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2020 ACC Season Preview


(reuters.com)

Written by: Joseph Yun


As the major powers of the college football world begin to kick off in a pandemic wracked state of affairs, it’s time to preview the three conferences that have elected to play on! First up on the docket, the ACC. I’ll be breaking down the schedule of each conference in the series by order of kickoff date. Notre Dame will be part of the ACC as a temporary measure for the 2020 season only. Also, the conference removed the division system for this season.


The Miami Hurricanes begin the conference slate by starting off with UAB this Thursday night in a return to (somewhat) normalcy. How will each ACC team do in a COVID19 induced conference only schedule?


Boston College


Sept. 12 Home vs. Ohio (W)

Sept. 19 Away @ Duke (L)

Sept. 26 Home vs. Texas State (W)

Oct. 3 Home vs. North Carolina (L)

Oct. 10 Home vs. Pittsburgh (W)

Oct. 17 Away @ Virginia Tech (L)

Oct. 24 Home vs Georgia Tech (W)

Oct. 31 Away @ Clemson (L)

Nov. 7 Away @ Syracuse (W)

Nov. 14 Home vs. Notre Dame (L)

Nov. 27 Home vs. Louisville (L)

Dec. 5 Away @ Virginia (L)


Predicted Record: 5-7


- The Jeff Hafley era begins with a victory over the hapless Bobcats in Chestnut Hill. The two key swing games for the Eagles will be Pittsburgh and Syracuse as the meat of the schedule is quite daunting. The closing stretch run isn’t too easy either for the defensive specialist Hafley as they face two home dates against two more talented offenses. There’s still talent left over from the Addazio regime such as LB Max Richardson, Cal grad transfer DL Luc Bequette, and OL Alec Lindstrom, OL Tyler Vrabel, Notre Dame transfer QB Phil Jurkovec. The talent is there to make some noise in Hafley’s debut campaign but expect some Year 0 bumps and bruises. BC’s offense has been horrid over the past few years with inconsistent QB play so OC Frank Cignetti has his work cut out for him to reshape the unit. A promising 5-7 rookie campaign for Hafley and associates.


Clemson


Sept. 12 Away @ Wake Forest (W)

Sept. 19 Home vs. The Citadel (W)

BYE

Oct. 3 Home vs. Virginia (W)

Oct. 10 Home vs. Miami (W)

Oct. 17 Away @ Georgia Tech (W)

Oct. 24 Home vs. Syracuse (W)

Oct. 31 Home vs. Boston College (W)

Nov. 7 Away @ Notre Dame (W)

BYE

Nov. 21 Away @ Florida State (W)

Nov. 28 Home vs. Pittsburgh (W)

Dec. 5 Away @ Virginia Tech (W)


Predicted Record: 11-0


- If only the ACC would’ve done favors for former power Florida State like they helped out the Tigers in 2020. The heavily favored conference champion and playoff contenders have an easy schedule with few land mines. The key game will be the road visit to South Bend obviously. Still, the Tigers will be without standout EDGE Xavier Thomas due to injury on top of the usual NFL attrition. Regardless, there’s a bountiful crop of talent led by 2021 QB1 Trevor Lawrence in Death Valley to make a run at the hallowed wire to wire title season. This schedule is laughably easy with the only potential upset lurking in the form of the Hurricanes.


Duke


Sept. 12 Away @ Notre Dame (L)

Sept. 19 Home vs. Boston College (W)

BYE

Oct. 3 Home vs. Virginia Tech (L)

Oct. 10 Away @ Syracuse (W)

Oct. 17 Away @ NC State (W)

BYE

Oct. 31 Home vs. Charlotte (W)

Nov. 7 Home vs. North Carolina (L)

Nov. 14 Away @ Virginia (L)

Nov. 21 Home vs. Wake Forest (W)

Nov. 28 Away @ Georgia Tech (W)

Dec. 5 Home vs. Florida State (L)


Predicted Record: 6-5


- The Blue Devils have a tough task in their opener, traveling to Notre Dame but there’s a winning record the rest of the way for David Cutcliffe’s men. The key dates will be the Research Triangle affairs with NC State and archrival UNC. What’s interesting is that Duke doesn’t travel more than 30 miles for a three week stretch in the state of North Carolina. Cutcliffe has appointed former Clemson four-star recruit QB Chase Brice as his starter. Brice is an emerging draftable talent alongside the likes of EDGE Chris Rumph II and CB Mark Gilbert to lead the team.


