Preseason Power Rankings: ACC Conference
Please note that power rankings are meant to rank teams based on current team strength on a neutral field. It is not necessarily a projection of where I think teams will finish or who has a better resume. It is forward thinking but does not factor in strength of schedule, schedule breakdown, etc.
ICYMI Other Conference Preseason Power Rankings:
2021 ACC Preseason Power Rankings
- Clemson: Just like the previous 3 conference power rankings that I’ve done, #1 is a no-brainer here. Trevor Lawrence is gone, but newcomer DJ Uiagaleli started two games in his absence last year and performed very well. The O-Line has more experience this year and the Defensive Line and Linebacking corps are both very impressive.
- Miami: Most people have North Carolina here but I’m not all-in on the UNC hype yet (I saw them shoot themselves in the foot a few too many times last season). This ranking is dependent on D’Eriq King being all the way back from the knee injury he suffered in the bowl game last year. The reports are that he’s progressing well, but we will find out real quickly how accurate that is as the open up the season against Alabama. This is year #3 for Manny Diaz which often seems to be that magic year for head coaches making a leap with their team. They have lots of starters coming back on both sides of the ball and this could be the year we see The U jump back into the National spotlight.
- North Carolina: Sam Howell and UNC put up over 40 points a game last season but the losses at Florida State and Virginia put a bad taste in my mouth. They are losing their top 2 RBs and WR but they still have plenty of returning production coming back. They could be a wagon this year, but the defense needs to get better and they need to cut back on the shoot yourself in the foot type moments. They have a tough opener under the lights @ Virginia Tech. The crowd will be insane so we will learn a lot about this UNC team right off the bat.
- NC State: The Wolfpack are coming off a 7-3 season and have 19 returning starters. The schedule is brutal (UNC and Miami as crossover games and they also get Clemson) but that doesn’t factor into the power rankings. Devin Leary being back and healthy at QB should be a big boost. The front seven should be good on defense and they have a solid coaching staff.
- Florida State: Mike Norvell walked into a tough situation last season. I strongly believe that first year head coaches were at an extreme disadvantage with all the Covid-19 disruptions and having no Spring football. On top of that he was trying to implement the 4th new offense in as many seasons in Tallahassee. That being said, Mike Norvell is a good coach and I think he will get the ship turned around pretty soon. They had their moment last year with a big win over UNC but they had to deal with a lot of opt outs as the season went on. Former UCF QB McKenzie Milton is in line to be the QB and young Chubba Purdy (Brock’s brother) is waiting his turn.
- Louisville: The model that I use likes Louisville…the preview magazines… not so much. We’ll see who wins out. I do still like Scott Saterfield as head coach. It’s his 3rd year at Louisville which is that magic year for head coaches and he has playmaker QB Malik Cunningham back to lead his offense. The defense needs to get better, but Cunningham is good enough to keep them in lots of games even if the defense struggles.
- Virginia Tech: It’s tough to evaluate Va Tech’s 2020 campaign as it seemed like they were crushed by Covid every week. Their inactive lists always seemed to be very long. They typically have one of the best crowd environments in the conference and I’m excited to see that come back in 2021. I honestly think the raucous environments might impact the games a little more than usual in the early parts of the 2021 season. Fans will be even more fired up than usual to be back and many of the young opposing players will have never played in environments like that with the 2020 capacity limits that we’re in place.
- Virginia: Bronco Mendenhall is a strong coach with a good defensive background and his offenses have been steadily improving each year of his tenure. They have a strong dual threat QB in Brennan Armstrong and a do-everything athlete in Keytaon Thompson Jr that allows them to get really creative with their play calling. They may not win the Coastal again like they did in 2019 but they remain a player in the division.
- Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh looks like a potential sleeper team in this conference that we’ll keep our eye on. They were off to a strong start last year until QB Kenny Pickett got hurt and then ended the year strong when he returned, despite dealing with some late opt-outs. Pickett is back so they have an experienced senior QB which is always a nice thing to have going for you to go along with an exciting Freshman RB in Israel Abanikanda and a talented WR corps. If things go right, Pitt will start to climb these rankings pretty quickly.
- Boston College: My lasting memory of Boston College in 2020 was that time they almost beat Clemson when Trevor Lawrence was out. They were a team (like so many others) that had their Spring interrupted but that hurts a little extra when you are implementing a new offense and defense like Boston College was. They bring back Phil Jurkovec at QB who should be one of the stronger QBs in the conference. He has a great target in WR Zay Flowers who could end up being first team All-Conference.
- Wake Forest: The Demon Deacons look like one of the more experienced teams in the conference with 20 returning starters. But if the guys that are returning aren’t that good, that doesn’t mean a whole lot. They look like they have a pretty good offensive line, but everything else looks kind of middle of the pack to me. They’re not terrible, but there just isn’t a whole lot on paper that excites me right now.
- Georgia Tech: I’d buy your stock in Georgia Tech now because I do think this is a program that is a year away from making a jump. They’re located in one of the most talented States in the country for high school football and have the attraction of Atlanta to help sell the program to kids. It’s going to take a little time to transition from a triple offense as it takes a few recruiting cycles to overturn the roster personnel. I sound like a broken record, but covid was crippling to a team like Georgia Tech that was in the process of overhauling their offensive system and really needed a normal Spring and Fall Camp. They have good RBs and a nice O-Line and should make strides as the season goes on.
- Syracuse: 2021 might be the last nail in the coffin for Dino Babers. This is year 6 and looks to me like it will be the 5th losing season during that tenure. They should be a little improved, but virtually the conference is improved so I don’t see them making up any ground. They just don’t have the talent or coaching to keep up with the rest of the conference.
- Duke: The Blue Devils are the least experienced team in the conference. Not great for a team coming off a 1-9 conference season. I think it’s time for David Cutcliffe to go (unless he pulls that Arch Manning rabbit out of his hat…. Which is very unlikely). They are bringing in a new offensive coordinator, so maybe that will spark them somehow but I just am not seeing it right now.