2014 Scout ACC Football Preview

Jameis Winston

A snapshot preview of the ACC, the home to the defending national champions, Florida State...

For the first time since 1999, the new season begins with the defending national champion residing in the Atlantic Coast Conference. The win by the Seminoles and the strong finish of other schools – Clemson and Duke for example – have helped raise the profile of the league heading into the new year.

Coaches in the league expect Florida State to win again, but as Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino said, “This is a conference with elite teams all up and down it,” adding that “it’s fun because it’s so competitive.”

The Seminoles are the preseason pick to win the title with reigning Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston back to lead the attack for Florida State. Head coach Jimbo Fisher has a boatload of talent on both sides of the ball returning.

Clemson lost almost 80 percent of its offense from a year ago but is still picked second in the Atlantic Division with newcomer Louisville third ahead of Syracuse, North Carolina State, Boston College and Wake Forest.

It’s anyone’s guess who can win the Coastal Division with the media selecting Miami despite a 36-9 loss to Louisville in the Russell Athletic Bowl to end the season. Duke was picked second followed by Virginia Tech, North Carolina, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest and Virginia.

Overall, coach Fisher said the league boasts “a whole lot of talent,” and the season “should be fun.”

OFFENSIVE MVP
QB Jameis Winston, Florida State
– The reigning Heisman Trophy winner helped the Seminoles to a national title last season but could be slowed down this fall. He lost more than 3,500 yards of weapons to the NFL although still has plenty to work with at FSU.

DEFENSIVE MVP
DE Vic Beasley, Clemson
– The senior led the ACC last season with 13 sacks, turned down a shot at the NFL and will anchor the Tigers defense. He’ll be in the mix for a bunch of national awards.

BREAKOUT PLAYER
CB Kendall Fuller, Virginia Tech
– Fuller started 12 of 13 games as a true freshman, could have the potential to be one of the best defensive players in the league, and has been called the best recruit of the Frank Beamer-era.

COACH ON THE HOT SEAT
Mike London, Virginia
– The first question to London at ACC Kickoff was about what he needed to do to keep his job. The Cavaliers went 2-10 last season and London is known as a great recruiter, but he needs to win on the field.

SLEEPER TEAM
Louisville
– The Cardinals are newcomers to the league this season and are picked third in the Atlantic Division. But Louisville has a lot of talent back on a team that won 23 games in two years, and the schedule is generous.

MUST-SEE CONFERENCE GAME
Clemson at Florida State
– Two of the top programs in the country will battle for what appears to be the top spot in the Atlantic Division. The defending national champions get to host the Tigers after waltzing into Clemson last season and pulling off a 51-14 win when the Tigers were ranked higher.

MUST-SEE NON-CONFERENCE GAME
Notre Dame at Florida State
– The defending national champion Seminoles have a long list of top games but none is more intriguing than when the Fighting Irish come to town. Notre Dame will get a shot to take down the champs.

IMPACT RECRUIT
RB Dalvin Cook, Florida State
– There’s a reason Cook enrolled early at FSU: to play early. He’s a talented kid from Miami with 4.4 40-yard speed and he will get the ball in the Seminoles offense a lot.

BEST TAILGATING
Death Valley (Clemson)
– It’s not just the rubbing of Howard’s Rock or running down the hill that are great traditions at Clemson. Nope, it’s also the tailgating. In fact, the school has been voted No. 1 among tailgating schools several times by Southern Living magazine. They start early, go back to the parking lot at halftime, and stay late at Clemson.

BOLD PREDICTION
Louisville will pull off the upset
– The Cardinals are in the ACC for the first time this season and everyone is excited until they spring an upset. That is likely to happen with two shots at a major upset, hosting Florida State and playing at Clemson. Bobby Petrino will lead the Cards to a victory in one of those games and to a fourth straight bowl game.

