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2021 ACC Football Preview

Updated: Aug 20, 2021



Predicted Order of Finish


Atlantic Division


1. Clemson- Like Alabama the names change but the results stay the same, Dabo Swinney has built a winning culture and despite the loss of QB Trevor Lawrence the Tiger should once again contend for a national championship, former 5 star QB recruit D.J. Uiagalelei gained valuable experience during Lawrence’s Covid-19 absence throwing for over 400 yards at Notre Dame, the defense is stacked with 9 starters returning from a season ago


2. NC State- Greatly exceeded expectations last season winning 8 games and reaching a bowl and look to carry that momentum into 2021, QB Devin Leary returns after suffering a broken leg last October, Leary will be helped out with the returning of four starters on the offensive line, the defense was average at best last year but returns 9 starters


3. Wake Forest- HC Dave Clawson has done an admirable job taking the team to 5 consecutive bowls, despite a dreadful performance in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl QB Sam Hartman put together a solid year in 2020 throwing for 2,224 yards and 13 touchdowns, 8 other starters return on offense including the entire O-Line, the defense was a sieve for much of last year and must improve to stay near the top of the Atlantic Division


4. Boston College- Notre Dame transfer QB Phil Jurkovec put up phenomenal numbers is his first year as a starter throwing for 2,558 yards and 17 touchdowns, the O-line returns all 5 starters that possess NFL potential, the defense did improve slightly in 2020 from the previous year but have questions at linebacker, the Eagles could challenge NC State and Wake for the 2nd in the Atlantic Division


5. Florida St- Seeing former UCF QB McKenzie Milton return to the field is great for college football but ever greater for the Seminoles who were desperate for stability at the position, there is no question the pandemic affected first year head question Mike Norvell, who was also sidelined after a positive test, overall should see improvement in Norvell’s 2nd season if Milton stays healthy but a daunting schedule awaits


6. Louisville-2020 definitely didn’t go as planned for HC Scott Satterfield and the Cardinals, QB Malik Cunningham returns for his third season but needs to improve on his 12 INT’s from last season, the defense was a bright spot finishing 39th in total yards allowed but with games against Atlantic Division foes Wake Forest, Florida St, and NC State all on the road a climb up the standings seems unlikely


7. Syracuse- In just 3 years Dino Babers went from one of college football’s rising coaches to now possibly coaching for his job in 2021, after winning 10 games in 2018 things bottomed out for the Orange in 2020 going 1-10 and losing 8 straight to end the year, Babers is an offensive coach who for the most part since his arrival has struggled to put a quality defensive product on the field, despite giving up 463.9 yards a game the defense actually improved by .2 yards per game from 2019, it was Babers offense that really nosedived in 2020 finishing 117 nationally in scoring offense at 17.8 points per game,


Coastal Division


1. North Carolina- QB and Potential Heisman candidate Sam Howell returns for his third season, the Tar Heels did lose 2 key receivers but bring back the entire O-line, the defense returns a strong front 7 that should earn HC Mac Brown’s team a spot in the ACC Championship


2. Virginia- the Cavaliers took a step back last season going 5-5 after winning the Coastal Division and earning a spot in the Orange Bowl in 2019, the biggest surprise was the defense finishing 123 nationally in pass yards allowed and giving up over 40 points in three of their games, HC Bronco Mendenhall known for his defensive expertise should turn things around in 2021, the offense returns 9 starters in including QB Brennan Armstrong and all 5 lineman, however a tough schedule featuring North Carolina and Miami on the road will likely thwart a division crown


3. Virginia Tech- HC Justin Fuente orchestrated a remarkable turnaround at Memphis prior to his arrival in Blacksburg but his first 5 seasons coaching the Hokies have been shaky at best, the team has posted sub-500 finishes in two of the past three seasons, the defense fell off dramatically in D coordinator Justin Hamilton’s first season replacing icon Bud Foster, Oregon transfer and QB Braxton Burmeister showed promise in four starts last beating Virginia in the season finale, if the defense led by a strong line can improve with another year in Hamilton’s system a bowl birth and a shot to win the Coastal Division isn’t out of the question


4. Miami- a lot of hype surrounds the Hurricanes entering the 2021 season, electric dual threat QB D’Eriq King returns after averaging 244.1 passing yards and 48.9 rushing yards in 2020, however the Canes suffered embarrassingly lopsided losses against Clemson and North Carolina and King injured his knee in the bowl game, the defense was mediocre last season and got exposed against the tougher teams on the schedule, if King’s knee becomes an issue and the defense doesn’t tighten the screws Miami could slide down the conference standings


5. Pittsburgh- HC Pat Narduzzi has taken the Panthers to 4 bowls in 6 seasons and would have been five if not for opting out of the postseason last year, QB Kenny Pickett has found his stride under offensive coordinator Mark Whipple, the defense lost a lot of talent to the NFL but returns all 3 three senior linebackers, the schedule is very favorable with Clemson, Miami, and North Carolina all at home, if the new faces on defense fill the void this team could reach 9 or 10 wins


6. Duke- after reaching 6 bowls in 7 years from 2012-2018 under HC David Cutcliffe the program has lost some of its mojo posting back to back losing seasons, QB Gunnar Holmberg looks to provide a spark to an offense that finished 91 nationally in scoring, the defense was gashed last season giving up 213.2 yards per game rushing, the D line led by Senior Ben Frye must step up for the Blue Devils, the schedule is manageable early and if a good start is essential for a chance to get back to bowl


7. Georgia Tech- HC Geoff Collins is 6-16 in his first 2 seasons and the program hasn’t shown much promise, this season should reveal whether he is cut out to coach at the power five level, QB Jeff Sims put up great numbers as a freshman throwing for 1,881 yards and 13 touchdowns, those numbers however were offset by 13 interceptions , the offensive backfield is loaded but the O-Line is questionable at best, the defense hasn’t had any kind of identity struggling to stop both the pass and run in 2020, the Yellow Jackets visit Clemson September 18th and host North Carolina a week later, how the team performs in those 2 games will set the tone for the remainder of the season


Buy-Virginia

Sell- Miami


Best Bet- Miami UNDER total wins


Coach of the Year- Dabo Swinney Clemson

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