When splitting your conference into divisions, you can either let geography dictate the terms, or you can overthink. The ACC chose the latter when it broke into the Atlantic and Coastal divisions for football in 2005, presumably taking a stab at competitive balance (and, theoretically, annual Florida State–Miami title games).
Competitive balance changes over time, however. Programs rise and fall. And while the Coastal is a bastion of perfect parity (and less-than-elite play), the Atlantic has become the ACC Clemson division. The Tigers have won six division titles in a row, dropping just one of 33 games to Atlantic foes in that span.
Programs indeed rise and fall, but Clemson doesn’t appear likely to give up its perch any time soon. The ACC could and should wise up and ditch divisions in favor of a pods system, but that probably wouldn’t put an end to Clemson’s streak of conference dominance; the Tigers are simply too good for the rest of the ACC.
Beyond the title race, though, there are plenty of interesting subplots in the Atlantic this season. How does Louisville respond to a run of bad luck in 2020? When might Florida State actually start looking like Florida State again? Who among the division’s middle five teams finds close-game fortune and makes a run at eight or nine wins? So let’s dive into the outlook for each team.
Every week through the summer, Bill Connelly will preview another division from the Group of 5 and Power 5 exclusively for ESPN+, ultimately including all 130 FBS teams. The previews will include 2020 breakdowns, 2021 previews and a brief history of each team in one handy chart. The series has thus far covered the Conference USA East and West, the MAC East and West, the MWC Mountain and West, the Sun Belt West and East, the top and bottom half of the AAC and the seven Independents.
Syracuse headed into October 2019 the winner of 13 of its last 18 games. Since then, the Orange are 3-15.