HEISMAN CANDIDATES
1. QB Jameis Winston, Florida State
2. RB Duke Johnson, Miami
3. DE Vic Beasley, Clemson
4. RB Karlos Williams, Florida State
5. WR Tyler Boyd, Pittsburgh

TOP QUARTERBACKS
1. Jameis Winston, Florida State
2. Anthony Boone, Duke
3. Marquise Williams, North Carolina
4. David Watford, Virginia
5. Cole Stoudt, Clemson

TOP SKILL POSITION PLAYERS
1. RB Duke Johnson, Miami
2. WR Tyler Boyd, Pittsburgh
3. WR Jamison Crowder, Duke
4. WR DeVante Parker, Louisville
5. RB Karlos Williams, Florida State

TOP DEFENSIVE PLAYERS
1. DE Vic Beasley, Clemson
2. DE Mario Edwards, Florida State
3. LB Denzel Perryman, Miami
4. S Anthony Harris, Virginia
5. CB P.J. Williams, Florida State

BIGGEST SHOES TO FILL
1. QB Will Gardner, Louisville
2. QB Cole Stoudt, Clemson
3. WR Mike Williams, Clemson
4. OL Ereck Flowers, Miami
5. QB Virginia Tech (player unknown)

BREAKOUT PLAYERS
1. CB Kendall Fuller, Virginia Tech
2. RB Karlos Williams, Florida State
3. RB Dalvin Cook, Florida State
4. OLB Lorenzo Mauldin, Louisville
5. OL Laken Tomlinson, Duke

BEST HEAD COACH
1. Jimbo Fisher, Florida State
2. Dabo Swinney, Clemson
3. Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech
4. David Cutcliffe, Duke
5. Larry Fedora, North Carolina

TOP CONFERENCE GAMES
1. Clemson @ Florida State
2. Miami @ Virginia Tech
3. North Carolina @ Miami
4. Louisville @ Clemson
5. Florida State @ Louisville

TOP NON-CONFERENCE GAMES
1. Notre Dame at Florida State
2. Florida at Florida State
3. Clemson @ Georgia
4. Virginia Tech @ Ohio State
5. South Carolina @ Clemson

2014 RECRUITING CLASS RANKINGS
1. Florida State
2. Miami
3. North Carolina State
4. Clemson
5. North Carolina

A1. Florida State
By Jason Staples, NoleDigest.com
Offensive MVP: QB Jameis Winston
Defensive MVP: DB Jalen Ramsey
Top NFL Prospect: QB Jameis Winston
Breakout Player: RB Karlos Williams
Fan Favorite: WR Rashad Greene
Top 2014 Signee: RB Dalvin Cook
Impact Freshman: DT Derrick Nnadi
Must Win Game: Florida
Biggest Game of the Year: Vs. Florida
Best Road Trip: @Oklahoma State in Arlington, TX
Best Local College Sports Bar: AJ Sports Bar & Grill
Best Tailgating Spot: Stadium Drive
Outlook: The Seminoles are even more loaded than last year and have a manageable schedule. FSU should be the favorite to win the first CFB Playoff if they can hold up at the NT spot.
Season Prediction: 15-0, National Champions

A2. Clemson
By Roy Philpott, CUTigers.com
Offensive MVP: QB Cole Stoudt
Defensive MVP: DE Vic Beasley
Top NFL Prospect: DE Vic Beasley
Breakout Player: LB Stephone Anthony
Fan Favorite: DE Vic Beasley
Top 2014 Signee: QB Deshaun Watson
Impact Freshman: WR Artavis Scott
Must Win Game: South Carolina
Biggest Game of the Year: Vs. South Carolina
Best Road Trip: @Florida State
Best Local College Sports Bar: The Esso Club
Best Tailgating Spot: Lot 1
Outlook: A big season would be another 10 wins plus beating South Carolina. Defense will lead the way as the offense retools without Tajh Boyd.
Season Prediction: 10-2, Orange Bowl

A3. Louisville
By Jody Demling, CardinalAuthority.com
Offensive MVP: WR DeVante Parker
Defensive MVP: DE/LB Lorenzo Mauldin
Top NFL Prospect: WR DeVante Parker
Breakout Player: WR James Quick
Fan Favorite: DE/LB Lorenzo Mauldin
Top 2014 Signee: QB Reggie Bonnafon
Impact Freshman: B L.J. Scott
Must Win Game: vs. Miami
Biggest Game of the Year: vs. Florida State, Oct. 30
Best Road Trip: @ Clemson
Best Local College Sports Bar: Hoops Grill and Sports Bar, 6733 Strawberry Lane
Best Tailgating Spot: The Green Lot
Outlook: With new coach Bobby Petrino at the helm, the Cardinals have enough talent to make a run at a fourth straight bowl game. QB Will Gardner will be the key, replacing Teddy Bridgewater. But Cards have enough offensive talent to score a ton of points, defense needs to be solid.
Season Prediction: 9-3, Music City Bowl

