ACC

What to expect at ACC Kickoff

Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) fends off Florida State's Terrance Smith to gain a first down during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Clemson, S.C. on Nov. 7, 2015.
Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) fends off Florida State's Terrance Smith to gain a first down during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Clemson, S.C. on Nov. 7, 2015. AP

The birth of the ACC Network, both in cable and internet variety, will dominate the two-day ACC Kickoff in Charlotte, which starts on Thursday.

There will be a lot of talk about Clemson and Florida State, too.

But all eyes will be on commissioner John Swofford on Thursday during his annual address with the media when he will likely fill in the details about the league’s plans, with ESPN, to launch its own cable network. The move, six years in the making, helps the ACC catch up financially with its “Power 5” conference brethren, specifically the Big Ten and SEC.

What separates the ACC’s new deal, which extends the league’s partnership with ESPN through 2036, is an “over-the-top” component which delivers content directly to viewers via the Internet.

Continued success in football will only help the conference’s national profile. Clemson, national runner-up last year, and Florida State, which made the first College Football Playoff field in 2014, remain the league’s best bets to make an impact in the national race.

Three storylines to follow from the ACC Kickoff:

Two for the show?

Times change quickly in college football. Last year the main question was: “Will the ACC get shut out of the CFP?” Twelve months later, the question is: “Will the ACC get two teams in the CFP?”

Clemson, the No. 1 seed in last year’s CFP, and Florida State, loaded after a 10-3 “rebuilding” year, just might be that good.

The Tigers, 14-1 last year, have to make adjustments on defense but return superb quarterback Deshaun Watson and the best cast of skill players in the country.

Florida State’s defense might be on par with its 2013 title team and running back Dalvin Cook should have more help on offense.

Florida State’s schedule, on paper in July anyway, looks good enough to absorb one loss and still make the CFP. The most obvious scenario would be FSU going 11-1 – with wins out of the league over Ole Miss and Florida but a home loss to Clemson on Oct. 29 – and the Tigers running the pre-playoff table again at 13-0.

With parity ruling both the Pac-12 (the odd conference out of the playoff last year) and Big 12 (left out in the CFP cold in 2014), the door just might be open for a second ACC team in the four-team CFP field.

In college football, “most obvious” and what actually happens rarely align but the ACC at least has a realistic path to grabbing half of the CFP spots.

Coastal favorite? No, thanks

Clemson and Florida State – 53-3 against the rest of the ACC since 2012 – have made it relatively easy for the media to predict the Atlantic Division side.

The Coastal Division side has been considerably more difficult to predict. North Carolina went 8-0 in the conference and won the Coastal title by two games last year. The Tar Heels were picked fifth in the preseason.

Meanwhile, Georgia Tech, the preseason favorite, finished last in the division. The year before, the Yellow Jackets were picked to finish fifth and won the division.

Duke was picked to finish last in 2013 and won the division. UNC, picked to finish third in 2012, would have won the division that season if it had been eligible for the postseason.

So while UNC, coming off of an impressive 11-3 season, would love some respect, it’s probably better off having Miami, under new coach Mark Richt, go off as the preseason favorite.

Where are the Triangle stars?

Probably not on the All-ACC team. In a 14-team league (Notre Dame’s still an independent in football), dominated by Clemson and Florida State, spots on the all-conference team are difficult to come by.

How tough? UNC running back Elijah Hood ran for 1,463 yards and 17 touchdowns last season. With only two spots on the first-team at his position, it will be difficult for Hood to displace either FSU’s Cook (1,691, 19 TDs) or Clemson’s Wayne Gallman (1,527 yards, 13 TDs).

The Tar Heels still might be the only in-state team represented on the All-ACC list. Senior receiver Ryan Switzer, as a return specialist, and senior left guard Caleb Peterson have the best chance in the media vote, which was conducted by the conference online this year.

N.C. State’s best candidate, junior Jaylen Samuels, has a position identity crisis. Listed at tight end and fullback on the Wolfpack roster, Samuels does a little bit of everything (16 total TDs) but doesn’t quite fit one specific box.

Duke’s best option, senior DeVon Edwards faces a crowded field at cornerback.

Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio

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