2018 preview: Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC)

NC State

1.   Clemson

Outstanding coaching. Top-5 rushing attack.  QB Kelly Bryant is a true dual-threat but pass efficiency needs work.  Probably the best defense in FBS with lots of returning talent that will dominate.  Will win ACC outright but less-likely than Alabama to win it all.  Twelve regular season wins plus the playoff.

2.   Virginia Tech

Fuentes building a power here but still need a better rush attack.  QB Josh Jackson needs O-line help and a new go-to receiver.  Defense is deep and should be elite but offense still not where the big boys play.  Savvy has updated to 10 wins.  Still ten points under Clemson.

3.   Miami (Fl)

Led the FBS in team sacks and 15th in interceptions but significant attrition on the back end.  Offensive line, quarterback passing, and receivers are solid but not elite.  On the road at Florida State, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, and dangerous Toledo.   ‘Canes are headed in the right direction.  Savvy projects nine wins.

4.   North Carolina State

QB Ryan Finley and the offensive line are among the best. Mediocre rushing attack.  Defense was average and now, seven of top-nine tacklers are gone along with six of the top-seven sack masters.  Might win first six in a row and finish with eight.

5.   Georgia Tech

Seems like every time this team looks top-10, something happens.  Always has a top-five rushing attack.  Everyone expects passing yardage to be low, but it’s passing efficiency that is limiting this offense. Pretty stubborn defense but has to move up from 108th for pressure.   Five wins last year is seven now.

6.   Louisville

Solid offense but loses a lot without Lamar Jackson. Even with him, Coach Petrino was a pedestrian 34-17 and has had considerable difficulty with ranked teams. Offense should be okay but much of the defense is being rebuilt.  Expect a drop in defensive pressure.  Betting odds say 10 wins.  Savvy says seven.

7.   Florida State

Willie Taggart takes over. Tenth-ranked recruiting in just a few weeks. Replacing a lot of the defense.   Good options at QB but 3.7% interception rate won’t cut it in the ACC.  O-line gave up 32 sacks (94th).  Road games vs Notre Dame, North Carolina State, Miami-Fl.  Give Willie a year.  Seven wins for now.

8.   Wake Forest

Kendall Hinton is a step down from Wofford at quarterback.  All starters are back to an outstanding offensive line.  Running back Matt Coburn II should eclipse 1000 yards. Best receiver returns but little depth after Tabari Hines transferred.  Inadequate defensive front but the secondary looks good.  Eight wins but some struggles in ACC.

9.  Syracuse

Lots of youth last year = more success now.  QB Dungey is ready but is he healthy? Total defense should rise to about 82nd. Secondary is deeper & more experienced. Some uncertainty with linebackers.  Feels like a group ready to take off but the schedule could be no wins in November or December.   The Index is set at six wins.

10.  Duke

Experienced quarterback but pass efficiency ranked 113th and not enough long ball.  Good number of skill starters return but need more depth. Offensive line has mostly new starters. Expect defense to be top-15 but offense only 23.5ppg.  Lots of nice parts but not enough to complete the puzzle.  Savvy is stable at six wins.

11.   Boston College

Seems like this team is better than 11th in the ACC, especially since running back A.J. Dillon is back after 1500 yards as a freshman.  Offensive line is complete and most receivers are back.  Interception rate is way too high (3.5%).  Defense is less-than-average. The front is weak and the back lost way too much talent.  Savvy has re-rated BC to five wins.

12.  North Carolina

This feels like a bounce-back bowl team but Savvy stops at six wins, twice as many as 2017. Young offensive and defensive lines should be better now.  Just not seeing effectiveness in returning quarterbacks and top recruit Tyler Shough flipped to Oregon.  Skill guys are better than they seem.  Despite UNC’s problems over all, coach Fedora landed a top-25 recruiting class.

13.   Pittsburgh

No bowl game last year has fans restless.  Three quarterbacks are gone. Two-star Kenny Pickett probably will start because Ricky Town is not the answer. Decent skill guys but awful offensive line. Pretty good defense at first two levels but vulnerable in the secondary. Notre Dame and Miami Fl on the road.  Another five-win season.

14.  Virginia

Is Bryce Perkins the answer at QB?  Running attack 127th ranked last season.  Offensive line returners are not up-to-par and no super recruits to help.  Top two tacklers are gone but Savvy is projecting this to be a top-25 defense.  Schedule—all in a row—Ohio, Louisville, North Carolina St., and Miami plus Savvy already has alert to a potential Virginia loss to FCS Richmond on opening day.  Bronco can build this program.  Will he be given enough time?