A4. North Carolina State
By James Henderson, PackPride.com
Offensive MVP: QB Jacoby Brissett
Defensive MVP: DE Art Norman
Top NFL Prospect: OT Robert Crisp
Breakout Player: QB Jacoby Brissett
Fan Favorite: RB Shadrach Thornton
Top 2014 Signee: DE Kentavius Street
Impact Freshman: WR Bo Hines
Must Win Game: North Carolina
Biggest Game of the Year: Vs. North Carolina
Best Road Trip: @Clemson
Best Local College Sports Bar: Amedeo’s
Best Tailgating Spot: N/A
Outlook: NC State will be looking to rebound from a 3-9 season and we believe they will behind the play of quarterback Jacoby Brissett and an experienced defense. Season Prediction: 7-5, Bowl Bid

A5. Syracuse
By Christina Whiteside, CuseNation.com
Offensive MVP: QB Terrel Hunt
Defensive MVP: SS Durell Eskridge
Top NFL Prospect: OT Sean Hickey
Breakout Player: RB George Morris
Fan Favorite: WR Brisly Estime
Top 2014 Signee: WR K.J. Williams
Impact Freshman: WR Steve Ismael
Must Win Game: Maryland
Biggest Game of the Year: Vs. Florida state
Best Road Trip: @Clemson
Best Local College Sports Bar: Chuck’s Café
Best Tailgating Spot: Marshall Street
Outlook: Syracuse looking for improvement in year two of the Scott Shafer era. The Orange have a lot of returning starters with a favorable schedule.
Season Prediction: 8-4, Belk Bowl

A6. Boston College
By Jody Demling, EagleInsider.com
Offensive MVP: C Andy Gallik
Defensive MVP: S Sean Sylvia
Top NFL Prospect: OL Bobby Vardaro
Breakout Player: QB Tyler Murphy
Fan Favorite: RB Myles Willis
Top 2014 Signee: LB Connor Strachan
Impact Freshman: K Mike Knoll
Must Win Game: Sept. 5 vs. Pittsburgh
Biggest Game of the Year: Clemson, Oct. 18
Best Road Trip: at Florida State
Best Local College Sports Bar: Roggie’s Bar&Grille
Best Tailgating Spot: Shea Field, the school’s baseball stadium.
Outlook: The Eagles won seven game last season but have to replace a ton of starters and need to break in a new QB. They need some offensive punch to get things going and many top guys are youngsters.
Season Prediction: 5-7, no bowl

A7. Wake Forest
By Jody Demling, DeaconSports.com
Offensive MVP: WB Tyree Harris
Def MVP: S Ryan Janvion
Top NFL Prospect: C Cory Helms
Breakout Player: QB Tyler Cameron
Fan Favorite: MLB Brandon Chubb
Top 2014 Signee: DL Rashawn Shaw
Impact Freshman: WR E.J. Scott
Must Win Game: At Utah State
Biggest Game of the Year: Nov. 6 Clemson at home
Best Road Trip: At Florida State
Best Local College Sports Bar: Ziggy’s
Best Tailgating Spot: Parking Lots Surrounding BB&T Field
Outlook: The only team without a player on the all-ACC preseason team, new coach Dave Clawson has a rebuilding job to do; first off he must find a quarterback to run the team.
Season Prediction: 4-8, No Bowl

C1. Miami
By Bryan Knoll, CanesTime.com
Offensive MVP: WR Stacy Coley
Defensive MVP: LB Denzel Perryman
Top NFL Prospect: RB Duke Johnson
Breakout Player: DE Tyriq McCord
Fan Favorite: RB Duke Johnson
Top 2014 Signee: DE Chad Thomas
Impact Freshman: RB Joseph Yearby
Must Win Game: Virginia Tech
Biggest Game of the Year: Vs. Florida State
Best Road Trip: @Louisville
Best Local College Sports Bar: Sandbar
Best Tailgating Spot: With the college students
Outlook: The season may hinge on the health status of QB Ryan Williams.
Season Prediction: 9-3, Russell Athletic Bowl

C2. North Carolina
By Ben Sherman, InsideCarolina.com
Offensive MVP: RB Elijah Hood
Defensive MVP: LB Norkeithus Otis
Top NFL Prospect: LB Norkeithus Otis
Breakout Player: RB Elijah Hood
Fan Favorite: WR Ryan Switzer
Top 2014 Signee: RB Elijah Hood
Impact Freshman: RB Elijah Hood
Must Win Game: Georgia Tech
Biggest Game of the Year: Vs. Duke
Best Road Trip: @Clemson
Best Local College Sports Bar: Top of the Hill
Best Tailgating Spot: Craige Deck
Outlook: The Tar Heels could break through or could win 7 or 8 games - how quickly do the trenches jell? Is the defense ready to step up? Those answers will determine the season.
Season Prediction: 8-4, Music City Bowl

