1. One Honest Thought On Each ACC Team
Click on each team for the preview, 5 things to know
Notre Dame transfer QB Phil Jurkovec being eligible right away is huge for the start of the Jeff Hafley era. In a strong 15-team ACC, Boston College is at or near the bottom in overall talent and upside, but the offensive line is great, David Bailey is a thumper of a runner in place of AJ Dillon, and the Eagles have their quarterback.
Notre Dame is terrific and at least four other ACC teams are top-25 worthy, but it’s still Clemson and everyone else. As long as the offensive backfield holds, the rest of the parts are in place to make another run to play for the national title. There’s so much depth that losing almost anyone to opting out – or anything else – doesn’t really matter that much.
There might not be another team in America that’s going to miss the layup non-conference games more than Duke. It was originally supposed to play Middle Tennessee, Elon and Charlotte, and it’s keeping Charlotte. Realistically, instead of starting 3-0, it’s only going to get that one win over the 49ers. To go bowling in this year of a strong ACC, coming up with four or five more wins will be tough.
Mike Norvell teams are known for their amazing offenses, and little-to-no defenses. What’s going to happen when he has an elite D? If all of the Noles stay in place and don’t opt out, they’ll have the defense to hang around with anyone on the schedule.
Louisville made the big step back in the first year under Scott Satterfield, but this is a jam-packed ACC with a whole lot of good teams. This is one of them, and missing Clemson and North Carolina is gigantic, but it’s still going to be a fight for six wins because of so many tough games on the slate.
The expectations are still going to be at close to zero, and they’ll need to be. It’s a far better overall team – and it’ll come up with a few victories – but where’s the win on the schedule? UCF is the non-conference game, and the dates with Syracuse and Boston College are on the road. This is another rebuilding year, and it’s okay.
There might not be a more interesting overall team or situation in college football. Start with the problem of being in the hottest of coronavirus hot spots, throw in the NFL talents who might follow Gregory Rousseau and opt-on, and include the expectations, and this isn’t going to be easy. However, if the Canes are able to go, having QB D’Eriq King is a good guy to help turn things around.
The Tar Heels are loaded offensively, Mack Brown’s recruiting class is special, and the passing game should be phenomenal, but this is still a team that struggled with its consistency last year. It misses Clemson and Pitt, and it gets Notre Dame at home after an off-week. Put UNC in the bucket of teams that can realistically shoot for the No. 2 spot.
This might be the toughest team in the ACC to figure out. 2019’s clunker of a campaign should be an aberration for Dave Doeren, and the lines are in place to be a whole lot better, but it’s still going to be a push to get to 6-4. Not having Clemson or Notre Dame on the slate certainly helps.
Notre Dame always gets everyone’s best punch, but double that in a year when the games actually count in conference play. The Irish are below Clemson and a step above the other 13 teams, but there’s no layup. It would be a slap in the face to the conference if they come in as a rental and end up ripping through the schedule.
This might be the most dangerous mid-level team in the ACC with the defensive talent to screw up anyone on the slate. That includes Clemson late in the year, Notre Dame at home, Miami on the road, Virginia Tech, and everyone else. No, Pitt won’t win the ACC title, but it’ll keep someone else from being in the mix.
Can the lines hold up? The pass protection has to be night-and-day better, the defensive front seven has to prove it’s not among the ACC’s worst, and getting to five wins is going to be a grind considering the road games at Clemson, Notre Dame, North Carolina, Pitt and Louisville on the slate – and the Orange will get there thanks to a favorable home schedule.
There are so many ways to assume Virginia is about to take a big step back. There’s no Bryce Perkins, trips to Clemson, Virginia Tech, Miami and Florida State aren’t easy, and the overall firepower isn’t there. With that said, undersell what Bronco Mendenhall and his staff can do at your own peril.
It’s a shame there’s no Notre Dame on the schedule – that might be the battle for the No. 2 spot. The Hokie defense might not have the overall talent of Clemson’s, and the line isn’t as good as Pitt’s – even without Jaylen Twyman – but this is a strong enough team to not just go to the ACC title game, but maybe even win it. It should be favored in the first nine games before hosting Clemson.
The offense will be there to hang around in every game, and the pass rush is good enough to be a factor. It’ll be tough to come up with a big win total with its schedule – starting out with Clemson, at NC State, and Notre Dame doesn’t help – but it”ll come up with its share of upsets.