Leading up to the kickoff of the 2018 college football season, The Game Haus will be previewing each FBS conference and those independent teams. As we continue today with the ACC, we’ll offer league predictions and look at the top performers while also highlighting key games from each conference.
Here we go.
Florida State will be better, but the Tigers remain the team to beat in the entire ACC. The question: When will freshman Trevor Lawrence get his shot under center?
2. Florida State
First-year coach Willie Taggart has a tough decision to make at quarterback, but the Seminoles should be seasoned enough to better their 7-6 mark from last season. An opening test against Virginia Tech will be fun.
3. North Carolina State
Ryan Finley is the best quarterback in the ACC, so the offense should be solid. Now, replacing Bradley Chubb on defense will be a challenge.
Life without Lamar Jackson is here. However, the more pressing issue for the Cardinals might be finding a way to improve a defense that yielded 27.4 points per game in 2017.
5. Boston College
The Eagles won five of their final six regular-season games to earn a bowl bid last season. That’s something to build on, but facing Miami, Virginia Tech, Clemson and Florida State in a four-game stretch is brutal.
6. Wake Forest
Following a rough couple of seasons to start, Dave Clawson has guided the Demon Deacons to two straight bowl wins. Replacing quarterback John Wolford won’t be easy, but six wins seems reasonable.
It’s been four straight losing seasons, the last two under Dino Babers. That makes this a potentially make-or-break season for the coach. Quarterback Eric Dungey (6,472 career passing yards) must stay healthy.
The Hurricanes won 10 games for the first time since 2003 and reached the ACC Championship game. Now, it’s time to build on that success. Miami ranked 28th in scoring defense in 2017, and could be better this year.
2. Virginia Tech
With Josh Jackson under center, the Hokies passing game is in good hands. However, they’ll need to better a rush attack that averaged 3.9 yards per carry last year if they want to challenge for the Coastal crown.
3. Georgia Tech
The Yellow Jackets went 5-6 last season, but lost three games by four points or less. TaQuon Marshall has a full year at quarterback under his belt, which could mean an extra win or two for Georgia Tech.
After bouncing back from a losing 2016 campaign to win a bowl game last season, the Blue Devils will try to improve on their seven wins. Cornerback Mark Gilbert and linebacker Joe Giles-Harris anchor a solid defense.
Pitt might have the talent to rebound from a 5-7 record, but the schedule won’t make that an easy task. In addition to the ACC slate, the Panthers face Penn State, UCF and Notre Dame.
6. North Carolina
The Tar Heels were ravaged by injuries last season, therefore the 3-9 record. Though many North Carolina players earned some on-the-job training in 2017, there’s no guarantee things will be better as off-field issues continue to be a distraction.
Bronco Mendenhall took the Cavaliers from two wins to six and a bowl game last season. Another six victories are possible this year, but that’s likely all.
Players to watch
Cam Akers, RB, Florida State: After rushing for 1,025 yards, averaging 5.3 per carry and scoring eight total touchdowns as a freshman, bigger things are expected of Akers this season. That may go beyond the ACC.
Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson: Ferrell, Dexter Lawrence and Christian Wilkins make up part of the best defensive line in the nation. Last season, Ferrell posted 9 1/2 sacks and 18 tackles for loss. He could be a top-five draft pick in 2019.
Oct. 27: Clemson at Florida State. The ACC Atlantic title should come down to this contest in Tallahassee.
Nov. 10: Florida State at Notre Dame. The rivalry picks back up for the first time since 2014. The Seminoles have won the last three meetings.
Nov. 17: Miami at Virginia Tech. It would seem likely the winner of this matchup will stake claim to the ACC Coastal Division crown.