ACC Preview: Clemson is the Captain Now

From “Clemsoning” to ruling the ACC. The Orange Bowl to conclude the 2011 season looked like it could’ve been a death blow for the Dabo Swinney era. Two years later rivals Florida State were National Champs, but Clemson’s ascent began in earnest during 2012 and they haven’t relented since. Coming off 3 straight playoff appearances and their own National Title in 2016 Clemson appears here to stay for a while.

Summary of Last Year

The 2017 season was memorable in that Florida State fell off a cliff following the injury to quarterback Deondre Francois and a dive down to 7-6, their most losses since 2009. The aforementioned Clemson powerhouse more or less cruised to the division title once they dispatched NC State in early November.

The Coastal division saw the rise of Miami as they raced out to a 10-0 start, only to lose their final 3 games of the season including a blowout against Clemson in the league title game.

Unlike our Pac-12 preview the coaching ranks in the ACC remained largely unchanged except for Jimbo Fisher’s exit from Tallahassee. By way of USF and one year at Oregon, Willie Taggart is back in the state of Florida overseeing the Seminoles program.

In recruiting, Clemson (#7), Miami (#8), and Florida State (#11) topped the league as per usual. North Carolina (#23), Virginia Tech (#24), NC State (#26), and Louisville (#29) also finished inside the Top 30.

Clemson grabbed the top overall recruit in the nation in QB Trevor Lawrence, while also snagging 5 out of the 6 recruits with 5-star status signing to ACC teams. Miami grabbed the other in No. 25 overall and running back Derion Kendrick.

Top Out of Conference Game: Miami vs. LSU [Arlington]

If you’re a believer that Virginia Tech is going to take a step or two back from their 9-4 campaign then who will be challenging Miami in their division? North Carolina coming off a 3-9 season? This opener for the Canes could be one of only 2 ranked teams they face throughout the regular season! A loss here wouldn’t prevent Miami from coasting to the ACC title game but it could be the difference between a repeat of last year’s hot start with a top 5 ranking for a large portion of the season or something a little more humbling.

Most Important League Game: Clemson at Florida State

As alluded to above, the Coastal division could be some varying levels of hot trash this year outside of Miami. It’d be foolish to think any game in that side will be so important at this time. As it is, you can’t not pick the Clemson-FSU game. Both NC State and Louisville are expected to be weaker which doesn’t leave many other matchup options. The Seminoles aren’t expected to be in Clemson’s tier this year, however, it’s in Tallahassee and the Tigers have lost 4 out of their last 5 visits to the town.

Sell 2018: Virginia Tech

They were due to lose a good chunk of talent and have dealt with a brutal, one could say Notre Dame-y, type of off-season with even more personnel losses. There’s enough to prevent a major collapse though, plus facing William & Mary, East Carolina, and Old Dominion with no Clemson will surely help the win column. I’d expect maybe a 7-5 team that’s really maybe not quite as good as that record suggests.

Buy 2018: Georgia Tech

The Yellow Jackets appear to have fallen into a good year/bad year time continuum with no escape in sight. Nothing about their schedule should make you feel good. They get USF and Georgia out of conference plus Clemson thrown in there from the other division. Yet, Georgia Tech is returning a ton of starters on offense and I like that a lot in the triple option. Coming off 5-6 last year can’t this be an 8-win team? If so, they’d be a team to challenge Miami for sure.

Offensive Player of the Year: QB Deondre Francois, Florida State

I was a big Francois fan prior to his injury and believe he’s talented enough to run away with this award. Technically, he’ll be entering a quarterback competition during fall camp but most signs from new head coach Willie Taggart suggest they truly favor Francois, and that makes sense. You could take Boston College running back A.J. Dillon here too because he might get enough carries for 2,000 yards.

Defensive Player of the Year: LB Joe Giles-Harris, Duke

There are too many candidates on Clemson or Miami who will cancel each other out, plus Florida State has a shocking absence of players capable of winning such an award. My man JGH (no, not Jordan Genmark Heath) was a terror last year for the Blue Devils (125 tackles, 11.5 for loss) and gets my vote.

League Title Game: Clemson vs. Miami

College football isn’t supposed to be this predictable. So far looking at the Pac-12 and ACC each league really essentially the same–one division with a heavy favorite and the other division with a pair of teams ready to slug it out. Everyone looks some varying degrees of mediocre.

I’d imagine this game will be a lot more competitive than last year (38-3 in Clemson’s favor) as Miami has many pieces coming back and should improve in Mark Richt’s 3rd year.

Clemson’s in an interesting spot with all the pieces to win a National Title except their quarterback situation is still murky. Everyone seemed pleased with Kelly Bryant last year but a loss to Alabama has a way of scrambling the brain. In fact, Bryant’s passing stats weren’t that impressive and the aforementioned Trevor Lawrence looked awfully enticing during the spring. There’s already talk of a two-quarterback system which is an automatic downgrade of Clemson’s stock on my part.

By |2018-07-31T22:04:26+00:00July 31st, 2018|Football|37 Comments

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hooks orpik
hooks orpik

Wow, surprised you’re so sour on Tech. They had a bad off-season but dodged the most important bullet with their QB in Jackson clear. Bud Foster’s a magician, he’ll find a way to get defensive results and their offense should be OK. And, you mention schedule but I only see 3 really tough games (@FSU, ND, MIA), 2 of which at home where they play well. Maybe they trip up on a GT or Pitt game along the way but I’d take 8-4 easily for them this year, even 9-3 if they’re able to win one tough game which doesn’t sound impossible.

