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2015 ACC NCAA College Football Predictions and Preview

2015 ACC NCAA College Football Predictions and Preview

The ACC lost some key names last season with the likes of Jameis Winston, Vic Beasley and Duke Johnson, who are now in the NFL. However, the ACC should remain as one of the most entertaining conferences to follow with no clear-cut favorite to win it.  Read on for a brief overview of each ACC team, including names to watch out for and projected 2015 records.

For more football, you can also browse our comprehensive team previews for the Oregon Ducks, Alabama Crimson Tide, and Texas Longhorns.

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2015 ACC Season Wins Preview

Clemson Tigers

2014 Record: 10-3 (6-2)

Predicted Record: 10-2 (7-1)

[sc:NCAA240banner ]Defense carried Clemson for most of last season, when the Tigers had the third-best scoring defense in the nation. But with a slew of losses in the starting defensive unit—including Vic Beasley and Grady Jarrett— defensive coordinator Brent Venables is facing quite a challenge this coming season.

The offense loses some key personnel too but retains the services of quarterback Deshaun Watson (a +1,500 sleeper to win the Heisman), who passed for 1,466 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2014. Watson’s weapons downfield include the experienced pair of Mike Williams and Artavis Scott, who had 1,995 total receiving yards and 14 TDs last season.

With a potential Heisman candidate at quarterback, the Tigers are +200 favorites to win the ACC this season.

Florida State Seminoles

2014 Record: 13-1 (8-0)

Predicted Record: 10-2 (6-2)

Jameis Winston is no longer enrolled at Tallahassee, leaving Jimbo Fisher a crucial task of choosing who between Sean Maguire and former Notre Dame signal-caller Everett Golson will be the team’s starting quarterback. The backfield, meanwhile, has a workhorse in Dalvin Cook, who rushed for 1,008 yards and scored eight rushing touchdowns last season.

Those aside, Fisher will also have to find a way to reform a defense that lost tackle Eddie Goldman and defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. and features a thin group of linebackers. The Noles will enter the season priced at +250 to win a fourth straight ACC crown.

NC State Wolfpack

2014 Record: 6-7 (4-4)

Predicted Record: 7-5 (3-5)

The Wolfpack showed that they were no pushovers last season when they gave Florida State a run for its own money in a 56-41 loss. With 14 returning starters split between the offense and the defense, expect the Wolfpack to continue its rise in the ACC. They will have a four-game win streak at the end of last season to build on, which includes a 34-27 win over UCF in the Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl.

Quarterback Jacoby Brisett was exceptional last season (he passed for 2,606 yards and 26 touchdowns) and should find a way to utilize receivers Bra’Lon Cherry, Johnathan Alston, and tight end David Grinnage.

Duke Blue Devils

2014 Record: 9-4 (5-3)

Predicted Record: 7-5 (3-5)

The Blue Devils are aiming for a better season after appearing in a bowl game for a school-record fourth-straight time in 2014. Duke has yet to announce the replacement for Anthony Boone, but it is becoming more apparent each day that coach David Cutcliffe will anoint junior Thomas Sirk as the Blue Devils’ next starting quarterback.

The departure of top wideout Jamison Crowder, meanwhile, leaves the likes of Max McCaffrey and tight end Braxton Deaver competing for the lead receiving role. They shouldn’t sleep on Chris Taylor, though, as the redshirt freshman did well in the spring. Over at the defensive side, Duke will have to rely on returning starters such as Kelby Brown to anchor a unit that ranked 24th in the nation in scoring defense.

Louisville Cardinals

2014 Record: 9-4 (5-3)

Predicted Record: 6-6 (4-4)

Much like Clemson, the Cardinals also took heavy losses in their defense, particularly in their secondary, where all of last season’s starters have left. The front seven is still solid with defensive ends Sheldon Rankins and Pio Vatuvei, but the defense remains a big question. With that said, Bobby Petrino will have to coax more activity from the Cardinals’ offense that has yet to settle on a starting quarterback.

For now, Petrino’s options include Reggie Bonnafon, Kyle Bolin, and former Nittany Lion Tyler Ferguson. The winner of that quarterback battle, however, will have a receiving corps minus DeVante Parker, who led the team last year with 855 receiving yards and five receiving scores. Hopefully for the Cardinals, James Quick plays like the five-star recruit that he was. Quick caught 36 passes in 2014 for 566 yards and just three touchdowns.

Boston College

2014 Record: 7-6 (4-4)

Predicted Record: 5-7 (2-6)

Boston College has to incorporate a lot of new players in its system quickly if it hopes to better the program’s seven-win 2014 season. For one, the Eagles return just nine players from last season. Their losses include starting quarterback Tyler Murphy. While Steve Addazio and his staff deliberate who among Darius Wade, Elijah Robinson or Troy Flutie will be the next starter at QB, Boston College has to develop a revamped offensive line that lost four starters.

The defense, on the other hand, is expected to be the team’s strength with six starters coming back. Last season, the Eagles were third overall in the conference in total yards allowed per game (324.2), thanks in large part to their run defense that ranked second (93.8 yards per game) in the nation.

