Jameis Winston #5 of the Garnet team reacts to a pass against the Gold team during Florida State's Garnet and Gold spring game at Doak Campbell Stadium on April 12, 2014 in Tallahassee, Florida. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) (Stacy Revere / April 14, 2014)
Several questions face the Atlantic Coast Conference heading into the 2014 college football season.
1. Can Florida State repeat in 2014?
The Buzz: Less than 12 hours after Florida State defeated Auburn in the Rose Bowl to capture the national championship, Jimbo Fisher told the media the biggest challenge facing the Seminoles in 2014 is remaining hungry. The departure of players like Devonta Freeman, James Wilder Jr., Kelvin Benjamin and Timmy Jernigan to the NFL leaves FSU with 14 starters heading into this season. Among those returning is Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston, who is coming off one of the best seasons in schools history. Throw in talented players like Karlos Williams, Rashad Greene, and Nick O’Leary along with a top five recruiting class and it’s easy to see why some of the experts pick FSU to win it all again.
2. What can we expect from Jameis Winston this season?
The Buzz: It will be hard to duplicate the type of numbers Jameis Winston put on last season. The Florida State quarterback passed for more than 4,000 yards and completed more than 66 percent of his passes for 40 touchdowns while adding 219 yards rushing and four touchdowns on the ground. His performance earned him the Heisman Trophy. Archie Griffin is the only multiple Heisman Trophy winner and it occurred in 1974-75. It’s almost impossible, but if Winston can improve as a passer this season he could challenge the mark. There’s plenty of talent around the sophomore quarterback and as long as he stays healthy, there is no reason why he can’t once again put up big numbers.
3. Who else will contend in the Atlantic Division?
The Buzz: The winner of the Atlantic Division over the past three seasons has gone on to win the conference championship. In the previous two seasons, Florida State outlasted Clemson for the top spot. Once again, the Tigers represent the biggest threat to a third straight Seminole division crown. Clemson is coming off an 11-win season for the second straight season, but questions at quarterback with the departure of Tajh Boyd. Cole Stoudt appears to be the heir apparent to the job and his development is crucial for Clemson’s chances in the Atlantic. Another team to watch is Louisville. The Cardinals move from the American Athletic Conference to the ACC this season and feature a football program that’s won 23 games in the past two seasons.
4. Who will contend in the Coastal Division?
The Buzz: The Coastal picture isn’t as clear as it’s divisional counterpart. Duke returns 17 starters from a team that won 10-games and secured the program’s first divisional title. Quarterback Anthony Boone returns to lead the Blue Devils offense, however he’ll be without offensive coordinator Kurt Roper. Roper left to take the same job with the Florida Gators in the offseason. Both Virginia Tech and Miami represent a challenge to Duke. The Hokies, who won four ACC titles but none since 2010, are looking for a replacement at quarterback as Logan Thomas left for the NFL. The Hurricanes are coming off a nine-win season, but have issues at quarterback after losing Ryan Williams to an ACL injury in the spring.
5. What will Louisville’s impact be this season?
The Buzz: As previously mentioned, Louisville makes the jump from the American Athletic Conference to the ACC starting this season. Fans got an early taste of the quality of play the Cardinals would be bringing into the league when UL trounced Miami in the Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando last December. Since then, however, head coach Charlie Strong departed for Texas and Teddy Bridgewater left school for the NFL. Bobby Petrino – one of the program’s most successful coaches – returns to the program, which features 13 returning starters from last season including seven on offense. Petrino’s modus operandi is offense so expect there to be a lot of up-tempo, scoring from the Cards.