Florida State


Sept. 12 Home vs. Georgia Tech (W)

Sept. 19 Home vs. Samford (W)

Sept. 26 Away @ Miami (L)

Oct. 3 Home vs. Jacksonville State (W)

Oct. 10 Away @ Notre Dame (L)

Oct. 17 Home vs. UNC (L)

Oct. 24 Away @ Louisville (W)

Nov. 7 Home vs. Pittsburgh (W)

Nov. 14 Away @ NC State (L)

Nov. 21 Home vs. Clemson (L)

Nov. 28 Home vs. Virginia (W)

Dec. 5 Away @ Duke (W)


Predicted Record: 7-5


- Former Memphis head man Mike Norvell was hired to lead the Seminoles out of the doldrums of the previous regimes that stagnated under Jimbo Fisher and fell off a cliff under Willie Taggart. He has his work really, really cut out for him with an arduous schedule. The Noles are light years away from wrestling back control of the ACC Atlantic but a winning record is attainable in 2020. The guaranteed losses are Clemson and Notre Dame but every FBS game could be a toss-up either way. Any improvement from the offensive line to mediocre from nuclear grade dumpster fire would be a welcome development for Coach Norvell. Despite the doom and gloom, there are still capable talents such as WR Tamorrion Terry, DL Marvin Wilson, CB Asante Samuel, Jr, S Hamsah Nasrildeen, DL Fabian Lovett, and DB Jaiden Lars-Woodbey.


Georgia Tech


Sept.12 Away @ Florida State (L)

Sept. 19 Home vs. UCF (L)

Sept. 26 Away @ Syracuse (W)

Oct. 9 Home vs. Louisville (Friday) (L)

BYE

Oct. 17 Home vs. Clemson (L)

Oct. 24 Away @ Boston College (L)

Oct. 31 Home vs. Notre Dame (L)

BYE

Nov.14 Home vs. Pitt (L)

Nov. 21 Away @ Miami (L)

Nov. 28 Home vs. Duke (L)

Dec. 5 Away @ NC State (W)


Predicted Record: 2-9


- Another rebuilding campaign for Geoff Collins in Atlanta is on the horizon in year two of the post triple-option transition. The ACC did the Yellow Jackets no favors with the incredible run of tough games during the first two months. Still, 2-9 in 2020 belies the talent that Collins is bringing in for the 2021 season and beyond. He’s doing a similarly good job with Tech as Johnathan Smith is at Oregon State (another traditionally average team dominated in a state by an older brother program). The treacherous mountain slopes will be there in 2020 but 2021 could be a fun journey towards respectability for the Ramblin’ Wreck. They have a potentially draftable EDGE in Antonneus Clayton (via Florida) and OL Ryan Johnson (Tennessee).


Louisville


Sept. 12 Home vs. Western Kentucky (W)

Sept. 19 Home vs. Miami (L)

Sept. 26 Away @ Pitt (W)

BYE

Oct. 9 Away @ Georgia Tech (Friday) (W)

Oct. 17 Away @ Notre Dame (L)

Oct. 24 Home vs. Florida State (L)

Oct. 31 Home vs. Virginia Tech (W)

Nov. 7 Away @ Virginia (W)

BYE

Nov. 20 Home vs. Syracuse (Friday) (W)

Nov. 27 Away @ Boston College (Friday) (W)

Dec. 5 Home vs. Wake Forest (W)


Predicted Record: 8-3


- Scott Satterfield worked miracles in 2019 to improve the Cardinals after a disastrous prior regime under redux Bobby Petrino went south. Some have labeled Louisville as darkhorse contenders for the ACC title but that October stretch will make or break them. The program has one of the better QB-WR duos in the league with underrated QB Micale Cunningham leading the way alongside receiver Tutu Atwell. Expect a jump in year two of the Satterfield administration.


Miami


Sept. 10 Home vs. UAB (Thursday) (W)

Sept. 19 Away @ Louisville (W)

Sept. 26 Home vs. Florida State (W)

Oct. 10 Away @ Clemson (L)

Oct. 17 Home vs. Pitt (W)

Oct. 24 Home vs. Virginia (W)

Nov. 6 Away @ NC State (Friday) (L)

Nov. 14 Away @ Virginia Tech (W)

Nov. 21 Home vs. Georgia Tech (W)

Nov. 28 Away @ Wake Forest (W)

Dec. 5 Home vs. North Carolina (L)


Predicted Record: 8-3


- While the Canes lost likely first-round draft pick, Greg Rousseau, to COVID19 opt-out and subsequent NFL Draft early entry, they still have some intriguing talent. Manny Diaz’s men actually open the ACC season on Thursday night with a date against UAB. The Hurricanes have a favorable schedule to get to double-digit wins if things break right. Talents like Houston transfer QB D’Eriq King, Temple transfer EDGE Quincy Roche, Houston transfer OT Jarrid Williams, and UCLA transfer EDGE Jaelen Phillips should prop up a decent homegrown roster. A roster that features draftable prospects in CB Al Blades Jr. and TE Brevin Jordan. Miami should be 3-0 heading into the pivotal game against Clemson in Death Valley. Can the Canes actually make some noise and get to Charlotte?


