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ACC College Football Preview

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ACC College Football Preview

The big headline for everyone this past year was that the ACC surpassed the SEC and became the nation’s best conference. I personally think the Big 10 has owned that crown last year but Clemson did own Ohio State. Although I think Penn State belonged in that game. One undeniable fact was that ACC was much better than the SEC.

They owned them all year. Clemson beat Auburn & Alabama. Florida State took down Ole Miss and Florida. Georgia Tech took down Georgia & Kentucky. All together the SEC went 4-10 vs the ACC last year and this year it could get even worse. Still the conference seems loaded on the Atlantic side while the Coastal Division is really up for grabs. Here is my ACC College Football preview.

ACC ATLANTIC DIVISION

1. FLORIDA STATE SEMINOLES

Dalvin Cook may be in the NFL but the offense should be even better mainly because of the growth of sophomore quarterback Deandre Francois. Cook was fantastic but FSU always reloads with good running backs. Florida State also returns maybe the nation’s best defensive back in Derwin James at safety. When you analyse the Seminoles roster this team looks like a playoff caliber and potentially a national championship style roster. My only hesitation would be their schedule.

The out of conference schedule for the Seminoles is vs Alabama (neutral site), vs Louisiana Monroe, vs Delaware State, & @ Florida. That’s tough. It’s very possible that they go 2-2 in those but I’ll say 3-1. The in conference away games are at Wake Forest, Duke, Boston College & Clemson. The big one is the one at Clemson as we all well know. I’ll say 3-1 here. At home in Tallahassee FSU welcomes Miami, NC State, Louisville, & Syracuse. Those are some tough games that they could easily lose but FSU should be favored in all of them so let’s say they go 4-0 there. That makes them 10-2 or 9-3 on the season.

2. CLEMSON TIGERS

The defending champs sure had their share of luck last season (NC State kicker) but hey if you’re a Tiger fan you don’t care. This years team is loaded on both sides of the ball, the real question is at the quarterback position. Is it going to be the veteran Kelly Bryant who takes over at QB or will they go with the youth in Hunter Johnson. How good will they be? This is the reason why I have Clemson number two. If they play great Clemson could find themselves back in the College Football Playoffs although I’m not betting on it.

The schedule is harder than last years. The out of conference games are vs Kent State, vs Auburn, vs The Citadel, & @ South Carolina. I’m thinking 4-0 here although that Auburn game could bite them. On the road in conference Clemson has road games at Louisville, Virginia Tech, Syracuse & NC State. That’s some pretty brutal road games. I’m thinking 2-2 there but 3-1 is possible. At home in Death Valley Clemson welcomes Boston College, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech & Florida State. If they can get past FSU they should go 4-0 although Georgia Tech can sometimes play up. All together that would make Clemson around 10-2 or 9-3 but 2nd place in the Atlantic because the two conference losses.

3. NC STATE WOLFPACK

Boy is NC State getting a ton of hype this offseason. I’ve read multiple previews that have the Wolfpack as the playoff sleepers. I’m more reluctant to say that just because NC State has yet to really win the big game. Yes, they should of beat Clemson & Florida State last year but the fact is that they didn’t. Sure, their defensive front seven looks pretty damn good. Sure, they bring back former Boise State transfer in quarterback Ryan Finley. The team is loaded when you look at it on paper. I mean I guess I would have a little bit of concern with the defensive backfield and the special teams (kicking game for sure). The question will be if they can win some of these big games.

They’ll be tested right out the game in a neutral site game vs South Carolina. NC State will be the easy favorite here which makes this a must win! The other out of conference games are vs Marshall, vs Furman, & @ Notre Dame. I’m thinking 3-1 here with a loss coming to either South Carolina or Notre Dame. On the road in conference the Wolfpack travel to Florida State, Pittsburgh, Boston College & Wake Forest. If they can sneak one past FSU they could go 4-0. I’m thinking 3-1 here. At home in Raleigh NC State welcomes games vs Syracuse, Louisville, Clemson & North Carolina. The season really could come down how well they play at home. If they go 4-0 here they could potentially win the division and play for the ACC championship. I’m thinking one of those four get one past them and they go 9-3 on the year.

4. LOUISVILLE CARDINALS

Lamar Jackson is back at QB for the Cardinals that alone should make them contenders to potentially win this division. Towards the end of last season though the Cardinals kind of fell apart, which makes me think perhaps some teams have figured out a formula for beating the Cardinals. Jackson also loses his top three wideouts from last season so it should be interesting to see how the next guys step up. The defense should be better than last year just strictly based on the fact they are more experienced.

