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 4 years it’s been Clemson who has represented the conference in the playoffs. This past year the Tigers won it all, defeating Alabama 44-16 in the title game. That’s now two national championships for Clemson under head coach Dabo Swinney.
Clemson must be viewed on the same level as Alabama going forward. The big question is whether or not any other team in the ACC can even threaten their reign over the conference.
Going back to 2015, the Tigers are a ridiculous 30-2 in ACC play during the regular-season with a perfect 4-0 mark in the ACC Championship Game.
The only other team to finish the 2018 season ranked in the Top 25 of either the AP or Coaches Poll was Syracuse (No. 15 in both). That speaks volumes to how far the other teams in the conference have to go to catch the Tigers.
ACC College Football Preview & Predictions
No many are going to be debating who will win the Atlantic Division. The only real question is who will finish second.
As for the Coastal Division, it’s any ones guess who will emerge on top. Outside of the die hard Pitt fans, no one was picking Pittsburgh to win the Coastal last year (only Virginia had worse odds to win the division).
I’ve went through all 14 teams and taken a long hard look at who each team has coming back, what kind of talent (recruiting) they have coming in and how the schedule looks. Below I’ve included my predictions for each team, as well as some insight to my projections.
Now is a great time to get an early start on Opening Week of the 2019 season. Just click here for the Week 1 lines for all FBS games. For a complete picture on how I see the college football season playing out, check out my overall predictions.
2019 ACC Projected Standings, Rankings & Betting Odds
As you can see, I don’t foresee the Tigers losing a game in the regular-season. While Clemson loses a lot of NFL talent on defense, most notably the defensive line, they have 8 starters back on offense, including Heisman frontrunner Trevor Lawrence at quarterback. As for the defense, it’s likely not going to be as strong, but don’t think for a second that it won’t still be one of the best in the country.
Florida State’s first season under Willie Taggert couldn’t have gone much worse. The Seminoles suffered their first losing season since 1976 and had their 36-year bowl streak snapped. With 16 starters back, including sophomore quarterback James Blackmon (red-shirt last year) there’s an enormous amount of pressure on Taggert to have this team competing at a high level. If Florida State fails, it’s not for a lack of talent. This team is littered with highly touted recruits on both sides of the ball.
I have the Seminoles finishing in a tie with Syracuse at 5-3 in the ACC, but it is worth noting that I have FSU beating the Orange in the head-to-head matchup in Tallahassee.
It’s crazy to think how close Syracuse was to winning the ACC Atlantic last year. Had the Orange held on to a 23-13 4th quarter lead, Syracuse would have represented the Atlantic in the ACC title game. While I like what Dino Babers is doing, I think it will be tough for the Orange to match last year’s success without Eric Dungey at quarterback.
My big surprise in the division is Wake Forest. No one wants to seem to give Dave Clawson’s team any love. The Demon Deacons have quietly posted 3 straight winning seasons. While only 12 starters are back, this will be one of the more experienced teams in the country and have a very favorable home/non-conference schedule.
While Wake Forest is my sleeper, NC State is my team that will disappoint. A lot of people thought the Wolfpack would take a big step back last year with just 3 starts back on defense (lost a ton of NFL talent), but they posted an identical 9-4 record to 2017. A big reason for that was they had one of the best QBs in the country coming back in Ryan Finley. Not only is Finley gone, but so is leading rusher Reggie Gallaspy (1,091 yards, 18 TDs) and their top two pass catchers in Kelvin Harmon and Jakobi Meyers (combined 173 catches, 2,233 yards, 11 TDs).
I had a difficult time picking Boston College as low as I did, as I think the Eagles offense will be by far the best of the Steve Addazio era. The problem is they have just 3 guys back on a defense that gave up over 400 ypg last year.
That leaves Louisville, who will be in the first year under had coach Scott Satterfield (Appalachian State ’13-’18). While the team should be better, it’s hard to see a big improvement in the win column.
Miami is the odds on favorite to win the Coastal, but my money is on Justin Fuente and Virginia Tech to emerge on top. The Hokies had gone 19-8 in Fuente’s first two seasons, which included a trip to the ACC title game in 2016. Last year was simply a rebuilding year and all signs point to this team being really good. Virginia Tech has 16 returning starters, including one of the top signal callers in the conference in junior Ryan Willis.
While the Hurricanes failed to live up to the hype last year, it really felt like Mark Richt had this team on the verge of being great again. That feeling is now up in the air, as Richt retired and now it’s well respected defensive coordinator Manny Diaz in charge. We know the defense will be strong. It all comes down to what they get out of the quarterback position in their new look offense under new offensive coordinator Dan Enos.
Pittsburgh and Virginia are a couple other Coastal teams that are expected to compete for the division title. The Panthers get back junior quarterback Kenny Pickett, but lose a lot on both sides of the ball. Virginia’s defense really sparked a surprising season for the Cavaliers in 2018. While they get back 8 on defense, they lose two studs in Juan Thornhill and Chris Peace.
North Carolina doesn’t figure to be player in the ACC this year, but there will be plenty of eyes on this team, as Mack Brown returns to Chapel Hill as the head coach. The Tar Heels should be improved from last year’s 2-win campaign, but likely won’t be a serious threat until 2020.
I never like picking Duke this low, as head coach David Cutcliffe has a knack for getting his team to exceed expectations. With that said, I just think the Blue Devils are going to have a really tough time replacing Daniel Jones at quarterback.
As for Georgia Tech, the Yellow Jackets return just 9 starters and will be undergoing massive change on offense. New head coach, Geoff Collins will be replacing the option offense with a pro style attack. They just don’t have the kids on the roster to make a smooth transition.
ACC Championship Game: Clemson Defeats Virginia Tech
2019 ACC Win Totals
Click on the link to see the college football win totals for every team.
|Players (Pos, School)||Odds|
|Trevor Lawrence (QB Clemson)||+260|
|Travis Etienne (RB, Clemson)||+2000|
|Tee Higgins (WR, Clemson)||+3500|
|A.J. Dillon (RB, Boston College)||+7500|
Click on the link for a full list of Heisman odds for the 2019 season.
Click on the following link for a full list of the national championship odds.