Leading up to the kickoff of the 2019 college football season, The Game Haus will be previewing each FBS conference and those independent teams. It is continued today with the ACC, as league predictions and top performers will be looked at while also highlighting key games from each conference.
Here is the ACC.
Since the beginning of the 2015 season, Clemson is 55-4. It would be a shock if the Tigers are not undefeated come the College Football Playoff. With quarterback Trevor Lawrence, running back Travis Etienne, receiver Justyn Ross, defensive lineman Xavier Thomas and linebacker Isaiah Simmons back, a repeat national title looks good.
The Orange posted their first 10-win season since 2001 last year, but they move on minus talented QB Eric Dungey. Replacement Tommy DeVito seems worthy of taking over, while defensive linemen Alton Robinson and Kendall Coleman each had 10 sacks in 2018.
3. North Carolina State
There is a lot to replace in Raleigh, especially QB Ryan Finley, but Dave Doeren is a good enough coach to keep the Wolfpack near the top of the ACC Atlantic. Seven starters return from a defense that held six opponents to 21 or fewer points.
4. Florida State
FSU’s run of 36 straight seasons with a bowl appearance ended with 2018’s 5-7 mark. There are questions at quarterback and new offensive coordinator Kendal Briles will try to fix a unit that was held to 14 or fewer points five times in ’18. Eight starters are back on defense for the Seminoles.
5. Boston College
The good news: QB Anthony Brown (2,121 passing yards, 20 TDs) and RB AJ Dillon (1,108 rushing yards, 10 TDs) are back from a 7-5 team. The bad: There are four new starters on the offensive line and a handful of new ones on defense.
6. Wake Forest
If the Demon Deacons are to make a fourth consecutive bowl appearance, they’ll need to replace several key contributors on both sides of the ball. Of course, RB Cade Carney is coming off a 1,005-yard rushing season. ACC road trips to Virginia Tech, Clemson and Syracuse over the last four games will be a major test.
Former Appalachian State coach Scott Satterfield is trying to bring the Cardinals back above water after going a dismal 2-10 2018. The improvement might not be significant, but Satterfield should bring a fresh approach to the program. Trying to fix a defense that allowed 51 or more points seven times in ’18 is another.
Bryce Perkins (2,680 passing yards, 25 passing TDs, 923 rushing yards) is the most versatile quarterback in the ACC. Cornerback Bryce Hall, meanwhile, leads a defense that has some retooling to do, but boasts one of the best secondaries in the country.
2. Miami, Fla.
Once the quarterback situation is taken care of (either N’Kosi Perry or Tate Martell), the Hurricanes can focus on rebounding from a disappointing 7-6 season. New coach Manny Diaz has his dream job in the ACC, now It’s time to prove he’s worth it.
3. Virginia Tech
The Hokies barely kept their lengthy bowl streak going by finishing the regular season at 6-6, then lost the Military Bowl. QB Ryan Willis (2,716 passing yards, 24 TDs) returns, along with a host of receivers. However, they can’t give up almost 30 points per game in the ACC like last year.
Pitt was the surprise of the ACC last season, going 6-2 in the league to win the Coastal. The Panthers endured some significant losses on both sides of the ball, so repeating as ACC Coastal champs will be hard. QB Kenny Pickett is back.
5. North Carolina
Coach great Mack Brown is back for a second stint in Chapel Hill. That gives the Tar Heels at least some credibility and hopes things will be better in 2019. While there are holes to fill on defense, Carolina brings back four starters on the offensive line and some key wide receivers.
Losing first-round NFL quarterback Daniel Jones is a blow, the Blue Devils obviously knew that day would come. There are also some gaps in the receiving corps. Defensively, it’s important that star defensive back Mark Gilbert can stay healthy as Duke eyes a third straight bowl appearance.
7. Georgia Tech
New coach Geoff Collins is changing things on and off the field at Georgia Tech. The transition might not be a smooth one off the bat, but the new-look Yellow Jackets will be worth keeping an eye one. It will be all about how long it takes the chemistry to brew.
Players to watch
Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson: The Heisman Trophy front-runner might have a tough task in trying to better his numbers from 2018: 3,230 passing yards, 30 TD passes, four interceptions, 65.2 completion percentage. Then again, Lawrence has enough talent around him that those numbers don’t need to be as good.
Bryce Hall, CB, Virginia: The Cavs thanked their stars when Hall announced he would return for his senior season. Hall recorded a national-best 22 pass break-ups, picked off two passes and forced two fumbles during a stellar junior campaign.
Sept. 7: Texas A&M at Clemson. If the Tigers are to lose a game this season, it could come here. And even that might be a stretch. Clemson held on for a 28-26 win in last season’s meeting at College Station.
Oct. 11: Virginia at Miami, Fla. We think Virginia can win the ACC Coastal, but in order to do so, it probably needs to win at Miami. That would also mean ending a three-game road slide to the Hurricanes.
Nov. 30: Florida State at Florida. The Seminoles lengthy bowl streak ended last season, and if they are to start a new one, it might come down to their regular-season finale against the Gators.