2018 ACC Preview

Atlantic

1. Clemson
2. NC State
3. Florida State
4. Boston College
5. Wake Forest
6. Syracuse
7. Louisville

Coastal

1. Miami
2. Virginia Tech
3. Georgia Tech
4. Duke
5. Pittsburgh
6. North Carolina
7. Virginia

ACC Championship- Clemson over Miami

Independent

Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Notre Dame

Projected Record: 9-3

Notre Dame gets included with the ACC teams because of how many games they play against the ACC. On offense they lose two starting wide receivers including Equanimeous St. Brown along with starting RB Josh Adams. Brandon Wimbush is back at starting quarterback, but he must develop as a better passer for the Fighting Irish to be a playoff contender.

The strength of Notre Dame is the defense with nine returning starters. The front seven gets five returning starters including talented DT Jerry Tillery. Notre Dame has a tough schedule that includes a home opener against Michigan and an away game against USC. Notre Dame should enjoy a solid season.

ACC Atlantic

1. Clemson Tigers

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Projected Record: 13-0 (8-0 ACC)

Back from a College Football Semi-Final loss, Clemson comes back loaded especially on the defensive front. Clelin Ferrell, Dexter Lawrence, Christian Wilkins and Austin Bryant all should be drafted within the first three rounds.

The offense will need to step up after only scoring 6 points against Alabama. Mitch Hyatt leads a good offensive line even with losing two starting offensive guards to graduation. The running backs are solid with a combination of Travis Etienne and Tavien Feaster. Talented Freshman QB Trevor Lawrence could take over for Kelly Bryant if he is not effective. Clemson does have two non-conference games against SEC opponents Texas A&M and South Carolina. Clemson will try to avoid a trip up like last year when they lost to 4-8 Syracuse.

2. NC State Wolfpack

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Projected Record: 8-4 (5-3 ACC)

NC State was my pick last year to be the surprise team of in College Football. After a few close loses the Wolfpack still finished with a solid 9-4 record, but were never a contender for the playoffs. The offense returns a very good QB with Ryan Finley and also returning 1,000-yard receiver Kelvin Harmon.

On the defensive side of the ball they lose 8 starters including the entire defensive line. The secondary remains a question mark as well. If NC State is able to get by a tough non-conference schedule that includes West Virginia they will be set up for a good season in ACC play.

3. Florida State Seminoles

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Projected Record: 8-4 (5-3 ACC)

Florida State returns a lot of starters to the offense including QB Deondre Francois returning from a season ending injury. The 1-2 punch of Cam Akers and Jacques Patrick should also be solid like last year. The offensive line will have to make an improvement from last year.

The defense is very young and only return three starters. However, they are talented across the board with big time recruits like Marvin Wilson, Joshua Kaindoh, and Stanford Samuells. Levonta Taylor also is one of the best corners in College Football. They will have a rough finish ending the season with consecutive games against Clemson, NC State, Notre Dame, Boston College, and Florida.

4. Boston College Eagles

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Projected Record: 7-5 (3-5 ACC)

RB AJ Dillon was almost unstoppable during his freshman year totalling almost 1600 yards. The offense will be led by him and returning the entire offensive line.

The defense should be solid too returning six starters including DE Zach Allen who had 100 tackles and 6 sacks last season. They played well without their best player, Harold Landry, last year and will look to continue that success after Landry was drafted by the Titans. The schedule is not too tough with non-conference games UMass, Holy Cross, Purdue, and Temple. They do have a matchup against Miami and Virginia Tech, the Coastal divisions two toughest teams.

5. Wake Forest Demon Deacons

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Projected Record: 6-6 (3-5 ACC)

Wake Forest had one of the biggest surprise seasons last year finishing 8-5. The offense led the charge finishing 17th nationally on offense. This year they will have to replace graduating quarterback John Wolford, but the offense does return eight starters.

The defense is the major question mark as they finished last in the ACC on defense and lost two major pieces to the NFL Draft in Duke Ejifor and Jessie Bates. The Demon Deacons have six returning starters and need to make an improvement. Other than Notre Dame, the non-conference schedule is more than manageable with Tulane, Towson, and Rice.

6. Syracuse Orange

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Projected Record: 6-6 (3-5 ACC)

Year 3 of Dino Babers at Syracuse starts this year. After shocking Clemson last year they lost their last five games. On offense, Senior QB Eric Dungey returns with inexperienced WRs.

Defensively, the unit is led by Chris Slayton at nose tackle. The defense is a older group, but they have to replace all of last years starting linebackers. It will be interesting to see if Dino Babers can take the next step after back-to-back 4-8 seasons.

