Crystal Ball for ACC Football – Atlantic Division

Published 10:32 am Monday, August 28, 2017

Last season the Showtime Network profiled the Florida State football program with a show every week for 16 weeks from pre-season to the Seminoles’ Orange Bowl win over Michigan.

Every week’s opening credits ended with a voice-over of Jimbo Fisher barking at his players in practice, “We’re gonna do it again until we get it right, because that’s what Florida State players do!”

No, I haven’t abandoned Carolina Blue for the Garnet and Gold, but I’ll go out on a limb – and I hear it creaking beneath me! – with one of my boldest predictions ever:

FSU is in the national championship game.   Yes, that means the ‘Noles will beat Alabama in Atlanta next weekend and Clemson at Clemson on Nov. 11.

Why? Well, because that’s what Florida State players do. They thrive on pressure.

Okay, before you stone me, wonder what I put in my butterbeans, or commit me to the asylum, hear me out. Fisher seems to have re-loaded the machine. Quarterback Deondre Francois showed a lot of heart from the beatings he took a year ago, and the ‘soul’ of their defense is back in safety Derwin James – who suffered an ACL injury in last year’s Troy game and missed the rest of the season.

Running back Dalvin Cook won’t be easily replaced, but he won’t be missed either.

Clemson will be second in the division, so no more dancing with the stars for coach Dabo Swinney. The reigning national champs, will have to replace Heisman finalist Deshaun Watson as well as running back Wayne Gallman and receiver Mike Williams. Kelly Bryant’s a good quarterback, but he’s no Deshaun. Still, the Dance-master just won’t hide, but they’re too much of a long shot.

Speaking of the Heisman, Lamar Jackson was the Louisville Slugger his first 10 games, then he couldn’t pour water out of a boot in the last three. He’s lost quite a few of his playmates (linemen), too; and won’t be sneaking up on anybody this year. Third-best is the most I can give the Cards, and as Jackson goes, then so goes……….

Some sources say there’s heat on Dave Doeren at N.C. State. Doeren has reached three bowl games in a row after his three-loss debut. But the Wolfpack have been unable to get over the hump in the middle tier of the ACC. How many games would State have won had it knocked off Clemson early last season? With NFL draft picks galore, the feeling is that this program is close to breaking through, but Doeren needs to “Pack” at least one more win to his total for this season.

No more “leaks for the Deacs”, Wake Forest wants this season to be remembered for more than just a Twitter hashtag or a swiped playbook. Coach Dave Clawson’s third year was a breakthrough for the Old Gold-&-Black — who wrapped up their first winning season since 2008 by knocking off No. 23 Temple 34-26 in the Military Bowl for their first postseason victory since that year. This is also a team trying climb over the other powers in this division, and that’s a daunting task for the Amen Corner. But nothing beats prayer.

That leaves just Boston College and Syracuse, two ex-Big East refugees living in their own potential recruiting world by dangling trips to Tallahassee and Death Valley in the face of Northeast football talent. I still say that region has untapped talent, but those two have got to exploit it, not seeing it seep away every year to the Penn States, and the Rutgers, and the Temples. One of this pair will inherit the division cellar, not too far above the other team they’ll be looking up at.

Next Week: Predictions for the ACC Coastal Division.


Gene Motley is a Staff Writer at Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at or 252-332-7211.