Team Previews: Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC)

The ACC spent last season on the outside of the College Football Playoff (CFP) after a few Clemson stumbles and two-loss Pitt taking the conference crown. Clemson is the clear favorite to recapture the title this season, but the Tigers have shown their vulnerability in what could be another exciting conference race.

NC State is returning QB Devin Leary, along with most of the defense, while Wake Forest returns Heisman hopeful QB Sam Hartman. Clemson brings back an elite defensive front and will be looking to be a lot more potent on offense this year, even though they will have to replace coordinators on both sides of the ball.

In this preview, we’ll take a look at each team’s projected SP+ rankings and Returning Production Percentage to analyze their recent recruiting, returning production, and overall program health heading into the 2022 season. We’ll also have conference predictions and early game-by-game picks.

Boston College Eagles

2021 Record: 6-6 (2-6 ACC)
Bowl Result: Military Bowl vs East Carolina (Game Canceled)
Returning Production: 60%
SP+ Ranking: -0.9 (12th ACC, 76th Nationally)

Season Prediction:
W vs Rutgers
W @ Virginia Tech
W vs Maine
L @ Florida State
L vs Louisville
L vs Clemson
L @ Wake Forest
W @ UConn
W vs Duke
L @ NC State
L @ Notre Dame
W vs Syracuse

Record Prediction: 6-6 (3-5 ACC)

The Eagles return QB Phil Jurkovec after an early-season injury derailed the team last season. Unfortunately for Boston College, they play a difficult schedule that includes Florida State, Louisville, Clemson, and Wake Forest in a four-game stretch. With road trips at NC State and Notre Dame in the tail end of the season, they’ll have to steal a game or two to get to a decent bowl game.

Clemson Tigers

2021 Record: 10-3 (6-2 ACC)
Bowl Result: Cheez-It Bowl vs Iowa State (W, 20-13)
Returning Production: 72%
SP+ Ranking: 20.3 (1st ACC, 6th Nationally)

Season Prediction:
W @ Georgia Tech
W vs Fordham
W vs Louisiana Tech
W @ Wake Forest
W vs NC State
W @ Boston College
L @ Florida State
W vs Syracuse
L @ Notre Dame
W vs Louisville
W vs Miami
W vs South Carolina

Record Prediction: 10-2 (7-1 ACC)

Clemson QB DJ Uiagalelei will face competition from freshman Cade Klubnik ahead of the season. The questions surrounding the offense remain, but the defense bolsters one of the best fronts in college football. Much of the ACC improved from last year to this year, which will be an impending challenge along with the trip to South Bend.

Duke Blue Devils

2021 Record: 3-9 (0-8 ACC)
Bowl Result: N/A
Returning Production: 49%
SP+ Ranking: -14.3 (14th ACC, 119th Nationally)

Season Prediction:
W vs Temple
L @ Northwestern
W vs NC A&T
L @ Kansas
L vs Virginia
L @ Georgia Tech
L vs North Carolina
L @ Miami
L @ Boston College
L vs Virginia Tech
L @ Pittsburgh
L vs Wake Forest

Record Prediction: 2-10 (0-8 ACC)

Duke struggled to put points on the scoreboard last season, something that new head coach Mike Elko, the former defensive coordinator at Texas A&M, would like to change. For a team that was last in the country in total defense, along with a lack of returning talent, 2022 could be another long season in Durham.

Florida State Seminoles

2021 Record: 5-7 (4-4 ACC)
Bowl Result: N/A
Returning Production: 78%
SP+ Ranking: 12.4 (5th ACC, 28th Nationally)

Season Prediction:
W vs Duquesne
W vs LSU (Caesar’s Superdome: New Orleans, LA)
L @ Louisville
W vs Boston College
L vs Wake Forest
L @ NC State
W vs Clemson
W vs Georgia Tech
L @ Miami
L @ Syracuse
W vs Louisiana
W vs Florida

Record Prediction: 7-5 (3-5 ACC)

QB Jordan Travis is returning after a promising 2021 season. Even though the Seminoles finished with a losing record, they were still competitive in many games. With a lot of returning offensive production, along with WR transfers Mycah Pittman (Oregon) and Johnny Wilson (Arizona State), there are reasons to be optimistic. A winning season should be the bare minimum of expectation.

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

2021 Record: 3-9 (2-6 ACC)
Bowl Result: N/A
Returning Production: 49%
SP+ Ranking: -5.3 (13th ACC, 90th Nationally)

Season Prediction:
L vs Clemson
W vs Western Carolina
L vs Ole Miss
L @ UCF
L @ Pittsburgh
W vs Duke
L vs Virginia
L @ Florida State
L @ Virginia Tech
L vs Miami
L @ North Carolina
L @ Georgia

Record Prediction: 2-10 (1-7 ACC)

QB Jeff Sims is one of the bright spots for the Yellow Jackets. WR Malachi Carter is expected to be utilized more this season, but that will be dependent on how much offensive line transfers Pierce Quick (Alabama), Paul Tchio (Clemson), and RJ Adams (Kentucky) can add to the front line. The pass defense needs to improve drastically in the “conference of quarterbacks” if Georgia Tech wants to compete for more victories.

