In past years, we've come up with some creative ways to rank ACC players, Syracuse Orange football opponents and more, in the lead-up to the new season. This year, we're going position by position, ranking the top five players SU faces at each. These are obviously just pulled from the 12 scheduled opponents, and only those. So when you ask "where is ACC player X?" or "how can you skip ACC player Y?"... that's how.
Top Five Opposing Quarterbacks
1. Deshaun Watson, Clemson Tigers
Damn, I wanted to find a way to way to put someone else up top, but it's virtually impossible given how good Watson was as just a sophomore in 2015 -- and how good he could be in 2016. Leading Clemson to the College Football Playoff National Championship last year, Watson threw for over 4,100 yards and ran for another 1,100, to go with 47 total scores. With another season under his belt and another top recruiting class incoming for the Tigers, it's difficult to envision a step backwards (yes, even from these astronomical figures). Watson finished third in Heisman Trophy voting in 2015, and comes into 2016 as one of the early favorites. The Tigers will go as far as he'll take them.
2. DeShone Kizer/Malik Zaire, Notre Dame Fighting Irish
The above may seem like cheating, but the Irish really can't go wrong with either of these options, even if they haven't decided which of them will be under center this fall. Zaire looked like a Heisman hopeful early in 2015, and Kizer, though it took him a few games to get consistent, could also play the part if the end of the season was any indication. Both can run, Kizer's shown himself able to refine his accuracy (ended the year at 63 percent) and most importantly, both know the offense already. My money's on Kizer, but that's really just guesswork right now.
3. Lamar Jackson, Louisville Cardinals
Jackson and Louisville have already received tons of praise this offseason. The quarterback, a darkhorse candidate for Heisman. The team, a darkhorse candidate to win the ACC. But a lot of that will hinge on the offensive line. Louisville returns four of five starters, which will help. As we've discussed, that group allowed 44 sacks last season and Jackson needs to be kept upright if he's supposed to improve on last year's numbers -- 1840 passing yards, 960 rushing yards, 23 touchdowns. Should the hits and interceptions go down, the results could be staggering for this offense.
4. Quinton Flowers, USF Bulls
Flowers (and the Bulls) ended 2015 on a tear, and it started with the game against Syracuse. The then-sophomore casually accounted for over 300 yards and three scores in a rout, and just continued to roll from there. He tallied over 200 total yards in every game thereafter, and only failed to find the end zone against Navy. He's got momentum coming in 2016, and the young, exciting team around him should only help that case. It wouldn't be a stretch to see similar, if not better numbers from Flowers compared to what Jackson ends up with.
5. Nathan Peterman, Pittsburgh Panthers
Peterman gets the nod by way of better health than his competition (Wake Forest's John Wolford, mostly), a quality offensive line and a run game that should take a ton of the weight off his shoulders. Last season, the Tennessee transfer jumped in early and took over an offense missing one of its biggest pieces in James Conner. He'll have Conner and more weapons this year, and even without Tyler Boyd as a receiving option, the Panthers have assembled a talented group on O. He won't put up stunning numbers, but expect Peterman to be accurate (was better than 60 percent in nine games last year), slightly mobile and able to put a decent amount of passes into the end zone.
And that's your top five. Agree? Disagree? Feel like some of these need to be switched around? Weigh in below.