All eyes will be on Trevor Lawrence as he leads Clemson's title defense
There's no position like it on the football field and everybody from the head coach to opposing coordinator to the backup long snapper knows it too. Now more than ever in college football especially, one needs a big-time quarterback under center if you want to win big in the sport and it goes without saying that the search for a top prospect is a 365-day journey for any program.
After having one of the best groups of signal-callers in the country last season, the ACC enters 2019 quite top-heavy at the position. After becoming just the second freshman quarterback to lead his team to a national title, the headliner is undoubtedly Clemson's stud sophomore Trevor Lawrence. After his place atop the conference though, there's a host of unproven QBs and a handful of others who have shown flashes but still need to develop consistency.
Throw all that into the mix and 2019 offers up some extremely intriguing battles between starters. With that in mind, here are the top 10 matchups involving ACC quarterbacks:
1. Trevor Lawrence (Clemson) vs. Kellen Mond (Texas A&M) — Sept. 7
Last year's classic in College Station was a coming out party on the national stage for Mond (430 yards, 3 TDs), who is hoping to be even better in his second season playing for Jimbo Fisher. Though Lawrence saw only limited action against the Aggies as a true freshman early in the season, he'll have a chance to firmly cement himself as the Heisman favorite at home in this blockbuster non-conference matchup against one of the SEC's best.
2. Jamie Newman/Sam Hartman (Wake Forest) vs. Jordan Love (Utah State) — Aug. 30
The Demon Deacons have two good options at quarterback as both Newman and Hartman showed plenty of flashes while on the field last season. Wake doesn't feature the most explosive of offenses but the Deacs do allow both their field generals to make plays regardless who is actually under center. They'll face a big challenge trying to out-duel Love however, as the terrific Aggies starter is hoping to build on a campaign where he threw for 32 touchdowns in one of most prolific offenses in the country.
3. Trevor Lawrence (Clemson) at Jake Bentley (South Carolina) — Nov. 30
NFL scouts will surely keep a close eye on this battle for the Palmetto State as both QBs have your prototypical size and arm to make it at the next level. Bentley, entering his fourth year as a starter, is still looking to get a win against the rival Tigers and put up monster numbers (510 yards, 5 TDs) in that shootout last season.
4. Quentin Harris (Duke) vs. Tua Tagovailoa (Alabama) — Aug. 31 in Atlanta
Harris has big shoes to fill for the Blue Devils given that his predecessor was a top-six pick in the recent NFL draft. He does have starting experience under his belt already (2-0 last season) and can add another dimension against that Alabama defense with his legs. He's not the headliner in this matchup however as Tagovailoa looks to put that rough title game performance behind him down in Atlanta.
5. Trevor Lawrence (Clemson) at Tommy DeVito (Syracuse) — Sept. 14
Lawrence wasn't on campus when the Tigers memorably lost at the Carrier Dome but he knows how important the trip to upstate New York will be in 2019 as this could be a meeting of the ACC's two best teams. The game represents a huge test for DeVito, who flashed a lot of potential during stints as Eric Dungey's backup last year and has a chance to put up huge numbers with his arm in Dino Babers' high-flying system.
6. Bryce Perkins (Virginia) at Ian Book (Notre Dame) — Sept. 28
Perkins played a big role in helping lead the Cavaliers to a surprising eight wins last year and is hoping to do even more damage after nearly joining the 3,000-yard passing/1,000-yard rushing club. He's got some skill position talent around him to do some damage but faces a big test going to South Bend and facing off against Book, who is hoping to be even better as the firmly entrenched starter from the beginning of the year for the recent College Football Playoff participants.
7. Tommy DeVito (Syracuse) at Josh Jackson (Maryland) — Sept. 7
DeVito may be the actual ACC quarterback in this non-conference meeting but he'll be trying to beat an ex-ACC signal-caller at an ex-ACC school in former Virginia Tech starter Jackson. The graduate transfer is trying to rebound from a broken leg that cost him most of 2018 but he already knows how to beat foes from the league and has a knack for scrambling to keep alive a big play. Each guy has a contrasting style but they can still get things done in a big way.
8. Ryan Willis (Virginia Tech) at Bryce Perkins (Virginia) — Nov. 29
Perkins came ever so close to ending an ignominiously long 14-year streak against the in-state rival last season before fumbling late, opening the door for an improbable Hokies comeback that Willis managed to help engineer. While it's doubtful we'll see such craziness again when the pair meets in Charlottesville, the play should be much improved between the two with another year under their belt as passers.
9. N'Kosi Perry (Miami) vs. Feleipe Franks (Florida) — Aug. 24 in Orlando
The 2019 season is extra-long in part because this in-state rivalry was moved up a week. While neither of these two QBs will be confused with some of their illustrious predecessors, both can beat you deep or extend a play when needed. Franks made a big jump in his first year under Dan Mullen and there's hope that Perry can make similar strides under a new offensive staff in Miami.
10. Kenny Pickett (Pitt) vs. Brandon Wimbush (UCF) — Sept. 21
Pickett has started 15 games for the Panthers and helped lead the team to the ACC title game in 2018. Pitt hopes he can put up even bigger numbers this season with a new offensive coordinator (Mark Whipple) who is not shy when it comes to throwing the ball around. He'll have an intriguing test in non-conference play as UCF is hoping to score another victory over a Power 5 team, this time without their superb signal-caller McKenzie Milton. Wimbush helped lead the Irish to some big wins and hopes to do the same in an offensive system that is well suited to his dual-threat nature.
Best of the rest:
Kenny Pickett (Pitt) at Tommy DeVito (Syracuse) — Oct. 18
James Blackman (Florida State) at Trevor Lawrence (Clemson) — Oct. 12
Anthony Brown (Boston College) at Ian Book (Notre Dame) — Nov. 23
Bryce Perkins (Virginia) at Kenny Pickett (Pitt) — Aug. 31
N'Kosi Perry (Miami) at James Blackman (Florida State) — Nov. 2
Jawon Pass (Louisville) vs. Ian Book (Notre Dame) — Sep. 2
Anthony Brown (Boston College) at Trevor Lawrence (Clemson) — Oct. 26
James Blackman (Florida State) at Feleipe Franks (Florida) — Nov. 30
Trevor Lawrence (Clemson) at Jawon Pass (Louisville) — Oct. 19
James Blackman (Florida State) at Bryce Perkins (Virginia) — Sept. 14
— Written by Bryan Fischer, an award-winning college football columnist and member of the Athlon Contributor Network. You can follow him from coast-to-coast on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat at @BryanDFischer.