coach David Cutcliffe and he has rewarded them as the Blue Devils have contended for the Atlantic Coast Conference Title in each of the last two seasons. Cutcliffe is an old-school football coach that is an offensive guru and he’s finally getting his chance to build a football program. And even though the Blue Devils have lost some talent to graduation, they will still be a force to be reckoned with in the Coastal Division of the ACC.
Pittsburgh Panthers 7-5 (5-3)
The Pittsburgh Panthers want to consider themselves as one of the better football programs in the nation, but they must face a harsh reality. The Panthers will begin this college football season with their fourth different head football coach since 2010. After Paul Chryst departed to become the head football coach at the University of Wisconsin, Pittsburgh athletic director Scott Barnes had to scramble to find a replacement. Barnes went to Big Ten country and pegged Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi to be the next head football coach at Pitt. Now Narduzzi’s job will be to develop a Panthers program that needs to find a way to consistently contend in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Narduzzi does have talent to work with at Pittsburgh in junior quarterback Chad Voytik, junior running back James Conner, and junior wide receiver Tyler Boyd. Boyd is one of the best wide receivers in the nation, but he will miss the start of the season as the result of off-the-field issues.
There aren’t too many soft spots in Pittsburgh’s schedule as Narduzzi will look to get his feet wet in the ACC.
North Carolina Tar Heels 7-5 (5-3)
The North Carolina Tar Heels embark on the 2015 college football season looking to change their recent trend. The Tar Heels have been consistently inconsistent as they have not had a double-digit winning season 1997. North Carolina head football coach Larry Fedora is entering his fourth season at Chapel Hill and he is looking for his program to take the next step in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Senior quarterback Marquise Williams has been the heart and soul of North Carolina’s offense over the past two years as he was the team’s leading rusher and passer last season. And the Tar Heels will need a healthy dose of him if they intend to contend in the ACC this year.
The Tar Heels will get things started in 2015 by renewing an old rivalry as they’ll meet the South Carolina Gamecocks of the Southeastern Conference. But as far as the Tar Heels, ACC slate goes, their last four games won’t be easy as they’ll meet the Duke Blue Devils, Miami Hurricanes, Virginia Tech Hokies, and the North Carolina State Wolfpack.
Miami Hurricanes 7-5 (4-4)
There are some folks that would love to see the Miami Hurricanes return to national prominence, but it isn’t that cut and dry for them. The Hurricanes don’t have the strangle hold on the South Florida region like they once did as far as signing the area’s top high school talent and they are also lacking top notch football facilities. Al Golden is entering his fifth season as the head football coach at Miami and with NCAA sanctions behind him, he is hopeful that his team will be able to make some noise in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
The ‘Canes and Golden do have a building block in quarterback Brad Kaaya. Kaaya is set to begin his sophomore year at Miami as he threw 26 touchdowns and passed for over 3,100 yards as a freshman in 2014. And Kaaya’s accomplishments in 2014 would see him named as the ACC’s Rookie of the Year.
The Hurricanes will face one of the toughest schedules in the ACC being that they’ll have road games against the Florida State Seminoles, Duke Blue Devils, and North Carolina Tar Heels, along with non-conference affairs against the Nebraska Cornhuskers of the Big Ten Conference and the Cincinnati Bearcats of the American Athletic Conference.
Virginia Cavaliers 2-10 (1-7)
After some early success with the Virginia Cavaliers, things have gone south for head football coach Mike London in Charlottesville. The Cavaliers are coming off of their third consecutive losing season as they’ve fallen by the wayside in the Coastal Division of the Atlantic Coast Conference as London is on the hot seat. And being that Virginia’s team won’t be loaded with talent this fall, a coaching change will more than likely be in the works for the Cavaliers.
ACC Championship Game: Florida State vs. Virginia Tech
Conference Champion: Virginia Tech
Sources: Cfbstats.com. Nationalchamps.net, Sports-reference.com