How ACC Atlantic teams will stack up at season's end

ACC Kickoff begins Thursday, and the attending media will have a chance to pick their preseason favorites to win the Coastal and Atlantic Divisions. We thought we would take it a step further and give you the order in which we think the ACC's teams will finish the season. We picked the Coastal this morning, so next up is the Atlantic.

Andrea Adelson: Clemson and Florida State are legitimate playoff contenders playing in the same division. Someone has to win it, and I chose the Tigers for one reason: Deshaun Watson. He is the best player on either team and an elite difference-maker who will give Clemson the edge in every single game it plays this season. Louisville has a huge opportunity to emerge as a Top 25 team again and the potential to win 10 games, but I still think the Cards are a step behind the two best teams in the conference. With 16 starters back, I believe the Deacons will have their best showing since 2012. Boston College and Syracuse will be improved from last season, but still find themselves at the bottom.

Matt Fortuna: It’s hard to imagine a time in the Playoff era in which one division has two universally agreed upon tournament hopefuls. And though FSU gets Clemson at home this season, the Tigers have Watson at quarterback -- along with a more proven plethora of skill guys -- giving them the edge. Don’t be surprised if Clemson hands the Seminoles their only loss, though. Louisville could make a run, but is still a few steps behind the leaders in the talent department. Boston College’s offense can’t possibly be worse than last season, and the defense returns a majority of last season's elite cast. Oh, and Wake makes a bowl this year. Mark it down.

David M. Hale: Clemson and Florida State are two of the most talented teams in the country, both with legitimate national title hopes, but only one has a potential Heisman winner at quarterback, and that is why I’d give the Tigers a slight edge. Yes, their annual matchup is in Tallahassee, Florida, and yes, Deondre Francois could be the answer FSU is looking for at quarterback, but Watson is a special player, and it’s hard to imagine him leaving Clemson without another Atlantic title. Louisville might actually be the third-best team in the ACC, but the Cards remain a notch behind the top two. NC State’s defense could be very good this season, and Dino Babers' offense makes Syracuse a threat for a couple of upsets, even if the Orange aren’t consistently good.

Jared Shanker: Coaches around the league feel the Tigers are more talented. It’s not the sole reason I’m taking them, but it helped confirm they’re slightly better than Florida State on paper, enough to counter the Seminoles’ home-field advantage. At this moment, the Tigers have more answers on offense, and though the defense is going to dip, Brent Venables is one of the five best assistant coaches in the country. Louisville could knock off one of the two, but Bobby Petrino’s group is still one year away I think. They’re on the cusp in Year 3. NC State is still good enough to beat a struggling bottom half of the Atlantic.