Yesterday, we talked about how members of the media ranked the Atlantic Coast Conference football polls for the ghosts of preseasons past. We also looked at how the end of season turnouts fared against those preseason rankings, and we analyzed some of the teams that rise and fall based upon past prognostications.
There was a lot of great analysis about who should finish where in yesterday's message board. So let's look at the current state of affairs in the league and wonder about where teams will finish.
We know the media, in the Atlantic Division, will love both Clemson and Florida State. FSU returns the reigning Heisman Trophy winner in Jameis Winston and won the national championship last season, while Clemson lost Sammy Watkins and Tajh Boyd. So unless something goes horribly haywire, the Seminoles will be at the top of the division in 2014.
Behind FSU and Clemson, the media normally loves a team like NC State, but the Wolfpack were brutal last year under first year head coach Dave Doeren. Even with Doeren in rebuilding mode, the media cannot assume they'll ever be a third place team. NC State also has the biggest history of underperforming in the league, having finished an average of two standard deviations behind their predicted finishing spots. Even with last year's disappointing finish, they've still never really been a team to finish better than their starting spot.
That leaves Wake Forest, Syracuse, and Boston College. Syracuse finished as the third place team last year, but they were predicted to finish sixth, and I find it hard to believe the media will want to put them that high. Wake Forest was predicted fourth in '13, but they finished sixth. And BC is a team that graduated far too many pieces for the media to rightly place them as the third place team.
That leaves Louisville. Although Louisville has unknowns in their roster, the ACC media could find themselves hot for the Cardinals. They went 12-1 last year, so even a modest step back would produce a 9-3 or 8-4 season season. They destroyed Miami in the Russell Athletic Bowl and were a top 10 team for much of the year. It's likely the ACC uses that resume to put the Cardinals in third for their first season.
After Louisville, I believe Syracuse and Boston College should find themselves in the middle of the pack. Even though BC's offense replaces a number of parts, their defense returns its core and has a number of players who could become conference impact players. But the media has an unwillingness to oversell BC through the years, so I'm going with Syracuse as a sexy choice for fourth place in the league, followed by BC in fifth, NC State in sixth, and Wake Forest as the consensus last place team in the division.
In the Coastal Division, the media is in love with Virginia Tech, a team that every year looks like a paper champion. But the Hokies have spent two years proving the media completely wrong, sliding down the standings and summarily imploding at some point. Last year, they were selected second before the season.
Meanwhile, Miami keeps improving and keeps getting better each season. They were last year's choice to win the division before Duke went on their miracle run. The media will be likely to chalk up the Blue Devil run as an aberration, and the Hurricanes are a team who have seen their win total increase each year of the Al Golden era. They will likely find themselves atop the division in the poll, followed by the Hokies.
North Carolina seems to be everyone's third place choice every year, so why break with that? They're third. No need to read between the lines.
After the top three, this is where things again become dicey. I never thought I'd see the day when Duke would factor into the race, but after years of being everyone's consensus last place or second-to-last place team, they went to the ACC Championship Game in 2013. That means the Devils cannot end up as a consensus last place team again, not unless the media really has an ax to grind. Since I don't think they're that dumb, I'm going Blue Devils in fourth.
Working backwards from there, I think Virginia is the last place team because Virginia is a terrible football team. That leaves either Georgia Tech or Pittsburgh in fifth and sixth. The Yellow Jackets are a better football team on paper and a sexier pick. People don't love Pittsburgh in comparison, especially with a southern bias that may or may not be evident.
What do you think, Eagle Nation? Remember that this isn't an indication of where any other team will actually finish, but feel free to play the role of the media and predict what you think the preseason poll will look like!