ACC Football Kickoff: League riding high with defending national champs


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Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney and quarterback Deshaun Watson at last year's kickoff
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney and quarterback Deshaun Watson at last year's kickoff

The annual rite of passage known as the ACC Football Kickoff is the unofficial start to the college football season, and it all gets started this week when the conference hosts its kickoff event in Charlotte on Thursday and Friday.

The event will feature players and coaches from every ACC school, including defending national champion Clemson. This year's event will be held at the Westin Charlotte. Schools from the Atlantic Division will speak on Thursday, with players and coaches from Coastal Division schools speaking on Friday.

Clemson will be represented by head coach Dabo Swinney, defensive tackle Christian Wilkins and offensive guard Tyrone Crowder.

Clemson has been selected as the ACC preseason champion three of the last four years. Since the 1976 season, Florida State has been selected as the preseason favorite 17 times. The Seminoles will once again be the favorites heading into the season.

The kickoff comes at a time when the conference is considered by many to be one of the nation’s two best leagues. Following Clemson’s 35-31 win over Alabama in last year’s College Football Playoff National Championship game, the ACC is the only conference to have won two national titles over the last four years.

The 2016 season also marked the first time in league history that the ACC had four teams - Clemson (1), Florida State (8), Virginia Tech (16), Miami (20) - ranked in the Top 20 of the final AP poll ... with Louisville ranked 21st, the ACC also had five teams in the final AP poll for only the second time in league history (2015).

The ACC leads all conferences with six current coaches ranked among the top 20 nationally in career winning percentage ... Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher, with a 78-17 career mark in seven seasons in Tallahassee, leads all ACC coaches and ranks second nationally with a .821 career winning percentage. Swinney ranks sixth with an 89-28 overall record (.761 winning percentage).

The ACC’s 9-3 bowl game record in 2016 set a league mark for most wins in postseason play and tied the NCAA record for most postseason triumphs set in 2005 by the SEC. Prior to last year, the ACC record for bowl wins in a season was five.

A league-record 11 ACC teams finished 2016 with winning records, including eight teams with eight or more wins - both the most of any FBS league.

The ACC won’t let up this season. ACC teams will play more games (22) against Power Five nonconference teams in 2017 than any of its peer conferences. The ACC will also have a higher percentage (.393) of its nonconference games against Power Five opponents than any other league, led by Syracuse with 11. All 14 ACC teams in 2017 have schedules that feature no fewer than seven opponents that appeared in bowl games a year ago.

ACC teams posted a 17-9 (.654) record against teams from the Power Five conferences in 2016, including a 16-6 (.714) mark against the SEC (10-4) and Big Ten (6-2).

Here are the representatives from each school:

Atlantic Division (Thursday)

Boston College - Coach Steve Addazio, OL Jon Baker, DE Harold Landry
Clemson - Coach Dabo Swinney, OG Tyrone Crowder, DT Christian Wilkins
Florida State - Coach Jimbo Fisher, QB Deondre Francois, DB Derwin James
Louisville - Coach Bobby Petrino, QB Lamar Jackson, CB Jaire Alexander
NC State - Coach Dave Doeren, AP Jaylen Samuels, DE Bradley Chubb
Syracuse - Coach Dino Babers, QB Eric Dungey, LB Zaire Franklin
Wake Forest - Coach Dave Clawson, TE Cam Serigne, DL Wendell Dunn

Coastal Division (Friday)

Duke - Coach David Cutcliffe, QB Daniel Jones, CB Byron Fields, Jr.
Georgia Tech - Coach Paul Johnson, WR Ricky Jeune, DE KeShun Freeman
Miami - Coach Mark RIcht, RB Mark Walton, LB Shaquille Quarterman
North Carolina - Coach Larry Fedora, OT Bentley Spain, CB M.J. Stewart
Virginia - Coach Bronco Mendenhall, QB Kurt Benkert, S Quin Blanding
Virginia Tech - Coach Justin Fuente, WR Cam Phillips, LB Andrew Motuapuaka
Pittsburgh - Coach Pat Narduzzi, OT Brian O'Neill, CB Avonte Maddox


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