newsseth megginson 2019 acc football preview projections

Seth Megginson: 2019 ACC Football Preview, Projections

Seth Megginson

ACC NetworkACC Atlantic

  1. Clemson 12-0 (8-0)
  2. Syracuse 9-3 (5-3)
  3. FSU 7-5 (4-4)
  4. Wake Forest 7-5 (4-4)
  5. Boston College 6-6 (3-5)
  6. NC State 5-7 (2-6)
  7. Louisville 4-8 (2-6)


Boston College Eagles

2018 Record: 7-5 (4-4) 4thAtlantic
Bowl: 1st Responders V Boise State (Cancelled)

Best Case:  With QB Anthony Brown and RB AJ Dillion returning the Eagles have one of the best backfields in the ACC. Head coach Steve Addazio always seems to get the most out of his Eagle teams, and if the defense plays well enough Boston College could push for 8 wins.

Worst Case: BC defense last season was not as solid as Eagles defense in the past. The Eagles just have four returners to that defense and a new coordinator which could mean the defense takes another step back in 2019. If Boston College has to outscore people, they may find themselves missing out on a bowl.

Projection: With Brown and Dillion back there is hope that BC does not have a drop off; if at all in 2019. BC should still be a tough out for everyone and will likely ride Dillion to several wins this upcoming season. A bowl game should be the goal for the Eagles, and I think they will get there.

Projected Record: 6-6 (3-5)          Projected Bowl: Quick Lane

Clemson Tigers

2018 Record: 15-0 (8-0) 1ST Atlantic
Bowl: Cotton Bowl V Notre Dame (W)/ National Title Game V Alabama (W)

Best Case: Trevor Lawrence returns along with RB Travis Etienne and his two favorite weapons in WR’s Tee Higgins and Justyn Ross. Clemson will not miss a beat on offense and could easily be pushing scoring 50 ppg this season. The defense will likely just reload despite some losses to graduation. There is a good chance Clemson rolls through the regular season undefeated to another college playoff berth and their games won’t even be close.

Worst Case: That defense that  I mentioned earlier; maybe there is a chance that they do not reload and take a significant drop off. Even if the defense does not live up to expectations there is no reason to think Clemson will lose more than one game unless the Tigers go through injury problems.

Projection: This was the easiest projection to make in all of college football this season. Clemson is not going to miss a beat and Lawrence is only going to get better and better (which is scary). Clemson’s defense will still be a top defense in the country and the Tigers will once again go undefeated in the regular season, win the ACC and head to the college football playoff for the 5th year in a row.

Projected Record: 12-0 (8-0)                       Bowl Projection: Peach Bowl

Florida State Seminoles

2018 Record: 5-7 (3-5) 5th Atlantic
Bowl: None

Best Case: The growing pains of 2018 should be over and under year 2 of Willi Taggart reign in Tallahassee perhaps the Noles will find their identity. Cam Akers is a special talent and FSU could easily ride him to a few victories, also James Blackman is back at QB giving FSU some experience at the position (Alex Hornibrook could easily win the position though). FSU’s defense has eight of their ten leading tacklers returning which could boost the defense. The talent is there in Tallahassee and if Taggart finds a way to harness it FSU could push for 9 wins and maybe even sneak in as the ACC representative in the Orange Bowl.

Worst Case: After having your 36-year bowl streak snapped Seminole fans might think it can not get any worse for them, however there is still a lot of glaring holes in this Noles team. The defense last year was awful especially in the secondary and the offensive was constantly playing catch up because of it. FSU also had one of the worst turnover margins in college football last season and if that doesn’t get cleaned up it could be another long season. FSU also got arguably the toughest draw against the ACC coastal teams having to play at UVA and in state rival Miami. Even with all the room for improvement there is at FSU I think at worst the Noles go 6-6.

Projection: Some people may be buying into a turnaround in Tallahassee a little early, I honestly would not be surprised if FSU still struggles and just barley makes a bowl. I do however think that there is clearly talent on this roster and FSU should win two or three more games than they did in 2018. I say FSU starts to show signs of improvement but its going to take a little more time.

