ACC Football 2018 Predictions

Complete ACC preview for the 2018 season.

Clemson is once again the pick to win the ACC title for the 2018 college football season, but the conference has continued to improve its depth in recent years. In Athlon's 2018 ACC predictions, 12 of the league's 14 teams are projected to reach at least six victories. Miami took a step forward under coach Mark Richt last season by winning its first Coastal Division title and are the pick to win the division once again in 2018. Virginia Tech isn't far behind, with Georgia Tech and Pitt next in line as contenders. Clemson should be picked No. 1 or No. 2 nationally by most this preseason and holds a significant edge over the rest of the Atlantic. New coach Willie Taggart should have Florida State in the mix for a New Year's Six bowl and is the top threat to the Tigers in the Atlantic. Behind projected first-team All-ACC quarterback Ryan Finley, NC State ranks just outside of Athlon's projected top 25 and headlines the next tier of teams in the division. It's a close call behind the Wolfpack, as Boston College, Wake Forest and Louisville each finished 4-4 in the league last fall and not much separates this trio once again in 2018.

 

Will Any Team Challenge Clemson for the ACC Title?

Miami is projected to finish in Athlon's final top 10 for 2018, but we think Clemson is in its own tier this season. The Tigers possess the nation's best defensive line and should be solid in the back seven. Offensively, coach Dabo Swinney's team is loaded with promising playmakers and returns three starters up front. Senior Kelly Bryant will begin fall camp as the starter, but true freshman Trevor Lawrence will challenge for the job. If he wins the job, Lawrence should provide Clemson's offense with more of a downfield passing threat than this unit had in 2017. The Tigers have lost an ACC game in back-to-back years and could stumble once during the regular season. However, Clemson is clearly the pick in the ACC and easily the No. 1 or No. 2 team in college football this year.

 

How Far Will Florida State Rebound in 2018?

Everything that could go wrong went wrong for Florida State last season. Quarterback Deondre Francois was lost for the year in the opener against Alabama, and coach Jimbo Fisher's name swirled in the rumor mill before leaving for Texas A&M in early December. New coach Willie Taggart is one of the offseason's top hires, and he should have this team in the mix to win nine or 10 games in 2018. The Seminoles aren't short on talent, and rising star running back Cam Akers should thrive in Taggart's attack. The defense returns only three starters, but the cupboard isn't empty for new coordinator Harlon Barnett. With Virginia Tech and Clemson visiting Tallahassee, the Seminoles have a chance to make some noise in the ACC this year. There's too much talent to expect a repeat of last season's seven-win campaign.

 

Why NC State No. 3 in the Atlantic?

It's no secret NC State has some significant losses to address on defense, especially in the trenches following Bradley Chubb's departure to the NFL. But the Wolfpack should be able to finish third behind an offense that features the league's best quarterback in Ryan Finley. Also, Wake Forest and Boston College play in Raleigh, and coach Dave Doeren's team catches North Carolina and Virginia from the Coastal Division.

 

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Louisville, Boston College or Wake Forest?

During Athlon's ACC prediction meeting, this trio of teams was the hardest to sort out. Louisville finished 4-4 in the league last year behind quarterback Lamar Jackson and a defense that ranked near the bottom of the ACC. With Jackson off to the NFL, the Cardinals won't have the same margin for error in 2018. New quarterback Jawon Pass is promising, but Louisville has to improve on defense to finish better than .500. Boston College faces one of the league's toughest schedules by catching Miami and Virginia Tech in crossover play. Wake Forest is counting on Kendall Hinton to replace John Wolford at quarterback and for second-year coordinator Jay Sawvel to improve a defense that gave up 28.3 points a game last season. It's a close call, with all three programs likely to be around .500 in league play. 

 

Was Miami the Clear Pick Over Virginia Tech?

It's not a huge gap, but we like Miami to win its second Coastal Division title in a row. The Hurricanes need to settle the quarterback battle and find the right mix up front, but there's plenty to like at the skill positions and on defense. The Hokies host Miami in November, which should allow coach Justin Fuente's team plenty of time to restock a defense that returns only five starters and has major concerns at cornerback. Quarterback Josh Jackson should be better in his second year on campus, provided the offense can find a go-to target to replace receiver Cam Phillips. Virginia Tech's ground game also needs to step up after averaging just 3.9 yards per carry in 2017.

 

How Much Improvement Will North Carolina Show in 2018?

The Tar Heels will be better by default. After all, this is a team that won 19 games from 2015-16 that slipped to 3-9 last fall. However, getting back to a bowl will require marked improvement on both sides of the ball. Will Nathan Elliott or Chazz Surratt secure the No. 1 quarterback job? Also, North Carolina must reload up front and improve a defense that gave up 31.3 points a game last season.

