Similar to how I did this yesterday, I'm going to put my predicted standings and then give my explanations.
Clemson has a chance to be something special this year. It's all on the shoulders of Deshaun Watson, though. Last year, Watson missed a good portion of the year due to injury, but in the games that he played, he made a noticeable impact on the Tigers' offense. According to Bill Connelly, games where Deshaun Watson was the primary quarterback, the offense averaged more than a yard and a half more per play and also scored 13 more points per game. If he can stay healthy (a tough task with four new starters on the offensive line), it could be a special season for the Tigers. On defense, the Tigers have a great opportunity to reload to replace Vic Beasley and Grady Jarrett from the defensive line. Looking to become the primary pass rusher is 6-foot-3 275-pound Shaq Lawson. Although bigger than Beasley, Lawson should put up some good sack numbers from the strong side. True freshman Christian Wilkins should also make an impact at defensive tackle. In this prediction, Clemson's wins come against Boston College, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Miami, NC State, Syracuse and Wake Forest, with their lone loss coming to Louisville.
Florida State lost a lot of talent from last year's team. It all starts at the quarterback position for the Seminoles, though, with former Heisman winner Jameis Winston. While Winston didn't put up the gaudy Heisman-winning numbers he put up his freshman season, he painted a new picture for himself as a clutch quarterback. For a while, it seemed like there was no deficit he couldn't turn around. Now that he's gone, though, that position rests on either junior quarterback Sean Maguire and grad transfer Everett Golson. It's also not helpful that Florida State lost its two best receviers in Rashad Greene and Nick O'Leary, not to mention virtually the entire offensive line. On defense, the Noles have to replace three starters on the defensive line, but return the leading tackler in inside linebacker Reggie Northrup. In this prediction, Florida State's wins come against Boston College, Louisville, Miami, NC State, Syracuse and Wake Forest, with their losses coming against Clemson and Georgia Tech.
In Louisville's first season in the ACC, they certainly made their presence known, only losing to Clemson, Florida State and a fluke loss to Virginia at the beginning of the season. This year, they'll be even better. Why is that? Because as much of a douche as he is, Bobby Petrino knows how to coach. With the exception of the Atlanta Falcons, Petrino has had success at every stop. That's why people keep hiring him in spite of his moral lackings. The Cardinals' main issue right now is at quarterback, where it's pretty much a wide open race. Will Gardner, Reggie Bonnafon and Kyle Bolin all have experience playing quarterback at the FBS level, but at this point, no one really knows who the guy is gonna be. On defense, the Cardinals lost Lorenzo Mauldin to the Draft, but return senior Sheldon Rankins and also add TCU transfer Devonte Fields who should help offset that lost pass rush. The defense will also need to figure out a way to replace the ball hawking of Gerod Holliman. In this prediction, Louisville's wins come against Boston College, Clemson, NC State, Syracuse, Virginia and Wake Forest, with losses coming against Florida State and Pittsburgh.
Boston College's biggest problem this year (as it has been with a few teams) is replacing their starting quarterback Tyler Murphy from last year. He led the team in passing and rushing, but now that he's gone, the reins will have to be passed over to someone else. And as much as I would love to see Doug Flutie's nephew Troy take over, the starting job will likely go to sophomore Darius Wade. An athletic lefty, Wade served as Tyler Murphy's primary back-up last season. It will take him some time to adjust, though. In this prediction, Boston College's wins come against NC State, Syracuse and Wake Forest, with losses coming against Clemson, Duke, Florida State, Louisville and Virginia Tech.
NC State really lucked out in getting Jacoby Brissett to transfer over from Florida. He came in and was a fantastic quarterback for the Wolfpack last year and looks to continue that this year. Last season, he finished with a completion percentage of 59.7 percent, 2,606 yards, 23 touchdowns and five interceptions. He added another 740 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. Now a senior and a leader on this team, look for him to potentially put on a show as he works to make it into the NFL. The lack of anything around him on offense will certainly inhibit the team as a whole, but Brissett will be good. On defense, NC State returns sophomore strong safety Josh Jones. In his freshman season, he led the Wolfpack in interceptions with four, while also adding 49.0 tackles. In this prediction, NC State's wins come against UNC, Syracuse and Wake Forest, with losses coming against Boston College, Clemson, Florida State, Louisville and Virginia Tech.
While Syracuse is still trying to figure out the whole quarterback and running back thing, they do have something going for them on offense. His name is Steve Ishmael. As a freshman receiver for the Orange last season, Ishmael 27 catches for 415 yards. That doesn't sound like a lot, but he catches most of what's thrown to him (67.5 percent catch rate) and will be the No. 1 option for whoever ends up at quarterback since Jarrod West graduated. On defense, Syracuse lost a lot. They lost their top nine leading tacklers from last season, including every starter in the secondary. Needless to say, there's going to be an adjustment period for the Orange defense. In this prediction, Syracuse's win comes against Wake Forest, with losses coming against Boston College, Clemson, Florida State, Louisville, NC State, Pitt
As bad as Wake Forest's offense was last season, there is some hope there in the form of sophomore quarterback John Wolford. As a true freshman last season, Wolford was immediately thrown into the fire. He finished the season with a 58.3 percent pass completion, while throwing for 2,037 yards, 12 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. His potential showed in their loss to Duke last season. In that game, despite the loss, Wolford went 24-for-36 for 251 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. Now the Demon Deacons just need the rest of the offense to come around. On defense, Wake returns a strong linebacker corps led by junior Marquel Lee, who finished last season with 70.0 tackles, 12.0 tackles for loss, four sacks and a forced fumble. In this prediction, Wake Forest had no wins, but had losses coming against Boston College, Clemson, Duke, Florida State, Louisville, UNC, NC State and Syracuse.
How do you see the Atlantic Division shaking out?