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2024 Atlantic Coast Conference Preview

Regular Season Win Totals

Clemson: 9.5
Florida State: 9.5
Miami: 9.5
Louisville: 8.5
NC State: 8.5
North Carolina: 7.5
SMU: 7.5
Syracuse: 7.5
Virginia Tech: 7.5
Cal: 6.5
Duke: 6.5
Georgia Tech: 5.5
Pittsburgh: 5.5
Wake Forest: 5.5
Boston College: 4.5
Virginia: 4.5
Stanford: 3.5

Coaching Changes

Boston College: Jeff Hafley Out ~ Bill O'Brien In
Duke: Mike Elko Out ~ Manny Diaz In
Syracuse: Dino Babers Out ~ Fran Brown In

Clemson Tigers 9-4 ~ 4-4 ACC ~ 6-6-0 ATS ~ 5-7-0 O/U
Returning Starters ~ Offense 9/Defense 5

A 9-4 season is considered good, if not great, for many teams but not Clemson. The Tigers had their 11-season streak of double-digit wins snapped last season and it finished outside the top 20 in final CFP Poll for the first time ever. Clemson would make a great landing spot for players in the transfer portal and its incoming number of transfers this season is zero. In the current state of college football, all programs are losing players to the portal but are getting additions to make up for it but Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney refuses to go that route and it is catching up. The Tigers do have a lot returning so all is not dire but it is young talent instead of seniors or grad transfers and that can be hard to overcome and a lot of the pressure will fall on quarterback Cade Klubnik. He was not very efficient last season, completing just 63.9 percent of his passes with 19 touchdowns and nine interceptions but he brings back three of his top four receivers in Tyler Brown, Antonio Williams, and Troy Stellato. The loss of do-it-all running back Will Shipley is a big one. Clemson finished No. 8 in total defense and they will rely on that unit to carry them again. The Tigers open with Georgia so we will see early on what this team is made up of and they benefit of having only four true road games.

Florida State Seminoles 13-1 ~ 8-0 ACC ~ 7-5-0 ATS ~ 7-5-0 O/U
Returning Starters ~ Offense 5/Defense 5

The Seminoles got one of the biggest CFP shaft jobs in the nine-year existence of the playoff format as it went undefeated and won the ACC Championship Game but did not make the final four. The argument was that quarterback Jordan Travis was lost in the final regular season game so they would not be the same team and while they were blown out against Georgia, half the team did not play. Nonetheless, Florida St. is back on the map but besides Travis, it lost running back Trey Benson, and receivers Keon Coleman and Johnny Wilson. The Seminoles went the transfer route and they should be ok as they got former Clemson and Oregon St. quarterback DJ Uiagalelei, who brings in the duel threat, along with former Alabama running back Roydell Williams and wide receiver Malik Benson. Statistically, the Seminoles were average on offense and relied on their No. 29 ranked defense that allowed 20 points or less in 10 of 14 games and that unit will have to step up early. Overall, Florida St. only returns 56 percent of its production from the previous season, which is No. 88 in the country. They play an odd schedule with eight of their first nine games in the ACC with Memphis mixed in and they close with three nonconference games including one at Notre Dame.

Miami Hurricanes 7-6 ~ 3-5 ACC ~ 6-6-0 ATS ~ 7-5-0 O/U
Returning Starters ~ Offense 10/Defense 7

For a third consecutive season, expectations are high in Miami and the Hurricane faithful hope that for a third consecutive season, those hopes are not dashed with early losses to derail the season. Head coach Mario Cristobal was considered the perfect hire with his program knowledge and local ties to help recruiting but he has gone just 12-13 and while he may not be on the hot seat, it is getting warm. Probably the most surprising thing about this program is that Miami has not had a double-digit winning season since 2017 which is the only one since 2003. They were decent yet unspectacular on offense last season, finishing No. 32 overall and No. 41 in scoring but they possess arguably the best trio of quarterback, running back and receiver in the ACC with Washington St. transfer Cam Ward, Oregon St. transfer Damien Martinez and 1,191-yard returnee Xavier Restrepo respectively. Ward has thrown for 13,874 yards and 119 touchdowns in four years and will open up the offense that Tyler Van Dyke could not do. The front seven on defense is the strength of the unit and the only big question is replacing two NFL safeties. They open at Florida and will likely be favored in every game going forward, should they continue to win.

