Florida State (8-0)
NC State (4-4)
Boston College (4-4)
Wake Forest (1-7)
Thoughts on each team
Florida State returns 17 starters. On defense they return 9 starters that only gave up 15.1 ppg last year. The two guys they lose Nigel Bradham and Mike Harris were both good players (4th and 6th round draft picks), but this defense should be even slightly better than last year on the whole. I expect a bigger jump on offense, where FSU was good but not great last year. They return 8 starters on offense including their QB. They lose two O-Lineman who were drafted (5th and 7th round) so that hurts, but Datko (the 7th round) only played in four games last year.
Clemson returns 14 starters from last year. They have the best skill position players on offense in the ACC in my opinion (QB, RB, WR). However, they lose enough on the O-Line and TE positions that I don't think they will match last year's 33.6 scoring output. They lose their TE Terry Allen (third round draft pick), 3rd team All ACC RT Landon Walker, three year starter Antoine McClain, and LT Philip Price. Due to the talent at the skill positions I don't see Clemson falling much on offense and they will probably average over 30 ppg even if they don't meet last year's 33.6. On defense, Clemson D-Line is totally devastated. They lose 2nd round draft pick DE Andre Branch, 3rd round draft pick DT Brandon Thompson, and their other startering DT Rennie Moore.. However their LB's and Secondary should be improved and Brent Venables maybe a better defensive mind than Steele. I think their defensive numbers improve. Nevertheless they will lose to Florida State and one other team to finish 6-2.
NC State returns 13 starters. On offense their biggest losses are at Receiver and TE as they lose their two receiving stars 2nd team All ACC Tight End George Byran and 3rd round choicce TJ Graham. On defense they return 6 starters. Their secondary gets everybody back so that unit should be much improved, but they have substantial loses in their front 7, only returning 2 out of 7 of their front 7.
Boston College returns 17 starters which is tied with FSU and Duke for the most returning starters. On offense they return 10 starters. The only starter they lose on offense is 2 year starting center Mark Spinney. That said their offense was abysmal last year (only 18 ppg), so while they will improve a ton, their offensive number will still only be mediocre. Their defense returns 7 starters, but loses their star LB Luke Kuechly who was a first round draft pick.
Maryland returns 15 starters. On offense they return 6 starters, but that number could have been 9 if not for transfer. Last year's starting QB, LT, and RT all had eligibiilty left but transferred out due to issues with Coach Edsall In addition to those guys, UMD loses a good player in RB Davin Megget. The defense returns 9 starters. The two players they lose were not better plays on last year's defense so their defense should be much improved. However, much like with Boston College's offense, their defensive numbers were absolutely abysmal last year (gave up 34.3 ppg) so even though the numbers will improve, they will still likely be middle of the pack overall.
Wake Forest returns an Atlantic low 11 starters. On offense they return 4 starters. Last year's offensive success had a lot to do with a good O-Line and they lose 4 out of 5 starters there inlcuiding 1st team All CC guard Joe Looney, Right Guard and two year starter Michael Hoag, two year starter Right Tackle Doug Weaver, and LT Dennis Godfrey. The other notable loss on offense is Chris Givens (4th round draft choice). Wake is not the type of program that can bounce back easily from losing that much talent and they will likely have the weakest offense in the ACC this year. On defense they were middle of the pack last year and return 7 starters but lose two guys drafted in teh NFL draft in Kyle Wilber (4 round) and Josh Bush (6th round). They also lose their leading tackler in Cyhl Quarles so the players they lose are good and Wake will likely be either middle of the pack or just below average on defense this year.
UNC returns 13 starters. The reason I gave them the nod to win the Coastal is partly because of their favorable draw in playing Atlantic team including playing the two weaker Atlantic teams (Wake Forest and Maryland), and avoiding both FSU and Clemson (NC State is their third draw). Thus they probably have the easiest ACC schedule of any ACC team. On offense they return 7 starters with their biggest losses being at the Receiver and TE positions. On defense they return 6 starters. Three of the five guys they lose on defense were pretty including Quinton Coples (first round), Zach Brown (second round) and Donte Paige-Moss. UNC is probably a similar team overall to last year, but will have a better record thanks to an easier schedule.
VT only returns 12 starters. VT returns only 3 starters on offense. Their losses at Receiver and O-Line are huge. They lose the top two career receiving yardleaders in VT history in Danny Coale and Jerrett Boykins. Their loses at OLine are just as large losing a four year starter, 3 year starter and two 2 year starters. Add in the loss of superstar RB David Wilson and VT's offense may fall further than any other unit in the ACC. However, VT should have the second best defense in the ACC behind Florida State They return 9 starters on defense from a unit that only gave 17.6 ppg last year. They do lost a first and second team All ACC guys from the secondary though.
Georgia Tech returns 13 starters from last year. On offense they return 7 starters, but other than Stephen Hill (second round draft choice) at WR (which they don't even feature), their losses are minimal. On defense they return 6 starters though they don't lose any stars. GT rather than VT is the team more likely to topple UNC for the ACC Coastal crown.
Miami returns an ACC low 10 starters from a 6-6 team last year. On offense they lose 7 out of 11 starters only returning four starters and have huge losses at Receiver (two receivers drafted in NFL Draft in addition to their TE going in the fourth round) and O-Line where they lose three of five starters including one guy drafted in the NFL Draft from a middle of the pack offense last year (26.5 ppg). On the bright side, new starting QB Stephon Morris has shown some promise in the past. On defense they return 7 starters and other than the loss of Sean Spence (3rd round draft pick) at Linebacker have manageable losses. Miami has a good shot to overachieve as I think their defense may be the third best defense in the ACC. They return 7 guys from a unit that only gave up 20 ppg last year.
UVA returns 12 starters. They return 7 starters on offense and may get a nice addition at QB in Alabama transfer Philip Sims. Their losses on offense look manageable, though they do lose one star O-Lineman in Austin Pasztor and another solid one in Anthony Mihota. They also lose their top WR in Kris Burd. They only return 5 guys on defense and I expect their defense to go from better than average (23.8 ppg) to weaker this year. The D-Line and Secondary are the hardest hit as they lose 3 out of 4 on the D-Line including Cam Johnson (7th round draft pick). In the secondary they lose two guys including their best player there in Chase Minnifeld.
Duke returns 17 starters and if they had got a better draw out of the Atlantic could have been a surprise team (they drew Clemson and Florida State--just bad luck). They struggled on offense last year only averaging 22.5 ppg but return 8 starters. However, two out of three losses on offense are big in Varner (1,000 yard season receiver) and a four year starter on teh Offensive Line in Kyle Hill. On defense they struggled giving up 31.2 ppg but return 9 starters. Neither of the two guys they lose on defense was a star though Johnny Williams was solid. They should have the second most improved defense behind Maryland.