We’re just a couple of weeks away from college football starting back up, and that means we’re about to welcome back some traditions and get used to some new features of the game. Fans are back in the stands, while those watching from home might see ads featuring their favorite players thanks to new NIL provisions. In the meantime, pundits are doing their best to try and set the landscape (and expectations) for the nation’s best teams in the form of newly released preseason rankings.
Yesterday, the pre-season Top 25 Coaches Poll was released for the 2021 football season exactly 25 days before Syracuse plays its first game in a neat bit of symmetry. As you might expect, this year’s lowly SU squad isn’t near the top of any poll. However, some of the teams they play are either on it or got pretty close.
As you might expect, Clemson is the highest-ranked ACC team in the poll at No. 2, behind only Alabama by 113 votes. The Tigers have won the ACC Atlantic every year since FSU’s 2014 squad featuring future NFL standouts Jameis Winston and Devonta Freeman (among others) pushed them to 2nd place that year. Expect more domination this year from Dabo Swinney’s squad against a weak ACC. The Tigers beat SU last year 47-21.
The next ACC team up may not surprise you, but their spot may: UNC comes in at No. 9 in the rankings, above other CFB stalwarts like Florida and LSU. The Heels have been streaking ever since a 2-8 2018 season saw head coach Larry Fedora shown the door. HC Mack Brown’s second stint has been spectacular, and he has North Carolina in position to make a pretty good run at the ACC Coastal – as a reminder, the ACC’s Preseason Poll tabbed the Tar Heels as the favorite in that division. UNC beat Syracuse last year 31-6.
The final ACC team in the Top 25 is not a Syracuse opponent, but it’s a conference participant nonetheless. Miami is listed at No. 16 overall in what will be HC Manny Diaz’s third season at the helm. The Hurricanes improved from six wins in 2019 to finish #22 in the nation last season. This year, the challenge for Diaz will be to finish a year off with a bowl win – he’s 0-2 in that regard so far.
Rounding out the field, some other SU opponents got votes but didn’t crack the list. Liberty got the 5th most votes of any team not to make the Top 25, just four years removed from finishing 6-5 in the FCS Big South conference. The Flames dismantled SU 38-21 last year in the Dome.
Other ACC teams receiving votes were NC State (27), Virginia Tech (9), Pittsburgh (6), Boston College (6), and Florida State (1). Syracuse plays all five of those teams this season and went a combined 0-3 against Pitt, NC State, and BC last year.