Despite all of their national controversy last year, despite all of their escaping from teams for narrow victories, Florida State still went undefeated and won the ACC. For the second straight year, that means there's a target on their back entering the regular season, and for that reason and that reason alone, they're going to be #1 in the power poll to open up 2015.
But does that mean FSU is the strongest team in the league? Maybe. We all know what they bring to the table, but until they lose, I have a hard time not ranking them among the ACC's best teams. I don't think they'll be in this spot by the end of the year, but they've earned the right to be #1 until they're knocked off. When that happens, then we'll talk.
Entering this weekend, here's how the ACC shapes up:
1. Florida State
2. Georgia Tech
5. Virginia Tech
9. North Carolina
10. NC State
11. Boston College
13. Wake Forest
1) Florida State Seminoles (2014: 13-1, 8-0)
FSU is the reigning ACC champion and haven't lost a regular season game in nearly three years. So even though they lost some of their core from last season, they're still the team to beat. They're still ultra talented and still have elite players in Everett Golson and Dalvin Cook. Regardless what you think about them, that's still something to take into consideration.
Once they lose, they'll tumble, but that's the thing - they haven't lost.
2) Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (11-3, 6-2)
I don't know if you hate the Triple Option or not, but I've been calling this team the Quadruple Option because Justin Thomas is capable of passing. They graduated a lot from last year, but the option is designed to just replace for plug and play style athletes. Paul Johnson created a machine last season. There's no reason to believe anyone from the Coastal Division, which is typically wide open, can catch them as of yet.
3) Clemson (10-3, 6-2)
If FSU stumbles, Clemson is going to be right there, licking their chops. If Deshaun Watson is healthy, the Tigers are going to be the team to beat in the Atlantic Division and could very well find themselves in the race for the national championship if they're a one-loss or zero-loss team.
More on them tonight when we talk on Mark RogersTV.
4) Louisville (9-4, 5-3)
Every conference needs an elite mid-tier type team. They're one of those teams capable of going out and beating anyone on any given day, and you don't really understand how they finish with less than 10 wins. I could see BC beating Clemson or Florida State. I really can't see BC beating Louisville.
5) Virginia Tech (7-6, 3-5)
Why is Virginia Tech so high? Well the offseason is convincing me to take the Hokies. Their defense is going to be elite, and this could be the last hurrah for Frank Beamer.
In all fairness, it better be because if it's not, I don't know that he'll be around much longer in Blacksburg. But that said, I'm doing the rarity and actually buying into the hype. If they compete well against Ohio State, there's still a long way to go (see also: 2014).
6) Pittsburgh (6-7, 4-4)
All preseason, I've heard great things about the Panthers. They have the defending ACC Offensive POY in James Conner. They have an elite wide out in Tyler Boyd. They have a good quarterback in Chad Voytik. This team is ready to make the jump. The only questions left is if they can.
7) Duke (9-4, 5-3)
I've heard from a lot of people that Duke isn't as good this year because they're looking for a quarterback. But David Cutcliffe has earned the right to prove he can't replace his signal caller position. Until I see something negative, I'm still going to respect what he's accomplished and not push this team down the rankings quite so yet.
8) Miami (6-7, 3-5)
Al Golden is on the hot seat, which doesn't make much sense to me since everyone's expected this team to struggle in the wake of the Nevin Shapiro sanctions. Either way, if Al doesn't turn it around this year, he won't even last the season.
9) North Carolina (6-7, 4-4)
If we were ranking based solely on defense, UNC would enter this season ranked 17th in a 14 team league. They're hoping the arrival of new defensive coordinator Gene Chizik fixes that. Otherwise, Larry Fedora will join Al Golden on the hot seat.
10) NC State (8-5, 3-5)
Even though they play the world's weakest non-conference schedule, NC State returned just enough in their core to beat out Boston College. Jacoby Brissett is a very good quarterback, and they may have the best running back tandem in the ACC between Matt Dayes and Shadrach Thornton.
11) Boston College (7-6, 4-4)
I'll know a lot more about BC after this weekend, but for right now, I drop them to 11th because there's too many unknowns about the offense. A good showing against FCS-Maine will move them up, but a poor showing won't necessarily drop them; it just won't move them up.
12) Virginia (5-7, 3-5)
Whoever scheduled Virginia's non-conference schedule is a masochist. The road to bowl eligibility goes through UCLA, Notre Dame, and Boise State (along with William & Mary, but whatever there).
13) Wake Forest (3-9, 1-7)
There is NO WAY the offense is as bad as it was last year. Even a marginal improvement wins them a couple of more games.
14) Syracuse (3-9, 1-7)
Over/under on games for Scott Shafer before he's fired is seven. Over/under on games before he goes full Brian Kelly purple face is three. Over/under on games before he turns into the Incredible Hulk when he gets angry is off the board.
Weigh in with your power poll in the comments as well as thoughts about all of the different teams!