The out of conference schedule has games vs Purdue (neutral site), vs Kent State, vs Murray State, & @Kentucky. They should be favored in all of these so let’s say 4-0 although the Kentucky game could get tricky. On the road in conference the Cardinals have games at North Carolina, NC State, Florida State, & Wake Forest. I’m thinking 2-2 here. At home in Louisville the Cards welcome games vs Clemson, Boston College, Virginia & Syracuse. I’m thinking 3-1 here as either Clemson or Syracuse get one past them. All together that would make Louisville 9-3 for the year. If they get past Clemson in an early season matchup watch out though.

5. SYRACUSE ORANGEMEN

Dino Babers did a pretty good job in year one at Syracuse despite not making a bowl game. Year two we should start to see even more improvement. Could they perhaps go bowling? It’s possible but Babers will certainly need his star QB Eric Dungey. Dungey played great last year before going down for the season. If Dungey stays healthy the Cuse could upset a few teams like they did to Virginia Tech last season. The defense had some problems last year but should be improved simply because they know the system better and they’ve gained some experience.

The out of conference schedule has matchups vs Central Connecticut State, vs Middle Tennessee, vs Central Michigan, & @ LSU. If they can get by a couple tough mid majors in Middle Tennessee & Central Michigan they should be 3-1 in those 4. On the road in conference the Cuse have away games at NC State, Miami (FL), Florida State & Louisville. Damn. That’s tough. I doubt they get a win in any of those but I could see them potentially upsetting NC State or Louisville but let’s just say 0-4. At home in the dome the Cuse welcome games vs Pittsburgh, Clemson, Wake Forest & Boston College. I think they have a great shot of going 3-1 here and making it to a bowl. That would put Syracuse at 6-6 for the season. If not I’m thinking 5-7.

6. WAKE FOREST DEMON DEACONS

Dave Clawson has been doing a hell of a coaching job at Wake. I’m almost reluctant to put them at sixth in the division because I’m pretty sold on him being a great coach and I think this team is getting better and better. This years defense looks loaded and they also get their QB Kendall Hinton back after missing almost all of last season. They should be a tough out for everyone in the ACC this year.

The out of conference schedule has matchups vs Presbyterian, vs Utah State, @ Appalachian State, & @ Notre Dame. I’m thinking 2-2 here but I could see the Deacons giving App State & Notre Dame all they can handle. On the road in conference Wake plays games at Boston College, Clemson, Georgia Tech, & Syracuse. I’m thinking 1-3 or 2-2 here. Let’s say 1-3. At home in Wake Forest the Deacons welcome Florida State, Louisville, NC State & Duke. I’m thinking 1-3 here but maybe 2-2. I got them penciled in at 5-7 for the season but watch it this team could upset some big boys.

7. BOSTON COLLEGE EAGLES

Steve Addazio is a strange coach to me. In one way he’s doing a decent job at BC winning a bowl game last year. In another way I think Addazio should be on the hot seat, his offense has been awful for multiple years now and while the defense has carried his team, they really haven’t beat anyone notable lately. This years team should be better than the previous two years but the question will be if the offense can make the necessary strides to take the Eagles bowling again.

The out of conference games are @ Northern Illinois, vs Notre Dame, vs Central Michigan, vs Uconn (Neutral Site). You would think 3-1 here but I think every game is losable. Especially the opener at Northern Illinois. I’m going to say 2-2 here. On the road in conference the Eagles play at Clemson, Louisville, Virginia & Syracuse. I’m thinking 1-3 or 0-4 here. At home in Boston BC welcomes Wake Forest, Virginia Tech, Florida State & NC State. On first thought I’m thinking 0-4 but maybe BC finally scores an upset over VT or NC State. So let’s say 1-3. That makes them 4-8 on the season and perhaps the end of Addazio.

ACC COASTAL DIVISION

1. VIRGINIA TECH HOKIES

If you remember correctly last year I called for VT to win the Coastal despite many publications picking Miami (FL) or UNC. The main reason why I picked VT and I’m picking them again is head coach Justin Fuente. I was sold on him Memphis and became especially sold on him and the hokies when he retained legendary defensive coordinator Bud Foster. The real question for this season is the quarterback position. Jerod Evans surprised everyone including probably his own family when he left early for the NFL (didn’t get drafted).

