Fantasy Gunslinger

Football with an Emphasis on Fantasy & Gambling

2017 ACC PREVIEW AND PREDICTIONS

The ACC has made some headlines this off season in declaring they are the best conference in college football, taking over the title from the SEC. That seems odd given how dominant the SEC has been over the last 10-15 years, but do the ACC acolytes have a point? Consider last year’s records against the other Power-5 conferences along with Notre Dame and also their bowl record:

SEC: 10-4
BIG 10: 6-2
Notre Dame: 3-2
BIG XII: 1-1
PAC 12: 0-2
TOTAL: 20-11

BOWL GAMES: 9-3

The Big XII & Pac 12 didn’t have much by way of sample size. Miami-FL beat a then #14 ranked West Virginia in the Russell Athletic Bowl 31-14 leaving no doubt that the Canes were by far superior to the Mountaineers. The other Big XII game came early in the 2016 season as Oklahoma St. beat Pittsburgh 45-38. Hardly inspiring considering it was a “close” loss for Pitt who finished 8-5 while Oklahoma St. finished 10-3 and had a chance to win the Big XII had they beating Oklahoma in Bedlam! last season.

The Pac 12 games were also decided in the ACC’s favor despite going 0-2 against them. North Carolina lost 25-23 to a Stanford team that finished in the top-12 with a 10-3 record. Beating UNC by 2 points is hardly dominant especially when Carolina wasn’t one of the 5 best teams in the ACC while Stanford was AT LEAST the 3rd best team in the Pac 12 by season’s end. The other Pac 12 game came early as Oregon beat Virginia 44-26 in Eugene. You can hardly extrapolate from that one as UVA was the ACC’s worst squad.

No conference had a better bowl record than the ACC who finished 9-3 and had a bowl record against the SEC of 4-1! Possibly even more important is that Clemson took down Alabama to win the National Championship. At least for 2016, the ACC’s best was better than the SEC’s best. And is it really THAT much of a jump to think Florida St. was better than Florida last season? No, because FSU actually beat the Gators 31-13! Is it hard to imagine Virginia Tech being better than LSU? Not in the least. Is it difficult to think Miami-FL was better than Auburn? Was Louisville better than Georgia? At the top at least you can certainly make an argument that the ACC truly did take over the moniker of “BEST CONFERENCE” in college football. The ACC has won 2 of the last 4 national championships and they can make an argument they should have won 3 of them.

Heading into this season, the ACC has 2 teams in the preseason top-25 rankings. The SEC has only Alabama. The SEC does get 6 teams in the preseason top-25 but the ACC gets 5 of their own. And what about talent? Here is how many players were drafted in the 2017 NFL Draft by rounds between the SEC and ACC:

1st Round
SEC: 12
ACC: 4

Rounds 1-2
SEC: 21
ACC: 7

Rounds 1-3
SEC: 30
ACC: 11

Rounds 1-4
SEC: 38
ACC: 17

8As you can see, from an NFL talent perspective, it’s not really that close, but doesn’t that make the case for the ACC having better “teams” that much more potent considering how well the ACC did against vastly superior talented SEC squads? What about moving forward with recruited talent? According to Phil Steele, The SEC has 4 teams have top-10 recruiting classes as compared to the ACC’s 2. The SEC had 9 programs rank in the top-25 while the ACC has 4. The SEC has 11 programs finish in the top-30 in 2017 recruiting classes. The ACC has just 5.

As far as NFL talent and recruiting talent is concerned, the ACC falls behind the SEC, but that is why we play the games. As much as it sounds odd to believe the ACC is now the class of college football, the on-field results support this conclusion. The question becomes whether or not the ACC has any staying power over the SEC and whether or not the Big 10 can start getting very consistent play from Michigan St., Nebraska, Wisconsin, Indiana & Iowa which could combine with Ohio State, Penn State & Michigan to potentially throw the Big 10 into the discussion in the near future? The question of whether or not the ACC is better than the SEC is very intriguing and one that is worth watching as the season unfolds.

