Preseason ACC power rankings: Is Notre Dame a threat to Clemson? Miami and FSU ready to win big?

Preseason ACC rankings for 2020 are a little bit unusual with Notre Dame as a full-time member this year, so can the Fighting Irish put up a fight against Clemson and end their reign as ACC football champions?

If you are in the camp of those who want to eliminate divisions in conference play, this season is a pleasant dream. The ACC joins the Big 12 and the AAC in eliminating divisional play. The two teams with the best records will play for the conference championship.

The ACC eliminated divisions due to the addition of Notre Dame to the conference. Before everyone breathes that collective sigh of relief, it is for one season only. Their addition to the conference gives the ACC 15 teams.

There are many compelling stories to follow in the ACC this season. Each team plays a nine-game conference schedule with a plus one to get a 10-game schedule. How will we view a team without the “cupcake” team on their schedule?

Can Miami finally make winning the offseason mean something in the regular season? Can James Blackmon level up and elevate the Seminoles this season? Can the Tar Heels take another step?

Preseason ACC power rankings have Clemson in the top spot, but is Notre Dame really a threat? And are Miami and Florida State ready to return to form?

15. Georiga Tech

The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets are going to be one of the more improved teams in the ACC this season. They have to be after being one of the worst Power 5 teams a year ago. It is likely true freshman Jeff Sims will be handed the reins at quarterback this season. They will take their lumps but don’t be surprised to see more points and fewer blowouts this year.

14. Syracuse

Syracuse could easily swap with the ‘Jackets. In a season where talent, coaching and continuity are imperative, the Orange lack in two of those departments. Syracuse lost their leading receiver and leading rusher from last season. The Orange also lost their two top pass rushers as well. The offensive line was awful last season and not much will change this season either.

13. Boston College

Quarterback Phil Jurkovec received his waiver to play this season after transferring from Notre Dame and the Eagles return a veteran offensive line and receiver Kobay White took his name out of the transfer portal and is returning to Boston College. New head coach Jeff Hafley has a cupboard that is not empty. However, they need more firepower to compete with the top of the ACC.

12. North Carolina State

NC State head coach Dave Doeren is in a pivotal season. After back-to-back nine-win seasons, the Wolfpack bottomed out with a 1-7 record in the ACC and a 4-8 overall mark. Is Devin Leary going to take a massive leap in his development at quarterback? The Wolfpack has a pair of talented running backs, but the receivers are not big-play threats. Doeren needs to finish this season at least .500 to stay off the hot seat in Raleigh.

11. Duke

Does Clemson transfer Chase Brice go the way of Hunter Johnson or Kelly Bryant? Johnson transferred to Northwestern and led them to one of their worst offensive seasons in school history. Bryant went to Missouri and was average. The Blue Devils would take the average. Duke’s defense should be decent if they can stay healthy. If the offense can score some points, they might win some games.

10. Virginia

The Cavaliers lost a large percentage of the offensive production from last year’s Coastal champions. Not only is quarterback Bryce Perkins gone, but Hassan Dubois and Joe Reed are also gone. Bronco Mendenhall and his staff named Brennan Armstrong the starting quarterback over Mississippi State transfer Keytaon Thompson at quarterback. How much better is the Cavaliers’ offensive line? Virginia’s defense is still pretty stacked with Charles Snowden and Zane Zandier anchoring the linebackers.

9. Miami

This is the second season the Hurricanes won the offseason. Miami brought in Quincy Roche, D’Eriq King and former No. 1 recruit and UCLA defensive end Jaelan Phillips via the transfer portal. Hall of Famer Ed Reed was brought in to help with the cultural issues in the program and Rhett Lashlee was brought in to coach the offense. But then they lost All-American Gregory Rousseau who opted out and declared for the NFL Draft. If King can play as he did at Houston, he’s a Heisman candidate who could lead Miami from No. 9 in the preseason ACC power rankings to a spot in the top-three by the end of the year.

8. Virginia Tech

Expectations have been all over the place for Justin Fuente since succeeding Frank Beamer. The Hokies have been perennial contenders to win the division but Fuente has been more of a frequent member of the hot seat watch list more than anything. It’ll hurt to lost Caleb Farley who opted out and declared for the NFL Draft ahead of the season.

7. Louisville 

Scott Satterfield’s Louisville Cardinals might have the most underrated offensive skill players outside of Clemson in the ACC this season. There is little doubt they will score points. The suspicion is if they can stop their opponents from scoring points. Their defense was awful last year. Not only are there questions about their defense, but their offensive line was terrible last season as well. This season that offensive line is without offensive tackle Mehki Becton, who was a first-round draft pick last season.

6. Wake Forest

Wake Forest will definitely miss quarterback Jamie Newman who transferred to Georgia. And they’ll miss his top target from a year ago, wide receiver Sage Surratt who opted-out of the season. Head coach Dave Clawson finds a way to win games and you can’t sleep on Wake Forest or they’ll upset you.

5. Pittsburgh

The Panthers arguably have the best defense in the conference this season, even without Jaylen Twyman. This is Year 2 for Kenny Pickett in Mark Whipple’s offense. What Pitt does not have is an impact running back. The Panthers have one every season. From Tony Dorsett to LeSean McCoy to James Conner, Pitt is always able to run the ball. But the Pitt offense needs playmakers on the perimeter to complement what should be a nasty defense.

4. North Carolina

The Tar Heels are in Year 2 under Mack Brown as they look to prove last year wasn’t a fluke and was more of something for UNC to built on. Sophomore quarterback Sam Howell can put up similar numbers to Trevor Lawrence as one of the top signal-callers in the nation but they won’t sneak up on anyone this season either.

3. Florida State

Florida State is this high on the list because they have one of the best defensive units in the ACC, led by All-American defensive tackle Marvin Wilson. First-year head coach Mike Norvell was a big winner at Memphis and looks to get FSU back to their winning ways after the dismal Willie Taggart era.

2. Notre Dame

Notre Dame might be the only team in the ACC who has enough offense and defense to take advantage of the few weaknesses Clemson has. Ian Book is not a star, but he is a steady hand at quarterback. They’ve upped the ante on speed. Freshmen Chris Tyree and Jordan Johnson should get a lot of snaps at running back and receiver, respectively. The defense will be just as good as they were last season. They could challenge for the ACC this season.

1. Clemson

The preseason No. 1 team in the AP Top 25 tops the ACC power rankings. Clemson has questions at receiver after losing Tee Higgins to the NFL and Justyn Ross to a season-ending injury but Heisman-favorite Lawrence and All-American running back Travis Etienne bypassed the NFL Draft to try and win another national championship.

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