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ACC Football Conference Preview

– Clemson (11-1)
The undisputed top of the ACC is Clemson. Full of talent across the board, this is not a team who will not lose an ACC conference game unless by a miracle. Concerns about players stepping into roles immediately, such as the large hole left by Jackson Carmen at left tackle, against a super talented Georgia team week 1 has me leaning towards the Bulldogs in that matchup. All in all, Clemson is by far the favorite in the ACC Championship game and should be a playoff team.

MVP – DJ Uiagalelei
OPOY – Justyn Ross
DPOY – Bryan Bresee
Break out – Ajou Ajou
Key Addition – Marcus Tate

– Boston College (8-4)
The only team that can rival Clemson and Ohio State for the best wide receiver room in the nation, Boston College has entirely revitalized their run heavy offense into a pass heavy one since firing current Colorado State HC Steve Addazio. With former Fighting Irish QB Phil Jurkovic leading their offense this season, expect a high-flying offense, and with a second year of Jeff Hafley as the HC, expect the defense to breakout in a big way.

MVP – Phil Jurkovic
OPOY – Zay Flowers
DPOY – Marcus Valdez
Break out – Brandon Sebastian
Key Addition – Isaiah Graham-Mobley

– Louisville (7-5)
Louisville massively disappointed last season due to a horrid turnover margin and lost 4 one score games that left their fans massively disappointed. However, there is a ton of hope for them this season with the addition of several high impact transfers, stability at QB, and a shockingly talented defense that may stack up as one of the best in the ACC. Having lost 3 key offensive weapons to the draft, there are some concerns when it comes to the experience of the supporting offensive caste, but there is enough talent there that could blossom.

MVP – Malik Cunningham
OPOY – Marshon Ford
DPOY – Kei’Trel Clark
Break out – Shai Werts
Key Addition – Kendrick Duncan

– Florida State (6-6)
Florida State is back! Well, not quite. The Seminoles hit the transfer portal harder than any other team in CFB, as they gained 7 instant impact players. However, this is not going to be enough to pull them much closer to Clemson in the ACC. They have a hard schedule this season, facing high tier teams such as Notre Dame, UNC, Clemson, Miami, and Florida, but I do believe they have the talent to make it to a bowl game.

MVP – McKenzie Milton
OPOY – Andrew Parchment
DPOY – Brandon Moore
Break out – Lawrence Toafili
Key Addition – Dillan Gibbons

– Wake Forest (6-6)
Wake Forest suffers from what I like to call “Big 12 Syndrome.” Their offense is incredible, but they cannot play a lick of defense. Sam Hartman, their starting QB, filled in immediately for current Eagles QB Jamie Newman and performed astoundingly, and Jaquarii Roberson is making a case for being the top receiver in the ACC. Yet, Wake Forest has a tough schedule which, in culmination with their lack of defensive prowess, may limit the success they find in 2021.

MVP – Sam Hartman
OPOY – Jaquarii Roberson
DPOY – Miles Fox
Break out – Nick Anderson
Key Addition – Luiji Vilain

– NC State (5-7)
NC State has a tough season ahead of them, and while they certainly possess the offensive prowess to get it done, there are quite a few concerns about their defense. Losing Alim McNeill is massive hit, as he anchored NC State’s defense and was consistently there against the run and pass incredibly well for a nose tackle. His likely replacement Cory Durden (a transfer from Florida State) is nearly McNeill’s polar opposite with inconsistency and recklessness ruling the majority of his game. I certainly think that they can make up for a few of their defensive downfalls with their offense, but I don’t think it will be enough for a bowl game.

MVP – Devin Leary
OPOY – Zonovan Knight
DPOY – Tyler Baker-Williams
Break out – Ikem Ekwonu
Key Addition – Cory Durden

– Syracuse (3-9)
Syracuse struggled last season once Tommy DeVito went down with an injury, but their team wasn’t much to write home about before that either. A slew of injuries decimated the Orange secondary and left them with several freshman that were thrown into the fire. In addition, their offensive line played horribly. While they have made moves to shore up their weaker areas, it is not enough, and neither Tommy DeVito nor Garrett Shrader have what it takes to elevate this team. This may be the last season of Dino Babers for Syracuse.