North Carolina


Sept. 12 Home vs. Syracuse (W)

Sept. 19 Home vs. Charlotte (W)

BYE

Oct. 3 Away @ Boston College (W)

Oct. 10 Home vs. Virginia Tech (W)

Oct. 17 Away @ Florida State (W)

Oct. 24 Home vs. NC State (L)

Oct. 31 Away @ Virginia (W)

Nov. 7 Away @ Duke (W)

Nov. 14 Home vs. Wake Forest (W)

BYE

Nov. 27 Home vs. Notre Dame (Friday) (L)


Predicted Record: 8-2


- UNC is nearly everyone’s trendy pick to make it to Charlotte and rightfully so. They have a talent-laden roster that’s led by sophomore stud QB Sam Howell. Offensively, they have receivers Dyami Brown and Dazz Newsome while backs like Michael Carter and Javonte Williams will carry the load. This team will be young on defense, however, but will be anchored by standout converted linebacker Chazz Surratt. They have an extremely favorable schedule as they avoid the big boys in the ACC until meeting Notre Dame in the regular-season finale. Another key game is the Sam Howell Revenge Bowl against FSU.


North Carolina State


BYE

Sept. 19 Home vs.Wake Forest (W)

Sept. 26 Away @ Virginia Tech (L)

Oct. 3 Away @ Pitt (L)

Oct. 10 Away @ Virginia (W)

Oct. 17 Home vs. Duke (L)

Oct. 24 Away @ North Carolina (L)

Nov. 6 Home vs. Miami (Friday) (W)

Nov. 14 Home vs. Florida State (W)

Nov. 21 Home vs. Liberty (W)

Nov. 28 Away @ Syracuse (W)

Dec. 5 Home vs. Georgia Tech (L)


Predicted Record: 6-5


- It’s going to be another ho-hum barely above .500 year for the Pack who lost several key pieces to the NFL or transfer. Their key stretch will be the month of November after a relatively hard October. When it’s rocking and rolling, Carter-Finley Stadium is a terrific atmosphere. They don’t have the firepower to compete for anything but a mid-table finish in the ACC.


Notre Dame


Sept. 12 Home vs. Duke (W)

Sept. 19 Home vs. USF (W)

Sept. 26 Away @ Wake Forest (W)

Oct. 10 Home vs. Florida State (W)

Oct. 17 Home vs. Louisville (W)

Oct. 24 Away @ Pitt (W)

Oct. 31 Away @ Georgia Tech (W)

Nov. 7 Home vs. Clemson (L)

Nov. 14 Away @ Boston College (W)

Nov. 27 Away @ North Carolina (Friday) (W)

Dec. 5 Home vs. Syracuse (W)


Predicted Record: 10-1


- Notre Dame could make an argument for having the softest schedule in the ACC. Every game is eminently winnable besides the game against Clemson and the Tigers must travel to South Bend in cold, dreary November. Star QB Ian Book returns alongside a veteran OL unit with playmaker receiver Braden Lenzy. The defense returns a veteran stop unit as well. Expect the Irish to go wild with this schedule to set up a rematch against the aforementioned Tigers in Charlotte. The key swing game will be the penultimate game of the regular season against the Tar Heels.


Pittsburgh


Sept. 12 Home vs. Austin Peay (W)

Sept. 19 Home vs. Syracuse (L)

Sept. 26 Home vs. Louisville (W)

Oct. 3 Home vs. NC State (W)

Oct. 10 Away @ Boston College (W)

Oct. 17 Away @ Miami (L)

Oct. 24 Home vs. Notre Dame (L)

Nov. 7 Away @ Florida State (L)

Nov. 14 Away @ Georgia Tech (W)

Nov. 21 Home vs. Virginia Tech (L)

Nov. 28 Away @ Clemson (L)


Predicted Record: 5-5


- The Panthers have an easy start to the season but face a brutally harsh final two months that features a ton of likely losses. Pitt will still have a feisty defense as usual but a key man in Jaylen Twyman elected to opt-out. QB Kenny Pickett will have to lead the offense to unprecedented heights to help bolster a flagging receiver unit. The ACC did Pitt no favors with the schedule. HC Pat Narduzzi may end up regretting not pushing hard for the Michigan State job.