 

Georgia Tech and Pitt: Sleepers in the Coastal Division

Miami and Virginia Tech were the clear picks at the top of the Coastal during Athlon's ACC prediction meeting. Pitt and Georgia Tech led the next tier and both teams should improve after posting losing records in 2017. The Panthers feature rising star quarterback Kenny Pickett, and the defense should take a big step forward with seven starters back. However, coach Pat Narduzzi's team faces a brutal schedule. Pitt catches UCF, Penn State and Notre Dame in non-conference action and catches swing games against Wake Forest, Virginia and North Carolina on the road. The Yellow Jackets fell just short of bowl eligibility last fall by losing three games by four points or less. Quarterback TaQuon Marshall had a solid first year as the team's starter and is the anchor for the flexbone option attack. Coach Paul Johnson needs Marshall to be a little more consistent as a passer, but the biggest concern for this staff is on defense. New coordinator Nate Woody is a standout hire and inherits a unit with five returning starters. After finishing eighth in scoring defense in the ACC last year, along with a minus-five turnover margin, small improvement in both areas could help Georgia Tech pull off an upset or two and reach a bowl in 2018.

 

ACC 2018 Unit Rankings

Best RB

Units

Best WR

Units

Best OL
Units

Best DL

Units

Best LB

Units

Best DB

Units

1.  1.  1.  1.  1.  1. 
2.  2.  2.  2.  2.  2. 
3.  3.   3.  3.  3.  3. 
4.  4.  4.  4.  4.  4. 
5.  5.   5.  5.  5.  5. 

 

ACC Football 2018 Predictions
         
Atlantic Division
Rank Team   Projected ACC Record Projected Overall Record
1 Clemson 7-1 12-1
2 Florida State 6-2 9-3
3 NC State 4-4 8-4
4 Wake Forest 4-4 7-5
5 Boston College 3-5 6-6
6 Louisville 3-5 6-6
7 Syracuse 3-5 6-6
         
Coastal Division
Rank Team   Projected ACC Record Projected Overall Record
1 Miami 6-2 10-3
2 Virginia Tech 5-3 9-3
3 Georgia Tech 4-4 7-5
4 Pitt 4-4 6-6
5 Duke 4-4 6-6
6 North Carolina 2-6 4-8
7 Virginia 1-7 4-8
         
ACC Championship Game
 Clemson over Miami 

 

ACC 2018 Superlatives and Season Predictions
 

Steven 

Lassan

Mitch

Light

Mark

Ross

Braden

Gall

  @AthlonSteven @AthlonMitch @AthlonMarkR @BradenGall
Offensive POY

AJ Dillon

RB, BC

Cam Akers

RB, FSU

AJ Dillon

RB, BC

AJ Dillon

RB, BC

Defensive POY

Christian Wilkins

DL, Clemson

Dexter Lawrence

DL, Clemson

Christian Wilkins

DL, Clemson

Clelin Ferrell

DL, Clemson

Coach of the Year

Dabo Swinney

Clemson

Dabo Swinney

Clemson

Steve Addazio

BC

Justin Fuente

Va. Tech

Coach on Hot Seat

Larry Fedora

North Carolina

Larry Fedora

North Carolina

Pat Narduzzi

Pitt

Larry Fedora

North Carolina

Top Freshman

Trevor Lawrence

QB, Clemson

Trevor Lawrence

QB, Clemson

Dax Hollifield

LB, VT

Trevor Lawrence

QB, Clemson

Top Newcomer

Bryce Perkins

QB, Virginia

Bryce Perkins

QB, Virginia

Bryce Perkins

QB, Virginia

N'Kosi Perry

QB, Miami

Sleeper Team Boston College Boston College Boston College Boston College

Key Position

to Watch

Miami OL Miami QBs FSU OL

Miami/Clemson

QBs

Best Coordinator Hire

Nate Woody

DC, GT

Walt Bell

OC, FSU

Walt Bell

OC, FSU

Harlon Barnett

DC, FSU

Hardest Team

to Evaluate

Louisville NC State Louisville Florida State
Coach on the Rise

Walt Bell

OC, FSU

Walt Bell

OC, FSU

Brent Venables

DC, Clemson

Justin Fuente

HC, VT

Must-See Game

Clemson at

Florida State

Clemson at

Florida State

Florida State at

Miami

Miami vs. 

LSU

Breakout Player

Cam Akers

RB, FSU

Trevor Lawrence

QB, Clemson

Cam Akers

RB, FSU

Travis Homer

RB, Miami

Comeback Player

Deondre Francois

QB, FSU

Deondre Francois

QB, FSU

Deondre Francois

QB, FSU

Deondre Francois

QB, FSU

 

Podcast: Athlon's Editors Discuss 2018 Conference Predictions

Event Date: 
Friday, June 1, 2018 - 12:57

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