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Where does Virginia football stack up in the preseason ACC power rankings?

Ranking all 14 ACC teams and detailing areas of concern and reasons for potential success.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 03 Richmond at Virginia Photo by Lee Coleman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

A new football season kicks off in the ACC with North Carolina State traveling to Connecticut to take on the UConn Huskies on Thursday night. The rest of the conference will open their season throughout the preceding days, finishing with an in-conference battle between Clemson and Duke on Monday.

Here’s how the conference (and the Virginia Cavaliers) stacks up from bottom to top in the preseason:

14. Boston College Eagles

Why would they succeed?

  • There is some talent on both sides of the lines, led by preseason first team All-ACC offensive guard, Christian Mahogany, and defensive end, Donovan Ezeiruaku.
  • Quarterback Emmett Morehead puts together his quality arm talent with the ability to work through progressions, avoid mistakes, and operate an offense at a high level.

Where is there concern?

  • The supporting cast around Morehead in both the rushing and passing game is pretty thin.
  • Head coach Jeff Hafley has not eclipsed the 6-win mark in any of his three years as a coach. Things looked a lot brighter in year one than they do now.

The verdict: Although Boston College has a breeze of a non-conference schedule, there is little upside with any aspect of this team.

13. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Why would they succeed?

  • Head coach Brent Key builds on the magic from his interim days into his first year as a full time head coach, filled with new and improved assistants and transfers.
  • The Jackets return five offensive linemen with starting experience, most notably right tackle Jordan Williams.

Where is the concern?

  • Perhaps Key was not the home run hire and more of an emotional decision. His lack of a resume compared to other power five head coaches could deem to be problematic.
  • The roster contains zero All-ACC caliber players and there is no top tier quarterback to bail them out.

The verdict: Even if everything goes according to plan, they are not ready to compete at a high level.

12. Virginia Cavaliers

Why would they succeed?

  • Year two under Tony Elliott is an upgrade from year one regarding the little things. Fewer pre-snap penalties are taken, the offense has more of an identity, and the kicking game is more reliable.
  • The defense replicates its production from last season, during which John Rudzinski’s group ranked in the top-25 nationally in points allowed per drive.

Where is the concern?

  • After a 3-7 season, the roster does not look any better and Elliott has not proven worthy of the benefit of the doubt as a head coach.
  • The offensive line could easily be a liability once again. There is no Houdini-type quarterback to bail it out, either.

The verdict: With a gauntlet of a non-conference schedule, becoming bowl eligible will be a difficult task for the ‘Hoos.

11. Virginia Tech Hokies

Why would they succeed?

  • The overall roster makeup looks better than last year. The Hokies brought in the 35th ranked transfer class and 39th ranked high school class, per 247Sports composite.
  • The defensive front, led by Alan Tisdale, is expected to be one of the better units in the conference. TyJuan Garbutt builds on his 6.5 sack season in 2022.

Where is the concern?

  • The quarterback play was abysmal last season and despite adding Baylor-transfer Kyron Drones, Grant Wells is expected to get the starting nod once again.
  • Brent Pry is another inexperienced head coach so there is no prior success to lean back on.

The verdict: The Hokies have potential but will likely be held back by gaping holes on their roster.

10. Syracuse Orange

Why would they succeed?

  • New offensive coordinator Jason Beck has a great reputation among the coaching industry, and is responsible for the development of several successful quarterbacks.
  • The defense is plenty athletic on all three levels.

Where is the concern?

  • With Sean Tucker departing to the NFL, the running game is expected to take another step down.
  • Garrett Shrader certainly does not have the most arm talent among quarterbacks in the ACC.

The verdict: Last year was a tail of two halves, but overall, expect another 6-6 to 7-5 performance from the Orange.

9. Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Why would they succeed?

  • The change in quarterback from long-time starter Sam Hartman to the inexperienced Mitch Griffis is not as significant as expected because of Warren Ruggiero’s prolific offensive system.
  • The pass rush created plenty of havoc last season and will be older in 2023. Highly touted North Carolina A&T transfer Jacob Roberts joins the defensive front.

Where is the concern?

  • Sam Hartman was extremely talented and fit the system perfectly. His production will be difficult to replicate.
  • The secondary has shown flashes but has not been consistently good for a while.

The verdict: Dave Clawson has built a consistent program, but this season will be a big test.

8. Miami Hurricanes

Why would they succeed?