# TEAM ATLANTIC
1 Computer Hope If Deshaun Watson were returning to Clemson for the 2017 season I think the Tigers would be the easy pick to repeat as national champions. The big question mark regarding Clemson is how new QB Kelly Bryant will handle the team. That’s a good question but to me what separates Clemson is their defense. DTs Dexter Lawrence & Christian Wilkins are 1st Rd. NFL picks. DE Clelin Ferrell is going to take over Carlos Watkins’ role from last season. Kendall Joseph is the best LB on the team & he returns. The secondary is FILTHY! Clemson gets Florida St. at home which decides the Atlantic. I think the defense gives Clemson the edge.
2 Computer Hope If there is an argument to be made for two teams out of the same conference getting to the playoffs, then the ACC can certainly make that case. FSU is the favorite in any other conference outside the SEC. I think what puts FSU a hair behind Clemson is that Dalvin Cook is a HUGE loss. Cook might be a top-5 NFL RB this season if that gives you any indication of how good he was last season. I also think losing DE DeMarcus Walker is tough although Brian Burns & Josh Sweat should be INCREDIBLE edge rushers. S Derwin James is arguably the best player in college football! The road game at Clemson is the big hurdle for the Noles.
3 Computer Hope Defense in the ACC Atlantic continues to be the key as NC State separates themselves with a NASTY D-Line led by All-American Bradley Chubb! At 6’4/280lbs, Chubb is a physical beast off the edge but DT BJ Hill, DT Justin Jones & DE Kentavius Street are also returning starters that are going to be exceptionally difficult to handle. Offensively QB Ryan Finley returns along with his top-4 receivers & 4 O-Linemen. Finley was a bit underrated last year having completed 60% of his passes for 3059yds with 18TD to just 8INT. The junior enters his 2nd year as QB1 & will get better. NC State can make noise getting Clemson & L’Ville at home.
4 Computer Hope How good is the ACC Atlantic? The defending Heisman Trophy winning QB is playing for a team I think will finish 4th in his own division! The Cardinals only return 4 starters on offense but have some very good weapons in RBs Jeremy Smith & Colin Wilson along with WR Jaylen Smith. QB Lamar Jackson is the show of course but he’s got plenty of weapons to help. Defensive Louisville returns 7 starters on a unit that allowed 23.8PPG. The unit loses some big time players though in Keith Kelsey, Devonte Fields, De’Angelo Brown & Josh Harvey-Clemons. Those are 4 big time players. NC State & FSU on the road pushes Louisville to 4th.
5 Computer Hope HC Dino Babers did a solid job in his first year at Syracuse. The Orange’s record didn’t regress from the previous year & Syracuse got wins over Virginia Tech & Boston College which were great for morale. The talent base here isn’t outstanding which is what you’d expect, but Syracuse returns 19 starters from last year’s squad and they all now have a year of playing under Babers systems which is going to help with experience. QB Eric Dungey can play as evidenced by his 65% completion rate last year & 2679yds. The defense returns 10 starters and if it can generate any kind of pass rush they’ll be a tough out. Getting BC & WF at home helps.
6 Computer Hope HC Steve Addazio is on the hot seat and he enters an interesting situation. I think BC is going to have a solid defense headlined by potential All-American DE Harold Landry, but Landry has quite a bit of help. DE Zach Allen is a load while LBs Connor Strachan & Ty Schwab can fill it up. BC also features a secondary made up of entirely upperclassmen with 3 returning starters. The defense has a shot to be good. Offensively BC hasn’t fared too well under Addazio. They are struggling but moving on from QB Patrick Towles might not be awful and BC returns 4 starters on the O-Line. With just 6 obvious losses, BC could get back to a bowl in ’17.
7 Computer Hope HC Dave Clawson did a FANTASTIC job last season in getting Wake Forest to their first bowl game since 2011 and getting their first bowl win since 2008! He also did this with a team that averaged just 20.4PPG & a QB that completed 56% of his passes with 9TD to 10INT! Clawson will need to do another fantastic coaching job should the Demon Deacons get back to a bowl. The offense returns 9 starters but the unit was dreadful last season. They’ll improve but by how much? Defense has been Wake’s calling card & DE Duke Ejiofor returns along with CB Amari Henderson, but Wake loses quite a bit too. The schedule didn’t do them favors!

 