Projected Record: 7-5 (4-4)          Bowl Projection: Belk

Louisville Cardinals

2018 Record 2-10 (0-8) 7th Atlantic
Bowl: None

Best Case: Scott Satterfield is a great hire and kept Appalachian State relevant when they moved up to the FBS. Satterfield should be able to build a winner at Louisville, but it may take some time. They will have some experience back from last season, but with a team that only won two games last season who knows if that’s a good or bad thing. If Jawon Pass can become the quarterback, the Cardinals thought he might be a year ago and the players buy into Satterfield’s vision there is a chance that Louisville can push for six wins and a bowl game.

Worse Case: There is still a lot of work to be done in Louisville. Last season the Cardinals had the worst offense and defense in the ACC so there will need to be drastic improvement on both sides of the ball for the Cardinals to be competitive in the ACC. Louisville also has a difficult schedule with a trio of game with Notre Dame to start the season and games against UVA and Miami from the coastal. Under a new coach it may take the Cardinal players a year or two to fully start seeing the change in culture at Louisville so another winless season in the ACC is possible.

Projection: Louisville will likely still find themselves at the bottom of the ACC Atlantic, but I think we will see more fight in this team under Satterfield. Louisville tough schedule will keep their win total low for a second straight season, but the Cardinals will show more fight this season than last.

Projected Record: 4-8 (2-6)          Bowl: None

NC State Wolfpack

2018 Record: 9-4 (5-3) 3rd Atlantic
Bowl: Gator V Texas A&M (L)

Best Case: The Wolfpack will be more reliant on their defense this season after having to outscore their opponents last season. If the Wolfpack defense can improve in the secondary and new QB Matthew McKay can be half of what Ryan Finley was for NC State then the Wolfpack should be just fine and win close to eight games. Getting Georgia Tech and UNC out of the coastal division is a big help to this NC State team while they are in this transition year.

Worst Case: Losing Ryan Finley is going to hurt a lot, if NC State didn’t have Finley last season, they probably only win 6 games. Towards of the end of last season this Wolfpack team was exposed as a pretender especially in their bowl game where the were destroyed by Texas A&M. If the defense continues to give up huge numbers in the pass defense NC State will likely not have the offense to keep up with opposing teams. NC State could be one of those teams that take a big step back in 2019.

Projection: A lot of people just seem to be putting NC State in a bowl and completely ignoring that this is probably head Coach Dave Doeren worst roster since his first season in Raleigh. NC State won 9 games a season ago, but they benefited from a weak schedule especially after the West Virginia game was canceled.  I felt last season this NC State team was not nearly as good as their record indicated so I think it may be a long year for the Wolfpack and they’ll miss out on a bowl.

Projected Record: 5-7 (2-6)          Bowl: None

Syracuse Orange

2018 Record: 10-3 (6-2) 2nd Atlantic
Bowl: Camping World Bowl V West Virginia

Best Case: After achieving their first 10-win season since 2001, all things are looking up for the Orange of Syracuse. Eric Dungey is gone at QB but a more than reliable replacement in Tommy DeVito is at the helm, so do not expect the Orange to miss much (if any) of a beat. Syracuse has played the defending national champions better than anyone the last two seasons giving the Orange reason to believe that they are Clemson’s only legitimate competition in the ACC. Another 10-win season with a favorable schedule is not out of the question in Syracuse and that would see them in the Orange Bowl come bowl season.

Worst Case: If the defense does not improve then I think the Orange will struggle to win 10 games again. The defense did improve from 2017 to 2018 but it still has a long way to go to make Syracuse a true threat in the ACC. If the rest of the Atlantic improves (mainly FSU) Syracuse may find themselves with a disappointing seven-win season.

Projection: Syracuse was a tricky one to project. I do not think they are going to win as many games as they did last season, but they are the second-best team in the Atlantic. I really would not be surprised to see another 10-win season and be the ACC representative in the Orange bowl. That being said I think Syracuse might lose a game or two they should win, so I say Syracuse wins nine with a chance to win 10 in their bowl game.