So it appears its going to be either freshman Josh Jackson or juco transfer A.J. Bush behind center for the hokies. That scares me some especially for the beginning of the season. The defense is loaded so the Hokies are sound there. The out of conference schedule has games vs West Virginia (neutral site), vs Delaware, @ East Carolina, & vs Old Dominion. I’m thinking 3-1 here but the ECU and ODU games could get tricky especially if they struggle at the QB position. 4-0 isn’t out of the realm either. On the road in conference the Hokies play at Boston College, Miami (FL), Georgia Tech, & Virginia.

I think BC and UVA they get past it’s the other two games that can be concerning when you look at their schedule. I’m going to say they split there and go 3-1 on the road. At home in Blacksburg the Hokies get games vs Clemson, North Carolina, Duke & Pittsburgh. I’m going to say 3-1 here although I could see 2-2 as well. I’m thinking 9-3 for the season for the Hokies. 8-4 would be my second pick.

2. MIAMI (FL) HURRICANES

Everyone was on hype train that was Miami (FL) last year, except me. Miami certainly has a great deal of talent and I think they finally found their man in head coach Mark Richt, but I still don’t understand all the hype again this season? Maybe if Brad Kaaya didn’t leave early to go to the NFL I would agree but now there is a gaping question mark at the QB position. The defensive front seven is loaded with talent and they bring in a top grad transfer in safety Dee Delaney.

Who will fill the shoes of Brad Kaaya? Junior Malik Rosier or true freshman N’Kosi Perry is what I’m hearing but the question remains is how good will they be this season? The out of conference schedule is set up with games vs Bethune-Cookman, @Arkansas State, vs Toledo, & vs Notre Dame. I’m thinking 4-0 here but they need not slip to Notre Dame or even Toledo or Ark State. On the road in conference the Canes play at Florida State, Duke, North Carolina & Pittsburgh. I’m thinking 2-2 here mainly because the Pittsburgh game is in late November.

They’ll be favored to go 3-1 here but that Pitt game screamed trap game when I first glanced at the schedule. At home in Miami the Canes welcome games vs Georgia Tech, Syracuse, Virginia Tech & Virginia. The big games are GT and VT but they should be favored in all 4. I’m going to say 3-1 in Miami which will make them 9-3 on the season and behind VT because that’s the home loss.

3. GEORGIA TECH YELLOW JACKETS

Most of the Coastal heavyweights are replacing their starting quarterbacks. (Miami, VT, UNC, GT, Pitt) Which is one of the many reasons the coastal division is so hard to predict. I really like Georgia Tech as potentially a dark horse in this division strictly because I feel it’s much easier to replace a quarterback in the Paul Johnson system than it is in the other offenses around the division. Plus they should be rock solid on the defensive side of the ball. They haven’t named a new starting QB yet but I’m assuming it’s going to be Matthew Jordan.

Jordan played in one game and upset Virginia Tech so he’s got that little bit of experience. The offense at this point is a fine tuned machine, you could put one of their running backs at QB and the offense would do fine since they only throw the ball about five times a game. The out of conference schedule has matchups vs Tennessee (neutral site), vs Jacksonville State, @ Central Florida & vs Georgia. That’s a brutal non conference schedule with even Central Florida coming on and Jacksonville State is a playoff team on the subdivision level. I’m going to say 2-2 here but 3-1 is certainly possible.

On the road in conference the Jackets play at Miami (FL), Clemson, Virginia & Duke. The big game is the Miami one. I’m thinking 2-2 here but if the Jackets upset the Canes they could potentially win this division. At home in Atlanta the Jackets welcome Pittsburgh, North Carolina, Wake Forest & Virginia Tech. I’m thinking 3-1 here but some of these games are toss up games. All together I’m thinking 7-5 for Paul Johnson and his yellow jackets.

4. PITTSBURGH PANTHERS

Pat Narduzzi had a solid season last year at Pitt and he looks to do so again but he’ll have to replace offensive coordinator Matt Canada who went to LSU, QB Nathan Peterman, RB James Conner and several other key pieces but yet Pittsburgh still could be a big player in this division. For starters Pitt brings in grad transfer Max Browne from USC. Browne struggled against Alabama and got pulled but hey this guy beat out Sam Darnold in that offseason so the guy must have some talent.