7. Louisville Cardinals

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Projected Record: 5-7 (3-5 ACC)

Louisville will be much different without Lamar Jackson. There are Still plenty of playmakers at wide receiver, including Jaylen Smith and Dez Fitzpatrick. The questions remain the same on this offense, can the offensive line protect new quarterback Jawon Pass.

Besides replacing Jawon Pass, the defense is even a bigger concern. The Cardinals return only two starters lack the talent that they had under former coach Charlie Strong. LB Dorian Etheridge is a bright spot and the leader on defense. Louisville also added former Notre Dame Defensive Coordinator Brian VanGorder to try and straighten out a defense that finished 10th in the ACC last year. Louisville’s schedule is not easy with two non-conference games against Alabama and Kentucky.

ACC Coastal

1. Miami Hurricanes

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Projected Record: 11-2 (8-0 ACC)

The wheels fell off last year. After a 10-0 start, Miami lost their final three games. Malik Rosier is the key to the offense as he played more inconsistent near the end of the year. He has talented wide receivers including Ahmonn Richards, Jeff Thomas and Lawrence Cager.

The defense should be the strength for the Hurricanes. Miami returns all three starting linebackers and an experienced secondary including S Jaquan Johnson.. Joe Jackson and Jonathan Garvin are highly rated defensive ends that will also contribute. The schedule is pretty easy after LSU and the Coastal conference is not very difficult. Miami should be a playoff contender this upcoming year.

2. Virginia Tech Hokies

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Projected Record: 9-3 (6-2 ACC)

There’s Miami and Virginia Tech before a huge drop off in the Coastal division. Josh Jackson returns at QB for his sophomore year season after a pretty good freshman campaign. Virginia Tech will have to replace the all-time leading receiver, Cam Phillips.

On defense the Edmonds twins left for the NFL. The Virginia Tech defense is very young, but they do have talented defensive tackle Ricky Walker. The Florida State home opener is a big one, but the schedule is more than manageable after that.

3. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

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Projected Record: 7-5 (4-4 ACC)

The triple option is back again led by returning QB Taquon Marshall and three other experienced backs. With eight starters returning from last year the offense should return to averaging over 300 yards rushing per game.

The defense faded down the stretch last year, giving up 38+ points in three of the last four games of the season. With six returning starters, the Yellow Jackets will try to improve. Non-conference play won’t be easy as they have to play in Athens against Georgia and in Tampa against South Florida.

4. Duke Blue Devils

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Projected Record: 6-6 (3-5 ACC)

Duke could surprise some people this year with a lot of returning starters to a 6-6 team last season. QB Daniel Jones returns with all of his starting wide receivers back. The offensive line must improve from last season though if they want to have success.

The defense ranked 21st in the nation last year and has a very talented front seven led by MLB Joe Giles-Harris. Questions remain in the secondary with so many new starters. Duke does start out the season with a tough non-conference schedule that includes Army, Northwestern, and Baylor.

5. Pittsburgh Panthers

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Projected Record: 5-7 (3-5 ACC)

QB Kenny Pickett was the hero on Senior Day against Miami that capped off a 5-7 season. Pitt will try to take that momentum into this season as Pickett leads the offense again. Pickett will continue to improve going into his Sophomore year with the aid of a 1-2 punch backfield of Senior running backs Darrin Hall and Qadree Ollison.

Defensively, the linebackers are the strength with 3 returning. OLB Oluwaseun Idowu is the top returning tackler and sack leader to the defense. A point of emphasis for the defense will be improving a secondary that finished 106th in passing yards allowed per game. Tough non-conference games against Penn State and UCF may make it tough for the Panthers to be bowl eligible.

6. North Carolina Tar Heels

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Projected Record: 4-8 (2-6 ACC)

North Carolina is without 13 players to start the season after they were busted trying to sell their team-given Nike Jordans online. This includes returning starting QB Chazz Surratt. The offense still has two talented running backs in Jordon Brown and Michael Carter to lead the offense, but the offensive line is inexperienced.

The defense has finished last against the run in the ACC for the past 5 seasons. In order to avoid another 1-7 record in the ACC, they must make stopping the run a focus. With the early suspensions it will make the opener at Cal-Berkeley a tough game along with a game against UCF.

7. Virginia Cavaliers

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Projected Record: 3-9 (0-8 ACC)

Virginia finished last season 1-6 and with a 6-7 record. This season will be tough replacing Kurt Benkert at QB, but it seems JUCO transfer Bryce Perkins is ready to take over. The offensive line is also a major question returning only two starters. Look for RB Jordan Ellis to carry a heavy load early in the season.

On defense, the Cavaliers also have major work to do. They lose safety Quin Blanding, linebacker Micah Kiser and defensive end Andrew Brown. LB Jordan Mack is a good player who will look to lead this defense. The schedule isn’t too bad, but a trip to Indiana to face the Hoosiers will be the biggest non-conference test.

 

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