ACC Football Predictions 2014
By Tyler Smith
ACC Football Picks 2014
#1 Florida State
Offense: Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston returns for the Seminoles. Winston totaled 40 touchdowns through the air last season with only 10 interceptions. Replacing his favorite redzone target could be the toughest challenge for the offense. He will however have WR Rashad Greene who totaled 1,128 yards a year ago. The line returns four starters, who have first team All-ACC potential. The run game will feature Karlos Williams who only had 91 attempts last season will be the featured back this season should have a big year. Tight end Nick O'leary will play a bigger role in the offense this season.
Defense: The top defense in the country a year ago returns some pieces but well reload with new talent as well. Look for Mario Edwards Jr. to make a big jump this season. He showed flashes last season of being a special player. The secondary is loaded with depth and talent. P.J. Williams might be the best of the bunch. Jalen Ramsey, Nate Andrews and Ronald Darby all return with more important roles this season. LB Terrance Smith is the teams top returning tackler with 59 tackles.
Special Teams: The kicking situation is great with Lou Groza Award-winner Roberto Aguayo back. Levonte Whitfield is back to electrify the return game.
Overview: Depth, depth and more depth is the reason Florida State will compete for another title. Non conference games vs. Oklahoma State, Notre Dame and Florida will be challenging, but those games are at home or a neutral site. The toughest road test will come November 15 at Miami.
Offense: How do the Tigers replace the best QB (Tajh Boyd) and WR (Sammy Watkins) in school history? Well, they won't. Senior quarterback Cole Stoudt came out of spring ball the favorite for the position. The QB of the future may be incoming freshman Deshaun Watson. The next big thing at WR is Mike Williams. The incoming freshmen class of WR brings excitement as well. The running game has big questions. No returning back has had more then 100 carries in a season. The line will have to replace two starters, both tackles.
Defense: This side of the ball is why Clemson will remain a force in the ACC. DE Vic Beasley couldn't stay out of the backfield last season. Beasley had 13 sacks to go with 26 tackles for loss. Stephone Anthony returns at LB and brings his 15 tackles for loss and 86 tackles with him. Junior Travis Blanks will look for a bounce back season after an injury derailed his sophomore campaign. The secondary will replace three starters but they have players with experience to handle the task.
Special Teams: Replacing Kicker Chandler Catanzaro will be tough. Cradley Pinion had a solid 2013 season pinning opponents inside the 20 more often then not.
Overview: The defense will be great. The offense on the other hand will struggle with a lot of new faces. Unfortunately for the Tigers that offense won't have any time to work out the kinks with Georgia game one and Florida State game two.
Offense: Teddy Bridgewater now plays for the Vikings. So who will replace him? The Cardinals will turn to Sophomore QB Will Gardner. The good news is Gardner won't have to carry the team with a solid cast of wide receivers and running backs. Expect a heavy dose of Dominique Brown and Micheal Dyer this season. Both backs averaged over five yards a carry a year ago. The Cardinals are deep at wide receiver which is headed by DeVante Parker. Parker averaged over 16 yards a catch and had 12 touchdowns. The line has it's question marks, but should be fine.
Defense: This side of the ball will take a step back from its elite defense last season. The safety position will be a downgrade after losing both Calvin Pryor and Hakeem Smith. Terrell Floyd and Charles Gaines will be solid at their corner spots. James Burgess is back at linebacker. Burgess will easily accumulate over 100 tackles this season. Lorenzo Mauldin had 9.5 sacks from the defensive line this year he will be moved to outside linebacker. The line has some experience but will take a step down from last years team.
Special Teams: The Cards led the nation in punt return defense last year and with Ryan Johnson back to punt they should be in good shape. John Wallace was consistent for Louisville at kicker.
Overview: Both the offense and defense lost key players from last years team but the cupboard isn't bare. The skill positions are loaded on offense. The defense will take a step back, but they will still be tough. Miami and Florida State both visit Papa John's Cardinal Stadium this season.
