Spring is over across the ACC, though plenty of big questions remain. So who made the most of their practice time? Who’s still got some huge issues to address? Who’s trending up and who’s heading in the wrong direction? Yesterday, we looked at the Coastal Division, and today, we’re buying and selling the stocks in the Atlantic.
Boston College Eagles: Sell. A year ago, BC had the luxury of playing two FCS teams. This year, they’ve been exchanged for Notre Dame and Central Michigan. A year ago, BC had a veteran quarterback and the core of a defense Don Brown had developed into the nation’s best. This year will be different. A year ago, BC won seven games. It’s going to take a lot of things to go right for that to happen again in 2017.
Clemson Tigers: Hold. Are we comparing Clemson’s stock to how it ended last season? If so, this is probably a sell. After all, it’s hard to envision the Tigers matching that performance. But there’s still plenty of upside for Clemson, even after the departure of so much talent. Sure, the quarterback situation remains in flux, but we saw enough growth out of Hunter Johnson and talent from Zerrick Cooper that we’re confident an answer will emerge eventually.
Florida State Seminoles: Buy. It would’ve been nice to see a firm starting five emerge on the offensive line, but a spring of developing depth in the area most critical to FSU’s 2017 success isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Add in the solid springs from young talents like Cam Akers and Levonta Taylor and the healthy return of Derwin James and the Seminoles' stock might be ready to take off.
Louisville Cardinals: Sell. No team created more debate between ESPN's ACC crew than Louisville, and that’s probably because Louisville appears to be a legitimate wild card. The schedule isn’t overly tough, and the Cardinals do have Lamar Jackson, but question marks abound, too. The offensive line was a mess last season, and that’s rarely a quick fix. Has Jackson learned from last season's late struggles and taken another step, or have we already seen the best of him? And what about the defense? It’s gotten little attention, but DeAngelo Brown, Shaq Wiggins, Josh Harvey-Clemons, Keith Kelsey and others have moved on, and a new coordinator takes over. That’s a lot of mystery in a division that figures to be strong top to bottom.
NC State Wolfpack: Buy. Perhaps the best indication of a team on the rise is how strong it is in the trenches. NC State might have one of the nation’s top defensive lines and a veteran offensive line. That alone is encouraging, but add in unique playmakers like Jaylen Samuels and Nyheim Hines, an intriguing receiving corps and some physical linebackers, and there’s a lot to like. Then remember that the Wolfpack was a good kicker away from a 10-win season just a year ago.
Syracuse Orange: Hold. After a four-win campaign last season, a "hold" here probably isn’t what Orange fans want to hear. And given how bad the defense was last year, it almost has to improve. Still, the Orange need to get a lot better on that side of the ball to compete with the better teams in the Atlantic. In addition, quarterback Eric Dungey hasn’t been able to stay healthy and the ground game looks awfully thin. A 3-0 start isn’t unrealistic, but after that Syracuse will have to work to find two more wins on the schedule.
Wake Forest Demon Deacons: Sell. Truth is, Wake might be a better overall football team this season, but the path to another seven-win campaign is going to be tough. The Deacons swapped lowly Virginia for Georgia Tech from the Coastal, will play an improved Duke team, too, and adds Notre Dame to its nonconference schedule. Even Utah State and Appalachian State won’t be pushovers. Factor in that the quarterback situation still appears murky, and defensive stalwarts Marquel Lee and Brad Watson are gone, and it’s possible Wake falls shy of a bowl bid in 2017.