ACC Football Predictions
Posted by - Jimmy Boyd
There’s plenty of excitement surrounding the ACC in 2013. Florida State looks to defend their title after knocking off Georgia Tech in the ACC Championship Game. The Seminoles would go on to beat Northern Illinois in the Orange Bowl to finish up the season at No. 10 in the AP Top 25. Believe it or not, it was the first time the ACC had a team finish in the Top 10 since 2000. It was also just the conferences second BCS Bowl win since 1999.
Both divisions are loaded at the top with strong teams. While the Atlantic figures to once again be a two-way battle between Florida State and Clemson, there’s four teams in the Coastal with a legit shot at playing in the title game. It not out of the question that Miami, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and North Carolina will all finish up at 6-2 inside the conference.
Despite going just 6-17 against BCS conferences during the regular season, the ACC was an impressive 4-2 in their six bowl games. This year both Miami and North Carolina figure to be in the mix after both were not eligible for postseason play in 2012. The conference also welcomes the additions of Syracuse and Pittsburgh, who come over from the Big East.
Here’s a quick look at where I’m predicting each team to finish in the ACC in 2013. For a more in-depth look at each school, just click on the team link in the table at the bottom of the article.
1. Clemson – While the Tigers lose two of their top offensive playmakers in wide out DeAndre Hopkins and running back Andre Ellington, I look for the offense to remain one of the elite in the country behind senior quarterback Tajh Boyd (ACC Player of the Year) and junior wide out Sammy Watkins. I have Clemson rated slightly ahead of Florida State due to the fact that they host the Seminoles on Oct 19. With a couple of non-conference games against two of the top teams out of the SEC in Georgia and South Carolina, it’s unlikely the Tigers will be a threat to make the BCS National Championship Game.
2. Florida State – A lot of people might expect the Seminoles to take a big step back in 2013 with just 11 starters returning and the loss of starting quarterback E.J. Manuel, who was the only quarterback taken in the first round of the NFL Draft. I’m not one of them. Look for red-shirt freshman quarterback Jameis Winston to be one of the big stories of the ACC. Florida State is also one of a few teams in the nation who can simply reload and not rebuild, which is why I don’t expect to see much of a decline defensively with only four starters back.
3. Wake Forest – Head coach Jim Grobe has done an excellent job of getting the Demon Deacons to exceed expectations in just 12 years on the job at Winston-Salem. I believe 2013 is going to be one of those seasons where Wake Forest surprises and finishes much higher in the standings than most would anticipate. The Demon Deacons have 15 starters coming back and will be led offensively by the experienced play of senior quarterback Tanner Price.
4. NC State – The Wolfpack enter their first season under head coach Dave Doeren and I look for them to struggle to finish with a winning record inside the conference. NC State has a good amount of talent on their roster, but will be one of the most inexperienced teams in the ACC with only 10 starters returning. It also hurts that three of their most winnable conference games come on the road, where they are a dismal 6-14 over the last four seasons.
5. Maryland - It’s been a disappointing first two seasons for Maryland head coach Randy Edsall. The Terrapins have won a total of six games the past two years and are just 3-13 inside the conference. Injuries to the quarterback position played a big role in Maryland’s struggles in 2012. While the offense figures to be improved, there’s major concerns with a defense that five of their top eight tacklers from a year ago.
6. Syracuse – The Orange are coming off their second 8-5 finish in the last three years, but figure to take a step back with the move to the more competitive ACC. While the transition to new head coach Scott Shafer (defensive coordinator here last four years) figures to go over smoothly, I believe the loss of quarterback Ryan Nassib (school’s all-time leading passer) will keep this team from being a factor in Atlantic.
7. Boston College – The Eagles went just 1-7 in the ACC and 2-10 overall in 2012. This should be a much more competitive team than the one from last year with 18 starters back, but I just don’t think it will translate into a better record. 7 of their 10 losses in 2012 came by double-digits.
1. Miami – I’m expecting big things out of the Hurricanes in the third season under head coach Al Golden. Miami will bring back 18 starters to a team that went 7-5, despite playing the season without any possibility of getting to a bowl game. While the Hurricanes had a couple of ugly non-conference losses against Kansas State and Notre Dame, two of their three conference losses came by 4-points or less. The key for Miami will be getting improved play out of their defense. I have the Hurricanes going 7-1 in the ACC with their only loss coming on the road at Florida State.
2. Virginia Tech – 2012 was a difficult season for Virginia Tech fans, as the Hokies needed a win over Virginia in the regular season finale just to make it to a bowl game. They would go on to knock of Rutgers in the Russell Athletic Bowl to finish with a winning record at 7-6. Look for the Hokies to get better play out of senior quarterback Logan Thomas and their defense to take a big step forward with nine starters coming back. If it wasn’t for a couple of road games at Miami and Georgia Tech, I would have picked Virginia Tech to win the Coastal.
2. Georgia Tech – I wasn’t far from predicting Georgia Tech to return to the ACC Championship Game. This year’s squad reminds me a lot of the 2009 team that went 11-3 and played in a BCS Bowl. The key here is the experience the Yellow Jackets have coming back on the offensive line. They return four starters from last year and will add senior guard Will Jackson to the mix (started 29 games). I also look for improved play defensively, as they bring back former defensive coordinator Ted Roof and will be returning to a 4-3 scheme.
4. North Carolina – The Tar Heels made some big time improvements offensively in the first season under head coach Larry Fedora. North Carolina went from averaging just 28.0 ppg in 2011 to an impressive 40.6 ppg in 2012. Unfortunately, I don’t think they will be able to match those numbers in 2013 with the loss of star running back Giovani Bernard. North Carolina also has some major concerns defensively. They must replace all three starters at linebacker along with star defensive tackle Sylvester Williams (1st round draft choice).
5. Virginia – The Cavaliers took a big step backwards in 2012, as they went just 2-6 inside the ACC and won a total of four games after piling on eight wins in 2011. While Virginia figures to be one of the more improved teams in the conference with 16 starters coming back, a brutal schedule will keep them being a factor. Three of the Cavaliers four conference home games come against top level teams in Clemson, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech.
6. Duke – The Blue Devils are coming off one of their most successful seasons in school history, as they made it to a bowl game for the first time since 1994. Head coach David Cutcliffe has really done a fantastic job of making the Blue Devils a competitive force in the ACC. Unfortunately he hasn’t been able to fix their problems defensively and with the loss of senior quarterback Sean Renfree it’s unlikely the offensive will be able to produce enough points to win games.
7. Pittsburgh – I had a difficult time picking the Panthers last, but there’s several key factors that point to a big decline in Pittsburgh. For starters, the Panthers have a brutal conference schedule. They will also be a lot less experienced at quarterback with the loss of Tino Sunseri. While Sunseri didn’t put up huge numbers, he helped Pitt finish +12 in the turnover department, a mark that will almost certainly regress back in 2013. I’m also concerned that the defense will struggle to come close to match last year’s numbers with the move to the ACC.
ACC Championship Game – Clemson defeats Miami
|Boston College||Clemson||Florida State||Maryland|
|NC State||Syracuse||Wake Forest|
|Duke||Georgia Tech||Miami||North Carolina|
|ACC||Big 12||American Athletic||Big Ten|
|Conference USA||Independents||MAC||Mountain West|