Published July 24, 2019

By William Whisler

With kickoff for the 2019 College Football season just a month away from today, I will be taking a look at each of the Power 5 conferences and how each will fare as the season approaches.

This preview will be in-depth and will offer readers an opportunity to get all the information they need to know who will come out on top in the 2019 season.

This week, the whiteboard focuses on the Atlantic Coast Conference, better known as the ACC.

2018 Order of Finish: 

Atlantic Division         ACC Record     Overall Record

  1. Clemson 8-0, 15-0*
  2. Syracuse 6-2, 10-3
  3. NC State 5-3, 9-4
  4. Boston College 4-4, 7-5
  5. Wake Forest 3-5, 7-6
  6. Florida State 3-5, 5-7
  7. Louisville 0-8, 2-10

*Conference and National Champion

Coastal Division          ACC Record     Overall Record

  1. Pittsburgh 6-2, 7-7
  2. Georgia Tech 5-3, 7-6
  3. Virginia 4-4, 8-5
  4. Miami 4-4, 7-6
  5. Virginia Tech 4-4, 6-7
  6. Duke 3-5, 8-5
  7. North Carolina 1-7, 2-9

2018 ACC Championship: Clemson 42, Pittsburgh 10

2018 Bowl Results

2018 ACC Bowl Record: 6-5

Independence Bowl: Duke 56, Temple 27

Birmingham Bowl: Wake Forest 37, Memphis 34

Military Bowl: Cincinnati 35, Virginia Tech 31

First Responder Bowl: Boston College vs Boise State (Canceled)

Belk Bowl: Virginia 28, South Carolina 0

Pinstripe Bowl: Wisconsin 35, Miami 3

Quick Lane Bowl: Minnesota 34, Georgia Tech 10

Gator Bowl: Texas A&M 52, NC State 13

Camping World Bowl: Syracuse 34, West Virginia 18

Sun Bowl: Stanford 14, Pittsburgh 13

Cotton Bowl (National Semifinal): Clemson 30, Notre Dame 3

National Championship Game: Clemson 44, Alabama 16

ATLANTIC DIVISION

Clemson

2018 Record:15-0

2018 Offense Ranks: 44.3 PPG (1st in ACC), 248.2 rushing yards per game (2nd in ACC), 279 passing yards per game (2nd in the ACC).

2018 Defense Ranks:13.1 PPG allowed (1st in the ACC), 96.3 Rushing Yards Per Game (1st in the ACC), 189.6 Passing Yards Per Game (3rd in the ACC)

Offense Key Returners:QB Trevor Lawrence, RB Travis Etienne, WR Tee Higgins, WR Justyn Ross

Defense Key Returners: DL Xavier Thomas, LB Isaiah Simmons, CB A.J. Terrell

Toughest Games:Sept. 7 vs. Texas A&M, Sept. 14 vs Clemson, Oct. 12 vs Florida State, Nov. 9 at NC State.

Clemson once again looks like a virtual lock for the College Football Playoff after an undefeated season under freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence in 2018 and a blowout win over Alabama in last year’s title game.

Lawrence will come into 2019 poised as ever, returning two of his top receivers along with a talented running back in Travis Etienne, who hopes to take a big step forward in his junior season. Lawrence threw for 3,280 yards and 30 TDs in 2019. The Tigers also averaged 47.9 points per game in their last 10 games last season with him under center.

The Tigers may have the best offense in the nation in 2019.

Prediction:12-0

Syracuse

2018 Record:10-3

2018 Offense Ranks: 40.2 PPG (2nd in the ACC), 200.1 Rushing Yards Per Game (5th in the ACC), 264.7 Passing Yards Per Game (4th in the ACC).

2018 Defense Ranks: 27.0 PPG allowed (6th in the ACC), 162.5 Rushing Yards Per Game (8th in the ACC), 264.1 Passing Yards Per Game (12th in the ACC).

