2018 College Football Preview: ACC

Kelly Bryant,Trent Harris

The ACC is becoming a better and better conference every season, but this could be it’s most competitive season yet. Clemson is the heavy favorite to win the conference, but there could be a lot of challengers here where they might not even win. With that being said, let’s take a look at each team in the conference.

Atlantic Division

Boston College

The Eagles are on the rise, but after last season’s incredible run, they might be destined to do bigger things in 2018. The offense could be what makes them a tough team to beat as there are some lethal weapons there. AJ Dillon at running back will be the player to watch. Their defense will be fun to watch too as that should keep them in games.

Clemson

The favorites to win the division and the conference as they have been one of the most consistent and best teams in the nation (four straight appearances to the playoffs). They are ranked number two in the nation for a reason as Dabo Swinney is slowly becoming one of the best head coaches in college football. Defensively, they are absolutely stacked and with a player like Kelly Bryant leading the offense, you should be excited for what could be another awesome season for the Tigers.

Florida State

Oh what could have been last year. Going into the season, things looked promising and people thought the showdown between them and Clemson was going to decide who wins the division. Then an injury to quarterback Deondre Francois seemed to doom them as they fell to a 7-6 record. With Jimbo Fisher out as head coach, there is a lot of question marks. Will Willie Taggart do a good job of rebuilding the program? Will there be anybody on defense who can step up and fill in Derwin James’ shoes? Will Francois be at his absolute best given the potential he has? While the talent is there, too many question marks will make it hard to get a good read on them.

Louisville

Life after quarterback Lamar Jackson will be hard, but this season might be even harder as last season was a bit of a struggle. With Bobby Petrino at the helm, there might be hope and with Jawon Pass expected to take over Jackson’s spot, there is encouraging signs that this season might go better than last season. It is tough to keep up with Clemson or Florida State in the division, but if you catch some lucky breaks and take advantage of them, you could be in a better position than many thought you would be in which is exactly what Louisville will want. Plus they do boast experience which could help them in those games.

North Carolina State

After seeing how good this team was last season, 9-4 record, you can expect bigger things out of them in 2018. They might play in a tough division, but there’s a good chance they could dethrone Clemson. Quarterback Ryan Findley showed that he was the real deal last season as he was the most efficient passer in the ACC. Plus it helps that he has an explosive offense. The only concern is that they lost a lot of starters in the defense, but their hope is that their depth will replace them with no problem. It should be a big year for the Wolfpack.

Syracuse

Yes, there is some football history with this program, but they are also arguably the weakest team in the division. They did beat Clemson last season, which was a shocker, but it was still a miserable season. There is some talent here like Ervin Phillips and Eric Dungey, but prepare for the Orange to flounder again in 2018.

Wake Forest

Potentially a team that could ruin many other teams’ seasons, the Demon Deacons could make some noise in 2018. This also should be the best team that head coach Dave Clawson has had in the five years since he has had the job. It’s a very tough division for Wake Forest, but there is some promise here. The offense will be good and the defense should do fine, but don’t sleep on these guys.

 

Coastal Division

Duke

Wait, the traditional basketball powerhouse is also good at football? Yep, and they have an excellent head coach in David Cutcliffe. They might not make the ACC Championship game, but they will make some noise as they have talent AND experience. That’s a recipe for success. Now how will this season project for the Blue Devils? Only time will tell, but expect them to compete in every game they play. They have linebacker Joe Giles-Harris leading their defense and Daniel Jones manning at quarterback to control the offense, it could be fun to watch what happens in Durham in 2018.

Georgia Tech

David Johnson might have an impressive resume, but things haven’t been too kind to him the last few seasons. Once a staple of being a top team in the ACC, the Yellow Jackets have been a subpar team the last couple of years. In 2018, they should be a wild card as their offense is projected to do well, but with the team seemingly floundering of late, it could be another miserable year in Winston-Salem.

Miami

Isn’t it great to finally see Miami become a powerhouse again? Earlier in the 21st century they had some of the best talent in the nation that some claim were NFL ready talent. They used to be really good and really fun to watch. Then the program languished for what seemed like a long time, but now they are back to being another powerhouse. The turnover chain was a fun thing last season and that camaraderie is great for any team in any sport. They pose the biggest threat to Clemson in the championship game, but they have to get there first. The defense is great and the offense is awesome, but the question mark will be who will man the quarterback position. If they can figure it out, this will be another fun season in Miami.

North Carolina

A few seasons ago they seemed to be a decent team in the conference year in and year out. Now? Not so much. 3-9 last season isn’t exactly a great year. But in 2018? Well, a lot of question marks. Honestly, where the season will go no one can predict. Their offense will need to rebuild after losing key starters and the defense will need to step up if they want to be at least competitive. Otherwise, it will be a long season in Chapel Hill.

Pittsburgh

Inconsistent play has plagued the Panthers the last two seasons as they seem to do well against the better teams, but struggle against squads that are languishing. However, they should do better in 2018 as they have a defense that should at least help them win some games. If they can stay competitive, then promising things could be on the horizon for the program in the coming years.

Virginia

Things don’t look too promising for the Cavaliers this season as some are predicting them to win only a game in conference play. Yes, it is not an easy division by any means, but this could be the one year that might not be pretty to watch. Yes, it will be a seventh straight losing season. Is there promise? Sure, but it will seemingly be a work starting from scratch to rebuild this program into a winner.

Virginia Tech

When the Hokies are one of the best teams in the conference, it’s a good thing for college football. Life is still weird with Frank Beamer not being the head coach, but Justin Fuente has done a great job replacing him as he makes his Virginia Tech a really strong side. There’s a good amount of question marks, but they do have a lot of talent that could answer those early in the season. While they aren’t quite as good as last year, expect them to battle Miami for the division crown which could could be an exciting game to watch. Josh Jackson will be the driving force as the quarterback as he’s truly a pleasure to watch.

 

Predictions

James Rowe: Miami vs Clemson in championship game. Clemson win the conference championship.

Thomas Martin: In the Coastal, I like Virginia Tech, but their schedule gives them a much harder road than Miami, who should easily have 10+ wins this season. In the Atlantic, I just don’t see anyone matching toe-to-toe with Clemson. So, I agree with James: Miami vs. Clemson in the Championship, and a battle-tested Clemson over a Miami who hasn’t had to face much all year. (PS – The turnover chain is stupid).

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