Sean Higgs 2016 ACC Football Preview
My Conference Previews off with the 2016 ACC Football. Be sure to check back for additional College Football Conference Previews!
1 - FLORIDA STATE – Yes, I know that Clemson has some unfinished business to attend to. But I think that the conference will come down to October 29th and the game will be played right here at Doak Campbell Stadium. Look. They don’t have an easy schedule. Ole Miss early won’t be easy. At Louisville will be a battle. At Miami could be interesting. But this team has too much talent and depth to be undone. Last year’s rebuilding year replacing a 1st round QB they only went 10-3. Now with 17 starters back, and young players with experience under their belts, won’t shock me to see them again playing in the playoffs.
2 – CLEMSON – You can really flip a coin with FSU here. I think the home field is the difference as to who wins this thing. The offense should be absolutely brilliant. But the defense again needs to reload. They open at Auburn, which, they would win. But it is still an SEC foe off a down year and get a media darling who is looking at a Championship Season on their home field. Louisville and South Carolina home are really their toughest game outside of FSU. It should really come down to that FSU game to see who wins this. Heisman watch clearly on for Deshaun Watson.
3 - LOUISVILLE – What is the ceiling for the Cardinals here? I mean, if they take out of the top dogs, well, it will probably be a shocker. They do return 17 starters (9 Off 8 Def) so the experience is there. These guys came on to win 8 of their final 10 games after starting 0-3. One of those losses 20-17 to the favorite Clemson Tigers. I can’t see them knocking off either FSU or Clemson, so I have them pegged here at 3.
4 – BOSTON COLLEGE – Yikes. Taking a team that was win-less in conference probably won’t win me many supporters. But the defense was very good, while the offense was basically offensive. We do get a nice amount of starters back on both sides of the ball. I like the coach. Not a fan of the turnover of the staff. But I think they are better than at least 2 teams and should nudge out the team below and make a bowl this year.
5- NC STATE – Wolfpack will be breaking in a new QB and a new OC. I have to think there will be some struggles. They couldn’t beat a bowl bound team last year. They are really just a barely .500 team. The schedule shows me maybe 6-6. 7-5 if they win a couple road games. The face ND, then at Clemson and at Louisville before home coming vs BC, then FSU. Maybe they beat BC there without looking ahead to FSU. Last 2 games are home vs Canes and at NC. Clearly a tough year ahead.
6- WAKE FOREST – I am high on the Demon Deacons here. I really wouldn’t be shocked if they get above NCST here. They have 16 starters back. Lots of experience. And quite frankly, I think their HC is on the hot seat after b2b 3-9 seasons. They have 7 home games which is a big help (1 against Clemson). If they can take care of home field, a bowl will be huge for this school and more importantly, the coach!
7- SYRACUSE – I like Dino Babers. I mean, c’mon. The guys name is Dino! What isn’t there to like. Besides that fact that I am not a fan of first year HC’s coming into programs in the gutter. Their is experience back. But going 3-17 vs Power 5 schools shows me that the talent isn’t up to par yet. I think the offense should improve with the new system, but 10 teams they play went bowling last year. I think matching last year’s 4 wins will be a big achievement.
1 – MIAMI – Ok. Maybe I am a bit biased towards the U. But you have to love the Richt hire. The get talent on name alone. Now they get a HC who has no problem spitting out 10 win seasons in a tough SEC, and we might see the old days of Miami football. They are set at QB with Kaaya who could be a dark-horse Heisman guy if the Canes upset some teams. 15 returning starters all should be extremely motivated with the new direction of the school. 10 wins should be the bottom. If they can knock off ND and/or FSU, watch out.
2- NORTH CAROLINA – These guys played in the ACC Championship Game last year. But I can’t have them over Miami based on the new QB. Can he be better than Williams was last year? I don’t know. The will put up points for sure. If they upend Miami on the road, then they are on their way to another ACC Championship Game. They crushed Miami last year 59-21, so the Canes will be out for blood. With an opener against Georgia and another road game at Florida State, it won’t be easy.
3- PITTSBURGH – I think things get a bit muddled here with Pitt and the next 2 teams. I like the 16 returning starters (8O 8D) for the Panthers. I think they should be bowling again this year. But the schedule starts off rough with September games vs Penn State, at Oklahoma State and at North Carolina. Add in trips to Miami and Clemson and if they don’t get wins when they are suppose to, this could be a disappointing season for Narduzzi’s bunch.
4 – VIRGINIA TECH – Beamer ball is out. What a run for that guy! I don’t think he left the shelves bare here. New HC Justin Fuente will try to bring the Hokie offense up to this century’s standards. The defense was never a problem in Blacksburg. The schedule might be a tough one though even without FSU or Clemson on it.
5- GEORGIA TECH – These guys always over achieve. Well, except for last year. But they did score a miracle win over FSU! Look. Paul Johnson does whatever he does here. They win enough to bowl and upset some people. I think they double up those 3 wins from last year.
6 – VIRGINIA – Don’t like pushing Duke to the basement, but I think new HC Bronco Mendenhall gets these guys a few wins this year. They have 12 starters, 6 on both sides of the ball. They a couple easier games on the non-conference part of the schedule. The guy won 99 games in 11 years at BYU. This will be a challenge no doubt, but I think this guy goes bowling here in his first season.
7 – DUKE – The staff is being rebuild which is never good. Their returning QB got hurt already. These are not things that the HC needs to deal with in a tough division. Cutcliffe does get his troops ready and pulls some upsets out of his pocket. There is no FSU or Clemson but the get ND, Louisville and Miami on the road.