Louisville Cardinals 10-4 ~ 7-1 ACC ~ 6-5-1 ATS ~ 6-5-1 O/U
Returning Starters ~ Offense 8/Defense 7

While Florida St. went undefeated which was considered a surprise, Louisville was arguably the bigger surprise, at least early. The Cardinals opened 6-0 but lost to Pittsburgh due to turnovers as they dominated the stat sheet and then went to 10-1 before losing to Kentucky, one of three losses to close the season. Still, it was a great season for a team picked to finish middle of the pack as first year head coach Jeff Brohm reinvigorated the program for its first double-digit winning season since 2013. Now, a talented roster in their second year in the system along with some significant transfers coming in, there is room to move even more forward. Gone is quarterback Jack Plummer but the Cardinals landed seventh year, yes seventh year, quarterback Tyler Shough from Texas Tech and he has a great receiver and tight end room to work with. Louisville was excellent on defense, ranking No. 21 overall and No. 34 in points allowed and while they lost some key players, there is plenty coming back to keep the unit a force. The strength is with the cornerbacks which is huge in a conference filled with elite passing. The Cardinals have three likely home wins to open the season before going to Notre Dame and while they also go to Clemson, they avoid three of the top five teams.

NC State Wolfpack 9-4 ~ 6-2 ACC ~ 6-5-1 ATS ~ 4-8-0 O/U
Returning Starters ~ Offense 8/Defense 5

NC State is coming off its fourth nine-win season in the last seven years but it has not been able to hit double digits since an 11-win season in 2002. It has been a consistent program with winning seasons in 12 of the last 14 years but is one of only two teams along with Syracuse, not counting the new members this year, to make it to the ACC Championship Game which goes back to 2005. That could change this year with some help from the teams above as NC State has the fifth easiest schedule in the ACC. Quarterback Brennan Armstrong did not live up to expectations last season and the offense suffered, finishing No. 96 overall and No. 71 in scoring and the Wolfpack brought in Grayson McCall from Coastal Carolina, who was outstanding in his first three years but was hurt most of last season. The receiving corps is explosive led by ACC Freshman of the Year KC Concepcion and some added transfers there and at running back will have them humming. The defense will drop off after losing the Bednarik and Butkus Award linebacker Payton Wilson but should be just fine. The Wolfpack should go 3-1 in nonconference games and ACC action opens at Clemson and closes at North Carolina with the games in-between are ones they should/will win.

North Carolina Tar Heels 8-5 ~ 4-4 ATS ~ 6-6-0 ATS ~ 6-5-1 O/U
Returning Starters ~ Offense 6/Defense 7

North Carolina was pegged as one of the favorites to make a second straight ACC Championship Game appearance and after a 6-0 start, 3-0 in the ACC, it was looking good with three more winnable games before Clemson but the Tar Heels lost to Virginia as a 23.5-point favorite and the tailspin began. They lost five of their last seven games to finish 8-5 and now expectations are not nearly as high, which may not be a bad thing. North Carolina has had a winning season in four of the five seasons under head coach Mack Brown and has gone to five bowls but that is not the goal and it hopes to sneak up on teams as opposed to being the hunted. Quarterback Drake Maye is in the NFL and there is a quarterback battle going between TCU transfer Max Johnson and sophomore Conner Harrell, who has two years in the system, with the latter performing better in the spring game. There is plenty of receiver depth so while the offense will take a step back, it should not be too drastic. The Tar Heels brought in Geoff Collins as the new defensive coordinator after another disaster on that side of the ball and it will be more aggressive. The easiest ACC schedule goes to North Carolina as only Florida St. and NC State are the two teams they play with higher win projections.

