ACC Football Predictions – 2013 Season


Clemson and Florida State appear to be the class of the ACC this season, and the matchup between the two will likely decide the eventual conference champion. The Coastal division is much more wide-open as it looks like a toss-up between the top three teams in the division. However, each of the top teams is flawed enough to leave the door open for a surprise team to sneak into the CCG. Let’s get to it.

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Atlantic

  • 1. Clemson 11-1 (8-0): The offense was explosive a year ago and returns star QB Tajh Boyd, but the losses of WR DeAndre Hopkins and RB Andre Ellington will sting. Roderick McDowell is capable of filling in for Ellington (and let’s not forget that Boyd is no slouch on the ground), but WR Sammy Watkins will need to rebound in a big way in order to replace the production lost with Hopkins. The line should be a strength, but a lot hinges on the WR position. The defense should be fine; DE Vic Beasley is a capable replacement for departed Malliciah Goodman and the rest of the front seven is back in full force. The non-conference schedule is brutal with a season-opening bout with Georgia and the annual season finale at South Carolina. Those two games will make it tough for the Tigers to run the table, but only a date with FSU should stand between Clemson and an 8-0 run in the ACC.
  • 2. Florida State 10-2 (7-1): Freshman QB Jameis Winston appears to have won the keys to the offense and he has plenty of talent to make him feel comfortable, most notably Rashad Greene and a loaded WR group. The line is also well stocked and FSU boats two capable runners in Devonta Freeman and James Wilder. Expect the Seminoles to take a step back from last season’s 39 points per game, but the offense should still be a threat no matter who lines up under center. On defense, the key will be replacing all four starters on the defensive line. Bjoern Warner and Cornellius Carradine can’t simply be replaced, but rising star Mario Edwards and a pair of solid tackles should have the line playing better than expected. Overall, the schedule is fairly friendly and even with a new QB the Seminoles should make a run at double-digit wins.
  • 3. Maryland 7-5 (4-4): The Terps were just 4-8 last season, but they actually started 4-2 before some incredibly bad luck left them starting a linebacker at QB for the stretch run. WR Stefon Diggs is the notable returnee on offense, and he can be star with consistent QB play. The front seven on defense will need to fill in several new starters, but a pair of solid cornerbacks will beef up a defense that should be able to keep the Terps in some games this fall. If QB C.J. Brown can stay healthy this year, Maryland should find itself in a bowl game and may even double last year’s win total.
  • 4. N.C. State 7-5 (3-5): Consider it a rebuilding year for the Wolfpack. A new quarterback, new coach and coordinators, a new interior offensive line and a re-built back seven on defense make it tough to know what to expect from NC State in 2013. OC Matt Canada, formerly of Wisconsin, has a pair of talented backs to work with, but this line won’t be mistaken for the road-graders at Wisconsin. However, the defensive line should be solid and CB Dontae Johnson and LB D.J. Green provide excellent building blocks for the half dozen new starters on defense. The schedule is forgiving, with eight home games, no BCS teams in the non-conference portion and Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and Miami all absent from the ACC slate. The easy schedule will make it easier for the re-building Wolfpack to return to a bowl game.
  • 5. Wake Forest 6-6 (3-5): The problems for the Deacons start on offense, where QB Tanner Price and company mustered just 18.5 points per game in 2012. Price returns a solid possession WR in Michael Campanaro and a pair of running backs, but there is no player on the offensive side that will strike fear into a defense. A porous line is also cause for concern. The defense’s stats weren’t much better than the offense’s last year, but there is more hope for improvement on that side of the ball; Wake boasts a potential all-league player at each level of the defense. An improved offense could send the Demon Deacons to a bowl.
  • 6. Boston College 5-7 (2-6): QB Chase Rettig and WR Alex Amidon form a potent pass-catch combo, but there isn’t much else at the skill positions for BC. Florida transfer Matt Patchan will beef up a line with an already solid interior. The defense, which was gashed by opposing running games a year ago, is now breaking in a new defensive line. The only good news is a pair of solid LBs return and CB Al Louis-Jean should strengthen the secondary considerably. The Eagles should improve on last season’s 2-10 record, but don’t expect a bowl game in new coach Steve Addazio’s first season.
  • 7. Syracuse 4-8 (2-6): The first of the league’s two new members, Syracuse must replace its QB, top two WRs, star LT and head coach – not a good recipe for entering a new league. The offense does return a pair of talented backs that will likely be the focus of the new offense. The defense is sprinkled with experience, but it lacks a true impact player. Expected regression on offense and a ho-hum defense will make it tough for the Orange to reach a bowl game in their first season in the ACC.