Offense Key Returners: QB Tommy DeVito, RB Moe Neal, Nykeim Johnson

Defense Key Returners: SS Evan Foster, Andre Cisco

Toughest Games: Sept 7 at Maryland, Sept. 14 vs Clemson, Oct. 18 vs Pittsburgh

Syracuse put together a strong season in head coach Dino Babers’ fourth season at the helm of the Orange. Cuse returns a young quarterback in Tommy DeVito who has shown flashes in previous seasons and will take over the starting gig, along with their leading rusher from a season ago in Moe Neal.

The team also possesses a veteran secondary that includes senior Evan Foster, who record 86 tackles, including 3.5 for a loss at strong safety. The secondary also includes standout sophomore Andre Cisco, as the Orange will look to improve on a passing defense that struggled at times against high-powered ACC offenses a season ago.

If Syracuse is going to do anything special this season it will need to have a great deal of success early. The Orange face a decent non-conference challenge at Maryland and will face their biggest test in the defending national champions, Clemson, on Sept. 14.

Prediction:9-3 (Losses to Clemson, NC State and Florida State) 

NC State

2018 Record: 9-4

2018 Offense Ranks:  33.8 PPG (3rd in the ACC), 142.9 Rushing Yards Per Game (12th in the ACC), 313.2 Passing Yards Per Game (1st in the ACC).

2018 Defense Ranks: 24.9 PPG allowed (4th in the ACC), 131.5 Rushing Yards Per Game (2nd in the ACC), 261.1 Passing Yards Per Game (11th in the ACC).

Offense Key Returners: WR Emeka Emezie, RB Ricky Person

Defense Key Returners: SS Jarius Morehead, LB Isaiah Moore.

Toughest Games: Sept. 14 at West Virginia, Sept. 28 at Florida State, Nov. 9 vs Clemson

NC State will be without star quarterback Ryan Finley whose passing stats have only been topped by Phillip Rivers in school history. The Wolfpack also lose their starting running back Reggie Gallaspy, who had a great season with more than 1,000 yards with 18 scores in 2018.

The team does return 40 lettermen from a year ago including seven starters on defense. The Wolfpack had a strong 9-4 season, but an upset at the hands of Wake Forest really hurt NC State. The Wolfpack also got embarrassed in their bowl game. Look for the Wolfpack to bounce back and be solid in 2019 by contending in the Atlantic Division.

Prediction: 8-4 (Losses to West Virginia, Florida State, Clemson and Georgia Tech)

Boston College

2018 Record: 7-5

2018 Offense Ranks: 32.0 PPG (6th in the ACC), 189.1 Rushing Yards Per Game (8th in the ACC), 215.3 Passing Yards Per Game (9th in the ACC).

2018 Defense Ranks: 25.7 PPG allowed (5th in the ACC), 154.9 Rushing Yards Per Game (6th in the ACC), 247.9 Passing Yards Per Game (10th in the ACC).

Offense Key Returners: QB Anthony Brown, RB AJ Dillon, WR Kobay White

Defense Key Returners: LB Isaiah McDuffie, LB Max Richardson, DT Tanner Karafa.

Toughest Games: Aug. 31 vs Virginia Tech, Oct. 26 at Clemson, Nov. 2 at Syracuse

Boston College has some pieces back in key spaces. The Eagles return their starting quarterback, running back and top receiver from a season ago to a team that won seven games. The Eagles also return key linebackers Isaiah McDuffie and Max Richardson who each proved vital on the defensive end with 76-plus tackles each.

Boston College will have to weather the storm near the end of the season, as it’s last five matchups with four of them coming on the road will be no picnic. Boston College stays put this year and may regress with its strength of schedule. The Eagles may struggle to be bowl eligible in 2019.

Prediction:6-6 (Losses to Virginia Tech, Louisville, NC State, Clemson, Florida State and Notre Dame)

Wake Forest

2018 Record: 7-6

2018 Offense Ranks: 32.8 PPG (5th in the ACC), 213.7 Rushing Yards Per Game (4th in the ACC), 236.1 Passing Yards Per Game (8th in the ACC)

2018 Defense Ranks: 33.3 PPG allowed (12th in the ACC), 192.5 Rushing Yards Per Game (10th in the ACC), 266.1 Passing Yards Per Game (13th in the ACC).

Offense Key Returners: RB Cade Carney, WR Sage Surratt.