#4 North Carolina State
Overview: The focal point of the offense should surround running back Shadrah Thorton. Thorton should take his game to another level after having a good showing last season. None better than his two touchdown 173 rushing yards performance against the National Champs. Quarterback Jacoby Brissett transfers in from Florida and is ready to grab the reigns. Brissett will have to find a playmaker at WR and Sophomore Jumichael Ramos seems like a good candidate after a good freshman season. The line should be better then it has been in the past with four guys that return with experience. Plenty of questions surround a defense that struggled last season and only bring back four starters. The secondary will be young. One player who played well as a freshman was corner Jack Tocho. Tocho should come into his own this season after playing in 12 games a year ago. Linebacker will need to be settled as the Wolfpack have struggled at this position. The line will need too apply more pressure after posting just 20 sacks last season. Getting to six wins will be a good season for North Carolina State.
Overview: The offense is based around the running attack. QB Terrel Hunt had 500 yards on the ground with seven touchdowns. The Orange lose their top back though, who gets the bulk of the carries will be determined. Hunt will have some good targets to throw to. Ashton Broyld had over 50 catches, but didn't find the end zone. Wide receiver Jarrod West averaged over 15 yards a catch in 2013. The line has concerns with experience. Defensively Syracuse has eight starters back from a up and down defense. The starting four in the secondary is in good shape. The top two interception leaders from 2013 are back in Julian Whigham and Durell Eskridge. The teams leader in solo tackles, LB Cameron Lynch is back. Losing Jay Bromley on the D-line will be tough to replace but the Cuse have three starters back. For this team to make some noise the October 3rd game vs. Louisville will be telling.
#6 Boston College
Overview: Coach Steve Addazio is glad to have senior Florida transfer Tyler Murphy under center. Who Murphy will have as targets remains a question mark. The top three passing options from last season are gone. Even more of a blow is running back Andre Williams. Good luck replacing over 2,100 yards and 18 rushing touchdowns. The line looks good for whomever gets the carries with plenty of experience returning. The pass defense returns all five starters from a side that ranked 111th in passing yards given up. The line could feature a 6'7 and 6'9 linemen. Health will be key for Boston College with a team lacking depth one starter going down could be costly. Don't be surprised if the Eagles aren't in a bowl this season.
#7 Wake Forest
Overview: Dave Clawson is in a tough spot. He losses everything positive on offense and that offense was poor last season. The line does show promise though. The defense was pretty good last season, but they lose everyone on the defensive line. The secondary is one of the best in the conference. Expect another losing season in Winston-Salem.
Offense: One of the top running backs in the country resides in Miami, Duke Johnson. The Junior back almost broke 1,000 yards in only eight games. The left side of the line is flooded with experience. Center Shane McDermott is one of the best in the league. Don't be down on the WR corps because they don't return a starter. Stacy Coley, Phillip Dorsett and Herb Waters will form a solid crew. The group combined for 14 touchdowns last season. TE Clive Walford will be a nice target for whomever starts at QB. At this point it's up in the air who starts game one. Keep an eye on fall camp.
Defense: Last season the defense was very up and down. Mostly up at the start of the season, then it went downhill. Adding depth and getting off the field quicker will do wonders for Miami. Some good news, one of the best LB in the country Denzel Perryman returns. Dallas Crawford will go from running back to safety. Tracy Howard returns in the secondary at corner. The defensive line will look to add more pressure in the back field.
Special Teams: Stacy Coley and Duke Johnson returning kicks, don't blink! Matt Goudis could handle both punting and kicking.
Overview: Having Duke Johnson back makes the offense dangerous, but finding a QB to hold defenses honest is an uncertainty. The defense should be improved over last seasons downfall. The first game of the year is Louisville away.
Offense: The two quarterback system is likely gone with QB Brandon Connette transferring out. The loss of Connette will hurt in the running game after posting 14 rushing touchdowns last season. QB Anthony Boone will be fine by himself. The key for Boone will be to decrease his interceptions. His favorite target, WR Jamison Crowder is back after breaking the century mark in receptions last season. Tight end Braxton Deaver will play a big role in the passing game and was second in receptions last season. A key for the Blue Devils attack will be running back Josh Snead. Snead will become important in the red zone with Connette gone. Shaquille Powell will see time at Running back as well. The line returns two of five starters.
Defense: The big question will be what production can Duke get from their line that returns only one starters. Losing corner Ross Cockrell will be a blow too, but the Blue Devils are in better shape in the secondary. David Helton gets after it at linebacker with 133 tackles last season. Duke also has two more players back who had over 100 tackles last season, Jeremy Cash and Kelby Brown.
Special Teams: Some familiar names return at kicker and punter. Ross Martin is one of the top kickers in the conference and Will Monday is one of the best punters in the country.
