Clemson should be top ACC team heading into 2015

Deshaun Watson should be one of the top QBs in the ACC next season if he can return from ACL surgery. (AP photo)

Deshaun Watson should be one of the top QBs in the ACC next season if he can return from ACL surgery. (AP photo)

I’ve written a lot about the SEC lately, so let’s take a look at how the ACC looks heading into 2015.

Georgia Tech and Clemson should be the favorites next season after the Yellow Jackets finished so strong — three wins over ranked teams in their final four games — and with Deshaun Watson returning for the Tigers.

Here’s a look at the ACC.

1. Clemson — Watson must recover from ACL surgery in December, but if he’s healthy, the Tigers could have the best offense in the ACC with so many other returning players.

2. Georgia Tech — Justin Thomas makes this offense go, and he’ll be back. The Yellow Jackets will be hit hard by other losses, but Thomas is the key to the offense.

3. Florida State — The Seminoles are losing several key players — QB Jameis Winston, TE Nick O’Leary, WR Rashad Greene, among others — but Jimbo Fisher has young guys ready to go.

4. Louisville — Despite several losses from that tough defense, Bobby Petrino has proven he knows how to win at Louisville. He’ll also need to make up for the loss of WR DeVante Parker, a sure first-round pick.

5. N.C. State — Like Cutcliffe has done at Duke, Dave Doeren is turning N.C. State around. The Wolfpack went from three to eight wins in 2014 and QB Jacoby Brissett will be back.

6. Duke — There will probably be a slip back to the pack a little bit, but David Cutcliffe has built the program to where we shouldn’t see a return to the dismal records of the past.

7. Virginia Tech — Frank Beamer will be quick to address and fix as many issues as possible in a season in which the Hokies were just 7-6 with some inexplicable losses.

8. Pittsburgh — New coach Pat Narduzzi — the only coaching change in the ACC — has the bruising James Conner at RB and will start transforming the defense into his style.

9. Boston College —Consecutive seven-win seasons have proved that Boston College can be a consistent winner in the ACC.

10. Miami — Life isn’t a beach these days for the Hurricanes, who lost their final four games this year to finish at 6-7. Brad Kaaya is a potential star at QB, but there are plenty of other problems.

11. North Carolina — Must. Fix. The. Defense. Oh, there are other issues to resolve, but Larry Fedora has hired Gene Chizik to start putting his fingers in all of the defensive leaks.

12. Virginia — Somehow Mike London survived another disappointing season. That’s three consecutive years without a bowl for the Cavaliers.

13. Syracuse — This season was a step back for the Orange, who went from seven wins and a bowl victory in 2013 to just three this year, including a season-ending five-game losing streak.

14. Wake Forest — The Demon Deacons had the worst offense in the FBS in 2014, something that must improve if they want to win more than three games next year.


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