As we creep along further into the lengthy college football offseason, we also have another installment of our early power rankings for the entirety of the ACC. As always, we take into account what’s happened both on and off the field (WHY, SAMMY WATKINS?!). This will be revised monthly throughout the offseason.
1. Florida State Seminoles (LW: 1): Based on recent news, you’d think FSU was more of a marketing opportunity than a football team, yet this years’ ‘Noles actually look pretty good. As we’ve given thought to previously, it’s all about how E.J. Manuel responds to the pressures of being a top-10 squad that will make or break them.
2. Clemson Tigers (LW: 2): Clemson remains at number two, only because the distance between this team and numbers three through 14 is a much wider gulch than most will let on. Even if the Tigers’ drop their Watkins-less opener against Auburn, there’s little that says this team can’t run through much of its remaining slate.
3. Virginia Tech Hokies (LW: 3): We still have no idea about this offense as it’s currently comprised. Will the O-line mature quickly enough? And the run-game? The pistol offense will be getting some play time during games, but we’re unsure how much. Just a lot of uncertainty for the Hokies, much of which gets glossed over because of its defensive strengths.
4. NC State Woflpack (LW: 4): If you read anything this offseason, you’d think the Pack were a two-man team. And you’d probably be right. Mike Glennon and David Amerson run things on their respective sides of the ball, and as long as no one messes up that dynamic, this will be a fun team to watch. The opener versus Tennessee should tell us a whole lot.
5. Virginia Cavaliers (LW: 6): The high school class of 2010′s best quarterback, Phillip Sims, is officially a Hoo. But when does he get to play? That, along with the question of transferring receiver (and his high school teammate) Quinta Funderburk‘s final landing spot are all Virginia fans can think about right now. The answers could jump them up even further in these rankings.
6. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (LW: 7): If the Wreck can recapture the offensive magic that worked so well through the first six games of 2011, we’re in for a real treat this season. It all comes down to quarterback Tevin Washington, though, and how he mitigates predictability. If he’s truly worked on the passing game this offseason, it could solve a lot of those issues.
7. North Carolina Tar Heels (LW: 5): Offense still promises to outweigh the defense in 2012, as this year could prove itself to be a training ground for a real special team in 2013. If they play without fear this season and work out whatever kinks they can, this young team could play well beyond its experience and truly contend going forward.
8. Pittsburgh Panthers (LW: 8): Again, Tino Sunseri needs to simply manage games, allowing an above-average defense and superb running game carry the load. Even if Ray Graham fails to come back at full strength, the show Isaac Bennett appeared to put on this spring should remove some concerns for Panthers fans.
9. Syracuse Orange (LW: 9): Ryan Nassib will be holding down the fort on offense, and for once, that appears to be this team’s strong point. The defense, after losing of the excellent 2010 unit these past two years, is full of question marks. But on the bright side, it can’t perform much worse than it did in 2011.
10. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (LW: 11): Does Wake have the pieces on either side of the ball to sniff a seven-win season this year? People didn’t think so last year either, but then Tanner Price, Chris Givens and Josh Bush surprised some folks, and suddenly they were a field goal from playing for the ACC championshp. With price leading the offense, perhaps it happens again.
11. Miami (FL) Hurricanes (LW: 10): The ‘Canes schedule difficulty and quarterback issues are going to be ongoing issues for 2012; ones that certainly won’t distract from the off-the-field melodrama. This team may be too young to succeed right now, but with the experience gained this year, comes hope for the future.
12. Duke Blue Devils (LW: 12): Duke’s season will be defined by how it performs in non-conference play. Go 4-1 and there’s a good chance they’ll be playing in the postseason. If they go any worse than that, it’ll be difficult conceiving anything beyond a 5-7 letdown
13. Boston College Eagles (LW: 13): Now that Montel Harris is officially gone from the program, Eagles fans have pretty much given up on the 2012 season. Fair or unfair, this has become a team in a constant state of upheaval and turmoil. The Frank Spaziani nightmare hopefully ends for them soon, and they can get back to rebuilding a program that had itself near the top of the mountain just four years ago.
14. Maryland Terrapins (LW: 14): C.J. Brown was sporadic and inconsistent last year, amidst injuries caused by his style of play. Whichever version of him shows up for Maryland this season will go a long way in deciding the team’s success and coach Randy Edsall’s job safety. Don’t hold out much hope, but then again, no one expected last year’s precipitous fall either.
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