Jul 20, 2014; Greensboro, NC, USA; Florida State Seminoles cornerback P.J. Williams addresses the media during the ACC football media day at the Grandover Resort. Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

ACC Football 2014 Preview

ACC football is entering its first season without Maryland and its first season with Louisville. That would normally be the most interesting thing to happen to the conference, but the Atlantic Coast Conference was blessed with a national champion last year in Florida State. Therefore the biggest story line is whether a loaded Florida State team can repeat.

Two Divisions: Two Very Different Stories

The Atlantic Division will be a story of ‘can anybody beat Florida State.’ Clemson will give its best try and no one knows what to expect from newcomer Louisville in its first year under its once and future coach Bobby Petrino. Meanwhile, NC State and Wake Forest will try to jump start their transitions. Steve Addazio will try to work magic at Boston College without running back Andre Williams.

The Coastal Division will be a dog eat dog division where Duke, North Carolina, Miami, and Georgia Tech will maul each other to decide who faces Florida State in Charlotte and wishes for heavy rains and luck. Virginia Tech will try to poke its nose on the fun, as will Pittsburgh. Meanwhile Virginia coach Mike London tries to upset them all to save his job and get off the hot seat.

The conference has never had so much potential offensive firepower, and it probably has never had so many defensive question marks. This is why Florida State is so advantaged in the current environment. There are teams that can score with Florida State, but there are no teams that can clamp on FSU if FSU clamps on them.

The Notre Dame Injection

Though not part of the football conference, Notre Dame is obligated to play five games against ACC teams. This year it faces Syracuse, Louisville, North Carolina, and Florida State. If this does not equal five, it is because Notre Dame could not quite make it work in 2014. They will play six in 2015 to make up for it.

Jan 6, 2014; Pasadena, CA, USA; Florida State Seminoles head coach Jimbo Fisher (right) celebrates with quarterback Jameis Winston (left) after the 2014 BCS National Championship game against the Auburn Tigers at the Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Who holds the Belt: Florida State Seminoles

Florida State finished a dominant year in the ACC last year aand were never seriously threatened in league play. They get Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston back and are looking to do what they did this past year, win the national championship.

FSU will rely on three offensive senior weapons. They are running back Karlos Williams, looking to become the main running threat. Williams averaged 8 yds per carry last year. Catching the ball will be receiver Rashad Greene and tight end Nick O’Leary. Greene had more receiving yards last year than Panthers rookie Kelvin Benjamin.

Florida State also returns a senior laden offensive line. The defense is also full performers with experience. It is hard to see anybody taking the belt from the Seminoles this season.

Atlantic Division Prediction (Conference Records Only)

1. Florida State Seminoles (8-0)
2. Clemson Tigers (7-1)
3. Louisville Cardinals (6-2)
4. Boston College Eagles (2-6)
5. Syracuse Orange (2-6)
6. North Carolina State Wolf Pack (1-7)
7. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (1-7)

Coastal Division Prediction (Conference Records Only)

1. Miami Hurricanes (5-3)
2. North Carolina Tar Heels (5-3)
3. Pittsburgh Panthers (5-3)
4. Duke Blue Devils (5-3)
5. Virginia Tech Hokies (5-3)
6. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (3-5)
7. Virginia Cavaliers (1-7)

Apr 12, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Hurricanes wide receiver Phillip Dorsett (4) eludes Miami Hurricanes linebacker Raphael Kirby (56) during a spring practice at Sun Life Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

To sort out the five-way tie for first, I had to resort to the ACC tiebreaker system. The first tiebreaker was to put the teams in a mini-conference and see if any team had a better record against the others. That was Miami. That process also showed Virginia Tech to be the weakest of the 5-3 teams. To sort out UNC, Pitt, and Duke, I used divisional winning percentage which made UNC number 2. Then I had Pitt beating Duke head-to-head in my Duke preview article so I promoted Pitt to third.

ACC Football Title Game Prediction: Florida State v Miami

Victor: Florida State

Dec 7, 2013; Charlotte, NC, USA; Florida State Seminoles running back James Wilder Jr. (32) wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin (1) and wide receiver Kenny Shaw (81) celebrate with fans after defeating the Duke Blue Devils at Bank of America Stadium. FSU defeated Duke 45-7. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

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Tags: ACC Football Duke Blue Devils Jameis Winston North Carolina State Wolfpack North Carolina Tar Heels Wake Forest Demon Deacons

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