The ACC being a two-team race may seem disrespectful to the rest of the programs vying for the league crown but that doesn't necessarily mean its an inaccurate statement.

Clemson was a play or two away from a national title in 2015, and Florida State looks to have fully reloaded after a "down" year. Add in a Louisville team that could surprise behind a talented signal caller and a bevy of new coaches, and the ACC is a lot more competitive than most would have you believe.

With the season approaching, our college football team takes a closer look at those that make up the ACC both on the field and watching from the sideline.


Best offensive player

Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson: Watson has everything you could want in a quarterback. He can spin it downfield, pass accurately (65.8 completion percentage) and extend plays by getting out of the pocket or taking off downfield as a ball carrier due to his athletic ability. He had over 4,000 passing and 1,000 rushing yards in 2015, capping off his season with a huge performance against Alabama in the College Football Playoff National Championship (405 passing yards, 145 rushing yards, five touchdowns). Watson is the Heisman Trophy favorite for a reason. He's the best offensive player in the conference, even with the presence of the great Dalvin Cook at Florida State. -- Robby Kalland (In agreement: Dennis Dodd, Jon Solomon, Jerry Palm, Ben Kercheval)

Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State: With incredible vision and explosion through the gaps, Cook is the only player I'd put up against Leonard Fournette in the discussion for the best back in college football. Even with a nagging hamstring injury, no one gained more on runs of 15+ yards than Cook last season. In that campaign, he also happened to break Warrick Dunn's 20-year single-season school rushing record ... in the ninth game of the year. If he's healthy, Florida State is a national title contender because there are very few individuals with the ability to impact the game like Cook. -- Chip Patterson (In agreement: Tom Fornelli)


Best defensive player

Derwin James, S, Florida State: James is already establishing himself as the next great defensive back to come from Florida State. The sophomore is coming off of a debut season where he had 91 tackles, including 9.5 for loss. He also had 4.5 sacks, which is a pretty big number for a defensive back. He is one of those guys who seems to always be around the ball, and he has the elite athleticism to make plays other guys can't. -- Jerry Palm (In agreement: Dennis Dodd, Robby Kalland, Ben Kercheval)

Devonte Fields, DE, Louisville: Because he didn't even join Louisville's team until the day before fall camp in 2015, a majority of Fields' nation-leading 22.5 tackles for loss came after mid-October (18.0 to be precise). That's got me, and many others, wondering what the total might be now that the former TCU and JUCO standout has fully settled into his role as an edge rusher in Louisville's defense. James and DeMarcus Walker are stars at FSU, but Fields might be one of the best pass rushers in the country this season. -- Chip Patterson (In agreement: Jon Solomon, Tom Fornelli)


Top newcomer

Dexter Lawrence, five-star DT, Clemson: One of the freakiest talents in the country -- regardless of class, regardless of position -- Lawrence is the No. 2 overall prospect in the Class of 2016. He is the next beast on the defensive line for Clemson after dominating the spring and looking like a veteran in the fall. Lawrence is one of the biggest and most athletic interior linemen anywhere. He's a big reason why Clemson will compete for a national title again as he has helped reload the defensive line. -- Barton Simmons, 247Sports director of recruiting



Best coach

Jimbo Fisher, Florida State:When we talk about great coaching jobs, it's easy to focus on overachievers. That's naturally associated with rebuilding efforts or thriving at a non-traditional power. David Cutcliffe at Duke is a prime example. Unfortunately, that disregards the jobs other coaches do at major powerhouses, and Fisher did as well as anyone in 2015. The Seminoles were in complete rebuilding mode last year and still won 10 games. With an outstanding defense and some delightful young talent on offense, an ACC title over Clemson isn't that far of a stretch. If Fisher upends the preseason favorites, he'll have earned the superlative. -- Ben Kercheval (In agreement: Tom Fornelli, Chip Patterson, Robby Kalland)

Dabo Swinney, Clemson: It took a couple of years to get things going, but Swinney has established Clemson as one of the best and most consistent teams in the ACC. The Tigers are coming off an appearance in the CFP National Championship but that was also the program's fifth straight season with at least 10 wins. Only Alabama can match that level of consistency among FBS schools. -- Jerry Palm (In agreement: Dennis Dodd)

David Cutcliffe, Duke: As long as Cutcliffe is at Duke, he's my pick every year. Cutcliffe is 33-20 in the past four years. Duke won 32 games during the previous 14 years. Enough said. -- Jon Solomon


Best assistant

Brent Venables, defensive coordinator, Clemson: Why Venables is not a head coach remains a great mystery. His go-for-broke style fits perfectly with the Tigers' high-scoring offense. Over the past three years, Venables leads all defensive coordinators with the lowest percentage of drives that lasted six plays or less. -- Jon Solomon (In agreement: Everyone, unanimous pick)


Most entertaining

Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State: The answer: Tony Dorsett. The Jeopardy question: Of whom does Dalvin Cook most remind you? Like an Italian sports car, Cook has five gears. He's slick, he can weave in and out of traffic, and he goes 0-60 in a matter of seconds. Cook broke Dunn's school rushing record last season. Two-thousand yards is not out of the question in 2016. Strap in and buckle up. -- Dennis Dodd (In agreement: Robby Kalland)

Dabo Swinney, coach, Clemson: Something happened to Dabo during Clemson's memorable 2015 run. Goofy somehow morphed into infectious as a young and talented Tigers team rallied around Dabo's displays of charisma. "B.Y.O.G." became a thing, "Clemsoning" was put to bed, and Dabo became quite notable for his locker room dancing after big wins. -- Chip Patterson (In agreement: Jon Solomon)

Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson: Watson hates the term "dual-threat quarterback" because it assumes he's a run-first QB, and he sees that as a label attached to all black quarterbacks. While there may be some truth to that, when you are the first signal caller to ever throw for 4,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards in a single season, you can understand why people want to say you're a dual-threat, even though he's clearly not a run-first player. Watson is really a triple-threat because he can beat you with his brain, too. He reads defenses well, which is a key component of running the Tigers' high speed offense, and he makes pretty good decisions with the football. Knowing what to do and having the remarkable ability that Watson has to do it is what makes him worth the price of admission every week. -- Jerry Palm

Jimbo Fisher, coach, Florida State: I just love listening to Fisher talk. Don't get me wrong, I rarely understand anything he's saying, but he just speaks so rapidly. It's as if every word coming out of his mouth is in a race to get out ahead of the word before it. -- Tom Fornelli

Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville: Everyone knows about Watson. What makes Jackson so exciting is he's only touched the surface of what he can become. He's a blazing open-field runner right now with a powerful arm. If his passing attack continues to develop, there will be no stopping him, and he could be every bit as good as Watson from a physical standpoint. The good news for Jackson is there are few better quarterback tutors than Cardinals coach Bobby Petrino. -- Ben Kercheval