Defense Key Returners: LB Justin Strnad, CB Essang Bassey.

Toughest Games: Nov. 2 NC State, Nov. 9 at Clemson, Nov. 30 at Syracuse

Wake Forest comes into the 2019 season without much clarity. After winning the Birmingham Bowl with an upset victory over Memphis, the Demon Deacons have a lot of question marks — including who their starting quarterback will be.

The Demon Deacons also face a tough November schedule that will make or break any chance of a bowl appearance. Wake Forest has been bowl eligible for three-seasons under coach Dave Clawson. Wake Forest returns 13 starters and 44 lettermen from a season ago.

Prediction:3-9 (Losses to North Carolina, Boston College, Louisville, Florida State, NC State, Virginia Tech, Clemson, Duke and Syracuse) 

Florida State

2018 Record:5-7

2018 Offense Ranks:21.9 PPG (13th in the ACC), 91.1 Rushing Yards Per Game (Last in the ACC), 270.1 Passing Yards Per Game (2nd in the ACC).

2018 Defense Ranks:31.5 PPG allowed (11th in the ACC), 147.7 Rushing Yards Per Game (5th in the ACC), Passing Yards Per Game 268.7 (Last in the ACC).

Offense Key Returners: RB Cam Akers, DT Marvin Wilson, WR Tamorrion Terry

Defense Key Returners: LB Hamsah Nasirildeen, LB Dontavious Jackson

Toughest Games: Aug. 31 Boise State, Sept. 14 at Virginia, Oct. 26 Syracuse

Florida State had a very uncharacteristic season with new coach Willie Taggart taking over for Jimbo Fisher. The Seminoles suffered their first losing season since 1976 but don’t expect Florida State to be held down long.

Despite facing a decent schedule, the Seminoles have a good chance of rebounding if running Cam Akers can return to form after a sensational freshman year. Florida State has some questions to answer with James Blackman stepping into the starting quarterback position.

Florida State has a tough opening game against Boise State, but the Seminoles have a chance to be undefeated heading into Oct. 12 matchup with Clemson. Both teams will be coming off a bye and the game could have strong ACC Atlantic Division implications.

Prediction:10-2 (Losses to Clemson and Florida)

Louisville

2018 Record:2-10

2018 Offense Ranks:19.8 Points Per Game (Last in the ACC), 141.5 Rushing Yards Per Game (13th in the ACC), 211.1 Passing Yards Per Game (11th in the ACC).

2018 Defense Ranks:44.1 Points Per Game (Last in the ACC), 277.3 Rushing Yards Per Game (Last in the ACC), 206.3 Passing Yards Per Game (5th in the ACC).

Offensive Key Returners: WR Dez Fitzpatrick, RB Hassan Hall

Defensive Key Returners:LB C.J. Avery

Toughest Games:Sept. 2 vs Notre Dame, Sept. 21 at Florida State, Oct. 19 Clemson, Nov. 9 at Miami

Louisville’s season started off with an embarrassing loss on the national stage as Nick Saban and Alabama rolled the Cardinals and things never got better in 2018. Louisville has had no replacement for Heisman Trophy Winner Lamar Jackson and the team’s defense couldn’t stop a nosebleed.

The Cards need a lot of help to avoid the basement in the ACC in 2019 and with one of the toughest schedules in the country, there’s not much reason for optimism under new head coach Scott Satterfield’s team.

Prediction:4-8 (Losses to Notre Dame, Florida State, Clemson, Virginia, Miami, NC State, Syracuse and Kentucky).

COAST DIVISION 

Pittsburgh

2018 Record:7-7

2018 Offense Ranks: 25.6 PPG (12th in the ACC), 227.9 Rushing Yards Per Game (3rd in the ACC), 141.8 Passing Yards Per Game (13th in the ACC).

2018 Defense Ranks: 27.8 PPG allowed (8th in the ACC), 178.3 Rushing Yards Per Game (9th in the ACC), 209.3 Passing Yards Per Game (9th in the ACC).

