CollegeFootballNews.com Preview 2017: ACC Preview
The 2017 CFN ACC Preview with the top players, teams that will surprise and disappoint, and shoes to fill.
2017 ACC Preview
You’ve done it, ACC.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, North Carolina basketball won the national title – in one of the worst games ever against Gonzaga – but after last season, the ACC is a football conference now.
And it’s only getting stronger.
For years and years, it seemed like the ACC Preview had some “this is the season the ACC finally rises up” slant, and then it finally happened.
It wasn’t just that Clemson won the national title. An ACC quarterback who didn’t play for Florida State, or Clemson or Miami won the Heisman from a school that was part of the American Athletic Conference not all that long ago in 2013. Now, Louisville and Lamar Jackson are going to be appointment television again.
Meanwhile, a North Carolina quarterback turned into the No. 2 pick in the NFL Draft, with Deshaun Watson going not all far down after the Chicago Bears selected Mitchell Trubisky.
Florida State beat Michigan in an epic Orange Bowl after destroying Florida – again.
Georgia Tech took down Georgia, Miami throttled West Virginia in the Russell Athletic Bowl, Virginia Tech whacked Arkansas in the Belk, and NC State destroyed Vanderbilt in the Independence.
How good was the ACC last season? Boston College and Wake Forest both went bowling – and won.
Oh yeah, and Clemson handed Ohio State one of its most embarrassing losses of all-time, before doing the impossible by taking down Alabama to win the whole ball of wax.
There’s more to come from a league that had been building to this point for years, and now it arrived.
Miami is only going to get stronger and stronger under Mark Richt. Clemson and Florida State aren’t going anywhere, NC State looks like its about to rise up and have a massive year, and all of 11 of last year’s bowl teams come into the season with a more than reasonable shot get an extra game.
The three teams that didn’t go bowling are interesting, too. Duke has the coaching and offense to be a few games better to go bowling, Syracuse might just have the most fun offense this side of Louisville, and Bronco Mendenhall has some fantastic pieces – especially on defense – to build around.
But now the ACC has to prove it can do it all again. And again, and again. That’s what makes the SEC the SEC, and the ACC in basketball what the ACC is in basketball – even in a down year, they’re still fantastic.
The ACC still has to keep on showing it can continue getting the top talent, keep the top coaches, and win the big games.
They will. Expect more of the same, and expect it all to be a blast again.
ACC Team That Will Surprise
NC State Wolfpack
Is NC State going to be this year’s Louisville? It has the defensive line, it has the efficient offense, and it has the upside to be the thorn in everyone’s side in the Atlantic. No, State won’t have enough to win the division – and QB Ryan Finley isn’t going to win the Heisman – but it gets Louisville, Clemson and North Carolina in Raleigh, and missing Miami and Virginia Tech from the Coastal is a big deal.
ACC Team That Will Disappoint
North Carolina Tar Heels
There’s still enough talent to be a player, but the wins aren’t going to be there in the Coastal. The big problem? The sneaky-tough ACC road games at Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Pitt and NC State, while having to come up with wins at home against Louisville, Notre Dame and Miami – and that’s just to stay in the mix for a big year.
It’s hardly going to be a disastrous season for the Tar Heels, and they’ll be good enough to win a few of the nasty road dates, but don’t be stunned if it’s late November and it’ll still be a push to get bowl eligible.
Game Of The Year
Florida State at Clemson, Nov. 11
The Seminoles have to face Miami and Louisville, but both games are in Tallahassee. The Tigers have to go to Louisville, Virginia Tech and NC State, but they should be able to win at least two of those. Even with all those other key ACC showdowns, the winner in Death Valley when FSU comes to town should be for the ACC championship – or it’ll go a long way to determining it.
5 Big-Time Players Who Deserve A Bigger Spotlight
Five players who have been a bit under the radar on a national level, but should rise up and be among the season’s best players.
1. CB Jaire Alexander, Jr. Louisville
2. LB Kendall Joseph, Jr. Clemson
3. LB Ben Humphreys, Jr. Duke
4. WR/RB Quadree Henderson, Jr. Pitt
5. TE/FB Jaylen Samuels, Sr. NC State
5 ACC Coaches On The Hot Seat
Five ACC coaches who’d better win this season. Being on a hot seat doesn’t necessarily mean a coach is about to fired, but the pressure is on to produce up to expectations and beyond.
1. Pat Narduzzi, Pitt
2. Dave Doeren, NC State
3. Steve Addazio, Boston College
4. Mark Richt, Miami
5. Bronco Mendenhall, Virginia
5 Non-Conference Games That ACC Opponents Had Better Take Very, Very Seriously
Be careful, ACC. These are the showdowns against the Group of Five teams that could sour the season.
1. Wake Forest at Appalachian State, Sept. 23 2. North Carolina at Old Dominion, Sept. 16
3. Georgia Tech at UCF, Sept. 16
4. Middle Tennessee at Syracuse, Sept. 9
5. Boston College at Northern Illinois, Sept. 1
5 Best Pro Prospects
1. S Derwin James, Soph. Florida State
2. DE Harold Landry, Sr. Boston College
3. CB Tavarus McFadden, Jr. Florida State
4. DT Christian Wilkins, Jr. Clemson
5. LB Micah Kiser, Sr. Virginia
5 Biggest Shoes To Fill
1. Clemson QB Kelly Bryant for Deshaun Watson 2. Florida State RB Cam Akers for Dalvin Cook 3. Pitt DE Dwayne Hendrix for Ejuan Price 4. North Carolina QB Brandon Harris for Mitchell Trubisky 5. Clemson LB Jamie Skalski for Ben Boulware