SMU Mustangs 11-3 ~ 8-0 AAC ~ 7-5-0 ATS ~ 6-6-0 O/U
Returning Starters ~ Offense 8/Defense 7

SMU was at rock bottom after the death penalty from the late 80s but over the last wo decades, the Mustangs have moved from the WAC to the American to now their current home, the ACC. SMU went undefeated in the AAC at 8-0 last season, part of a 10-2 regular season with the two losses at Oklahoma and at TCU and then defeated Tulane 26-14in the AAC Championship Game. Its reward? An invite to the Fenway Bowl against Boston College where the Mustangs lost in a game they could have cared less about. That makes the move to the ACC that much sweeter and SMU will be a tough out from the start with most every important piece back. The offense was ranked No. 16 while the scoring offense was No. 8 led by quarterback Preston Stone, who finished with 28 touchdowns and six interceptions. He has his top seven receivers back as well as the top three running backs behind a veteran offensive line and this offense will be potent again. The defense was arguably better, ranking No. 12 overall and No. 11 in points allowed and 10 of the top 11 tacklers are back. Facing an ACC schedule may be a new, tough challenge so it may be something to monitor at first, especially with the first two ACC games against Florida St. and Louisville but eases up after that.

Syracuse Orange 6-7 ~ 2-6 ACC ~ 5-6-1 ATS ~ 5-7-0 O/U
Returning Starters ~ Offense 10/Defense 8

For the second straight season, Syracuse got off to a solid start, 6-0 in 2022 and 4-0 last year only to implode when the schedule toughened up. The Orange lost their next five games before going 1-1 but head coach Dino Babers was fired after the Georgia Tech loss. Nunzio Campanile took over as the interim coach and defeated Wake Forest to become bowl eligible for a second straight season but got hammered by South Florida 45-0. Syracuse hired Fran Brown who was the Georgia defensive backs coach for two seasons and considered one of the best recruiters in the country to right the ship of a program that has won more than six games only five times since 2002 with only one double-digit win season. The big name from the transfer portal is quarterback Kyle McCord coming in from Ohio St. off a very good season. He has the playmakers to work with so the offense should improve from its No. 88 ranking. The defense finished No. 65 overall and the Orange bring back their two leading tacklers in linebacker Marlowe Wax and defensive back Justin Barron so this unit can and should improve. The good news is that Syracuse has the fourth easiest projected schedule in the country of all 82 Power Four teams as it plays only two teams ranked inside the FPI Top 30, Miami and NC State.

Virginia Tech Hokies 7-6 ~ 5-3 ACC ~ 7-5-0 ATS ~ 8-4-0 O/U
Returning Starters ~ Offense 11/Defense 10

Virginia Tech is coming off its first winning season since 2019 so things could be looking up for head coach Brent Pry who enters his third season. The Hokies have just one double-digit win season in the last 12 years which came after they had eight consecutive double-digit victory campaigns under head coach Frank Beamer who left Blacksburg with 23 consecutive winning seasons. The Hokies have not come close to that success since his retirement and look to still be a middle of the conference team but there is hope for improvement. After finishing No. 61 in total offense and No. 57 in scoring offense, this should be an improved unit with plenty of experience. In a conference filled with incoming quarterback transfers, Virginia Tech has Kyron Drones returning for his second season as the starter and he has four of his top five receivers back that combined for 1,549 yards last season including Bhayshul Tuten out of the backfield who led the team in rushing with 999 yards as well. The defense improved by 55 ypg from 2022 and finished No. 20 in the country and brings back four of the top five tacklers. The Hokies should go 4-0 out of the gate in nonconference action and has a tame ACC schedule with the only big tests being at Miami and home against Clemson.

Cal Golden Bears 6-7 ~ 4-5 Pac 12 ~ 6-6-0 ATS ~ 7-5-0 O/U
Returning Starters ~ Offense 7/Defense 8

Cal heads to the ACC from the Pac 12 where its days go all the way back to when the Pacific Coast Conference was founded in 1915. It is a tough geographical move for a Golden Bears team that did not have a winning conference season since 2009 when it was the Pac 10. However, with them moving to the ACC, it also makes numerous other teams having to travel out west so there is a give and take. Last season, Cal made it to its first bowl game since 2019 as it won its final three regular season games to become bowl eligible and while it lost to Texas Tech in the Independence Bowl, it was a season to build upon. The offense was nothing spectacular as it was No. 60 overall and No. 48 in scoring with 30.2 ppg, its highest average since 2016 and it was spurned when freshman quarterback Fernando Mendoza took over as the full time starter six games into the season. He returns along with running back Jaydn Ott who rushed for 1,370 yards and 13 touchdowns but transfers will have to fill the void at receiver. The defense was atrocious but led the country with 28 takeaways and they are a veteran group coming back. In the ACC, Cal has to travel to Florida St., Pittsburgh and Wake Forest but also has Miami, NC State and Syracuse coming out their way.

