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ACC order of finish prediction: Athlon releases 2024 projections

Matt Connollyby:Matt Connolly07/06/24

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The ACC will have a new look in 2024 as SMU, Stanford and Cal have all joined the league. Athlon has made its picks for the ACC, with a familiar program leading the way.

Athlon has Florida State coming out on top once again, finishing with the best record in the ACC and winning the ACC titles. This time, the magazine projects the Seminoles to beat Clemson in the ACC Championship Game. FSU won the league title last season, defeating Louisville in the ACC title game.

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Here is Athlon’s complete order of finish projection for the ACC in 2024, with Florida State leading the way:

1. Florida State Seminoles

Florida State
Morgan Tencza-USA TODAY Sports

Florida State lost a lot of talent off of last year’s roster, but the Seminoles are expected to once again compete for an ACC title. Mike Norvell has done an excellent job of recruiting high school prospects and players from the transfer portal.

If FSU is going to reach the College Football Playoff this year, it will need quarterback DJ Uiagalelei to immediately play well after transferring in from Oregon State. With that said, there’s no doubt that Florida State has the talent to once again win the ACC and this time reach the playoff.

2. Clemson Tigers

Clemson
(Ken Ruinard / USA TODAY NETWORK)

Clemson is hoping that 2024 is the year the Tigers get back to competing for championships. Dabo Swinney’s squad once again has a loaded defense, but the Tigers will need to be better on offense if they’re going to reach their goals.

Quarterback Cade Klubnik was inconsistent in his first year as a starter in 2023. He will need to be better and the rest of the Clemson offense will need to be better around him for the Tigers to win the ACC.

3. Miami Hurricanes

Miami Hurricanes wide receiver Xavier Restrepo looks on after scoring a two-point conversion
(Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports)

Mario Cristobal continues to bring talent to Miami, but thus far it hasn’t translated to much success on the field. The Hurricanes have combined for just 12 wins in his first two seasons.

With that said, Miami has signed the top recruiting class in the ACC the past two years, and 2024 could be when everything comes together. If so, the Hurricanes could compete for the ACC crown this year and potentially a spot in the College Football Playoff.

4. Louisville Cardinals

Jeff Brohm-Louisville
(Scott Utterback/Courier Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK)

Year 1 for Jeff Brohm in Louisville couldn’t have gone much better. The Cardinals won 10 games in his first season back home and advanced all the way to the ACC Championship Game.

Louisville is another program that doesn’t mind turning to the transfer portal for help, and the Cardinals had to after all the talent they lost from the 2023 team. The schedule is more difficult in 2024, too, so the record may not reflect, but Louisville should have another squad that can compete with everyone in the ACC in 2024.

5. NC State Wolfpack

NC State Dave Doeren
Nov 4, 2023; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; North Carolina State Wolfpack head coach Dave Doeren (center) lead his team onto the field prior to a game against the Miami Hurricanes at Carter-Finley Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

NC State has quietly put together four straight seasons of at least eight wins under Dave Doeren. The Wolfpack got off to a 4-3 start in 2023, before winning five straight games to close out the regular season.

NC State relied on a stout defense and got just enough offense to win games a year ago. Even with star linebacker Payton Wilson gone, the Wolfpack should be strong on defense this season. If KC Concepcion and company can make a few more plays on offense, NC State could compete for the ACC title.

6. Virginia Tech Hokies

Kyron Drones-Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech Hokies quarterback Kyron Drones (1) against the Boston College Eagles during the first half at Alumni Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

There is a lot of excitement around the Virginia Tech program heading into Year 3 under Brent Pry. The Hokies won seven games in 2023, going 5-3 in ACC play.

With quarterback Kyron Drones back, the hope in Blacksburg is that Virginia Tech can compete for an ACC title this year. It has taken some time but Pry clearly has Virginia Tech heading in the right direction.

7. SMU Mustangs

SMU-Rhett Lashlee
SMU head coach Rhett Lashlee. (Matt Visinsky – On3)

If there is a newcomer in the ACC that seems poised to make some noise it is SMU. The Mustangs finished 11-2 a season ago, including going a perfect 8-0 in the AAC.

SMU returns plenty of talent on both sides of the ball and also added a lot of talent out of the transfer portal. Don’t be surprised if the Mustangs earn some big wins in 2024.

8. North Carolina Tar Heels

North Carolina HC Mack Brown
Kirby Lee | USA TODAY Sports

North Carolina got off to a strong start in 2023, going 6-0 to start the season. However, the Tar Heels faltered down the stretch and finished the year 8-5. UNC lost star quarterback Drake Maye to the NFL. However, the biggest question marks might be on the other side of the ball.

North Carolina has consistently had strong offenses under Mack Brown, but the defensive side of the ball has been a struggle. Brown switched up his defensive staff this offseason, and if the changes work, UNC could find itself near the top of the ACC in 2024.

9. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Georgia Tech QB Haynes King
(© Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports)

There were some who questioned if Georgia Tech making Brent Key the permanent head coach was the right move. However, he quieted many of those doubters last season. Key and the Yellow Jackets finished 7-6 last year, which included a win over UCF in a bowl game.

