The ACC might be the toughest conference in the land in 2017, and that's the problem
The polls are coming out. The odds are set. The pundits and prognosticators have all had their say. There really isn't much more to do before the 2017 college football season kicks off, right?
Who am I kidding?
For better or worse, it's time once again for some OUTRAGEOUS* college football predictions heading into the 2017 slate.
We're going to get things rolling by trying to pin down the outrageousness that's going to take place in the ACC this season. The home of the defending nation champion is getting a whole lotta love from a lot of media members and fans alike. Well, I'm here to pump the brakes on the ACC hype train and get you ready for the unthinkable to unfold on the East Coast.
Outrageous College Football Predictions for the ACC in 2017
Miami loses five games
Sorry Canes fans, you don't lose a collegiate signal-caller like Brad Kaaya and think you're going to be a serious contender in what might be the nation's deepest conference the following season. It'll start to get ugly early on against Florida State in Tallahassee. Road games to Duke and North Carolina will be lost on the sidelines to guys who will simply outcoach Mark Richt. Good luck moving the ball against what should be an elite Virginia Tech defense, followed by a a visit from a Notre Dame team every bit as talented and again, probably better coached. That's five already. In case Miami steals one of those, the Hurricanes still will need to leave the warm confines of South Florida in late November for a trip to a likely frigid Pittsburgh to take on the feisty Panthers.
Florida State will lose four games
You thought I was going to let the Seminoles off the hook? Please. Speaking of hype trains, there may not be a bigger hot-air powered locomotive than the one that calls Tallahassee home. I'm hearing and reading Heisman talk and College Football Playoff discussion in regard to Florida State everywhere I go. Those are lofty goals, especially with trips to Death Valley and Gainesville late in the season. Oh, and there is that little season opener against a certain team from Tuscaloosa. Don't sleep on that trip to Duke, and you certainly better not be looking past that pesky NC State squad (more on them in a bit). The Seminoles are talented, but a young and inexperienced offensive line will be their undoing.
Virginia Tech will win the Coastal Division
Bud Foster's defense is going to be among the best in the nation this season. He'll unleash them against a division where all but one team (Duke) will be working in a new full-time starter at quarterback. Advantage: Foster and the Hokies. Offensively, head coach Justin Fuente continues to install his high-powered attack. You'll start to see more elite skill players from the 757 area code blending into his system. Redshirt freshman quarterback Josh Jackson will be the breakout player of the year in the ACC and the Hokies will be on their way back to national relevance.
NC State will win the Atlantic Division
It won't be pretty early on. It'll look like a muddy horse race full of close games and round-robin outcomes between three or four teams. But at the end of the season, the horse that separates from the Atlantic pack will be the Wolfpack. They return 16 total starters on offense and defense from a team that nearly knocked off both Florida State and Clemson last season. And with the race still close at the end of this season, NC State will get to close out its campaign against Boston College, Wake Forest and North Carolina.
The ACC gets shut out of the College Football Playoff
Sure, the ACC may be the deepest, toughest conference in the land this season – but that's the problem. The two teams playing in the conference championship game are each going to have two, maybe three losses, and I don't expect any of the teams that don't make it to the ACC Championship Game to be able to punch a playoff ticket like Ohio State did last season. There will be some great football played along the East Coast this season, but the demolition derby-nature of that competition will leave too many teams with too many wounds to merit an invite to play for a national championship.
*Remember, "outrageous" can be defined as “wildly exaggerated or improbable,” and “very bold, unusual, and startling.” These are "outrageous" predictions and should be treated as such.
— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He also covers the Big Ten for Black Heart Gold Pants, Iowa's SB Nation blog. His work has appeared on SI.com, FoxSports.com, Yahoo! and Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.