Duke Blue Devils 8-5 ~ 4-4 ACC ~ 6-6-0 ATS ~ 8-4-0 O/U
Returning Starters ~ Offense 5/Defense 5

It was supposed to be a special season for Duke with 18 returning starters including quarterback Riley Leonard and it started 4-0 before a controversial loss to Notre Dame and then Leonard got hurt and played only seven games. The Blue Devils finished 8-5 and went 17-9 under head coach Mike Elko who left for Texas A&M and Duke hired Manny Diaz who was fired in 2021 after three seasons in Miami but had a successful two years as the Penn St. defensive coordinator. Additionally, Leonard transferred to Notre Dame and is a top five Heisman Trophy candidate so that will be a big loss. Overall, 13 starters need to be replaced and taking over at quarterback will most likely be Maalik Murphy, a four-star recruit who transferred out of Texas and brings a huge upside to the position. He has the No. 1 and No. 3 receivers returning helping the transition but lost a lot along the offensive line. Defensively, Duke was solid at No. 17 in points allowed and Diaz will keep the unit strong despite key players gone. The schedule is both good and bad as the Blue Devils open the season with four very winnable nonconference games. In the ACC, they avoid Clemson and Louisville, they only leave the state once but they miss four of the five worst projected teams.

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 7-6 ~ 5-3 ACC ~ 7-5-0 ATS ~ 9-3-0 O/U
Returning Starters ~ Offense 8/Defense 5

After going 10-28 under head coach Geoff Collins, who was fired four games into the 2022 season, Georgia Tech has been a different team under new head coach Brent Key as it has gone 11-10, which is nothing spectacular, but the culture change is evident. The Yellow Jackets went to their first bowl game since 2018 and defeated Central Florida 30-17 in the Gasparilla Bowl to secure a winning season that included a 5-3 record in the conference with two of the losses coming against Clemson and Louisville. The offense was the strength as Georgia Tech finished No. 14 in total offense and No. 47 in scoring offense led by quarterback Haynes King who has huge upside as long as he considerably cuts down on his 16 interceptions. Additionally, 1,187-yard running back Jamal Haynes is back as well as the two leading receivers. Defensively is where the Yellow Jackets need major improvements as they finished second to last in the country in total defense with 473.5 ypg allowed. They have a lot of returning experience, whether that is good or bad, and they bring in a new defensive coordinator in Tyler Santucci. The real problem could be the schedule as it is ranked No. 10 in the country in terms of strength. They open in Dublin with Florida St. and overall face 10 bowl teams from last season.

Pittsburgh Panthers 3-9 ~ 2-6 ACC ~ 3-8-1 ATS ~ 8-4-0 O/U
Returning Starters ~ Offense 9/Defense 4

It was a sudden fall for Pittsburgh in 2023 as following a 20-7 record the previous two seasons and finishing without a losing record since 2017, the Panthers bottomed out at 3-9, their fewest wins since 1998. The past success of head coach Pat Narduzzi secured his job but another season like that could put that job in jeopardy. The projected wins call for another tough season but if the offense can turn things around, the Panthers could surprise. The quarterback play was abysmal last season with three players seeing significant playing time and it was Nate Yarnell who arguably was the best of the three as he closed the season 1-1. He returns and will battle with Alabama transfer Eli Holstein for the starting spot on an offense that was No. 116 both overall and in scoring and will feature a new up-tempo system under new coordinator Kade Bell. The defense was certainly better than the offense but it was still an average unit that could not keep opposing offenses down enough to make up for the lack of scoring from its offense and it looks like a complete re-do with only three starters returning. The schedule features only five road games but four of those are very tough yet of the seven home games, six are more than winnable with the other being Clemson.