Projected Record: 9-3 (5-3)          Bowl: Sun Bowl

Wake Forest Demon Deacons

2018 Record 7-6 (3-5) 6TH Atlantic
Bowl: Birmingham V Memphis (W)

Best Case: Dave Clawson has been an amazing hire for Wake Forest. Wake is constantly a tough out for their competition and 2019 should not be any different. 1,000 yard rusher Cade Carney returns as well as two capable QB’s in Sam Hartman and Jamie Newman. The Demon Deacons were plagued by injury last season put still managed to become bowl eligible and if Wake is healthy in 2019 there is a good chance, they can win eight games.

Worst Case: The defense was awful last year and their best contributors on defense are all gone. You would think it could not get any worse on defense for Wake, but it just might. If the Deacons are again plagued by the injury bug it could be hard to repeat last years achievements. Clawson is a very good coach, but sometimes bad defense can be to hard to overcome, and if they can’t, they’ll be at home come bowl season.

Projection: If Wake stays healthy, I believe they should improve on their 2018 season. Like mentioned earlier both QB’s have proved they are more than capable to lead this team and having a talented RB like Carney will only help. Clawson always does more with less, but the defense still really concerns me. I say Wake Forest shows some flashes this year especially with their talented offense and manage to make a bowl.

Projected Record: 7-5 (4-4)          Bowl: Pinstripe


ACC Coastal

  1. UVA 9-3 (6-2)
  2. Miami (FL) 8-4 (5-3)
  3. Virginia Tech 8-4 (5-3)
  4. UNC 6-6 (4-4)
  5. Pitt 6-6 (4-4)
  6. Duke 5-7 (3-5)
  7. Georgia Tech 3-9 (1-7)


Duke Blue Devils

2018 Record: 8-5 (3-5) 6th Coastal
Bowl: Independence V Temple (W)

Best Case: Duke should have one of the best offensive lines in the conference, mix that with a solid RB like Deon Jackson and the Blue Devils should be able to run the ball on just about everyone they face. Duke’s pass defense was strong last season and should be better with Mark Gilbert returning from injury. QB Quentin Harris showed last season he is a more than capable QB when he had to replace Daniel Jones so there is reason to hope that Duke can find their way back to a bowl game.

Worst Case: The schedule is tough, like really tough. Games out of the conference include an opener with Alabama in Atlanta and a trip to South Bend to play Notre Dame. If Duke is going to want to get to a bowl, they are likely going to have to be .500 or better in ACC play and that maybe too much of an ask for this Blue Devil team. The rush defense will need to improve, and Harris will have to find a reliable go to receiver with Dukes top three leading WR from a season ago all gone. With the schedule as tough as it is Duke could find themselves only winning four games this season.

Projection: This Duke team will be a tough out for the ACC opponents and I would not be surprised if the upset one or two teams on their schedule this season. However, the schedule is just too difficult in my opinion. Duke would likely need to upset two or three teams to find themselves in a bowl so unfortunately, I see them just missing out on a bowl though I think this Blue Devil team will be better than their final record indicates.

Projected Record: 5-7 (3-5)          Bowl: None

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

2018 Record: 7-6 (5-3) 2nd Coastal
Bowl: Quick Lane Bowl V Minnesota (L)

Best Case: A new era is coming to Atlanta as Geoff Collins takes over the reins from option specialist Paul Johnson. In fairness Georgia Tech will have to do a lot of work to turn this team from and option team to a spread offense. It all depends on how well the players by into the new system and if the Yellow Jackets can find a QB for the new system. GT will have to rely on their defense more this season, but if the defense plays well perhaps GT can surprise some people and win around five games.

Worst Case: With this being a transition year it could be really rocky for Collins and the Yellow Jackets. It will probably take a few weeks for this team to really grasp the new offense and with games against Clemson, South Florida, and Temple in the month of September GT could be 1-3 by months in. This could realistically be a two-win team this season.

