The ACC coaching rankings reflect the moves made last season and this offseason. Overall, the ACC have two legitimate teams that are challenging for a spot in the college football playoffs.
Dabo Swinney has consistently positioned Clemson at the top of the ACC and the college football entirely. There is something to be said about a guy that has built his program to sustain for the long run. Clemson won the ACC for the eight time in 12 years. After getting over the Florida State hurdle, the Tigers have dominated the competition in the ACC.
Last season was the first time in 10-years that Swinney did not have defensive coordinator Brent Venables. Venables accepted the job at Oklahoma as their new head coach. However, Clemson still ended the year as the ACC champions.
2. Florida State
Mike Norvell has worked magic at Florida State in a little under 4 years. The Seminoles are a pre-season top-10 team with a solid resume built up from last years big wins. The Noles return a Heisman trophy candidate in Jordan Travis and a projected top-5 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft.
Through the transfer portal, Norvell was able to secure solid veteran players to lead his program. Florida State not only beat LSU in New Orleans to start the year but beat Miami in Miami and Florida at home. Norvell has done an excellent job of making adjustments in big games and on the recruiting trail.
Ultimately, the mark of a good coach is what he is able to do with the talent he has and receives regardless of ability. Norvell has done exceptionally well.
3. North Carolina
Mack Brown is the old ball coach in the ACC. Since his return to North Carolina, the Tar Heels have won the ACC Coastal and developed a stud at quarterback. How long will Mack be around? That’s an answer coach Brown only knows, but until then he has the #3 spot in the conference.
Currently, Mack is 30-22 overall since returning to Durham and 20-14 in conference play. The next level for Brown and the Tar Heels is for them to start beating teams they should beat. It’s the same battle every time North Carolina starts to make a little noise.
Equally important is that Mack Brown has North Carolina looking good for when the SEC and Big Ten start expanding again. No one wants to be left out holding the ACC bag.
4. Wake Forest
Dave Clawson is a sleeper to some, but a beast to others. The Demon Deacons have been built to compete with the talent in the ACC. Clawson has led Wake Forest to seven straight bowl games and have a 5-2 record in those games. Not to mention, Wake Forest has developed the talent really well. Unfortunately, Wake Forest has seen their last two starting quarterbacks transfer to bigger programs like Notre Dame and Georgia.
Obviously, Wake Forest has come along way in the last 5 years under Clawson. The next faze of the growth of this program is to start beating teams inside the conference on a regular basis. Clemson had to do it in order to gain relevance. Florida State and even Miami have that respect as well even though the ladder has fallen on very hard times.
Mario Cristobal rounds out my top-5 ACC coaching rankings. Although his first year leading Miami was forgettable, it does not mean he’s not a top-5 coach. Miami is not a program that is easy to win at for any coach. The last coach that was truly successful was Coach Mark Richt, and he retired after three seasons.
In year one, coach Cristobal brought in some notable coaches, including the 2021 Broyles Award winner. However, the style that Josh Gattis was looking to implement worked in Michigan, Miami is a different ball game. The players did not gravitate to what his offensive scheme. Needless to say, coach Cristobal made the much-needed adjustment to move on.
New offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson runs a similar scheme to what former offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee ran before leaving to lead the SMU mustangs. Now, Cristobal has a chance to set the record straight on his ability to build the Miami Hurricane program into a contender.
It is wise to mention that all of the coaches ranked above Cristobal had to rebuild those programs. Coach Cristobal is heading into year 2. The next step for Miami is to look like power 5 program every single Saturday. That means, Miami must compete and look like they know what they’re doing on the field.