The VSiN college football experts have been hard at work this summer, writing up team previews and predictions for all 131 FBS teams, including their favorite individual season win total and College Football Playoff bets.
Here are the team previews for the ACC:
The Eagles were coming off a 6-5 season and heading into 2021 with 18 returning starters and a relatively soft schedule. Then QB Phil Jurkovec was lost for six games in the second game of the season and BC went 2-4 in six games without him. The disappointing 6-6 season ended with the Eagles having to forego the Military Bowl due to COVID-19 issues.
Yes, Jurkovec missed six games with a hand fracture, but the BC offense ended up being the worst in the conference and averaged a paltry 10 points per game against its first four ACC opponents. This year, Jurkovec is back but most of the offensive staff is not. John McNulty, the tight ends coach at Notre Dame last season, takes over as OC. McNulty spent two different tenures as Rutgers OC and made numerous NFL assistant stops. Expect to see more RPOs, quick releases and progression-based reads as well as a variety of personnel packages, including some spread. Pat Garwo ran for over 1,000 yards and seven TDs last season but will have to do so behind an entirely new offensive line that lost four starters plus guard Christian Mahogany to a torn ACL. Star receiver Zay Flowers (44 receptions, 746 yards, 5 TD) is back, as are Jaelen Gill (24, 269, 1) and Jaden Williams (19, 213, 3). Notre Dame transfer TE George Takacs gives Jurkovec another talented target.
In 2019, the season before coach Jeff Hafley took over, BC ranked 122nd in pass defense. Last year, the Eagles climbed all the way to third nationally, allowing just 173.5 yards per game through the air. BC was 16th in the country in fewest passing touchdowns allowed (14) and 27th in the FBS in opponent completion percentage (57.9%). Marcus Valdez (five sacks, seven TFLs) returns for his graduate year to lead the defensive line. Tackle Chibueze Onwuka also returns from a torn Achilles that forced him to miss nearly all of last season. The Eagles were 96th last season in sacks per game (1.75). Veteran LBs Kam Arnold (team-high 61 tackles) and Vinny DePalma (54) also return. The secondary is the strength of the team and is led by CB Josh DeBerry (53 tackles, 7 TFLs, 2 INTs) and safety Jaiden Woodbey (56 tackles, 2 INTs). BC will have to improve on their 17 takeaways from last year.
BC will find out early if they have taken the next step. They open with Rutgers and have conference road games at Virginia Tech and Florida State in the first four weeks. The Eagles should have a base of six wins -- Rutgers, Maine, at UConn, Duke, Louisville, Syracuse. However, if they are going to be this year’s Pitt in the ACC, they will have to pull off an upset or two, perhaps against Clemson or at NC State. They will also have to at least split those early ACC road games in Blacksburg and Tallahassee. It’s difficult to see BC accomplishing that even though they have the QB to do it with Jurkovec. Installing a new offense is hard enough, but to do it with an entirely new offensive line makes it even more difficult. The defense will win them a competitive game on the schedule, but seven wins looks like the ceiling.
Pick: Over 6.5 ( 110)
The Tigers found a way to win 10 games last season, but it was a highly disappointing year considering their streaks of six consecutive ACC titles and six consecutive College Football Playoff berths ended abruptly. If Dabo Swinney’s Tigers are going to return to the top of college football, the offense, which was second to last in the conference, needs to get much closer to its usual form.
QB DJ Uiagalelei (2,346 yards, 55.6%, 9-10 TD-INT) struggled in his first full season as starter. He was inaccurate and made poor decisions far too often last season, which led to Clemson ranking just 103rd in the nation in passing offense. At least his conditioning should be improved considering he has reportedly lost 25 pounds. Former Tigers QB Brandon Streeter (1995-1999) was promoted to OC after Tony Elliott took the Virginia head coaching job. The Tigers return their top three running backs in Will Shipley (738 yards, 11 TD), Kobe Pace (641, 6) and Phil Mafah (292, 3). The offensive line was inconsistent last year but returns four starters -- the offense returns nine overall -- and should be improved. TE Davis Allen (28 receptions, 208 yards, 3 TD) could emerge as one of the top tight ends in the country. Highly touted Beaux Collins (31, 407, 3) and Joseph Ngata (23, 438, 1) are the top two returning receivers. Clemson has plenty of talent behind them, but it's unproven.
Despite the loss of longtime coordinator Brent Venables (hired as Oklahoma’s head coach), this should be one of the nation’s best defenses. It ranked eighth nationally in total defense (310.2 yards per game) last season. First-year defensive coordinator Wes Goodwin has elite talent all over the field, but everything starts with the defensive front, which could be one of Clemson’s best. DEs Myles Murphy (43 tackles, 7 TFL, 7 sacks, 12 QBH), Xavier Thomas (27 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 17 QBH), K.J. Henry (28 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 8 QBH) and Justin Mascoll (19 tackles, 5 QBH) are all starter-level players. DTs Tyler Davis (27 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 7 QBH) and redshirt freshman Bryan Bresee are two of the best in the country, while Ruke Orhorhoro (42 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 5.5 TFL) provides depth. Clemson lost a couple of experienced linebackers in James Skalski and Baylon Spector, but the Tigers should be more athletic at the position. Trenton Simpson (78 tackles, 6 sacks, 6 TFL) moves inside. On the back end, Clemson must replace three solid starters. The Tigers are talented but inexperienced at corner.