Clemson picked to finish behind FSU for ACC title

Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney spent the offseason trying to convince his returning players that the Tigers’ national championship celebration is over. Apparently, he has convinced the ACC media.

The defending ACC and NCAA champion Tigers were picked to finish second in the Atlantic Division behind Florida State, which was predicted to defeat Coastal Division projected champion Miami for the ACC football title.

The Seminoles (1,108 points) received 121 first-place votes to edge Clemson (1,007, 37 first-place votes) and Louisville (843, 9 first-place votes). NC State (658), Wake Forest (415), Syracuse (362) and Boston College (283) rounded out the Atlantic Division.

Miami (1,065 points, 103 first-place votes), Virginia Tech (832, 40), Georgia Tech (708, 9), Pitt (673, 7), North Carolina (606, 4), Duke (473, 4) and Virginia (219) were the Coastal Division picks. Heisman Trophy winner and Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson was voted ACC Preseason Player of the Year.

Before the Tigers can be consumed with repeating as national champions, they have to make it out of the ACC’s Atlantic Division. With the Tigers not projected to be in the title picture, Swinney’s message has gotten through to his players: It’s time to go back to work.

“We didn’t just luck up on winning a national champion,” defensive tackle Christian Wilkins said. “It’s not an easy path. You have to show that hard work is the only way to go.”

The depth and likely strength of the ACC’s Atlantic Division means the Tigers will have to be at full throttle to repeat.
Clemson has put together back-to-back 14-1 seasons, though the 2015 campaign ended with a loss in the national championship game. A year later, the conquest of Alabama capped the best six-year span in school history for the Tigers.

“That competitive balance in our division has grown tighter and tighter,” said Clemson coach Dabo Swinney, whose Tigers have a streak of six straight 10-win seasons. “This division is tough.”

Finding a replacement at quarterback for Deshaun Watson is of utmost importance for Clemson, which also is without departed running back Wayne Gallman and receiver Mike Williams. There’s no shortage of candidates to fill prominent roles.

Photo courtesy of Clemson Athletics

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