Fall camps are up and running throughout the ACC, and a few things have changed since we last compiled our power rankings. So we’ve updated the list, and here’s how they stack up as we get set for the 2015 season.
1. Clemson Tigers: We’ve seen Deshaun Watson healthy and moving around on the practice field, and that’s enough to bump the Tigers back up to the top spot. The question of whether he can stay healthy all season still looms large, but for now, Clemson appears to be in good shape.
2. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets: The return of Jabari Hunt-Days to the defensive front should be a big help, and the addition of Patrick Skov to the depth chart at B-back fills a need. Right guard is probably the biggest concern as the Jackets approach the season opener.
3. Florida State Seminoles: It’s hard to remember the last time we knew so little about what to expect from Florida State. Jimbo Fisher has amassed plenty of talent, but there is not much in the way of experience -- particularly on offense. Everett Golson adds intrigue to the quarterback situation though, and it’s hard to envision too much of a setback for FSU.
4. Virginia Tech Hokies: Slowly but surely, the Virginia Tech bandwagon appears to be growing. There is little doubt the Hokies will have one of the nation’s best defenses (though the loss of C.J. Reavis hurts), but there seems to be increased enthusiasm that the offense can finally turn things around, too.
5. Louisville Cardinals: Though it’s not set in stone yet, Reggie Bonnafon appears the consensus favorite to win the starting quarterback job. The big question looming for Louisville is whether it can find Bonnafon a target with anything approaching the production DeVante Parker offered a year ago.
6. NC State Wolfpack: The Wolfpack have emerged as everyone’s favorite dark horse, and for good reason. The defense made big strides last season, and the offense appears filled with versatile weapons to go with quarterback Jacoby Brissett. A word of caution though: NC State was 0-5 against Power 5 teams that finished .500 or better last season.
7. Duke Blue Devils: The Kelby Brown injury was a huge blow to the defense, and Duke needs to find some answers in its front six. On offense, however, there’s plenty of enthusiasm about new quarterback Thomas Sirk, and he should have a talented backfield to help him.
8. Miami Hurricanes: The Canes moved up two spots from our spring rankings, but there are still lingering concerns about the receiving corps and the offensive line. Quarterback Brad Kaaya is an emerging star though, and the defense could actually be a bit better in 2015.
9. Pittsburgh Panthers: Pat Narduzzi’s job is to fix the defense, and if he can do that, there is no reason Pitt can’t be a legitimate contender. The Panthers have proven stars in James Conner and Tyler Boyd, and quarterback Chad Voytik took some big strides down the stretch last season.
10. North Carolina Tar Heels: We love the Tar Heels' offense, which should be terrific this season. But how much progress can Gene Chizik make in Year 1 on defense? North Carolina is just starting to install the bulk of its Tampa 2 scheme this fall, so there is a lot of ground left to cover.
11. Boston College Eagles: No coach in the ACC is better at finding wins where the pundits can’t than Steve Addazio, but he’s got a big task ahead of him: replacing his star quarterback and rebuilding an offensive line.
12. Virginia Cavaliers: The season is in the hands of Matt Johns now, and that’s probably a good thing for Virginia. This is a team with enough talent to be ranked higher, but the schedule is going to make it tough to get to six wins.
13 (tie). Syracuse Orange: A healthy Terrel Hunt should help the offense, but there is huge turnover on defense, too. The Orange need to identify playmakers on both sides of the ball, and right now, that looks like a tall order.
13 (tie). Wake Forest Demon Deacons: Dave Clawson is building from the ground up at Wake, and he’s still getting the foundation installed. That’s progress in the big picture, but we’re still not projecting many wins on the field.