# TEAM COASTAL
1 Computer Hope Miami-FL’s 9-4 record last season in HC Mark Richt’s first foray in Coral Cables was THIS CLOSE to being 12-1 as Miami-FL lost 3 games by a combined 11 points & never won a close game. Richt has done a fantastic job amassing talent in his short time at Miami and it’s already paying dividends. THE U has to break in a new QB with Brad Kaaya leaving for the NFL but the skill positions are STACKED & the O-line returns 4 starters. Defensively, Miami-FL is starting to look like the Miami of old. Shaq Quarterman is a beast. The entire Front-7 returns and the secondary has some salty big hitters. Miami-FL looks really really good!
2 Computer Hope I absolutely LOVE what Justin Fuente is doing in Blacksburg and the Hokies saw absolutely no dropoff after Frank Beamer’s retirement as Fuente took Beamer’s last squad that finished 7-6 and turned them into a 10-4 team that won the ACC Coastal! Replacing Jerod Evans at QB is a big fill although I think VT can handle it a bit due to Fuente’s offensive schemes. Still, a frosh QB in Josh Jackson will have a learning curve. The Hokies defense should be ELECTRIC as DC Bud Foster’s unit returns 8 of their top-10 tacklers including guys like Tremaine Edumunds, Mook Reynolds, & Andrew Motuapuaka. Nov. 4th is going to be nuts!
3 Computer Hope Losing Dedrick Mills earlier this year is a huge blow as GT’s leading rusher last season was dismissed from the team, but the Yellow Jackets are more scheme based than talent based so I don’t think it’ll matter too much. HC Paul Johnson gets the most out of his talent & Georgia Tech returns 16 starters from a team that went 9-4 a year ago. QB Matthew Jordan replaces QB Justin Thomas, but Jordan has been around awhile so I don’t think it’ll be a drop off. Georgia Tech’s defense should be just as good as it was last season. Getting Pittsburgh & North Carolina at home pushes the Ramblin’ Wreck up to 3rd and they should get 7-8 wins.
4 Computer Hope Duke is a tricky team because like Georgia Tech, the Blue Devils under HC David Cutcliffe are almost always going to exceed expectations and get the most out of their talent. Duke returns 7 starters on offense including QB Daniel Jones who as a freshman last season completed 63% of his passes for 2836yds & 16TD to 9INT. This for a Duke squad that finished 4-8. Under Cutcliffe’s guidance, Jones is going to get even better & the Blue Devils have enough help to push the offense forward. Defensively Duke returns 5 starters but the players returning such as LBs Joe Giles-Harris & Ben Humphreys are rock solid. Don’t sleep on Duke.
5 Computer Hope USC transfer QB Max Browne has been named the starter, but I think a lot of people don’t realize how good Nathan Peterman was last season. Peterman threw for almost 3,000 yards along with 27TD to 7INT. Browne is big at 6’5/230lbs and he has talent, but Peterman is going to be difficult to replace as will heart & soul RB James Conner. I really like Quadree Henderson & Qadree Ollison but how does this offense not regress? PITT returns 4 starters from a defense that yielded 35.2PPG! That’s a blessing & a curse. The D returns just 2 starters from their Front-7. Unless Rori Blair goes crazy there isn’t a pass rush. I’m not a believer here.
6 Computer Hope This seems WAY TOO LOW for Carolina under HC Larry Fedora, but wow did the Tar Heels lose a lot to the NFL. On offense they lost the #2 overall pick in QB Mitch Trubisky who passed for almost 4,000yds and 30TD! Brandon Harris is supposedly the new QB, but he couldn’t keep the LSU gig from a Purdue transfer! UNC also loses Elijah Hood, TJ Logan, Ryan Switzer, Bug Howard & Mack Hollins! Good grief! Also remember they lose C Lucas Crowley & RT Jon Heck, both 2-time All ACC performers! On D the Heels bring back 7 starters but lose Nazair Jones & Des Lawrence! Like Pitt, where is the pass rush? Looks like a transition year.
7 Computer Hope Virginia is trying to become respectable and this could be a coming out season for the Cavaliers. I’m very interested to see how the defense does after they gave up 33.8PPG a season ago. This unit should improve immensely given the talent on board. DE Andrew Brown is a monster on the edge if he can stay healthy & is a potential NFL 1st Rd. pick. LB Micah Kiser is an All-American & LB Jordan Mack was outstanding last year as a true frosh & he’ll get even better. S Quin Blanding is fantastic on the hunt & UVA’s corners are all 6’2 or better! The offense is just OK & I think RB Taquan Mizzell is a big loss but QB Kurt Benkert should improve.

ACC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME

ATLANTIC ACC CHAMPIONSHIP COASTAL
Computer Hope This might seem like another win for Clemson on their road to repeating as National Champions, but I like this game because Miami-FL’s real strength resides in their O-Line. I think Clemson is going to win the Atlantic because I don’t think anyone really has an answer for their Front-7 on defense, but Miami-FL has an offensive line that should be good enough to give the Hurricanes some time to utilize their skill position players. I don’t think it’ll be enough this year as Clemson wins their 3rd straight ACC title. Computer Hope
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August 27, 2017 - Posted by | ACC, Boston College, Clemson, Duke, Florida St., Georgia Tech, Louisville, Miami-FL, NC State, NCAA, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Predictions, Preseason, Previews, Syracuse, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest

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