Louisville Cardinals

2021 Record: 6-7 (4-4 ACC)
Bowl Result: SERVPRO First Responder Bowl vs Air Force (L, 31-28)
Returning Production: 79%
SP+ Ranking: 12.3 (6th ACC, 30th Nationally)

Season Prediction:
W @ Syracuse
W @ UCF
W vs Florida State
W vs South Florida
W @ Boston College
L @ Virginia
W vs Pittsburgh
W vs Wake Forest
W vs James Madison
L @ Clemson
L vs NC State
L @ Kentucky

Record Prediction: 8-4 (5-3 ACC)

The offense is built around QB Malik Cunningham, who will have to be great if Louisville wants to compete for a conference title. Central Arkansas transfer WR Tyler Hudson (ASUN Player of the Year) adds some much needed help at the receiver spot for an offense that should be pretty explosive in 2022. Tough road contests at UCF, Virginia, Clemson, and Kentucky will be the bigger tests on the Cardinal’s schedule.

Miami Hurricanes

2021 Record: 7-5 (5-3 ACC)
Bowl Result: Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl vs Washington State (Miami Cancelation)
Returning Production: 73%
SP+ Ranking: 15.6 (2nd ACC, 14th Nationally)

Season Prediction:
W vs Bethune-Cookman
W vs Southern Miss
L @ Texas A&M
W vs Middle Tennessee
W vs North Carolina
W @ Virginia Tech
W vs Duke
L @ Virginia
W vs Florida State
W @ Georgia Tech
L @ Clemson
L vs Pittsburgh

Record Prediction: 8-4 (5-3 ACC)

New head coach Mario Cristobal will be relying heavily on QB Tyler Van Dyke, who is returning after a strong finish to his 2021 campaign. Cristobal took two guards with him from Oregon in transfers Jonathan Denis and Logan Sagapolu to boost the offensive line, but some difficult defensive tests are on slate with Texas A&M, Clemson, and Pitt.

North Carolina Tar Heels

2021 Record: 6-7 (3-5 ACC)
Bowl Result: Duke’s Mayo Bowl vs South Carolina (L, 38-21)
Returning Production: 64%
SP+ Ranking: 10.7 (7th ACC, 34th Nationally)

Season Prediction:
W vs Florida A&M
L @ Appalachian State
W @ Georgia Tech
L vs Notre Dame
W vs Virginia Tech
L @ Miami
W @ Duke
L vs Pittsburgh
W @ Virginia
L @ Wake Forest
W vs Georgia Tech
W vs NC State

Record Prediction: 7-5 (5-3 ACC)

UNC will need to replace QB Sam Howell, but viable options exist in Drake Maye and Jacolby Criswell. WR Josh Downs, who broke the receptions (101) and receiving yards (1,335) school records in 2021, will be target number one for whoever is throwing him the ball. An experienced offensive line unit returns, but the front on both sides will have to improve if they want to compete for the conference.

North Carolina State Wolfpack

2021 Record: 9-3 (6-2 ACC)
Bowl Result: Holiday Bowl vs UCLA (Game Canceled)
Returning Production: 82%
SP+ Ranking: 14.9 (3rd ACC, 18th Nationally)

Season Prediction:
W @ East Carolina
W vs Charleston Southern
W vs Texas Tech
W vs UConn
L @ Clemson
W vs Florida State
W @ Syracuse
W vs Virginia Tech
W vs Wake Forest
W vs Boston College
W @ Louisville
L @ North Carolina

Record Prediction: 10-2 (6-2 ACC)

The Wolfpack return an abundance of production from a team that won nine games a season ago. With QB Devin Leary returning after a stellar 2021 (3,433 yards, 35 TD, 5 INT), the main offensive question mark will be who is getting the majority of the handoffs at running back. The defense was riddled with injuries last season, but many players are utilizing their Covid year and returning to the Wolfpack.

