Cleat Geeks

ACC Football Fall Predictions: Atlantic Division

ACC LogoWith spring games done and just over 100 days until the season opener, I decided to take a closer look at this year’s ACC teams. It shouldn’t be a surprise that Clemson and Florida State are the front runners in the conference again. In the past five seasons, the title of ACC Champion has belonged to either Clemson or FSU. Also, FSU won the final BCS National Championship in 2013, made the first College Football Playoff in 2014, while Clemson began the 2015 season 14-0 before losing to Alabama in the national title game.

Now the question becomes, can anyone else in the conference compete with Clemson or FSU? There have been several coaching changes throughout the ACC. While some are among the big name programs (Miami and Virginia Tech), others are from programs looking to make a name for themselves on the football field (Syracuse and Virginia), and all are vying for that top spot of ACC Champion.

With that in mind, here are my predictions for the 2016 season in the ACC:

Atlantic Division

Boston College: 2015 Record (3 – 9) 

Last season BC had a defense that lead the country in fewest yards allowed per play at 4.07, and were ranked 4th in points allowed per game (15.3). However, their problems were on the other side of the ball. Offensively, BC was ranked 120th in points scored per game with 17.2 (128 total FBS schools ).

Coach Steve Addazio has new coordinators for both offense and defense this year. Defensive coordinator Don Brown left for Michigan, and offensive coordinator Todd Fitch was fired. The question for this season is whether new offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler can get the ball moving and put points on the board. If the spring game is any indication, scoring is still a struggle.

Unfortunately, it’s not looking good for the Eagles again this season despite 15 returning starters and getting Kentucky QB transfer Patrick Towles. Towles is still competing with returning QB Darius Wade for the starting spot.

BC’s offense was ranked 125th overall, while their defense was 1st. Until the Eagles find a way to get their offense going, there’s not going to be much change in their win/loss columns.

2016 Prediction: (4-8)


Clemson: 2015 record (14-1)

Clemson finally got out of their own way and made it to the main stage last season, putting the term “Clemsoning” to rest. With Dabo Swinney as head coach the Tigers have had 4 back to back years of 10-win seasons including bowl wins over LSU, Ohio State, and Oklahoma (2014 and 2015). The Tigers went 14-0, won the ACC Championship, and were ranked No. 1 from the first College Football Playoff Top 25 up to the national title game against Alabama where they lost 45-40. Coach Swinney and the Tigers have their sights set on another national title run this season.

Offensively, the Tigers seem solid with 8 starters returning, including early Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback Deshaun Watson. Watson will have plenty of weapons surrounding him with running back Wayne Gallman, wide receivers Artavis Scott and Hunter Renfro, and tight end Jordan Leggett (the leading candidate to win the John Mackey Trophy). The offense will also regain receiver Mike Williams, who missed all of last season from a neck injury sustained in the season opener.

Any uncertainty from the Tigers this year will come from their defense. Once again, defensive coordinator Brett Venebles is faced with a young defense with only 3 starters returning. The Tigers lost 6 players to early decision for the draft ( defensive ends Shaq Lawson and Kevin Dodd; defensive backs Mackensie Alexander, T.J. Green, Travis Blanks; and safety Jayron Kearse).

The Tigers open the season with a tough away game against Auburn. However, their hardest tests this season will be away games against FSU and Georgia Tech. Clemson hasn’t won in Tallahassee since 2006 or Atlanta since 2003.

2016 Prediction: (11-1)


Florida State: 2015  record (10-3) 

Although last season was considered a rebuilding year for Florida State, the Seminoles won 10 games and played in a New Year’s Six Bowl (lost to Houston 38-24). Coach Jimbo Fisher wants better for his team this year, and is looking to edge out Clemson in that top spot as ACC Champion.

The Seminoles are returning 17 starters this season, with 11 on offense. This includes one of the nations best running backs, Dalvin Cook, who ran for 1,691 yards and 19 touchdowns all while battling various leg injuries. (He rushed for 194 yards in the lost against Clemson.) If Dalvin Cook can stay healthy, the Seminoles will control their own destiny, even though it is still unsure how much returning senior quarterback Sean McGuire will play. He missed spring practice recovering from ankle surgery and is also in competition with freshman Deondre Francois for the starting spot.