Overview: Boone should take another step forward in his progression. The defense needs to find answers on the line, which was key for them in 2013. A favorable ACC slate should help the Blue Devils climb back to the top. The ACC opener at Miami hold a lot of weight.
Overview: Virginia is out to surprise people this year. Mike London is on the hot seat but look for him to return next year with a lot of promise. The offense will be in good shape with Kevin Parks back. Parks had over 1,000 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns. The line will need to progress more this season. Greyson Lambert looks to be the starter this season over Watford. Lambert has the talent but will need to learn quick as UCLA comes to town for the first game. Lambert won't have Jake McGee to throw to as he transferred out. Darius Jennings and Keeon Johnson will be the top targets this season. Here's where the Cavaliers make a big improvement, defense. The line will return three of their top sack leaders from last season and add in Freshman top prospect Andrew Brown. The secondary will have one of the best safeties in the country in Anthony Harris. Harris had eight interceptions to lead the country a year ago. Another safety that fans are excited to see is safety Quin Blanding who is the top prospect at his position. Both returnees at linebacker had a combined 179 tackles. Don't be surprised if everyone is talking about the Virginia defense at the end of the season. Look for the home game vs. Louisville to be the point when people start looking at the Cavaliers as a threat.
Overview: Chad Voytik should have no problem taking over at QB. Voytik can get it done in the air and on the ground. He will look for WR Tyler Boyd who put together a big freshman season with 85 catches, 1,174 yards and seven touchdowns. Tight end will also be key in the passing game. James Conner and Issaic Bennett will look to improve on their numbers after pretty good seasons. The line should be in good hands with three returning starters. The defense has questions on the defensive line after losing two key linemen. Coordinator Matt House will want to see better out of his linebackers. Pitt has a reasonable ACC schedule which will help them this season.
#5 North Carolina
Overview: Marquise Williams played well at the end of the season winning four of five games. Excluding the Old Dominion game, his numbers were average through the air, but he is very capable of making plays with his legs after totaling just over 530 yards a game. At wide receiver they have two guys that have big play abilities, Quinshad Davis and Ryan Switzer. Switzer totaled five touchdowns on punt returns! T.J. Logan will have a more featured role at running back but the position provides plenty of depth. The line lost a couple key guys for this offense to work they need the line to gel quickly this season. The defense looks to be in pretty good shape at linebacker and in the secondary. The defensive line will need to fill some holes. The Tar Heels ended up drawing Clemson from the Atlantic which hurts. They also face Duke and Miami on the road.
#6 Virginia Tech
Overview: Logan Thomas is gone so that leaves plenty of questions about QB which doesn't come up too often for VT. The Hokies will look to Texas Tech transfer Micheal Brewer to secure the position this fall. Just as important is how the line will gel. If they can show signs in the Ohio State game then look out. Trey Edmunds and J.C. Coleman had sub-par season with Thomas under center. We will see if things change this season. The wide receiver situation has potential with Demitri Knowles, Josh Stanford and Willie Byrn. Bud Foster always seems to reload on defense, but how long until they finally take a step back? The front seven proved to be strong last season, but now they lose six of those seven players. The lone returning starter, Luther Maddy is a force at DT. The secondary will be strong with Kendall Fuller, Kyshoen Jarrett and Brandon Facyson. If the Hokies get back to eight wins consider it a successful season.
#7 Georgia Tech
Overview: I've been very high on Tech the past few years, but this year I'm stepping back. Another QB battle has ensued at Tech. Middle Tennessee transfer Tim Byerly and Justin Thomas will compete this fall for the starting spot. The running attack will not be as explosive this season with the loss of Sims. However the receiver spot has some potential. They have their top three pass catchers back and will look to play bigger roles this season. The line may have some issues upfront which is never good in Paul Johnson's offense. The defense should keep Tech in most games, but they will likely take a step back. Jabari Hunt-Days will line up at DE and should fit the role well. Quayshawn Nealy makes plays and totaled four turnovers from his LB spot last season. The Jackets get Miami and Duke at home, but draw Clemson from the Atlantic.
ACC Offensive Player of the Year
Duke Johnson, RB, Miami
ACC Defensive Player of the Year
Vic Beasley, DE, Clemson
ACC Coach of the Year
Mike London, UVA
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