Syracuse


Sept. 12 Away @ North Carolina (L)

Sept. 19 Away @ Pitt (W)

Sept. 26 Home vs. Georgia Tech (L)

Oct. 10 Home vs. Duke (L)

Oct. 17 Home vs. Liberty (W)

Oct. 24 Away @ Clemson (L)

Oct. 31 Home vs. Wake Forest (L)

Nov. 7 Home vs. Boston College (L)

Nov. 20 Away @ Louisville (Friday) (W)

Nov. 28 Home vs. NC State (L)

Dec. 5 Away @ Notre Dame (L)


Predicted Record: 3-8


- Is it basketball season yet for the Orange? Not many wins dot their schedule not to mention the team-wide concerns about how the University has handled COVID19 protocols. Freewheeling QB Tommy Devito returns along with a top safety prospect in Andre Cisco so there’s that.


Virginia


BYE

Sept. 19 Away @ Virginia Tech (L)

BYE

Oct. 3 Away @ Clemson (L)

Oct. 10 Home vs. NC State (L)

Oct. 17 Away @ Wake Forest (W)

Oct. 24 Away @ Miami (L)

Oct. 31 Home vs. North Carolina (L)

Nov. 7 Home vs. Louisville (W)

Nov. 14 Home vs. Duke (W)

Nov. 21 Home vs. Abilene Christian (W)

Nov. 28 Away @ Florida State (L)

Dec. 5 Home vs. Boston College (W)


Predicted Record: 5-6


- At least there are bye weeks before road dates against Commonwealth Cup rivals Virginia and national title favorites Clemson? Going to be a long year for the Hoos who have to replace standout QB Bryce Perkins, WR Joe Reed, and CB Bryce Hall. The defense returns a veteran-laden corps, however, led by future draft prospect S Joey Blount so there’s that. Bronco Mendenhall coached teams usually grind out bowl eligibility or more somehow some way more often than not. Cavaliers fans might save the Wahoo Wa’s for the perennial national power hoops team this season.


Virginia Tech


BYE

Sept. 19 Home vs. Virginia (W)

Sept. 26 Home vs. NC State (W)

Oct. 3 Away @ Duke (W)

Oct. 10 Away @ North Carolina (L)

Oct. 17 Home vs. Boston College (W)

Oct. 24 Away @ Wake Forest (W)

Oct. 31 Away @ Louisville (L)

Nov. 7 Home vs. Liberty (W)

Nov. 14 Home vs. Miami (L)

Nov. 21 Away @ Pitt (W)

BYE

Dec. 5 Home vs. Clemson (L)


Predicted Record: 7-4


- The Hokies return a vast majority of their starters but face the loss of longtime stalwart defensive coordinator icon Bud Foster. QB Hendon Hooker returns after a fun start to his Hokies career in 2019. Transfer Portal U will have some holes to fill after several key players left the program over the years. Still, there’s enough talent to eke out seven wins with an easy schedule.


Wake Forest


Sept. 12 Home vs. Clemson (L)

Sept. 19 Away @ NC State (L)

Sept. 26 Home vs. Notre Dame (L)

BYE

Oct. 9 Home vs .Campbell (Friday) (W)

Oct. 17 Home vs. Virginia (L)

Oct. 24 Home vs. Virginia Tech (L)

Oct. 31 Away @ Syracuse (W)

BYE

Nov. 14 Away @ North Carolina (L)

Nov. 21 Away @ Duke (L)

Nov. 28 Home vs. Miami (L)

Dec. 5 Away @ Louisville (L)


Predicted Record: 2-9


- The pandemic related issues were not kind to the Demon Deacons as Jamie Newman elected to transfer to Georgia (and subsequently declared for the draft after losing the battle to JT Daniels) and star receiver Sage Surratt decided to declare for the draft by opting out. The conference did them about 0 favors with the schedule as well. However, all is not lost with star EDGE Carlos Basham, Jr returning to the fold. This is a six-win team with two win factors against them. Dave Clawson’s job won’t be in jeopardy as he’s built a moderately respectable program in Winston-Salem but it will be a long season for the Deacs.


ACC Conference Championship: Notre Dame vs. Clemson


ACC Champion: Clemson

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