I do agree it should boil down to Clemson and Miami though. Which stinks since the ACC is a potential conference for Notre Dame to sub in to the playoff for their champion and that’s likely not happening in 2018 since ND plays neither of those teams. (Then again, perhaps a blessing in disguise as well). In theory, on paper as of now it sure seems like replacing the PAC champ is a more likely path to the playoff this year.

Michael Bryan

Foster is a magician but he loses virtually everyone from the LB and secondary. The DL should be strong but man, there’s just so much to replace and their offense was really meh last year. Even with a mini-leap from Jackson he’s losing his top receiving options (sound familiar?), their backs aren’t scary, and I just don’t see enough on either side of the ball to think they can be a top-25 team.

MikeyB
MikeyB

Man, it’s still wild to me that the Mark Richt firing worked out so well for both Georgia and Miami. I can’t imagine a situation like that happens very often.

juicebox
juicebox

FSU and aTm could end up similarly. FSU is similar to where UGA was. Generally good team, with good coaching, but have NC expectations. aTm, like Miami, is in a fertile recruiting territory and is getting a good established coach.

MikeyB
MikeyB

Very true. I also wonder how Sumlin is going to do at Arizona. My money is on poorly, but that should be an interesting one to watch. Khalil Tate gives him a really nice chance to get off to a hot start.

Underthrown Shoelace
Underthrown Shoelace

Jimbo wasn’t fired though so it throws off the comparison a little. Sumlin would be an interesting case, but Arizona lacks the football history and talent of a Miami, Georgia, FSU or even an A&M. I think it’s going to be tough for him to take that program to the next level, as he has a lot of similarities to Rich Rod.

What about Charles Weis? ND and Kansas haven’t been the same since he schematicized them.

juicebox
juicebox

I thought Jimbo was fired? He was at least pushed forcefully towards the door, if not explicitly fired.

MikeyB
MikeyB

Definitely not fired. There was actually a lot of anger from the fanbase and board of trustees when he left town. The administration, on the other hand, seemed to be fed up with him and his staff.

KG
KG

Nope. He wasn’t pushed out the door, but there was quite a lot of “you didn’t love us anyway!” when it was obvious he was looking to exit. A fan at one of his public events (weekly radio show taping?) even stood up and gave him the “you preach dedication and loyalty to your players–where’s yours, Jimbo?”

I think it went both directions. Jimbo loudly complained that he wasn’t getting enough support from the admin, but if I recall correctly they had given a bunch of money for facilities upgrades–just not as much or as fast as Jimbo wanted. Plus Jimbo’s slow pace of play and general lack of creativity (that’s not saying he’s bad–he’s a good offensive mind, just runs a very slow and traditional offense) was wearing thin with fans. If anything, this was a divorce where both parties weren’t trying very hard to make it work, but were pointing fingers at the other one with an eye on the post-divorce settlement.

juicebox
juicebox

Oh. My impression was FSU and the fans not wanting him around. Didn’t he actually get in an altercation with a fan? I thought that was the straw that broke the back, and the administration basically suggested he leave.

KG
KG

He did–leaving a game, a fan yelled at him and he started yelling back. But it was all part of the same thing. Think about the reaction some corners of the ND internet would have if an NC winning ND coach started indicating he didn’t want to be there. Heck, we saw it right after the NCG loss, when BK flirted with the idea of going to the Iggles. “Oh, you don’t want to be here? Well fine, we hate you!” Of course, some corners of the ND internet feel that way about BK regardless, but you get the point. We’re FSU! We’re Elite! Why would you look elsewhere?! Fine, we don’t like you anyway!!”

juicebox
juicebox

Interesting. I guess I totally misread the situation.

KG
KG

I don’t think the admin was all that disappointed, but I don’t think they suggested he leave. I think the fact that they didn’t try at all to stop him says a lot.

KG
KG

So, uh, when’s that B1G preview coming…might need to make a few edits if you’ve already got it written. Crikey, tOSU.

juicebox
juicebox

And tOSU is going to stumble right into Stoops as their next coach.

KG
KG

(Yoda voice:) No. There is another…
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KG
KG

Also, how many at NDN are thinking “hey, maybe we can finally get Urban, at a bargain bin price!” right about now?

More Noise
More Noise

Well. KG, if they are, than those NDN folks are as purely twisted by their own weird hatred as they have shown for years. I give credit to our administration, Urban Meyer is untouchable now. And for cause.
Another interesting question was raised by Monsieur Murtaugh in his excellent pondering on the “what ifs” of ND football, namely what if we’d gotten Urbie on board back when we fired Ty? Perhaps now we would all say, “Wow, we dodged a bullet there, his character is not at the level needed to coach here”. But a stray thought crosses my mind… what if by coming here he would have been working in an environment where ethics are prized and important? Might that have influenced him for the better? And we could still have had the two or three Natties he would have brought…
Anyway, glad to be back after a couple of months away… you can imagine, being in France for the World Cup and winning it, then the Tour, always fun to follow here, plus my boy (ND’14) marrying his fabulous French girl friend — well, it’s been a while. Delighted to read you all again and that as Eric says…football is back!