2017 Atlantic Coast Conference College Football Preview
The ACC is Loaded with Quality Teams and Lots of Bowl Berths
The Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) includes 14 football teams in two divisions, the Atlantic and the Coastal. Last year’s Atlantic winner and ACC champions, the Clemson Tigers, went all the way and stunned the Alabama Crimson Tide 35-31 in the CFB Playoff National Championship final. Will Clemson win its third ACC title in a row? Our 2017 ACC CFB Preview finds that the Tigers have a lot of competition this season, and it will be tough for them to be the champs again in a conference that is so competitive.
In the Atlantic Division, Clemson will have to contend with and compete against a top Florida State Seminoles team, while also dealing with a very fine Louisville Cardinal club. This is a rich division where we expect four of seven teams to play in a bowl game. The Coastal Division is even richer, as we project five of those seven teams will make a postseason appearance. The top programs in the Coastal are the Virginia Tech Hokies, Miami Hurricanes, and Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.
ACC Atlantic Division- Finish
We like the Florida State Seminoles in this division, although Clemson and Louisville will both be quite competitive. We also expect Florida to win the ACC title. Over the past 25 years, the Seminoles have more ACC championships, 15, than any other team in the conference. Here’s how we think this season will go in the Atlantic Division and why.
1. Florida State Seminoles
QB Deondre Francois is back and that means the Seminole offense will be churning out points. This team is loaded with talent and veteran coach Jimbo Cook will utilize it well. Florida’s highly productive running back Dalvin Cook is gone, but there’s depth and experience in his replacements starting with junior Jacques Patrick. This club will be tough to stop.
2. Clemson Tigers
Deshaun Watson has to be replaced at QB, but who can replace all that he did for this team? Chances are no one can. Also missing will be TE Jordan Leggett and RB Wayne Gallman. The O-line is all back but for one starter. On defense, the frontline is experienced and accomplished and includes Dexter Lawrence, Christian Wilkins and Cellin Ferrell. Although a notch down from the last two seasons, one extra-unexpected win and this team could win the conference.
3. Louisville Cardinals
QB Lamar Jackson is back and that is huge for the Cardinals. Jackson can win games in all sorts of ways. Still, he has a big burden, as only three other offensive starters return. It’s helpful that the defense is solid and sees seven starters come back. The offense should not have to score 42 points a game, as they did last season, to win. After all, in 2016 the defense allowed only 23.8 PPG. Louisville will be involved heavily in this conference to say the least.
4. NC State Wolfpack
This is a team that is ready to create some major upsets. It’s true that their first 1,000-yard rusher since 2002, RB Matt Dayes, is gone, but the Wolpack welcomes back nine starters on offense and another eight on defense. That makes them the most experienced team in the ACC. In 2016, the D was ranked 22nd in points allowed (22.8 PPG) and eighth versus the run (108.6 YPG).
5. Wake Forest Demon Deacons
The Demon Deacons have improved a lot over the past few years under coach Dave Clawson. Last year, they went to the Military Bowl and beat Temple 34-26. The team returns nine starters on offense but just five on D. That unit allowed only 22.2 PPG in 2016. Jay Sawvel, their new D-coordinator, has his work cutout for him, as do the Demon Deacons who averaged just 20.4 PPG on offense last season.
6. Syracuse Orange
Second-year coach Dino Babers is solid and will devise some schemes that will offer the Orange the chance to pull off a few upsets. Nine starters are back on offense and 10 on D. There is good and bad news as the good is QB Eric Dungey is back, while the bad is top-target Amba Etta-Tawo is not. Reducing injuries will help this team a lot.
7. Boston College Eagles
The Eagles see senior DE Harold Landry return for his final season. He’s the national leader in sacks. Starting QB Patrick Towels is gone, and that is not good news for an offense that scored just 20.4 PPG. Head coach Steve Addazio may win games with his D, which held teams to 25.0 PPG in 2016, but he probably can’t cobble together a winning record as he did last year going 7-6.
