College footballs defending national champions were leapfrogged by their ACC rival in the Associated Press preseason poll, foreshadowing yet another Atlantic Division showdown between conference powerhouses.
Jimbo Fishers Florida State Seminoles will enter the 2017 season ranked No. 3 overall behind Alabama and Ohio State. The Clemson Tigers, who beat Alabama in last years title game behind since-departed star quarterback Deshaun Watson, will open the campaign ranked fifth nationally.
The ACC placed three other teams in the APs top-25: A Louisville team led by reigning Heisman winner Lamar Jackson, the Miami Hurricanes and Virginia Tech Hokies. NC State also received top-25 consideration.
Despite the losses of standout running back Dalvin Cook and defensive DeMarcus Walker, the Seminoles return plenty of star power behind the annual recruiting successes of Fishers staff. Redshirt sophomore quarterback Deondre Francois returns to the mix after passing for more than 3,000 yards and 20 touchdowns last season and hybrid safety-linebacker Derwin James returns from injury to stake his claim as the nations best player. Five- and four-star talents line the roster and could lead to a return to the College Football Playoff after a two-year hiatus.
Clemson loses even more talent.
First-round picks Watson and receiver Mike Williams are gone along with corner Corder Tankersley, running back Wayne Gallman, tight end Jordan Leggett and defensive lineman Carlos Watkins. Regardless of Clemsons hemorrhaging of NFL talent over the past few years, Dabo Swinneys staff continues to reload and that should be the case once again in 2017. The Tigers might boast the best defensive line in the country and, if they settle their quarterback question, theres more than enough skill-position talent to make another playoff push.
Florida State opens the season with a top-three showdown against Alabama while Clemson opens against Kent State before high-profile matchups against Auburn and Louisville.