Projection: While I think Collins will eventually find some success at GT it will take some time for him to bring in the players that really fit his style. This is probably going to be a rough year in Atlanta, and I would be surprised if the Yellow Jackets win more than just four games this season. I project a 3-9 year for Collins opening campaign.

Projected Record: 3-9 (1-7)          Bowl: None

Miami Hurricanes

2018 Record: 7-6 (4-4) Tied 3rd Coastal
Bowl: Pinstripe V Wisconsin (L)

Best Case: The Hurricanes defense is going to be just as good as it has been the past two seasons and that alone should make Cane fans feel confident, they can win the ACC Coastal. Linebackers like Shaquille Quarterman and Michael Pickney return to provide senior leadership to one of the nation’s best defenses and perhaps the best defense in the ACC in 2019. QB Jarren Williams was a highly recruited prospect and if he can show flashes of hope for the Cane offense then Miami should be the Coastal champs come November and could line themselves up for an Orange bowl berth.

Worst Case: The offense was hard to watch at some points last season and if Williams is not the answer then do the Canes really have one? Tate Martell was another highly touted QB coming out of high school but could not beat Williams out for the job so who knows if he is the answer either. If the offense counties to struggle like it did in 2018 Miami can be right back in 2019 as a 7-5 team wondering what could have been.

Projection: Miami last season opened up with LSU and got smacked. You know that had to damage the swagger this Miami team had built up from the season before. This year the Canes open with Florida, if Miami can just have a better showing (or even win) then Miami could be the favorites in the wide-open Coastal division. I think the offense for Miami will get better, but I am not sure how much better. I say Miami improves their record to eight wins but come up short of claiming their second Coastal title in three seasons.

Projected Record: 8-4 (5-3)          Bowl: Camping World

North Carolina Tar Heels

2018 Record: 2-9 (1-7) 7th Coastal
Bowl: None

Best Case: With Mac Brown back in Chapel and a highly touted freshman QB in Sam Howell joining him there are a lot of reasons to believe things are looking up at UNC. UNC returns tons of talent at RB and a solid offense line which should take some pressure off Howell. The last two seasons the wins have been rare in Chapel Hill but the Tar Heels do put up a fight, 11 of their 18 losses the past two seasons were by 10 points or less so if UNC can get better fortune in those games the Heels could be one of the most improved teams in the country and make a bowl.

Worst Case: The Heels defense will now be under former Army defense coordinator Jay Bateman who needs to turn this unit around. If Bateman cannot fix the struggles, then the Heels will need to rely on Howell to outscore the opposition and who knows how well that will go with a freshman QB no matter how highly rated he is. If UNC’s close game misfortune continues along with defensive struggles, and then add a difficult schedule that includes Clemson from the Atlantic, then the Heels may be looking at 3 or 4 wins.

Projection: This UNC team will surprise some people this season. I love the hire of Bateman on the defense and like mentioned before UNC have had their chances to win games, they just could not close them out. Two of their loses were in OT to NC State and Syracuse and they had a great chances to beat VA Tech, Duke, and Cal. I also believe Howell will be a great player for however long he is at Chapel Hill and I think he will begin to show that potential this season. UNC will go 6-6 and make a bowl despite a few tough matchups this season.

Projected Record: 6-6 (4-4)          Bowl: Military

Pittsburgh Panthers

2018 Record 7-7 (6-2) 1st Coastal
Bowl: Sun V Stanford (L)

Best Case: Pitt has brought new offensive coordinator Mark Whipple in to try and fix the offensive passing game woes which should only benefit QB Kenny Pickett. Under Pat Narduzzi Pitt has overachieved most years and last season they snuck up and won the ACC Coastal. Even if Pitt does not come close to winning the division again this season you better bet, they will be a tough out. Seven wins seems like a realistic goal.

Worst Case: The team loses a lot on both sides of the ball including two outstanding 1,000-yard rushers in Qadree Ollison and Darrin Hall. The defense vastly improved in 2018 but it may again take a step back and be more like it was in 2017 which if you do not remember was not very good. Everything will depend on if Pitt can find the right players to fill in the holes on both sides of the ball, and if new coordinator Whipple can turn Pickett into a more consistent QB. With all the question marks going into and another tough out of conference schedule with the likes of Penn State and UCF, Pitt could find themselves with only five wins.

