ACC Football Kickoff countdown: No. 1

Summer ends here and the season unofficially begins in the ACC blog. Andrea Adelson and I are flying to Greensboro, N.C. on Saturday night for the ACC Football Kickoff, where we’ll spend two days interviewing players and coaches. For the past two weeks, we’ve been counting down the biggest storylines to the season. The conference-wide question this year hails from Death Valley, where we are wondering if the Tigers can carry the banner for the ACC this fall.

No. 1: Can Clemson win a national title?

It’s been a long time since expectations were so high at Clemson, and certainly the highest they’ve been under coach Dabo Swinney. Much of it has to do with three key components: The return of offensive coordinator Chad Morris, Heisman hopeful quarterback Tajh Boyd, and standout receiver Sammy Watkins. With four starters returning on the offensive line, Clemson should again be putting up eye-popping numbers, but will the defensive line be able to stop anyone? You can’t spell Doubt without the Tigers’ D, and it’s the biggest reason to hesitate when deeming Clemson national championship material. It should be better, though, in the second season under Brent Venables. It has to be elite, though, to handle the gauntlet that includes Georgia, Florida State and South Carolina. The good news is that nobody should be questioning Clemson’s schedule strength. The bad news? The Tigers have to be even stronger to survive it.

The countdown:

  • No. 10: Can Duke get back to a bowl game?

  • No. 9: Can UNC earn a real ring?

  • No. 8: How will the new quarterbacks fare?

  • No. 7: Can the ACC match its off-field success on the field this fall?

  • No. 6: How will Pitt and Cuse factor into the race?

  • No. 5: How will three new head coaches fare?

  • No. 4: What is happening at Miami?

  • No. 3: Will Virginia Tech rebound?

  • No. 2: Can Florida State reload?