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ACC Preseason Predictions

By Southern Pigskin Staff
SouthernPigskin.com
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Southern Pigskin's official ACC preseason staff predictions.

ACC Atlantic

1. Florida State -- A healthy Derwin James, a superstar at safety, boosts the Seminole defense from good to great. Throw in Tarvarus McFadden and Florida State might have the best secondary in the country. Quarterback Deondre Francois is a gritty competitor who showed a poise beyond his years as a redshirt freshman. Watch out for new running back Cam Akers.

2. Clemson -- The focus, for the defending national champions, shifts to the line of scrimmage. Featuring Dexter Lawrence and Christian Wilkins, the Tigers have the best defensive front in all of college football. There are questions at quarterback, but Clemson's wide receivers are top-notch. Dabo Swinney and the Tigers are a remarkable 31-2 in their last 33 games.

3. Louisville -- Quarterback Lamar Jackson made history in his Heisman-winning campaign, becoming the youngest player ever to win the award and the first player ever with 3,300 passing yards and 1,500 rushing yards in a single season. The Cardinals have some retooling to do on defense, but all-conference cornerback Jaire Alexander leads the way.

4. NC State -- End Bradley Chubb, 21.5 tackles for loss in 2016, headlines a frerocious front seven with shut-down ability. There is largely good balance on the roster, though a new feature back must emerge. Tight end Jaylen Samuels is one of the most versatile players in the nation. Quarterback Ryan Finely is an under-appreciated talent.

5. Syracuse -- Head coach Dino Babers has a foundational offensive piece to build around in quarterback Eric Dungey, who is poised for a banner year. The Orange return all eleven starters on defense, including veteran linebacker Zaire Franklin; Syracuse must make strides on that side of the football.

6. Boston College -- Fresh off a league-high 16.5 sacks, edge-rusher Harold Landry is one of the game's best. Additionally, the Eagles have had a top seven rush defense nationally three seasons in a row. The offense will rely heavily on running back Jon Hilliman as a new quarterback, and the passing game in general, is developed.

7. Wake Forest -- Consistent offensive productivity continues to be a work in progress for the Demon Deacons. Offensive line play will again be key. Wake Forest has a standout defensively in safety Jessie Bates III, 100 total tackles, five interceptions and two defensive touchdowns as a redshirt freshman.

ACC Coastal

1. Miami-- Mark Richt, in his second season as head coach, has the Hurricanes on the rise. A year older and wiser, Miami's defense, featuring linebacker Shaq Quarterman, will be much-improved. The skill position talent is impressive, with 1,000-yard rusher Mark Walton and 900-yard receiver Ahmmon Richards. It appears to be Malik Rozier's time under center.

2. Georgia Tech-- Talented backfield playmakers, led by b-back Dedrick Mills, make the Yellow Jacket offense dynamic. Twins Lance and Lawrence Austin lead a talented secondary. Georgia Tech needs more of a bite up front defensively, where KeShun Freeman has the potential to be a top pass-rusher at end.

3. Virginia Tech-- Super-productive linebackers Andrew Motuapuaka and Tremaine Edmunds combined for 220 tackles and 37 tackles for loss last season. Travon McMillian is a versatile running back ready for big-time production. There are a number of inexperienced but talented options for head coach Justin Fuente at quarterback.

4. Pittsburgh-- Remember the name Max Browne? The USC-transfer is now under center for the Panthers, who are reconfiguring things across the board offensively. Quadree Henderson and Qadree Ollison will take on bigger roles. Safety Jordan Whitehead is a dynamic defender who can do a number of different things well.

5. Duke-- Quarterback Daniel Jones, 23 total touchdowns, had some notable games as a redshirt freshman, including leading the Blue Devils to a win at Notre Dame. Though more big plays are needed on defense, linebackers Joe Giles-Harris and Ben Humphreys are tackling machines.

6. North Carolina-- The core is gone for Larry Fedora, who has as much talent to replace as any coach in the country, including number two overall NFL Draft pick quarterback Mitch Trubisky. LSU-transfer Brandon Harris brings some experience to the quarterback situation. Plenty of new names must step up for the Tar Heels.

7. Virginia-- Defenders Quin Blanding, at safety, and Micah Kiser, at linebacker, give the Cavaliers true star power. Virginia has to improve in two distinct areas to move up the standings: running the football and stopping the run. The 'Cavs ranked 121st nationally in rush offense a season ago.

ACC Champion: Florida State