Offense Key Returners: QB Kenny Pickett, WR Maurice Ffrench

Defense Key Returners: FS Damar Hamlin, LB Elias Reynolds

Toughest Games: Sept. 14 at Penn State, Oct. 18 at Syracuse, Oct. 26 Miami

Pittsburgh has had its fair share of ups and downs in previous seasons and this year may be no different. In 2016 Pitt delivered a huge upset over Penn State and the Panthers later knocked off Clemson in Death Valley.

Starting quarterback Kenny Pickett returns, as well as one of his top receiving threats from last season in Maurice Ffrench. The Panthers play a big rivalry game at Beaver Stadium against Penn State and will battle Syracuse on the road, but otherwise Pittsburgh has a manageable schedule in the weaker Coastal Division.

Prediction:5-7 (Losses to Virginia, Penn State, UCF, Syracuse, Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College)

Georgia Tech

2018 Record: 7-6

2018 Offense Ranks: 33.6 PPG (4th in the ACC), 325 Rushing Yards Per Game (1st in the ACC), 83.8 Passing Yards Per Game (Last in the ACC).

2018 Defense Ranks: 29.3 PPG allowed (9th in the ACC), 157.9 Rushing Yards Per Game (7th in the ACC), 211.7 Passing Yards Per Game (7th in the ACC).

Offense Key Returners: RB Jerry Howard Jr., WR Jalen Camp

Defense Key Returners: LB David Curry

Toughest Games: Aug. 29 at Clemson, Oct. 19 at Miami, Nov. 16 at Virginia Tech, Nov. 30 Georgia

Georgia Tech fields a very inexperienced team in 2019 and with new head coach Geoff Collins shifting the look of the offense from the option attack to more of a pro-style look the Yellow Jackets may not be very good this season.

The Yellow Jackets schedule does them no favors with the yearly rivalry clash with Georgia, as well as a trip to Death Valley to open the season. It will be a trying year for the Yellow Jackets.

Prediction:5-7 (Losses to Clemson, Duke, Miami, Pittsburgh, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Georgia).

Virginia

2018 Record: 8-5

2018 Offense Ranks: 28.5 PPG (10th in the ACC), 173.2 Rushing Yards Per Game (10th in the ACC), 384.8 Passing Yards Per Game (10th in the ACC).

2018 Defense Ranks: 20.1 PPG allowed (3rd in the ACC), 147.5 Rushing Yards Per Game (4th in the ACC), 183.0 Passing Yards Per Game (2nd in the ACC).

Offense Key Returners: QB Bryce Perkins, WR Hasise Dubois

Defense Key Returners: LB Jordan Mack, FS Joey Blount

Toughest Games: Sept. 14 Florida State, Sept. 28 at Notre Dame, Nov. 29 Virginia Tech

Virginia is coming off its best season since 2011 and has a lot of tools to put together a great season, including one of the best defenses in the country. Virginia looks to get to its second-straight bowl game for the first time in 14 years.

The Cavaliers have some tough tests against Notre Dame and a huge late season rivalry game against Virginia Tech, but Virginia could have a quality year with a great dual-threat quarterback in Bryce Perkins leading the way.

Prediction:10-2 (Losses to Florida State and Miami)

Miami

2018 Record:7-6

2018 Offense Ranks:28.8 PPG (9th in the ACC), 191.5 Rushing Yards Per Game (7th in the ACC), 167.3 Passing Yards Per Game (12th in the ACC).

2018 Defense Ranks:19.5 PPG allowed (2nd in the ACC), 143.3 Rushing Yards Per Game (3rd in the ACC), 135.6 Passing Yards Per Game (1st in the ACC).

Offensive Key Returners:RB Cam’Ron Harris, QB N’Kosi Perry

Defensive Key Returners:LB Shaquille Quarterman, LB Michael Pinckney, DE Jonathan Garvin

Toughest Games:Aug. 24 vs Florida, Oct. 5 vs Virginia Tech, Oct. 11 vs Virginia

Miami will have a battle on its hands for the starting quarterback position between N’Kosi Perry and transfer Tate Martell, but the Hurricanes will go as far as their defense can take them in 2019. The Hurricanes led the ACC in passing defense and finished second with 19.5 points allowed per game.