  • Tyler Van Dyke has shown he is capable of being an elite quarterback, possessing the ability to make every throw in the book.
  • Kam Kinches and James Williams are among the best safety duos in the country

Where is the concern?

  • Last year did happen. And, in recent history, there have been more disappointing seasons than ones where Miami exceeded expectations.
  • The receivers leave more to be desired.

The verdict: It is unfair to assume that Miami will prevail this season. Improvements will be relatively marginal.

7. Duke Blue Devils

Why would they succeed?

  • Head coach Mike Elko has a great defensive reputation and lived up to it, making massive improvements with that unit during his first season at Duke.
  • Riley Leonard manages the game at a high level, reading the field exceptionally well and continuously moving the chains.

Where is the concern?

  • The Blue Devils were able to surpass expectations last season by slipping under everyone’s radar. It will be a test to see if Elko can replicate that with the world now on notice.
  • The running backs did not do much last season. Leonard led the team in carries.

The verdict: While it is difficult to replicate the magic Duke had last season, it also should not be ignored.

6. Pittsburgh Panthers

Why would they succeed?

  • When has Pitt been bad? Not any time recently. Pat Narduzzi always has a squad.
  • Marquis Williams and MJ Devonshire are a top tier group of cornerbacks.

Where is the concern?

  • Quarterback Phil Jurkovec has never lit up the scoreboard, especially after his injury. Arm strength and decision making are particular concerns.
  • Although one can always assume Pitt will have a dominant pass rush, the room is not as deep as years past.

The verdict: Expect a typical Narduzzi good, not great, Panthers team this year.

5. Louisville Cardinals

Why would they succeed?

  • New head coach Jeff Brohm has succeeded everywhere he has gone and this has started immediately upon arrival.
  • Through transfers and even incoming freshmen, Brohm has this roster filled with more talent than he ever had at Purdue.

Where is the concern?

  • There are always growing pains when taking over a new program and Brohm will not be immune to them.
  • Incoming transfer quarterback Jack Plummer has not exactly lit it up in the past, and will not be anywhere close to the rushing threat that Malik Cunningham was.

The verdict: It is difficult not to be excited for this new era of Louisville football.

4. North Carolina Tar Heels

Why would they succeed?

  • Quarterback Drake Maye is a consensus top quarterback in the country.
  • Don’t simply look at the fact that Josh Downs is gone and nothing else. Everyone else is back, including Antione Greene.

Where is the concern?

  • The defense continues to be bad, even after Mack Brown brought in the well-regarded Gene Chizik to coordinate the unit last season.
  • UNC has never really lived up to high expectations throughout the Sam Howell and Drake Maye eras.

The verdict: North Carolina seems to have the same storylines surrounding their program in the preseason as they have had for years.

3. NC State Wolfpack

Why would they succeed?

  • Quarterback Brennan Armstrong and offensive coordinator Robert Anae are back together. Last time this was the case, they produced one of the most high scoring offenses in the country.
  • The defense is once again loaded. Linebackers Payton Wilson and cornerback Aydan White lead the way.

Where is the concern?

  • Armstrong was awful last season, and his struggles went beyond a less favorable offensive system.
  • Anae is known for his creative offensive formations and play calling, but it is unclear whether head coach Dave Doeren will give him full control.

The verdict: The upside on the offense mixed with the sustained production of the defense makes NC State a conference dark horse.

2. Florida State Seminoles

Why would they succeed?

  • Quarterback Jordan Travis makes large progressions each season and if he does so again, he can be a Heisman Trophy candidate.
  • Head coach Mike Norvell has utilized the transfer portal better than any coach in the country in filling needs and amassing proven production each offseason.

Where is the concern?

  • The Seminoles have not been playoff caliber in a long time. They still have a lot to prove.
  • The transfer portal strategy has its limitations in football. Continuity helps.

The verdict: By all indications, Florida State is back.

1. Clemson Tigers

Why would they succeed?

  • The offensive coordinator upgrade from Brandon Streeter to Garrett Riley is massive.
  • Will Shipley will be running behind an elite interior offensive line, led by center Will Putnum.

Where is the concern?

  • Dabo Swinney has not utilized the portal at all. He may slowly fall behind the other top dogs.
  • Cade Klubnik has had flashes of greatness but has yet to produce over a sustained period of time.

The verdict: It is never a safe pick to not take a Dabo Clemson team to win the ACC.