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Outrageous College Football Predictions for the ACC in 2016


If you listen to the pundits and so-called "experts", the Atlantic Coast Conference is pretty much a two-team race in 2016. The winner of that race — either Florida State or Clemson — will likely punch a ticket to the College Football Playoff. The rest of the teams in the conference need only show up and serve as hurdles for the two "big boys" of the conference throughout the season.

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Related: ACC Coaches Talk Anonymously About Conference Foes for 2016

But we all know that's not quite how college football works out.

The sport lends itself to outrageousness, and a closer look at the ACC tells me that there is much more parity in the conference than the experts would have you believe. That sets up a 2016 where very little is outside the realm of possibility. And let's be honest, you wouldn't want it any other way.

Outrageous College Football Predictions for the ACC in 2016

Syracuse finishes with a winning record

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It really can't go much worse than it did in 2015 for Syracuse, winning only four games all season — two of which were against teams from the Group of Five. New Head coach Dino Babers brings with him the high-octane Baylor-esque offense that shred the MAC after he implemented it at Bowling Green. The fast track of the Carrier Dome is conducive to what Babers wants to do, and he has a few key players in place to help make the offense work sooner rather than later. Look for his scheme to be the overwhelming difference in at least six "toss-up" games on Syracuse's schedule, with the final against Pitt being the game that puts the Orange above the .500 mark for the season.

James Conner leads the conference in rushing

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Conner's return to the field in 2016 was always unlikely on its own after both an injury and a cancer diagnosis last year. The powerful running back ran through both obstacles like he runs through defenders and will once again be the focal point of a Pitt offense that will lean heavily on the run game. Look for Conner to eclipse the 1,800-yard mark — perhaps even flirting with 2,000 yards — en route to winning the ACC rushing crown.

Florida State will lose at least four games

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The Seminoles — both under Bobby Bowden and now under Jimbo Fisher — have historically been a team that needs solid and consistent quarterback play to be an elite team. I'm not sure they have that this season. Additionally, they face a month of September that could leave them at 2-2. When you factor in games against North Carolina, Clemson and Florida along with a road trip to Miami, it's not an easy slate for a talented-yet-relatively young squad to face. Winning nine games in 2016 would be quite an impressive achievement — even for Florida State.

Louisville wins the Atlantic Division

Don't pencil in Clemson just because of Florida State's difficult road. The Atlantic Division is going to be a dogfight, and the Cardinals have an outstanding chance of coming out on top. Their strength will be a defense that features a half dozen players who are going to play on Sundays in 2017. The early-October matchup at Clemson might actually favor the Cardinals due to their experience — especially on defense — where Clemson has seen a mass exodus of talent over the last two seasons. I like Louisville to win that game and finish with a better conference record than the Tigers.

Virginia Tech wins the conference

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New head coach Justin Fuente will implement his spread offense in Blacksburg this fall, and he'll have plenty of talent at his disposal to make it an easy transition. The Hokies return four starters on the offensive line from a season ago, along with their top rusher, their two leading receivers and one of the best tight ends in the nation. Under center, the Hokies have two terrific options who will both likely see the field: Brenden Motley and Jerod Evans. Motley brings invaluable experience and Evans brings the skill set to runs Fuente's offense. You can't go wrong with either one.

Defensively, it's another version of Bud Foster's menacing defense, this time anchored by an All-American hopeful in defensive end Ken Ekanem. The Hokies also will feature on of the more seasoned defensive backfields in the country. And don't think for one second that Beamerball left the building along with the program's legendary head coach. Domination on special teams won't change, Lane Stadium will remain one of the toughest places to play and Virginia Tech will get back to the top of the ACC well ahead of schedule.

— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.