The defensive unit led by a solid linebacker core returns six starters from a season ago. The Hurricanes started 10-0 in 2017 before losing their final three games and struggling to a 7-6 finish under coach Mark Richt. The Hurricanes will rely on first-year coach Manny Diaz to turn things around.

Prediction: 10-2 (Losses to Florida State and Virginia Tech)

Virginia Tech

2018 Record:6-7

2018 Offense Ranks:29.8 PPG (7th in the ACC), 174.3 Rushing Yards Per Game (9th in the ACC), 253.8 Passing Yards Per Game (5th in the ACC).

2018 Defense Ranks:31.0 PPG allowed (10th in the ACC), 210.3 Rushing Yards Per Game (12th in the ACC), 228.4 Passing Yards Per Game (8th in the ACC).

Offense Key Returners:QB Ryan Willis, RB Deshawn McClease, WR Damon Hazelton

Defense Key Returners:LB Rayshard Ashby, S Reggie Floyd

Toughest Games:Oct. 5 at Miami, Nov. 2 at Notre Dame, Nov. 29 at Virginia

Virginia Tech enters the 2019 season with a wealth of talent returning on both sides of the ball. The Hokies return 10 starters on defense and six on offense. The defense returns the team’s leading tackler, Rayshard Ashby, who recorded 105 tackles last season. On the offensive side of the ball, quarterback Ryan Willis was great for the Hokies, throwing for 2,716 yards and 24 TDs to just nine interceptions.

The Hokies will be challenged by Notre Dame, Virginia and Miami and will have little room for error in what could be a bounce-back season for the ACC after a down year. The Hokies hope to reach nine wins for the first time in two seasons.

Prediction: 10-2 (Losses to Notre Dame and Virginia)

Duke

2018 Record:8-5

2018 Offense Ranks:29.4 PPG (8th in the ACC), 159.6 Rushing Yards Per Game (11th in the ACC), 246.1 Passing Yards Per Game (7th in the ACC).

2018 Defense Ranks:27.4 PPG allowed (7th in ACC), 209.3 Rushing Yards Per Game (11th in the ACC), 199.5 Passing Yards Per Game (4th in the ACC).

Offense Key Returners:QB Quentin Harris, RB Deon Jackson, TE Noah Gray

Defense Key Returners:CB Mark Gilbert

Toughest Games:Aug. 31 vs Alabama, Sept. 27 at Virginia Tech, Nov. 9 vs Notre Dame, Nov. 15 vs Syracuse

Duke is without top quarterback Daniel Jones in 2018 and will find itself battling one of the toughest schedules in the nation with a kickoff matchup against Alabama to start things off.

The Blue Devils won finished with a winning record in four of the last five seasons, but that run will surely come to an end in 2019. The Blue Devils simply don’t have the talent needed to compete in the ACC in 2019.

Prediction:5-7 (Losses to Alabama, Virginia Tech, Pittsburgh, Virginia, Notre Dame, Syracuse and Miami)

North Carolina

2018 Record:2-9

2018 Offense Ranks:27.4 PPG (11th in the ACC), 193 Rushing Yards Per Game (6th in the ACC), 249.1 Passing Yards Per Game (6th in the ACC).

2018 Defense Ranks:34.5 PPG allowed (13th in the ACC), 218.8 Rushing Yards Per Game (13th in the ACC), 228.8 Passing Yards Per Game (9th in the ACC).

Offense Key Returners: RB Michael Carter, WR Dazz Newsome

Defense Key Returners: FS Myles Dorn

Toughest Games: Aug. 31 vs South Carolina, Sept. 7 vs Miami, Sept. 28 vs Clemson

North Carolina enters 2019 off back-to-back lackluster seasons after winning 11 games in 2015 and eight games in 2016. The Tar Heels struggled last season and lose a lot of close games in conference, leading to an abysmal season.

This season, the Tar Heels return 14 starters and hope to rebound in a loaded ACC. North Carolina doesn’t exactly strike me as a top contender in the Coastal, and it may have a tough year in 2019.

Prediction: 3-9 (Losses to South Carolina, Miami, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Duke, Virginia, Pittsburgh and NC State)

ACC Champion: Clemson