C3. Duke
By John Watson, TheDevilsDen.com
Offensive MVP: WR Jamison Crowder
Defensive MVP: S Jeremy Cash
Top NFL Prospect: WR Jamison Crowder
Breakout Player: CB Breon Borders
Fan Favorite: MLB Kelby Brown
Top 2014 Signee: WR Trevon Lee
Impact Freshman: WR Trevon Lee
Must Win Game: Pittsburgh
Biggest Game of the Year: Vs. North Carolina
Best Road Trip: @Georgia Tech
Best Local College Sports Bar: Devines
Best Tailgating Spot: Outside Wallace Wade
Outlook: If Duke can remain healthy and overcome the loss of Ross Cockrell in the secondary, the Blue Devils can sustain success.
Season Prediction: 8-4

C4. Virginia Tech
By Jody Demling, VTInsider.com
Offensive MVP: RB Trey Edmunds
Defensive MVP: DT Luther Maddy
Top NFL Prospect: CB Kendall Fuller
Breakout Player: WR Demitri Knowles
Fan Favorite: WR Willie Byrn
Top 2014 Signee: DB Holland Fisher
Impact Freshman: RB Shai McKenzie
Must Win Game: Georgia Tech
Biggest Game of the Year: Oct. 4 at North Carolina
Best Road Trip: at Ohio State
Best Local College Sports Bar: Top Of The Stairs
Best Tailgating Spot: Stadium lots
Outlook: The Hokies have been to 21 straight bowl games and that’s not likely to end but they do need to find a QB to replace Logan Thomas. There are offensive weapons to be successful on the roster.
Season Prediction: 9-3, Music City Bowl

C5. Pittsburgh
By Tony Greco, PantherDigest.com
Offensive MVP: WR Tyler Boyd
Defensive MVP: LB Todd Thomas
Top NFL Prospect: OL T.J. Clemmings
Breakout Player: RB James Conner
Fan Favorite: WR Tyler Boyd
Top 2014 Signee: WR Adonis Jennings
Impact Freshman: OT Michael Grimm
Must Win Game: Akron
Biggest Game of the Year: Vs. Virginia Tech
Best Road Trip: @Virginia
Best Local College Sports Bar: Bettis’ All-Star Grille
Best Tailgating Spot: Where you can find a spot, with the continued construction on Pittsburgh's North Side
Outlook: Paul Chryst isn't comfortable with his depth yet, but he's done a good job shaping this particular team. They could surprise some people.
Season Prediction: 8-4, Sun Bowl

C6. Georgia Tech
By Jonathan Leifheit, GoJackets.com
Offensive MVP: RB Zach Laskey
Defensive MVP: S Isaiah Johnson
Top NFL Prospect: OL Shaquille Mason
Breakout Player: LB Tyler Marcodes
Fan Favorite: WR DeAndre Smelter
Top 2014 Signee: A-Back Myles Autry
Impact Freshman: DE KeShun Freeman
Must Win Game: University of Georgia
Biggest Game of the Year: Vs. University of Georgia
Best Road Trip: @Tulane
Best Local College Sports Bar: Hudson Grille
Best Tailgating Spot: Student Center area parking
Outlook: Defense has many to replace but the prognosis is looking up. Offense needs Justin Thomas to step up in his first year as starter in order for this team to succeed.
Season Prediction: 8-4

C7. Virginia
By Jacquie Franciulli, HooNation.com
Offensive MVP: Kevin Parks
Defensive MVP: Anthony Harris
Top NFL Prospect: Anthony Harris
Breakout Player: Taquan Mizzell
Fan Favorite: Andrew Brown
Top 2014 Signee: Quin Blanding
Impact Freshman: Quin Blanding
Must Win Game: Virginia Tech
Biggest Game of the Year: Vs. Virginia Tech
Best Road Trip: @Florida State
Best Local College Sports Bar: Boylan Highlights
Best Tailgating Spot: West Gate
Outlook: Can Mike London win enough to stay off the hot seat and return in 2015?
Season Prediction: 4-8

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