ACC Coastal Division- Finish
In our 2017 ACC CFB Preview, we predict that the Coastal Division will be very tight, as three of four quality teams battle for the top-spot. We have picked the Miami Hurricanes to win the division in 2017, but the fact is the Virginia Tech Hokies, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, and the Pittsburgh Panthers will all have something to say about that.
1. Miami Hurricanes
Second-year coach Mark Richt had a curve ball thrown his way when QB Brad Kaaya left after the 2016 season. There are three players who will try to replace him. The good news is that star RB Mark Walton is back for his junior year. He ran for 14 TDs last season and caught one more scoring pass while accumulating over 1,200 offensive yards.
2. Virginia Tech Hokies
Three starters are gone on offense, including highly productive QB Jerod Evans and the team’s two top receivers. It’s unknown who will start as the signal caller for the Hokies. VT does see seven defensive starters return, including top-notch MLB Andrew Motuapuaka and highly productive OLB Tremiane Edmunds. Plus, the team has some fine talent in the secondary.
3. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Like the Hokies, the Yellow Jackets will be missing key components of their offense, including QB Justin Thomas and RB Marcus Marshall. But the Yellow Jackets have some very fine dual-threat players and should find a solid starting QB. The team’s defense came together at the end of last season, and despite some losses for 2017 should be able to build on that progress. They are at home against North Carolina, Pittsburgh, and Virginia Tech. That helps.
4. Pittsburgh Panthers
Transfer Max Browne may be the right guy for QB, as the Panthers have to replace starting signal caller Nathan Peterman. Dual threat Quadree Henderson will play a big role this season. The secondary needs a lot of help, as they allowed over 330 yards per game in passing last year. Junior safety Jordan Whitehead looked good in 2016 and could help to turn things around in that area.
5. North Carolina Tar Heels
The Tar Heels are going to have to win on defense, as they see just about the entire O-line and a trio of other starters, including QB Mitch Trubisky, leave. There is good news on defense, as LB Andre Smith and DBs Donnie Miles and M.J. Stewart return to lead a group that was 12th nationally in pass defense and gave up just 24.9 PPG.
6. Virginia Cavaliers
The Cavs will have senior QB Kurt Benkert back for one more season, but must deal with a questionable offensive line. Coach Bronco Mendenhall is trying to build a team, but has a lot of holes to fill on both sides of the ball. This team needs to look towards the future, develop some of their young players, and recruit heavily.
7. Duke Blue Devils
Sophomore QB Daniel Jones has some decent receivers on the squad. Plus, Jones comes back after a sound freshman season where he passed for over 2,800 yards and ran for 486 more, tossing 16 TD passes and running for seven more scores. The defense loses six starters, including three in the secondary, and that won’t help a team that allowed over 28 PPG in 2016.
2017 ACC CFB Preview
- Florida State: Rose Bowl (CFP Semifinals)
- Clemson: Orange Bowl
- Virginia Tech: Music City Bowl
- Miami: Sun Bowl
- Louisville: Camping World Bowl
- N.C. State: Military Bowl
- Georgia Tech: Pinstripe Bowl
- North Carolina: Independence Bowl
- Pittsburgh Panthers: Quick Lane Bowl
2017 ACC CFB Preview
Projected Best Bets
Our 2017 ACC CFB preview Best Bets are projections. A lot can change during the course of a season so be sure to perform due diligence prior to making any wager.
- Sep 2: Kent State @Clemson- Clemson by no more than -25
- Sep 9: Delaware @Virginia Tech- VT by no more than -40
- Sep 29: Miami @Duke- Duke at +23 or better
- Sep 30: Murray State @Louisville- Louisville by no more than -30
- Oct 14: Florida State @Duke- FS by no more than -27
- Oct 21: Syracuse @Miami- Miami by no more than -24
- Oct 27: Florida State @Boston College- FS by no more than -30
- Nov 18: Syracuse @Louisville- Louisville by no more than -30
- Nov 18: Connecticut @Boston College- Boston College by no more than -25
- Nov 25: Clemson @South Carolina: Clemson by no more than -40