Preseason poll: Clemson football projected to win ACC, but FSU makes it really close

UPDATED AUGUST 01, 2023 2:24 PM
Clemson is the preseason favorite to win the 2023 ACC football championship, according to a poll of 176 media members released Tuesday by the conference.
But it was a closer vote than usual.
Coach Dabo Swinney’s Tigers, who went 11-3 last season, earned a league-high 103 first-place votes in being predicted to win their eighth ACC title in nine seasons.
Florida State finished second with 67 votes to win the ACC title. UNC was third with five votes, and NC State was fourth with one vote.
This is the first year of the ACC’s new divisionless model, in which the top two teams by conference winning percentage will play in the Dec. 2 championship game at Charlotte’s Bank of America Stadium.
The ACC previously used a divisional model in which the winners of the Atlantic Division and Coastal Division met in the title game from 2005 to 2022 (excluding the 2020 season). Clemson beat UNC in the 2022 title game.
The 2023 vote marks the sixth consecutive season and ninth time in the last 11 years that Clemson was selected as the preseason ACC champion.
But it also reflects how FSU’s closed the gap a bit on a Clemson team that has missed consecutive College Football Playoffs after six straight appearances from 2016-20.
Clemson received 59% of this year’s ACC champion votes in the media poll, its lowest percentage share of first-place votes during its current six-year run of being named champion (2018-present).
In the 2018, 2019 and 2020 preseason polls (the last of which came during a divisionless season due to the coronavirus pandemic), Clemson picked up at least 94% of the first-place votes each season. But that’s declined since, dropping from 85% of the first-place votes in 2021 to 63% in 2022 to 59% in 2023.
In 14 previous seasons as the ACC title favorite, Clemson has won the title 10 times (most recently in 2022) and failed to win it four times (most recently in 2021).
Clemson is coming off a 12th consecutive season of 10-plus wins and returns 15 starters including promising quarterback Cade Klubnik, All-ACC running back Will Shipley and standout defenders Jeremiah Trotter Jr., Barrett Carter and Tyler Davis. The Tigers also hired a flashy new offensive coordinator, Garrett Riley of TCU.
But they’ll be challenged by the Seminoles. Coach Mike Norvell’s team, led star quarterback Jordan Travis and six more returning All-ACC players, finished 10-3 last year and ranked No. 11 in the final AP Top 25 poll (two spots ahead of Clemson).
This year’s Clemson-FSU game, set for Sept. 23 in Death Valley, should be among the ACC’s most anticipated and could very well preview the ACC title game.
Stuck together in the Atlantic Division for 17 years, Clemson and Florida State could now feasibly meet twice with a College Football Playoff spot on the line the second time around.
UNC and coach Mack Brown, last year’s Coastal Division champs, picked up five first-place votes mostly on the backs of star quarterback Drake Maye to finish third in the preseason poll.
Maye, who’s in contention with Southern Cal’s Caleb Williams to become the No. 1 pick of the 2024 NFL Draft, is the reigning conference player of the year and had 5,019 yards of total offense and 45 total touchdowns in 2022.
Voters were also high on NC State, the only team outside of the top three to receive a first-place vote, and Duke, which tied for sixth in the poll with Pittsburgh.
The Wolfpack are, once again, strong on defense, and coach Dave Doeren has a promising new quarterback-offensive coordinator combo in Brennan Armstrong and Robert Anae.
Quarterback Riley Leonard will lead a Duke team that surpassed expectations and then some in 2022 by going 8-4 in coach Mike Elko’s debut season. Wake Forest, down a star quarterback in now-Notre Dame starter Sam Hartman, was picked ninth out of 14 teams after garnering some championship buzz last year.
The ACC will announce its preseason all-conference team and preseason player of the year on Wednesday.
176 total votes (first-place votes in parentheses)
1. Clemson (103), 2,370
2. Florida State (67), 2,304
3. North Carolina (5), 1,981
4. NC State (1), 1,662
5. Miami, 1,553
T6. Duke, 1,511
T6. Pitt, 1,511
8. Louisville, 134,4
9. Wake Forest, 1,181
10. Syracuse, 826
11. Virginia Tech, 678
12. Georgia Tech, 633
13. Boston College, 561
14. Virginia, 365
️ 2023 ACC Football Preseason Poll ️
— ACC Football (@ACCFootball) August 1, 2023

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