Syracuse Orange

2014 Record: 3-9, (1-7)

Predicted Record: 4-8 (2-6)

Defense was one of the few bright spots in Syracuse’s game last season; the Orange placed 27th in the nation in total yards allowed. But with only three returning starters on defense, the Orange will have a tough time replicating that success. As for the offense, Terrel Hunt hopes that he’ll continue to be the explosive dual-threat quarterback that he was prior to injuring his leg midway though the 2014 season.

That leg better be ready to run a lot this year as Hunt is expected to rush the ball often with the backfield losing Prince-Tyson Gulley and Adonis Ameen-Moore, the team’s top two rushers in 2014, to graduation.

Wake Forest Demon Deacons

2014 Record: 3-9 (1-7)

Predicted Record: 5-7 (2-6)

There’s no other way but up for Wake Forest’s offense that was an absolute eyesore last season. In 2014, the Demon Deacons ranked among the worst in passing offense (176.3 yards per game) and rushing yards (39.9). The team’s pathetic run game should get at least a minor bump this coming season with a couple of returnees in Dez Wortham and Isaiah Robinson plus incoming recruits Rocky Reid and Matt Colburn. That said, Wake Forest fans should keep their expectations low while the team that features eight underclassmen as starters continues to develop.

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

2014 Record: 11-3 (6-2)

Predicted Record: 8-4 (6-2)

The Yellow Jackets surpassed expectations last season when they topped the Coastal Division and played well, albeit in a loss to Florida State in the ACC championship game. Following that setback, Georgia Tech took down then No.7 Mississippi State in the Orange Bowl. A big part of the team’s success was its exceptional rushing game that ranked second in the nation.

Georgia Tech lost a lot in the backfield – Synjyn Days, Zach Laskey and Charles – but will still have a deep and experienced offensive line, while quarterback Justin Thomas will be back to run Paul Johnson’s triple option. The Yellow Jackets are sneaky +400 sleepers to win the conference.

Miami (Fl.) Hurricanes

2014 Record: 6-7 (3-5)

Predicted Record: 5-7 (3-5)

Al Golden may find himself on the hot seat this coming season after an underwhelming 2014 campaign, wherein the Canes managed to put up a poor 6-7 overall record. His job security largely relies on how quarterback Brad Kaaya, who threw for 3,198 yards and 26 touchdowns last season. But with the team’s top receiver (Phillip Dorsett) and rusher (Duke Johnson) in 2014 no longer in Coral Gables, Miami will have a tough time going over 7.0 regular season wins this year.

North Carolina Tar Heels

2014 Record: 8-5 (3-5)

Predicted Record: 10-2 (6-2)

Larry Fedora is probably familiar to the predicament of Miami coach Al Golden entering the new season. Fedora, however, is hoping that new defensive coordinator and former Auburn coach Gene Chizik, will help him avoid the firing line. It’s also relaxing for Fedora to have 10 offensive starters returning to play at Chapel Hill, including quarterback Marquise Williams.

Williams is coming off a terrific 2014 season, wherein he set a school record for total offense in a single season by pacing the team in passing and rushing yards. As for the defense, Chizik will have a unit that brings back six starters to work with. Given Chizik’s pedigree, the Tar Heels should see an improvement on their defense, which placed last in the conference in total defense.

Pittsburgh Panthers

2014 Record: 6-7 (4-4)

Predicted Record:  7-5 (5-3)

The Panthers have had a carousel of head coaches over the last five years and their latest hiring is former Michigan defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi. Narduzzi’s transition as the new coach of the program should be made easier by the fact that he’ll have the talented trio of quarterback Chad Voytik, running back James Conner and wide receiver Tyler Boyd at his disposal.

Also in the mix are seven returning starters on defense, led by Shakir Soto and Rori Blair. Last season, the Panthers were 34th in the nation in total defense. With defensive guru Narduzzi on top of things, expect an even fiercer Panthers defense this coming season.

Virginia Tech Hokies

2014 Record: 7-6 (3-5)

Predicted Record: 7-5 (5-3)

It was a topsy-turvy 2014 season for the Hokies, as they scored two wins against ranked opponents (Ohio State and Duke) and lost to a crappy Wake Forest team near the end of the regular season. They were able to bounce back with a bowl win, though, which is something Virginia Tech can build on entering the new season.

The Hokies are counting on Michael Brewer to improve his play. Brewer passed for 2,692 yards and 18 TDs last season but also had 15 picks. If he can be a more efficient passer, the Hokies could be looking at a better finish this season.

Virginia Cavaliers

2014 Record: 5-7 (3-5)

Predicted Record: 4-8 (2-6)

The ACC appears to have a need for additional hot seats with Virginia coach Mike London also finding himself in a precarious spot. Virginia’s struggles against ACC teams last season surely doesn’t bode well for London, who must figure out a way to make his team competitive despite an overhauled front seven and an average pair of quarterbacks in Greyson Lambert and Matt Johns.

Writer’s Prediction

Clemson tops the Atlantic, while Georgia Tech gets the best record in the Coastal. In the ACC championship game, Clemson beats the Yellow Jackets.

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Written by Rex

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