The ACC has long been considered the redheaded stepchild when it comes to ranking the power conferences. While the conference is getting better, it’s still nowhere near considered the power player that the SEC and Pac-12 are.
This year, Clemson and Florida State are once again the headline acts while Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Miami and North Carolina will try to convince us that they are teams on the rise (or possibly teams that have arrived). The Coastal should be a battle of the four aforementioned teams while the Atlantic is merely a battle for third place as the Tigers and Seminoles duke it out.
Here’s a look at what to expect from the ACC in 2013:
Sleeper: Georgia Tech
Paul Johnson’s seat is getting warm but a new quarterback and a new defensive coordinator should help him ease that pressure. Ted Roof should give the defense a boost and if first-time starting quarterback Vad Lee can guide the offense, this team could surprise. Regardless of what anyone says, the Coastal Division is a tight race between Miami, Georgia Tech, North Carolina and Virginia Tech, and the Yellow Jackets will host two of those three teams on the Flats.
Team With The Easiest Schedule: North Carolina
Sure, they open the season in South Carolina in a game that they aren’t expected to win but when you look at the conference schedule, it’s a walk in the park. There’s no Clemson, no Florida State and they get Miami in their own backyard. The trip to Blacksburg won’t be as difficult as years past because the Hokies are in flux, while visits to Pittsburgh and N.C. State are manageable. Even if they lose to South Carolina, their schedule has them in line for a good year. We should keep an eye on them for our college football picks this year.
Team With the Toughest Schedule: Florida State
They start the season on the road in Pittsburgh and then will be tested at home by Nevada, although they should win. Still, they have to travel to Death Valley and to Florida – two teams who start the season highly ranked – and also have what could be a tricky visit to Wake Forest. Their regular season win total is at 10 on most NCAAF betting odds boards, and 11 wins (the over) could be a tall order considering their challenging schedule.
Team Most Likely To Win: Clemson
It’s just hard to bet against them right now. North Carolina, Miami and Georgia Tech have sleeper potential but each of those teams is too flawed to take down the Clemson Tigers. Dabo Swinney’s crew is fresh off their fourth 11-win season in school history and returns quarterback Tahj Boyd and a very explosive offense. Florida State is their biggest threat but the deciding factor will likely be that the Seminoles have to visit Death Valley on October 19th. The winner of that game decides the conference and it’s just hard to see the Seminoles – and their rebuilding offense – getting the job done in Clemson. In the ACC Championship Game, the experienced Tigers should take care of business from whoever the Coastal presents and return to the BCS.