MVP – Sean Tucker
OPOY – Taj Harris
DPOY – Ja’Had Carter
Break out – Garrett Williams
Key Addition – Willie Tyler

– Miami (9-3)
Miami is the team to beat in the Coastal Division this season. Despite losing their edge depth, they return almost all of their other talent across the board. In addition, the U added big name players from the transfer portal in Tyrique Stevenson and Charleston Rambo who should boost their coverage unit and give D’Eriq King a true number 1 target respectively. These additions and minimal losses should translate to wins on the field and I am very excited for this Miami team.

MVP – D’Eriq King
OPOY – Charleston Rambo
DPOY – Bubba Bolden
Break out – Jared Harrison-Hunte
Key Addition – Tyrique Stevenson

– Virginia Tech (9-3)
Likely the team I am highest on, Virginia Tech looks to have an incredible season lead by their astounding offensive line and defense. Transfers Tae Daley and Jordan Williams strengthen the coverage unit and defensive line respectively to the point that both groups could be considered the top in the conference. Their offensive line is also certainly in contention to be the best in the conference. Plus, they don’t have too difficult of a schedule, and should be highly competitive against a lot of the better ACC teams. Don’t be surprised if this team faces Clemson in the Conference Championship.
MVP – Braxton Burmiester
OPOY – Luke Tenuta
DPOY – Jermaine Waller
Break out – Amare Barno
Key Addition – Jordan Williams

– UNC (9-3)
One of the most overrated teams heading into 2021, UNC has a lot of questions to answer. How are they replacing their top 2 receivers? How are you replacing nearly 3,000 yards and 33 touchdowns from your leaving running backs? Can Sam Howell step up without top tier weapons? Can the defense step up? I think the Tar Heels will answer all of these questions, but not to the extent of a playoff run as some outlets are projecting for them to do.

MVP – Sam Howell
OPOY – Khafre Brown
DPOY – Storm Duck
Break out – Joshua Ezeudu
Key Addition – Ty Chandler

– Pitt (7-5)
Similarly to UNC, Pitt has lost a lot of talent to the NFL Draft, but in their case it is mostly defensive talent. Pitt lost 3 members of their vaunted defensive line as well as a corner and 2 safeties. This is a big loss of experience across the board on defense, but there are several players in the wings ready to step up. In addition, they have an offense that returns a ton of talent that should produce considerably in 2021.

MVP – Kenny Pickett
OPOY – Jordan Addison
DPOY – Calijah Kancey
Break out – Israel Abanikanda
Key Addition – Marcus Minor

– Virginia (4-8)
Virginia has a very lopsided roster with 4 or 5 uber talented players and the rest of the team is filled with question marks. Joey Blount and Noah Taylor headline this defense as highly reactive playmakers and should make up for a few of the other holes, but not all of them. Brennan Armstrong has quite a bit of talent, but only has one proven target in Billy Kemp IV. The rest of the team is going to need to step up big for any hope at a bowl game.

MVP – Brennan Armstrong
OPOY – Billy Kemp IV
DPOY – Noah Taylor
Break out – Joe Bissinger
Key Addition – Jelani Woods

– Georgia Tech (3-9)
Georgia Tech is on the up and up, but they are nowhere near ready to compete in ACC play. In a transition from the classic triple option run to a more pro-style offense, the team has not found much success, but they are certainly trending in that direction. With several transfer additions who can add immediate value as well as several developing freshmen, Georgia Tech has some players ready to go make plays, but they will not see consistency in 2021. In 2022 however, expect for Georgia Tech to be fighting for a bowl game.

MVP – Jahmyr Gibbs
OPOY – Malachi Carter
DPOY – Juanyeh Thomas
Break out – Jeff Sims
Key Addition – Keion White

– Duke (2-10)
Duke football has certainly seen better days. Entering this season, the Blue Devils have to answer a question mark at QB and build an offensive line to support senior running back Mataeo Durant. Defensively, they lose a majority of their talented pieces but hope to be able to take advantage of a few incoming players. Hopefully, the turnover margin goes down for them this season, but even that can only do so much when it comes to winning games.

MVP – Mataeo Durant
OPOY – Jaylon Calhoun
DPOY – Shaka Heyward
Break out – Gunnar Holmberg
Key Addition – Kade Parmelly

Photo Credit: The Times and Democrat