Pittsburgh Panthers

2021 Record: 11-3 (7-1 ACC)
Bowl Result: Peach Bowl vs #10 Michigan State (L, 31-21)
Returning Production: 69%
SP+ Ranking: 14.8 (4th ACC, 19th Nationally)

Season Prediction:
W vs West Virginia
L vs Tennessee
W @ Western Michigan
W vs Rhode Island
W vs Georgia Tech
W vs Virginia Tech
L @ Louisville
W @ UNC
W vs Syracuse
L @ Virginia
W vs Duke
W @ Miami

Record Prediction: 9-3 (6-2 ACC)

Pitt will need to figure out how to replace not only Heisman Finalist QB Kenny Pickett, but also Biletnikoff Award winner Jordan Addison, who transferred to USC. Pitt was able to secure transfer QB Kedon Slovis from USC and the offense should still be strong behind an offensive line that returns all five starters.

Virginia Cavaliers

2021 Record: 6-6 (4-4 ACC)
Bowl Result: Wasabi Fenway Bowl vs SMU (Game Canceled)
Returning Production: 53%
SP+ Ranking: 4.7 (9th ACC, 55th Nationally)

Season Prediction:
W vs Richmond
W @ Illinois
W vs Old Dominion
L @ Syracuse
W @ Duke
W vs Louisville
W @ Georgia Tech
W vs Miami
L vs UNC
W vs Pitt
L vs Coastal Carolina
L @ Virginia Tech

Record Prediction: 8-4 (5-3 ACC)

UVA returns a lot of offensive production but needs to improve a defense that allowed points left and right. QB Brennan Armstrong is one of the more experienced and quality returners in not only the ACC, but all of college football. He’ll need a revamped offensive line to protect him better in 2022.

Virginia Tech Hokies

2021 Record: 6-7 (4-4 ACC)
Bowl Result: Pinstripe Bowl vs Maryland (L, 54-10)
Returning Production: 64%
SP+ Ranking: 3.9 (11th ACC, 61st Nationally)

Season Prediction:
W @ Old Dominion
L vs Boston College
W vs Wofford
W vs West Virginia
L @ UNC
L @ Pitt
L vs Miami
L @ NC State
W vs Georgia Tech
W @ Duke
W @ Liberty
W vs Virginia

Record Prediction: 7-5 (3-5 ACC)

Questions at the QB position remain for the Hokies, who bring in transfers Jason Brown (South Carolina) and Grant Wells (Marshall). Wells comes in with two years as a starter under his belt, but receivers will need to step up regardless of who is taking snaps.

Wake Forest Demon Deacons

2021 Record: 11-3 (7-1 ACC)
Bowl Result: Gator Bowl vs Rutgers (W, 38-10)
Returning Production: 70%
SP+ Ranking: 6.4 (8th ACC, 49th Nationally)

Season Prediction:
W vs VMI
W @ Vanderbilt
W vs Liberty
L vs Clemson
W @ Florida State
W vs Army
W vs Boston College
L @ Louisville
L @ NC State
W vs UNC
W vs Syracuse
W @ Duke

Record Prediction: 9-3 (5-3 ACC)

QB Sam Hartman returns to an offense that will again be looking to compete for an ACC Atlantic title. The RB position looks solid with Justice Ellison and Christian Turner. Much of the defensive secondary is gone for a unit that allowed a lot of points last season, but Rondell Bothroyd returns on the edge after a strong campaign in 2021 conference play.

Syracuse Orange

2021 Record: 5-7 (2-6)
Bowl Result: N/A
Returning Production: 80%
SP+ Ranking: 4.5 (10th ACC, 57th Nationally)

Season Prediction:
L vs Louisville
W @ UConn
L vs Purdue
W vs Virginia
W vs Wagner
L vs NC State
L @ Clemson
L vs Notre Dame
L @ Pitt
W vs Florida State
L @ Wake Forest
L @ Boston College

Record Prediction: 4-8 (2-6 ACC)

Syracuse returns QB Garrett Shrader, who will be battling for the week one starting job. Out of conference games against Purdue and Notre Dame don’t make things easier for the Orangemen, who have to compete with an improved ACC Atlantic Division. The ceiling on this team is much higher than four wins if they can compete with some of the offenses they face this fall.

Conference Standings Prediction

ATLANTICTEAMRECORD
1Clemson Tigers10-2 (7-1)
2NC State Wolfpack10-2 (6-2)
3Louisville Cardinals8-4 (5-3)
4Wake Forest Demon Deacons9-3 (5-3)
5Florida State Seminoles7-5 (3-5)
6Boston College Eagles6-6 (3-5)
7Syracuse Orange4-8 (2-6)
COASTALTEAMRECORD
1Pittsburgh Panthers9-3 (6-2)
T-2Miami Hurricanes8-4 (5-3)
T-2North Carolina Tar Heels7-5 (5-3)
T-2Virginia Cavaliers8-4 (5-3)
5Virginia Tech Hokies7-5 (3-5)
6Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets2-10 (1-7)
7Duke Blue Devils2-10 (0-8)

Conference Championship Game:
Clemson: 35
Pittsburgh: 24

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