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Coastal

  • 1. Virginia Tech 10-2 (6-2): It seems you can pencil the Hokies in at the top of the Coastal division every year, and 2012 is no different. QB Logan Thomas is emerging as an excellent dual-threat quarterback, and the VT defense will be as dominant as ever. Thomas loses All-ACC RB David Wilson, his top receivers, and most of the line, but the Hokies have enough depth to make the offense a capable unit. The entire defensive line is back, LB Bruce Taylor anchors a back seven that should be solid despite the loss of CB Jayron Hosley and safety Eddie Whitley. While the combination of a great QB, nasty defense and notoriously vicious special teams make the Hokies the favorite, the lack of proven playmakers on offense will keep Tech from running the table.
  • 2. Miami 8-4 (5-3): The offense has a chance to be special. QB Stephen Morris was terrific down the stretch to cap a great season, RB Duke Johnson was fantastic as a freshman, the top receiving targets are back, and the line may be as good as any in the conference. However, as good as the offense can be, that’s how bad the defense was in 2012. After giving up close to 500 yards per game last fall, there is nowhere for the defense to go but up, and it’ll have to improve significantly for the Hurricanes to take the next step and win the Coastal division.
  • 3. Georgia Tech 8-4 (5-3): An outstanding line will again pave the way for a dominant rushing attack, but the Tech offense must replace QB Tevin Washington. Vlad Lee looks to be the guy, and he should be capable of leading the offense to another season of 300+ rushing yards per game. The defense should be improved with plenty of experience and with DC Ted Roof having an entire offseason to implement his 4-3 scheme. The Jackets will find out quite a bit about themselves early, with games against UNC, VT and Miami all by early October. The schedule then sets up for a nice run before travelling to Clemson and hosting Georgia in the final three games.
  • 4. North Carolina 7-5 (4-4): Offense won’t be a concern in Chapel Hill, as QB Bryn Renner is back to orchestrate an offense that put up 40 points per game last fall. The Tar Heels do have to replace RB Giovani Bernard and most of the line, but A.J. Blue and Romar Morris are capable backs and LT James Hurst is an All-American candidate. The defense may not fair so well, with few established playmakers returning from a subpar group. Renner and company will likely need to outscore most opponents, which can certainly happen but will make it tough to beat the elite teams in the conference.
  • 5. Pittsburgh 6-6 (3-5): The Panthers have exactly one known commodity on offense: WR Devin Street. The passing game has potential is QB Tom Savage can play like he did as a freshman at Rutgers, but Savage spent the last several years riding the bench at various institutions. The defense will be the strength, as eight starters return from a top-20 unit. DT Aaron Donald is the headliner, but there are plenty of talented players at each level of the defense. The Panthers may get a rough welcome to the ACC in the season-opener against FSU, but the defense should be strong enough to pave the way to a bowl game.
  • 6. Duke 5-7 (2-6): WR Jamison Crowder will be the focal point of the offense, but Duke has quietly put together a group of three running backs that may finally give the Blue Devils a potent ground threat. Don’t expect new QB Anthony Boone to throw it like Sean Renfree, but Boone is a superior runner that can give Duke an added threat from that position. The defense was worst in the conference in terms of points given up last year, and there isn’t much that makes us think they can improve much this season.
  • 7. Duke 4-8 (2-6):There were high hopes for the Cavaliers last year, but they stumbled to a 4-8 record that sparked several new additions to the coaching staff. The quarterback job looks to belong to David Watford, and he will have some weapons to work with in RB David Parks and WRs Darius Jennings and Tim Smith. DE Eli Harold and a capable secondary are the highlights of the defense, but the rest of the front seven lacks a true standout. Still, the offense will need to vastly improve on last season’s effort (93rd in scoring) if Virginia has hopes of reaching a bowl, and a tough schedule will do the Cavaliers no favors.

Let’s hear your predictions in the comments!

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