NCAA Football 2017 Season
ACC Atlantic Division Preview
The ACC Atlantic division stuffed the trophy case last season. Clemson defeated Alabama for the national title, Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson won the Heisman Trophy, Florida State defeated Michigan in the Orange Bowl, and six out of the seven teams finished with a winning record. The new season of fantasy college football kicks off Saturday August 26 at FanPicks.
After climbing as high as third nationally in mid-September and ranking fifth in the College Football Playoff poll after Week 12, the Cardinals wobbled down the stretch. Too many sacks and fumbles. Too many missed tackles and blown assignments.
The defensive issues have been assigned to Peter Sirmon, who has only one season of experience as a coordinator. Associate coach Mike Summers built solid offensive lines for head coach Bobby Petrino at Arkansas and during his first run at Louisville. Petrino has drilled his team over the 22 fumbles lost last season. Odds are the Cards are looking at another third-place Atlantic Division finish behind Florida State and Clemson.
Clemson reached college football’s pinnacle with its win over Alabama, but staying there won’t be easy. Over the last 25 years, only two teams (Alabama and Nebraska) have repeated as consensus national champions.
The Tigers must overcome significant offensive skill position losses as well as the graduation of linebacker Ben Boulware, the emotional leader of the defense. The schedule sets up well, with Auburn and Florida State at home, but given the offensive uncertainty, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a very slight step back this fall.
Florida St. Seminoles
Despite a somewhat disappointing 10–3 campaign in 2016, the Seminoles again will begin the season with sky-high aspirations. They bring back nearly everyone from a defense that ranked in the top 25 nationally, as well as a talented quarterback in Deondre Francois and some dynamic skill players.
If the offensive line can jell in time for a season-opening clash with Alabama in Atlanta, the Seminoles could be a legitimate national championship contender. A loss there wouldn’t knock them out of the race, but the remaining schedule is daunting with road trips to Clemson and Florida in a span of 14 days in November.
NC State Wolfpack
Head coach Dave Doeren hopes that experience translates into a breakthrough after a season of “almosts” in 2016. NC State almost beat national champion Clemson. NC State almost beat perennial power Florida State. Including those two heartbreakers, four of the Wolfpack’s six losses were by seven points or fewer.
The Wolfpack return 22 seniors, half of whom start, from a team that finished the 2016 season with a flourish. There is a sense among Wolfpack fans that this could be Doeren’s best team, but it also could be his last chance, if things don’t go right.
With so many of the same parts back from last year, led by DE Bradley Chubb and slot receive Jaylen Samuels, the Wolfpack have a chance break out of the seven- and eight-win rut and be a legitimate factor in the ACC.
Wake Forest Demon Deacons
The Deacons had only seven seniors play more than 100 plays last year, and every player who scored is back. Still, this team is young, with only nine scholarship seniors. Head coach Clawson faces a much more difficult schedule, has four new assistants and questions about depth everywhere. Wake Forest has little margin for error, and injuries could wreak havoc. The Deacons are 6–24 in November over eight seasons, and they could need two late wins to go bowling. Clawson could field a better team but end up worse off in the standings.
Boston College Eagles
Coach Steve Addazio was squarely on the hot seat after his team dropped to 4–6 last year and suffered back-to-back losses to Louisville and Florida State by a combined 97–14 margin. But the Eagles earned wins over Wake Forest, UConn and Maryland, and Addazio had his third bowl trip in four seasons, a feat that is well within reach this season as well.
New athletic director Martin Jarmond will certainly give his own assessment of the state of the program, but right now Addazio seems to have the Eagles in that second tier of the Atlantic Division.
Is that BC’s ceiling under Addazio? It could be. As experienced as the Eagles are this season, don’t expect them to break that barrier just yet.
Head coach Dino Babers hopes to replicate the second-season growth he experienced with Eastern Illinois (five more wins) and Bowling Green (two) at Syracuse in 2017. But after achieving a 4–8 mark in Year 1, he faces one of the toughest schedules in the nation. In addition to games with Atlantic Division foes Florida State, Clemson and Louisville, SU travels to Miami and LSU. The plan is for Babers’ offense to reach peak performance around Weeks 4-6. The team will need to maintain that production while making significant strides on defense if it wants to make its first bowl game since 2013.