Georgia Tech returns Haynes King at quarterback, and if the Yellow Jackets can get back to a bowl game in 2024, the excitement around the program should only continue to grow. There is plenty of talent in the Atlanta area to go around. If Key can have another strong season and build some momentum, watch out.

10. Cal Golden Bears

Jaydn Ott California Golden Bears running back Jaydn Ott (1) rushes for a touchdown as quarterback Fernando Mendoza (15) reacts against the USC Trojans during the second quarter at California Memorial Stadium
California Golden Bears running back Jaydn Ott (1) rushes for a touchdown as quarterback Fernando Mendoza (15) reacts against the USC Trojans during the second quarter at California Memorial Stadium. (Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports)

Athlon expects Cal to finish in the bottom half of the ACC in its first year in the league. The Golden Bears do return quarterback Fernando Mendoza and running back Jaydn Ott, and they did win three straight games to close out last regular season to reach a bowl.

Cal was also active in the transfer portal in an effort to upgrade its roster. Perhaps Justin Wilcox and company can surprise some teams in the ACC in 2024.

11. Syracuse Orange

Fran Brown-Syracuse
Dec 5, 2023; Syracuse, New York, USA; New Syracuse Orange head football coach Fran Brown addresses the crowd during a timeout in the first half of a basketball game between the Syracuse Orange and the Cornell Big Red at the JMA Wireless Dome. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Former Georgia assistant Fran Brown has brought a ton of excitement to the Syracuse program. Brown was hired this offseason to replace Dino Babers, who was let go.

Brown added several players from the transfer portal this offseason, including quarterback Kyle McCord from Ohio State. If the pieces come together, the Orange could be a surprise team in the league.

12. Boston College Eagles

Boston College
Nov 24, 2023; Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, USA; Boston College Eagles quarterback Thomas Castellanos (1) throws the ball against the Miami Hurricanes during the second half at Alumni Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

Boston College had a surprising coaching change this offseason as Jeff Hafley left for a position with the Green Bay Packers and was replaced by Bill O’Brien. There’s no doubt that O’Brien is a strong offensive mind, and he should help the Eagles offense led by QB Thomas Castellanos.

BC finished 7-6 a year ago. If the Eagles can reach a bowl game again in 2024, it would be a strong first season under O’Brien.

13. Pitt Panthers

Notre Dame opponent Pittsburgh
Pitt, led by head coach Pat Narduzzi, runs onto the field before its win over Wofford on Sept. 2 in Pittsburgh. (Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)

Pat Narduzzi has done an excellent job at Pitt overall. However, there’s no denying that last year was a struggle.

The Panthers finished 3-9 in 2023, putting together their worst season since 1998. Narduzzi is determined to get Pitt back to its winning ways. The Panthers had combined for 20 wins the previous two years, before the huge drop off last season.

14. Duke Blue Devils

Duke Blue Devils
The Duke Blue Devils mascot looks on during a game against Virginia on Oct. 16, 2021. (Geoff Burke / USA TODAY Sports)

Duke appeared to be a program that was on the rise as the 2023 season came to an end. Unfortunately, that momentum ended in a hurry when Mike Elko left for Texas A&M.

Duke also lost quarterback Riley Leonard to Notre Dame. The Blue Devils won 17 games the past two seasons, but Manny Diaz has his work cut out in Year 1 if Duke is going to make a bowl game.

15. Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Wake Forest
Sep 16, 2023; Norfolk, Virginia, USA; Wake Forest Demon Deacons defensive lineman Jasheen Davis (30) celebrates after a sack during the fourth quarter Old Dominion Monarchsa at Kornblau Field at S.B. Ballard Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

Dave Clawson has quietly done an excellent job for years at Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons won 11 games in 2021, reaching the ACC title game, before winning eight games in 2022.

Unfortunately for Wake, Clawson’s program took a big step back in 2023, finishing 4-8. Athlon isn’t expecting a whole lot from the Demon Deacons in 2024, either.

16. Virginia Cavaliers

Virginia HC Tony Elliott
(Reggie Hildred | USA TODAY Sports)

Virginia hired Tony Elliott away from Clemson a few years ago in an effort to bring some of the Tigers’ offensive explosiveness to Charlottesville. Unfortunately that hasn’t worked well so far as Virginia has combined for just six wins in Elliott’s first two seasons.

The Cavaliers are hoping to make a leap in Year 3 under Elliott, but it’s clear that Athlon doesn’t expect that to happen.

17. Stanford Cardinal

Stanford
Nov 11, 2023; Corvallis, Oregon, USA; Stanford Cardinal Head coach†Troy Taylor looks onto the field during the first half against the Oregon State Beavers at Reser Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

It’s fair to say that Stanford is arriving in the ACC with low expectations. The Cardinal have gone 3-9 the past three years and are predicted to finish last in the ACC in 2024 by Athlon.

Perhaps Stanford can surprise some people this season, but with a difficult schedule, it will be hard to improve on that 3-9 record.

With new teams moving into the league and Clemson, Florida State, Miami and others returning a lot of talent, it should be a fun year in the ACC.