Wake Forest Demon Deacons 4-8 ~ 1-7 ACC ~ 4-8-0 ATS ~ 4-6-2 O/U
Returning Starters ~ Offense 8/Defense 7

Wake Forest is another team that took a hard and sudden fall in 2023. The Demon Deacons were 19-8 the previous two seasons which included an ACC Championship Game appearance and taking out the 2020 COVID year, they had six straight winning seasons but tumbled to 4-8 and finished last in the ACC at 1-7 with the only win coming against Pittsburgh by four points. A major factor, like Pittsburgh, the quarterback play was horrible split between three players so the loss of Sam Hartman to Notre Dame was clearly apparent. The Panthers should get a boost with Louisiana Tech and Boise St. transfer Hank Bachmeier coming in but they need to replace four of the top five wide receivers. Leading rusher Demond Claiborne is back to ease some of the transition to go along with an experienced offensive line. Wake Forest was slightly below average on defense and consistent as it ranked between No. 74 and No. 78 in total defense, scoring defense, passing defense and rushing defense. They have seven starters back but come in ranked in the conference No. 12 up front and dead last in the secondary. Wake Forest does not leave home until October which is good early on before five of the next seven on the road with one of the home games against Clemson.

Boston College Eagles 7-6 ~ 3-5 ACC ~ 4-8-0 ATS ~ 9-3-0 O/U
Returning Starters ~ Offense 9/Defense 8

Boston College was one of the pleasant surprises in the ACC as it ended up 7-6 which included a 23-14 bowl win over SMU in the Fenway Bowl. The Eagles have finished with at least six wins in nine of the last 11 seasons but the problem is that they have never surpassed seven victories. Last season, Boston College was the only team in the ACC with a winning record that had a negative point differential so 2023 could have been a little bit of fool's gold. Head coach Jeff Hafley left to become the defensive coordinator of the Green Bay Packers and the Eagles brought in hometown native Bill O'Brien who has plenty of coaching experience at every level. Boston College was below average on both sides of the ball but it brings back 17 starters and is the fourth most experienced team in the ACC. The offense is led by quarterback Thomas Castellanos who threw for 2,270 yards and 15 touchdowns and ran for 1,113 yards but he tossed 14 interceptions so that has to be cut down. Defensively, the Eagles come in ranked between No. 13 and No. 16 on the three levels so the offense may have to carry them early on. They open at Florida St. and face eight bowl teams from last season while going against three teams coming directly off a bye so this is not any easy slate.

Virginia Cavaliers 3-9 ~ 2-6 ACC ~ 8-4-0 ATS ~ 9-2-1 O/U
Returning Starters ~ Offense 8/Defense 8

Virginia is coming off its second straight three-win season although the 2022 season was cut short with two games getting cancelled because of the tragic shooting on campus. The Cavaliers were picked to finish last in the ACC in 2023 and they were close, finishing only one game from the bottom. They opened the season 0-5 before getting their first win against William & Mary of the FCS and then somehow upset No. 10 North Carolina on the road as a 23.5-point underdog and another near upset at Miami the following game took any wind out of their sails. The offense was ok at times but could not muster enough scoring to make up for the porous defense that finished No. 119 in points allowed and No. 104 overall. Eight starters are back which for a previously bad defense can be just as bad as it can be good with the balance between poor play and experience masking each other. They also have eight starters back on offense including the entire offensive line that will protect the quarterback where there is a battle between Tony Muskett and Anthony Colandrea as well as their top three rushers. The Cavaliers can go anywhere from 5-0 to 1-4 in the first five games and then it gets extremely tough down the stretch in the last seven games facing six bowl teams from last year.

Stanford Cardinal ~ 3-9 ~ 2-7 Pac 12 ~ 5-7-0 ATS ~ 5-7-0 O/U
Returning Starters ~ Offense 10/Defense 8

Stanford is the third of the new teams entering the ACC and is in the toughest spot. The Cardinal will likely be the consensus to finish last in the conference coming off its third straight 3-9 season and have the fifth toughest schedule in the country. It was not that long ago that Stanford was competing for Pac 12 Championships but it has gone downhill quickly and there will not be much room for error this season. The Cardinal bring back 18 starters, which again, can be good or bad and in this case it looks like the latter as in the ACC the only position units ranked in the top 10 are receivers and linebacker, both at No. 8. Quarterback Ashton Daniels showed some positive signs but he needs to be more consistent and accurate after completing just 59 percent of his passes and he has his top three receivers back as well as his offensive line now they need to find a running back. Stanford was one of the worst teams defensively, ranking No. 131 overall and No. 132 in points allowed and the future looks bleak. Like Cal, the Cardinal travel east three times in the conference and have three teams coming to Stanford. Over their final 10 games, they face five teams that will be coming off a bye which is the most of any team in the conference.

2024 Big 12 Conference Football Preview