The ACC is definitely the conference to watch this year. Why?
With back-to-back teams making the National Championship Game, and Clemson being loaded for a huge run again in 2016, the ACC should be one of the fun divisions this year. Especially because Clemson’s road to the CFB Championship Game is not going to be easy. Even though they are the heavy favorites to win the Atlantic Division, they have teams that will try to make their path as hard as possible.
North Carolina is the pick in the Coastal Division. However, similar to Clemson, they have company in Miami, Virginia Tech, Pitt, and many other great College Institutions that can definitely become a surprise team.
Take a look below as I dive into each ACC team which includes projected records!
Boston College had a very strange season last year. They had a very good defense, allowing just 15.2 points per game. But their offense was the real problem, the averaged only 17.2 points per game.
The Eagles have 15 starters returning to the team, but they need a leader and neither Patrick Towles nor Darius Wade look like the answer. Although, if their great defense continues and their new Offensive Cordinator, Scot Loeffler figures it out, they might have a decent season.
The Tigers are in line for an outstanding season, even though their top pass rushers ( Kevin Dodd, Shaq Lawson ) and some good pieces of the secondary are gone to the NFL. If their offense can keep scoring the way they did last year ( and there is no reason why they couldn’t ) they should be right back at the CFB Championship Game
The main reason I have Clemson repeating this year is, DeShaun Watson, if he continues showing his leadership, they will repeat, because he already has the talent. Dabo Swinney might be getting a fat raise after the 2016 CFB season.
David Cutliffe. The only reason why Duke might be relevant this year.
Cutliffe has done an incredible job turning the Blue Devils football program around. They have a 27-13 record and four bowl appearances since Mr. Cutliffe took the coaching job. The bad news are, the starting Quarterback for the Blue Devils ruptured his achilles earlier this Spring, so there is no word yet on whether he will be able to participate in the 2016 season.
Parker Boehme, the backup QB for the team will be asked to do a lot this year, he better get things going or it could get very bad for the Blue Devils.
2016 should be a very competitive year for the Seminoles. They are getting 17 returning starters, ( the whole offense is coming back ) and they have one of the best Running Backs of the nation.
The only question, is the Quarterback position. With senior Sean Maguire’s season at question because of ankle surgery, they could end up using freshman Deondre Francois, which I firmly believe is a top 3 freshman player. Should be an exciting season for the Seminoles.
For the Yellow Jackets, it will come down to the performance of their Quarterback. Justin Thomas has all the weapons he needs. Running back Marcus Marshall ( 656 yards, 4 Touchdowns ) returns for hopefully another remarkable season. Top Wide Receiver Ricky Jeune ( 420 yards, 4 Touchdowns ) is another high caliber player that returns for the Jackets.
Will Quarterback Justin Thomas bounce back from a season in which he threw for only 1,345 yards and 13 Touchdowns, against 8 INT’s? That could be the difference between a bowl season or just another bad December for the Jackets.
Should Cardinals fans be excited? YES. Louisville returns 18 starters from a team that finished with a very good 8-5 record. Similar to Georgia Tech, if Quarterback Lamar Jackson can continue his development, they could end up fighting Clemson or Florida State for the ACC Atlantic.
They have a fair schedule start next year. Their first 5 games are Charlotte, Syracuse, Florida State, Marshall, and Clemson. If they can manage a 4-1 record through the first 5 games, their bowl chances are big.
A fresh start for the U. The Hurricanes are being led by junior QB Brad Kaaya ( Which I have as the most NFL-ready QB ), a guy who last year dominated college defenses, throwing for 3,238 yards, 8.4 yards per attempt, and 16 Touchdowns, against 5 INT’s.
Kaaya should just continue to grow and develop himself under a very good Quarterback creator, Mark Richt. If he does continue to show maturity and responsibility to guide a team, the U should have a contender in the Coastal division.
I don’t like what 2016 holds up for the Wolfpack. They will be forced to find a replacement for former mobile and incredibly talented QB Jacoby Brissett. A third consecutive bowl game looks unlikely with an also very tough schedule featuring Clemson, Louisville, North Carolina and Miami, not naming a few. Unless somehow, the Wolfpack gets it together. 2016 should be a disaster.
An offense that averaged 40.7 points per game, No. 9 Nationally, must find a replacement to the graduated QB Marquise Williams. Even though Mitch Trubisky ( the likely new star QB for the Tar Heels ) has very good weapons in WR Ryan Switzer and Running back Elijah Hood, he has to put it all together ASAP to contend.
So for the Tar Heels it all depends, QB Trubisky could end up being the next great QB for the program, or just a stop-gap QB. So, as I said it really all depends on his development.
James Conner. Enough said. I seriously believe that story will motivate the Pitt players and the young bucks, not only for the 2016 season, because seriously, life is more than just wins and losses. The story of Mr. Conner will form young men coming to the program looking to compete. The talent is there for Pittsburgh, that is no problem, the only concern was leadership, and they’ll get just that in James Conner.
The season really depends on whether they beat their long-time rivals Penn State, if they achieve that, trust me, they will be pumped up and going at all cylinders. 2016 will be full of especial things for Pitt players and fans.
The Orange does return 18 starters from a year ago, but no, I don’t believe Dino Barbers figures it out in just a season. The uptempo offense Barbers is trying to run might not be the best for this program. I believe Syracuse should recruit a high-profile RB and feed him the ball as many times as needed. Until they get their QB-RB duo, I don’t see Syracuse making any noise in the Atlantic.
What progress should we expect in the third year of the Clawson era in Wake? It might be exciting to return 17 starters, but sadly, in this case, returning starters might not be a good thing, since their offense averaged 17 points per game. Quarterback John Wolford threw 9 touchdowns against 11 INT’s last fall and his job is not a lock, with Kendall Hinton pushing hard for it.
The Demon Deacons are scheduled to face Clemson, Florida State, Louisville, Army, Delaware and Tulane. I don’t see them winning more than 1 game out of those 5. Similar to N.C. State, 2016 is probably going to be wild.
The new Cavaliers coach Bronco Mendenhall shouldn’t have much trouble this season. He had things going with BYU so, snubbing him from Brigham Young University might have been a huge, under-the -radar steal. Mendenhall has a 99-43 record as a Head Coach and is 6-5 in Bowl games.
Besides, the Cavs are returning 12 starters, but their offense will need to be more efficient, especially Quarterback Matt Johns. Middle Linebacker Micah Kiser will need to lead this team to victory if he wants to start winning.
If he doesn’t figure things out, this might be a now-rare down season for Mr. Mendenhall.Future’s bright for Virginia, maybe just not on 2016.
Frank Beamer era is over, sadly, but that doesn’t mean winning is over too.
The Hokies will have to decide between JUCO transfer Jerod Evans, senior Brenden Motley, or sophomore Dwayne Lawson. With Motley being the favorite and the most experienced of the group, he should end up being the week 1 starter.
Star WR Isaiah Ford will be key to the era of the new HC Justin Fuente. Ford racked up nearly 1,200 yards last season and Running back Travon McMillan rushed for over 1,000 yards on his freshman year, his future is very bright.
The only concern this team might have is the defense, since 5 starters are gone, but that shouldn’t be a problem since Bud Foster is one of the best defensive coordinators and has even been considered by a lot of football programs for HC vacancies. The Hokies have a huge ceiling but a very low rock-bottom. They will try to get their season going the right way at home vs Liberty University on week 1.
So, yes. The ACC is the conference to watch this year.