Last season the defense limited opponents to an average 4.68 yards per play. This season, we will find out early how good the Seminoles’ defense is when they face Ole Miss in the season opener at the “neutral” site of Orlando. FSU did catch a break with the rest of their schedule by hosting North Carolina, Clemson, and Florida at home with their toughest away game against Miami.

2016 Prediction: (11-1)


Louisville: 2015 record (8-5) 

Louisville and Coach Bobby Petrino are entering into their third year in the ACC. In Coach Petrino’s first two seasons in the conference, the Cardinals are 17-9, despite starting last season 0-3. After their rough start, Louisville went on to win six of the their last seven games, including a win over in-state rival Kentucky and a bowl victory over Texas A&M.

The Cardinals should be looking forward to this season with 18 starters returning, including quarterback Lamar Jackson. Jackson was the team’s leading rusher with 960 yards last season. The Cardinals had the nation’s 18th overall defense last season, and have 8 starters returning.

Louisville is on the cusp of having a break out year. In an early top 25 ranking by ESPN, the Cardinals were ranked 24th. Overall Louisville should have a good season. They’re hosting Florida State and Kentucky at home, but have to play away at Clemson and Houston this year.

2016 Prediction: (9-3)


N.C. State: 2015 record (7-6) 

N.C. State made a second consecutive bowl appearance last season playing the Belk Bowl against Mississippi State (lost 51-28) despite going 3-5 in the ACC. Coach Dave Doeren is looking to improve in the Atlantic division this year, but with Clemson, Florida State, and Louisville all primed to have good seasons, that’ll be a tough feat to accomplish for his Wolfpack.

N.C. State will have 15 starters returning this season. However, new offensive coordinator Eliah Drinkwitz will have his work cut out for him in replacing the NFL drafted quarterback Jacoby Brissett (Patriots, third round).

Unfortunately for the Wolfpack its their rotation to play Notre Dame this season (every ACC team has to play ND at least once in a three year period). They also picked up an improving Miami team from divisional conference cross over play. Luckily, the Wolfpack will play both teams at home, although I don’t see it making much of a difference.

2016 Prediction: (6-6)

Syracuse: 2015 record (4-8) 

After Scott Shafer won as many games in two seasons as he did his first (seven), Syracuse officials decided to make a change. Enter Dino Babers and his uptempo style of play. Per CBS Sports, Coach Babers is ranked 45th best coach in the Power Five conferences, putting him one place above Georgia’s new hire Kirby Smart and ahead of three other Atlantic Division coaches (Dave Doeren-North Carolina State, Steve Addazio-Boston College, and Dave Clawson-Wake Forest).

Even though Coach Babers faster style of play will be a drastic change for the 18 returning starters, it’s a necessary one. Last season the Orange had the nation’s 120th overall offense. The defense was marginally better ranked 99th, giving up 6.21 yards per play and 31 points a game.

There is a definite need for improvement on both sides of the ball. Unfortunately for Coach Babers, it’s going to take more than one season before we will see any real difference. Basically, new year, new coach…..same Syracuse.

2016 Prediction: (3-9)


Wake Forrest: 2015 record (3-9) 

Coach Dave Clawson is entering his third year at Wake Forrest. After ending back to back seasons at 3-9 overall and 1-7 in the ACC, how much improvement should we expect from the Demon Deacons?

Wake will have 17 starters returning this season. This could be a good thing or a bad thing depending what side of the ball we’re talking about. The Demon Deacons had one of the nation’s worst offenses last season. Their average points per game was ranked 119th at 17.4, and total offense was ranked 113th. On the other side of the ball, Wake’s overall defense was ranked 38th, holding opponents to 24.6 points a game.

This year there’s a chance Wake could come away with more than one win in the ACC with BC, Syracuse, and Virginia all being toss-up games. However, once again the Demon Deacons will struggle finding wins in at least three out of four non-conference games as well this season (Army, Tulane, and Indiana).

2016 Prediction: (4-8)


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