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2019 Football Preview: ACC Primer

The ACC is Clemson’s league but after the defending national champs, there’s plenty of opportunity

NCAA Football: Clemson at Wake Forest Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

The football season will be before we know it. With camps about to start back up, everyone is excited to fill their weekends back with action on the gridiron. For Wake Forest and the other teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference, the ACC can boast as the Clemson Tigers enter the season as the defending national champions, along with being the favorite to repeat.

Barring some unforeseeable circumstances, Clemson will again be the team to beat. After a 15-0 season, capped off with a national championship, and returning perhaps the favorite for the Heisman Trophy, QB Trevor Lawrence, the Tigers will be a force to be reckoned with. However, after Clemson, there is room for competition as teams will jockey for position within the Coastal and Atlantic (after Clemson) Divisions.

ACC Coastal

The Coastal is no stranger to parity. Last season, no team in the division had more than eight total wins. As the in-depth preview from ESPN commentary points out (which you can find here), this division is marked with unpredictability.

The Miami Hurricanes are the favorite here with their talent level but questions at quarterback, even with QB Tate Martell getting approval to not sit out a year after transferring from Ohio State, makes the offense hard to picture.

Virginia Tech seems to be a contender for the Coastal as well with their suffocating defense. The Hokies offense has traditionally been the weaker side of the ball but should be strong with returning partial starter Ryan Willis.

Virginia can be a sleeper as Coach Bronco Mendenhall continues to revamp the defense but offensive big plays are the question as the the Cavaliers look to try for the next step.

The above three teams are considered the “favorites” in a relatively weaker division. The rest of the Coastal have a myriad of questions and not as many answers as the other teams.

Pittburgh has trouble in the passing game and on defense, which was surprising considering Pat Narduzzi’s reputation. The defensive culture is definitely improving but likely hasn’t gotten to where Narduzzi wants the program to be.

North Carolina has a few good running backs but fields a defense that struggled mightily last year. The Tar Heels brought in a new defensive coordinator who is creative which could help,

Duke has to replace a top ten draft pick at quarterback (Daniel Jones) while trying to rebuild and revamp a defense that struggled at times.

Finally in the Coastal, Georgia Tech looks to usher a new era of football after Paul Johnson’s retirement. Coach Geoff Collins brings plenty of change which sets the bar fairly low for the program this year.

ACC Atlantic

As prefaced above, the Atlantic and ACC belong to Clemson. There’s really no argument there. However, after that there are interesting stories as potentially five teams vie to be the runner ups in the Atlantic. ESPN did a more indepth preview (which you can find here).

Clemson brings back a lot of firepower but not as much defense from their national championship squad. QB Trevor Lawrence had an amazing freshman year but can he repeat with all of the expectations placed on him?

Florida State struggled in Willie Taggart’s first year as head coach. However, many starters are back on both sides of the ball. QB Blackman likely is the starter with stud RB Cam Akers also back.

North Carolina State finished with a 9-4 record last year but the mood was disappointing after losing very winnable games, such as the one against Wake Forest. The defense returnees are strong and solid but the offense is basically reset with many starters gone.

Syracuse was a big surprise team last season after winning double digit games. The defense mostly comes back intact but the offense will have a quarterback reset.

Boston College comes into the season with some explosive playmakers returning. However, the defense will be interesting with a young secondary and the offense, while explosive, was not very efficient overall.

Louisville collapsed for Bobby Petrino’s last season. New coach, Scott Satterfield. comes from Appalachian State with the ability to rebuild the program. Due to a new coach and regime, the expectations here aren’t that enormously high.

Wake Forest

If you’re wondering why Wake Forest wasn’t in the ACC Atlantic section, it’s because they have a special place in our hearts. After three bowl game victories in a row, the Demon Deacons have a unique opportunity to go for number four. The Deacs bring back a lot of defenders, especially in the back seven with Essang Bassey, Amari Henderson, Ja’Sir Taylor, and Nasir Greer back.

Offensively, everyone wants to know, who is going to be the starting QB with Sam Hartman back from injury and Jamie Newman back after a hot end to last season. RB Cade Carney is back for his senior year while the Deacs will miss offensive production in WRs Greg Dortch and Alex Bachman.

Wake Forest is in a unique position because optimistically they could finish as high as second in the division and pessimistically they could be fifth or sixth. Look for Coach Clawson to continue to work his magic as the Deacs continue to defy all these preseason projections year after year.