Will ACC football do it again? I could answer this question in a couple sentences, but that wouldn’t be any fun for anyone.
ACC football was on a roll at the end of the year last year, with ACC teams winning the overwhelming majority of the bowl games in which they played. Not to mention, Clemson eventually won the National Championship Game.
With a new season less than a few weeks away, now is definitely the time to ponder whether the ACC can (and will) do it again. For me, it depends on what exactly “it” is. If the ACC must win the title and win the same number of bowl games, I just don’t see that happening again. If the ACC simply must have a playoff participant and win most of its bowl games, then maybe “it” can be done.
The playoff participant I’d expect to emerge from the ACC this season would not be the Clemson Tigers, though. If anything, I expect the Florida State Seminoles to earn a spot in the College Football Playoffs this postseason and be the ACC team mostly likely to win the title. Vegas says I’m not alone in this expectation.
Florida State may have lost running back Dalvin Cook, but it looks ready to reload and move forward this season. Cam Akers is expected to pick up where Cook left off, so Seminole fans need not worry about that loss. Redshirt sophomore quarterback Deondre Francois also has an entire season of experience now, which should help him better lead the Florida State offense. The Seminole defense returns countless starters and will have Derwin James back this season (if he can stay healthy). This combination of offensive and defensive power is what makes Vegas (and me) hot on Florida State this year.
On the other hand, Clemson is in for a rebuilding year after losing its dual-threat quarterback Deshaun Watson to the NFL. The Tigers lost multiple other starters that leave a few big holes on both sides of the ball. Two major departures that come to mind are Ben Boulware (defense) and Mike Williams (offense). Clemson fans might place their confidence in Dorian O’Daniel and Hunter Renfrow to step up to replace those two, but I don’t have that same confidence—yet.
As far as the non-conference games during the season and the bowl games during the postseason go, there are countless other ACC football teams that look ready to take on formidable opponents. I’ll be brief, but here are a few teams worth giving some attention.
Virginia Tech had a great first season under one of my favorite head coaches, Justin Fuente. If the Hokies can improve their ball security, they may even finish above that 9-3 mark from last season.
Miami had a solid season under Mark Richt as well. Hurricane fans remain confident as ever, but I’m not entirely sure what to make of this team now that quarterback Brad Kaaya is gone. He may not have been elite, but he was an important part of Richt’s offense.
Louisville was flying high behind Heisman trophy winner Lamar Jackson early last season, but fell from grace by the end of the year. After watching that collapse, the Cardinals are another team that I really don’t know what to think about yet.
Georgia Tech had an interesting season last year, finishing 8-4 in the regular season and beating two SEC teams during that time. The Yellow Jackets beat the Vanderbilt Commodores and the in-state rival Georgia Bulldogs during the regular season. Georgia Tech also went on to beat Kentucky in its bowl game. This season, Georgia Tech gets a chance to prove itself early against another SEC foe—the Tennessee Volunteers. Let it be known right now that I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Yellow Jackets take down the Vols in this season opener.
The Pittsburgh Panthers, North Carolina Tar Heels, and NC State Wolfpack are a few other teams to keep on the radar in the ACC this season.
To wrap things up I’m also going to give you my prediction for the end-of-year standings in the ACC.
ACC Atlantic Division:
- Florida State
- NC State
- Wake Forest
- Boston College
ACC Coastal Division:
- Virginia Tech
- Georgia Tech
- North Carolina
With those being my standings, I would expect Florida State to beat Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship game and secure a spot in the College Football Playoffs.
While the ACC may not be quite as good as last year, I do still expect a championship contender from the conference and a strong record in non-conference games.
You can email Kristen at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @KristenBotica.
Featured photo courtesy of Ashley Romanosky.