The preseason Amway Coaches Poll is out. USA TODAY’s Paul Myerberg breaks down the biggest college football story lines from the top 25.
To get ready for the upcoming season, USA TODAY Sports is ranking each of the Power Five leagues from its best team through its worst. First up: the Atlantic Coast Conference.
That Clemson is 28 points better than Alabama â€” that was the case in January â€” provides insight into just how the Tigers have lapped the field in the ACC, which will again in 2019 present no formidable challenge to college footballâ€™s defending national champion.
Thatâ€™s in part a statement about Clemson and in part a comment on the state of the conference. If rife with parity in the Coastal Division and dotted with nine or more eventual bowl teams, the ACC has just one team set to compete for the College Football Playoff.
(Each team is followed by projected regular-season record. The number in parenthesis represents the teamâ€™s place in USA TODAY Sportsâ€™ summer 1-130Â rankings of the Bowl Subdivision.)
1. Clemson: 12-0 (No. 1)
The question isnâ€™t whether Clemson will win the ACC â€” itâ€™s whether Trevor Lawrence, Travis Etienne, Isaiah Simmons and the countryâ€™s best coaching staff can again go 15-0 in taking the national title.
2. Syracuse: 9-3 (No. 25)
Dino Babersâ€™ offense draws headlines, but itâ€™s the defense that makes Syracuse a New Yearâ€™s Six bowl contender, especially in an experienced secondary led by an All-AmericaÂ contender in safety Andre Cisco.
3. Miami: 8-4 (No. 33)
The Manny Diaz era begins with energy and optimism but unsettled personnel at quarterback, running back, offensive line and the secondary. There’s lots of talent in the front seven, though.
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4. Virginia Tech: 8-4 (No. 40)
Virginia Tech is intriguing for its wealth of returning experience on defense and the lack of a clear front-runner in the Coastal Division, though the offense needs to find a higher level of consistency through the air and on the ground for the Hokies to be taken seriously as a high-profile bowl contender.
5. Florida State: 7-5 (No. 43)
Seven wins is the baseline given FSUâ€™s talent, but thereâ€™s reason to be wary after a dreadful start under Willie Taggart and his staff in their first season. James Blackman needs to bring consistency to the quarterback position.
6. Virginia: 7-5 (No. 47)
This is a program on the rise under Bronco Mendenhall and a specific team very capable of taking the next step to the top of the Coastal Division. DB Bryce Hall is considered one of the nation’s best.
7. North Carolina State: 8-4 (No. 54)
With a dip coming on offense as N.C. State replaces standouts nearly across the board and with a dangerous lack of experience in general, the Wolfpack will make the postseason with room to spare but wonâ€™t strike fear into the top third of the conference.
8. Wake Forest: 7-5 (No. 58)
With options at quarterback, the makings of a solid pass rush and an underrated crop of defensive backs, look for the Demon Deacons to get back into bowl play but not be a factor for the top three in the Atlantic Division.
9. Boston College: 7-5 (No. 61)
Hereâ€™s what youâ€™ll get: Boston College will run the ball with AJ Dillon, play extremely physical at the point of attack and take games into the fourth quarter but likely top out at seven or eight wins.
10. Pittsburgh: 6-6 (No. 63)
Nothing if not interesting, the Panthers will make a bowl game, take a top-ranked team down to the wire, play beyond their expectations on defense, frustrate fans with a stretch of spotty play and contend in the Coastal Division race in November.
11. North Carolina: 5-7 (No. 75)
UNC is very much a borderline bowl team in Mack Brownâ€™s debut â€” that would be quite an achievement given the past two seasons and the 2019 schedule â€” but isnâ€™t quite there as a total package, even if the Tar Heelsâ€™ running game should be a success.
12. Duke: 5-7 (No. 78)
Itâ€™s never safe to bet against David Cutcliffe pasting together six or more wins to reach a bowl game, but the Blue Devils have issues at the offensive skill positions and have no identifiable strength on defense.
13. Georgia Tech: 4-8 (No. 86)
The Yellow Jackets are trending upward under new coach Geoff Collins but will hit on some noticeable growing pains as the program transitions to a new offensive scheme and reels in the sort of talent and personnel Collins needs on both sides of the ball.
14. Louisville: 3-9 (No. 104)
First-year coach Scott Satterfield has a proven blueprint but takes on quite the rebuilding project in the wake of the Bobby Petrino era, which hit on commendable highs but flatlined in his final season.
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