Projection: I believe the worst-case scenario for the Panthers is a realistic one. The schedule is tough, and I do not trust the players Pitt have to repeat what they did in 2018. You know they’ll still be able to run the ball despite the departures at RB but they’ll need more from Pickett this season and I just do not think they will get it.

Projected Record: 5-7 (3-5)          Bowl: None

Virginia Cavaliers

2018 Record: 8-5 (4-4) Tied 3rd Coastal
Bowl: Belk V South Carolina (W)

Best Case: With Bryce Perkins back UVA has been named the favorite in the ACC Coastal. Perkins is one of those players who can instantly take a game over and was responsible for 34 of the Cavs touchdowns a year ago. The defense should again be one of the ACC’s best as they are led by veterans Eli Hanback, Jordan Mack, and corner Bryce Hall. If things fall in place for UVA, then they should win the coastal and be in the Orange bowl this bowl season.

Worst Case: Perkins may be back but his weapons in RB Jordan Ellis and WR Olamide Zaccheaus are gone. The Cavs will have to find other play makers on offense to step up for Perkins. UVA offensive and defensive lines may be a concern as well as both are going through somewhat of a rebuild in 2019. Also, UVA lost a few games last year that they probably should have won so there is always the fear that this team just can not get over the hump. If that’s the case the Cavs still should make a bowl, but it would be disappointing if they end up with just six or seven wins.

The Call: I am really concerned with the offensive line for this UVA team, but if one QB can make plays in this division without a solid offensive line its Perkins. Since Mendenhall has gotten to Charlottesville the Cavs just get better and better each season so I think they take the natural next step and win the ACC Coastal for the first time in school history and that should put them in line for an Orange Bowl bid as the ACC representative.

Projected Record: 9-3 (6-2)          Bowl: Orange

Virginia Tech Hokies

2018 Record: 6-7 (4-4) Tied 3rd Coastal
Bowl: Military V Cincinnati (L)

Best Case: The Hokies offense should be the best offense in the Coastal with Ryan Willis back at QB and a talented group of receivers. Hokies defense was the worst it had ever been under Foster, but they do return 10 starters back and perhaps the year of growth will yield more positive results on defense for Tech. If the experience on defense pays off and Ryan Willis has a better 2019 then there is every reason to believe the Hokies should be close to 10 wins, and win the ACC Coastal and even be in the Orange Bowl

Worst Case: The defense was bad last season as I stated previously and although they have had a year to try and work out the kinks it is still a relativity young defense. If Foster can not turn things around in his final year in Blacksburg Tech maybe right where they were last season. The offensive line is also a concern for the Hokies and Tech will need to find some stability at the RB position. Tech should be better the season but still a seven-win season is possible in Blacksburg.

Projection:  It really depends on the defensive improvements in 2019. If this defense turns around, I honestly think Tech wins the Coastal, however I feel like this team still has one more season to grow until 2020 when they will likely be favorites in the division. Tech will improve this season and the division title may come down to them and rivals UVA the last week of the season, but I’ll project an 8-win season and they come up just short of a division title.

Projected Record: 8-4 (5-3)          Bowl: Music City

Preseason ACC Predictions

ACC Championship Game: Clemson over UVA

ACC Offensive Player of the Year: Trevor Lawrence QB Clemson

ACC Defensive Player of the Year: Bryce Hall CB UVA

ACC Breakout Player: Tommy DeVito QB Syracuse

Freshman of the Year: Sam Howell UNC

Most Improved Team: UNC Tar Heels

Team that takes the biggest step back: NC State Wolfpack

Team I could be overrating: UVA Cavaliers

Team I could be underrating: Virginia Tech Hokies

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Seth Megginson

Seth Megginson

Seth Megginson covers sports for AFP. A graduate of Radford University, Seth has done freelance work for the Daily News-Record in Harrisonburg covering high school and college football.