Quadree Henderson is back at wideout and he’s amongst the most dangerous in the country. The out of conference schedule has games vs Youngstown State, @ Penn State, vs Oklahoma State & vs Rice. That’s not so easy with PSU and OSU already amongst the potential playoff contenders. Youngstown State is a solid player on the subdivision level as well. I’m going to say 2-2 or 3-1 in those games. On the road in conference Pitt plays at Georgia Tech, Syracuse, Duke, & Virginia Tech. Note that they miss out on having to play Louisville, Florida State or Clemson.

I’m going to say they go 2-2 or 3-1 on the road. At home in Pittsburgh the Panthers take on NC State, Virginia, North Carolina & Miami (FL). I’m going with 3-1 at home but there is real potential here to go 4-0 at home. All together I have a 7-5 season for Panthers but the schedule sets up real nice for really making a run at winning this division.

5. NORTH CAROLINA TAR HEELS

Larry Fedora has done quite a nice job in Chapel Hill but can he continue to be a key player in the division despite replacing a ton of the offense and their defensive coordinator? Brandon Harris is coming at the quarterback position as a graduate transfer from LSU. Only problem is Harris really struggled with his play at LSU. Fedora is known to be a somewhat of a quarterback guru so it’ll be real interesting to see how Harris plays with Fedora by his side.

Harris was a top recruit for LSU so the talent is apparently there. The out of conference schedule for the Tar Heels has games vs California, @ Old Dominion, vs Notre Dame & @ Western Carolina. I’m thinking 3-1 here but that Old Dominion games could be very slippery and Cal has some talent so they need to be ready for those. On the road in conference UNC travels to Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Pittsburgh & NC State. That’s a pretty brutal road schedule that will probably have them as dogs in all four games. I think maybe they steal one and go 1-3 on the road.

At home in Chapel Hill UNC welcomes Louisville, Duke, Virginia & Miami (FL). I’m thinking 2-2 here or potentially 1-3. I’m thinking 6-6 for the Tar Heels this season but if Fedora gets Harris to play to his level this team could surprise many.

6. DUKE BLUE DEVILS

David Cutcliffe got dealt a bad hand last year when his senior QB Thomas Sirk went down with a torn ACL a week before the season begun. Thus, led to Duke missing out on a bowl game. Somewhere in that tough season Duke found their future star quarterback in Daniel Jones who is easily the best returning quarterback in the coastal division. Jones should have the offense rolling this year, the big question will be if the defense can step up and help the offense out some. The out of conference schedule has games vs North Carolina Central, vs Northwestern, vs Baylor & @ Army.

That’s a tough slate of non conference games. NC Central was a player in sub divisional playoffs last year and Army went bowling last year. I’ll say 2-2 in those 4 but maybe they get one past Baylor. On the road in conference Duke has to travel to North Carolina, Virginia, Virginia Tech & Wake Forest. I’m thinking 1-3 here but the Wake game could go either way so maybe 2-2. At home in Durham the Blue Devils welcome Miami (FL), Florida State, Pittsburgh & Georgia Tech. That’s a tough slate of home games but I’ll go with 1-3 here but maybe 2-2 since they always seem to play Georgia Tech well. All together I’m thinking a 4-8 season for the Blue Devils but next year a bowl game could be looking good.

7. VIRGINIA CAVALIERS

Head coach Bronco Mendenhall struggled in year one but hey I think any great coach would of struggled with the Cavaliers and their talent level. The good news is it’s year two and team should be more accustomed to Mendenhall and how he wants his football to execute. Kurt Benkert the former East Carolina quarterback is back for his senior season in Charlottesville. The defense should be improved with another year under their belt. The question is can they find any wins and avoid another 2-10 season? I believe Mendenhall was a great hire but these things take time.

The out of conference schedule has games vs William & Mary, vs Indiana, vs Uconn, & @ Boise State. I’m thinking 2-2 here but that Indiana game is certainly a winnable game. On the road in conference UVA travels to North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Louisville & Miami. They’ll be underdogs in all of those games. I’m thinking 0-4 but maybe they get one past UNC. At home in Charlottesville the Wahoos welcome Duke, Boston College, Georgia Tech & Virginia Tech. Duke, BC & GT are winnable games considering how well Mendenhall does against the option attack. I’ll say they go 2-2 at home and end the season at 4-8 or 3-9. Be patient though and trust the process.

Colby Dant is a stand up comedian and The Sports Gambling Podcast's official college football and basketball expert. Unfortunately he's also a huge Jets fan.

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