Countdown to kickoff: 38 days
Cade and Jake each took a look at the Atlantic and Coastal yesterday. Now I want to give a full picture of what the ACC will look like as a whole in 2017 and what players will take home the conference’s postseason hardware.
Is this biased? Maybe. But as is usually the case, nobody really knows what to expect of the Coastal in 2017.
While many are picking Miami to win the division, I think most would acknowledge the Hurricanes are not a team without its flaws. And Georgia Tech plays Miami following the Jackets’ bye week - though Miami is also off the week before the teams meet. The Jackets have beaten the Hurricanes just once in the teams’ last eight meetings dating back to 2009, but I think Tech turns around its fortunes against Mark Richt’s Canes this season.
Each of Miami, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and Pitt could all be reasonably slotted anywhere in the top four, so we’ll just have to wait for the ACC Coastal madness to take its course to see how it all shakes out. But I believe Georgia Tech will climb back to the top of the division and return to the ACC Championship Game in 2017.
The Atlantic has a much more consensus pick at the top. Florida State returns quite possibly the most talented team in the country with players like Derwin James and Deondre Francois. And even with the defending national champions in the division, it would be a fairly sizable upset for the Noles to not win the Atlantic.
I believe Clemson is still going to be an elite team in 2017, but the race for the Atlantic will come down to the November 11 matchup between the Tigers and Seminoles in Death Valley, and I think FSU leaves with the victory.
The rest of the division is mostly a toss-up. Louisville was one of the top teams in the country last season before falling off down the stretch, but returns the reigning Heisman Trophy winner at quarterback. NC State should be improved, but the degree to which that is the case is yet to be determined. Wake Forest looks to follow up a season in which the Demon Deacons appeared in their first bowl game since 2011.
The Atlantic should feature some good teams in 2017, but it’s FSU’s division to lose.
ACC Championship Game: Georgia Tech vs Florida State
Much like 2014, I believe the ACC Championship Game will feature a Georgia Tech team which has out-performed its expectations battling a Florida State team eyeing a spot in the College Football Playoff. Unfortunately, I also think it will have the same result. The Noles take home the conference title and move on to the Rose Bowl to play for a spot in the College Football Playoff National Championship.
Offensive Player of the Year: QB Deondre Francois, Florida State
It may seem crazy to not pick Lamar Jackson here, but everyone would have picked Deshaun Watson going into 2016 before Jackson burst onto the scene. Francois will make a leap from his solid freshman campaign to become the best offensive player in the ACC.
Defensive Player of the Year: DE Harold Landry, Boston College
In his first three years at Boston College, Landry has compiled 120 total tackles, 39.5 tackles for loss and 20 sacks. If the 2016 AP Second Team All-American can make even marginal improvement going into his senior year, he could rise to become the best defender in the ACC.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: RB Cam Akers, Florida State
Akers comes into Florida State ranked as the #2 overall recruit in the 2017 class, according to the 247Sports Composite Rankings. FSU obviously has a massive void in production left by the departure of Dalvin Cook to the NFL and it will be up to Akers and Jacques Patrick to fill it. Akers will establish his presence early and see his role expand throughout the season.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: DE/LB Joshua Kaindoh, Florida State
Joshua Kaindoh begins his freshman year at Florida State ranked as the #9 overall recruit in the 2017 class by the 247Sports Composite - the rich just keep getting richer. His versatility and ability to play both defensive end and linebacker will garner him playing time and an opportunity to expand his role and make an impact on the Noles’ defense in 2017.
Coach of the Year: Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech
Although Jimbo Fisher - who has somehow never been named ACC Coach of the Year - might have the best team in the ACC in 2017, this award usually goes to the coach who most out-performs his team’s expectations. And if Georgia Tech is playing in Charlotte in December, that would almost certainly be Paul Johnson. CPJ takes his team to the ACC Championship Game for the fourth time and wins his fourth ACC Coach of the Year Award.