The Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) might not have the depth of the SEC or Big Ten, but are very strong at the top. The ACC has sent a team to the playoffs since it was first introduced for 2014-15 campaign. The SEC is the only other conference that can make that claim.
Each of the last 3 years it’s been Clemson who has represented the conference in the playoffs. The Tigers lost to Alabama in the 2015-16 title game, but would get their revenge in the 2016-17 championship game against the Crimson Tide.
Last year it didn’t go so well for Clemson, who went in as the No. 1 seed, as they were dominated by Alabama in a 24-6 defeat in the semifinals.
The Tigers weren’t the only team to struggle in bowl play out of the ACC. The conference as a whole went just 4-5 and two of those wins were against Group of 6 teams. They were also 0-4 against ranked teams.
Speaking of rankings, only 4 of the 14 teams finished the 2017 season ranked inside the Top 25 (Clemson, Miami, NC State and Virginia Tech).
ACC College Football Preview & Predictions
This year there’s definitely talent at the top of the conference. Both Clemson and Miami come in as legit contenders to not just win the ACC, but to win it all. There’s also a number of teams that are trending up and could surprise.
I’ve taken a long look at what each team has coming back and have added in recruiting. Using that information, I went through the schedules of all 14 teams and compiled my predictions on how I see each team finishing in the standings for the 2018 campaign. You can see my projections, as well as some analysis on my reasoning below.
For a good reference on a team’s expectations for the year, be sure to check out their win total numbers. You can also get an early start on betting Week 1 action. Just click here for the opening lines for all FBS games. For a complete picture on how I see the college football season playing out, check out my overall predictions.
2018 ACC Projected Standings, Rankings & Betting Odds
|Pos.||Team||Conf||Overall||Atlantic Odds||ACC Odds|
Despite the ugly loss to Alabama in the playoffs, Clemson made quite the statement last year with where their program is. A lot of people thought the Tigers were going to be down a notch in 2017 with just 12 starters back and having to replace star quarterback Deshaun Watson.
That wasn’t the case at all, as Clemson ran the table in the regular-season, with wins over 4 ranked opponents. They improved to 5-0 with a 38-3 blowout win over No. 7 Miami in the ACC title game.
This year the Tigers have 15 starters back and could very well be a favorite in every game. They get back starting QB Kelly Bryant, but rumors are he’s going to lose his job to true freshman Trevor Lawrence. Either way the offense should be potent and the defense might be the best in the country behind a defensive line that figures to have at least 4 future NFL players.
With that said, I do think Clemson will slip up at least once in conference play, with the two most likely defeats coming on the road at FSU or BC.
Speaking of Florida State, I think the Seminoles will be one of the most improved teams in the country, despite losing head coach Jimbo Fisher to Texas A&M. FSU did a nice job replacing Fisher with Willie Taggart, who is a brilliant offensive mind. With Deondre Francois back healthy, the Seminoles should be a lot closer to the 35.8 ppg they averaged in 2016 (27.8 ppg last year).
Maybe the only thing that will keep FSU from overtaking Clemson is the schedule. The Seminoles draw Virginia Tech and Miami out of the Coastal and have to play Notre Dame and Florida in non-conference play.
Most are going to have Clemson and Florida State at the top of the Atlantic. Where things get interesting is trying to decipher who is next in line. A lot of people will have NC State pegged for third in the division, as they get back one of the top NFL quarterback prospects in Ryan Finley. However, I’m not big on the Wolfpack, as they have to replace their entire front seven on defense.
My pick to finish third is Louisville, who I think is flying a bit under the radar after losing the amazing Lamar Jackson and his ridiculous numbers. Head coach Bobby Petrino knows how to get the most out of his offenses and will do just that. What really helps is the schedule, as they draw Virginia and Georgia Tech out of the Coastal and get FSU and NC State at home.
Next up in my rankings is Boston College, who I feel is the real sleeper in this division. I actually think the Eagles are more talented than Louisville, but may not finish as high in the standings because of the schedule. They have 3 brutal conference road games against NC State, Virginia Tech and FSU, plus have to host the two best teams in the ACC in Miami and Clemson.
That leaves Syracuse and Wake Forest, who are both capable of upsetting some of the big names at the top of the conference. Wake Forest has put together back-to-back winning seasons and will have 14 returning starters. The Orange also bring back 14 starters and are now in year three under head coach Dino Babers.
|Pos.||Team||Conf||Overall||Coastal Odds||ACC Odds|
Just about everyone is going to have Miami picked to win the Coastal and rightfully so. The Hurricanes got as high as No. 2 in the country behind a perfect 10-0 start. Miami has compiled a 19-7 record in the first two years under head coach Mark Richt and the 2018 version of the Hurricanes looks to be the best he’s had in his short tenure.
Miami has 14 starters back, including senior quarterback Malik Rosier and will feature one of the best linebacking corps in the country. Most importantly, the schedule sets up well, as the Hurricanes avoid Clemson out of the Atlantic and get Florida State at home. I not only think the Hurricanes are going to win the division, but I have them knocking off the Tigers in the ACC title game and advancing to the playoffs.
As you can see, I don’t see any other team in the Coastal threatening Miami. I have Virginia Tech, North Carolina and Duke all finishing a full 2-games back in the standings.
If I had to take one of those 3 teams to overtake the Hurricanes, I would have to go with the Hokies. Virginia Tech is on the rise under head coach Justin Fuente and have an emerging star at quarterback in sophomore Joshua Jackson, If Bud Foster can work his magic on what will be a very young defense, this team could definitely exceed expectations.
As for UNC and Duke, these are two teams that might not be on a lot of peoples radar, but are poised to be greatly improved. The Tar Heels took a big step back in 2017 with just 11 returning starters and a bunch of injuries. Larry Fedora has got this team to the ACC title game as recently as 2015 and I expect UNC to be right there with FSU as one of the most improved teams.
Duke has 15 returning starters from a team that wasn’t far off from a double-digit win season. The Blue Devils went 7-5, but had 4 losses by 7-points or less. They don’t figure to be in just about every game in 2018, as they get back 8 starters from a defense that allowed more than 30 points just once last season.
That leaves Pittsburgh, Georgia Tech and Virginia to battling it out for the bottom 3 spots in the Coastal. I give a slight edge to the Panthers, who I feel are on the verge of really turning this thing around under 4th year head coach Pat Narduzzi.
As for Georgia Tech, I just feel the Hokies are facing an up hill climb with the schedule they were dealt. They catch a bad break having to play both Clemson and Miami at home, taking away two potential wins. They also have a tough slate with games at Pitt, Louisville, UNC and Va Tech. Not to mention a non-conference game against another national title contender in Georgia.
Virginia surprised a lot of people making a bowl last year after going just 2-10 the previous season. The problem for the Cavaliers have to replace on of the more productive signal callers in the ACC last year in Kurt Benkert and are one of the least experienced teams in the country. Keep in mind that while I have them winning 4 games, they have two cupcake games at home against FCS foes.
ACC Championship Game: Miami Defeats Clemson
|Players (Pos, School)||Odds|
|Kelly Bryant (QB, Clemson)||+2000|
|Cam Akers (RB, Florida State)||+2500|
|Travis Etienne (RB, Clemson)||+3500|
|Trevor Lawrence (QB Clemson)||+3500|
|Ryan Finley (QB, NC State)||+4400|
Click on the link for a full list of Heisman odds for the 2018 season.
These are just the odds to make the playoffs. Click on the following link for a full list of the national championship odds.