Well sports fans, it’s game week. We won’t have another Saturday without college football for four months. I am aroused.
This week, I’ll be posting a quick and easy guide to every Power Five conference, with my official season predictions. I’ve gone through every team’s schedule and picked a winner in every game. It’s a complete exercise in futility — there will be injuries, suspensions, and also the fact that these are 18 and 19-year old kids who don’t exactly behave as expected most of the time, but hey we’re here to have fun.
Let’s kick things off with the ACC:
Team Conference Overall
Clemson 7-1 11-1
Florida State 7-1 10-2
Louisville 6-2 10-2
NC State 5-3 7-5
Boston College 2-6 5-7
Syracuse 2-6 5-7
Wake Forest 0-8 2-10
Team Conference Overall
Virginia Tech 7-1 10-2
Miami 5-3 8-4
Pittsburgh 5-3 7-5
Duke 4-4 7-5
North Carolina 2-6 5-7
Georgia Tech 2-6 4-8
Virginia 0-8 3-9
3 Bold Predictions
Clemson/Virginia Tech rematch
After nearly beating Clemson in last year’s ACC Championship Game, I like Virginia Tech’s chances in the rematch on September 30 in Blacksburg. The Tigers have to get past Auburn in Week 2, and I am very close to picking Auburn in that game but it’s in Death Valley so I’m sticking with Clemson. However, with an inexperienced quarterback – likely Kelly Bryant – in his first major road test in Lane Stadium against Bud Foster, who feasts on green passers (remember what he did to JT Barrett a few years back?), I like Tech’s chances in that spot.
Tobacco Road Blues
Poor NC State. The Wolfpack came within a possession of beating both Clemson and Florida State last season. With so many starters back (17 total, third-most in the FBS), hopes are high in Raleigh. I just don’t see enough game-breakers on offense to make me believe they can beat any of the top trio in the Atlantic Division. If NC State was in the Coastal, they’d be a legitimate title contender. But I look at a brutal 7-week stretch from late September to early November and have my doubts that they can make it through without a slew of L’s.
As for UNC, there are still people out there who believe in Brandon Harris. I am not one of those people. I don’t see how the Heels contend with a spaghetti noodle for a quarterback and an entirely new cast of skill players around him. Larry Fedora will right the ship in 2018, but this season will be a rough one in Chapel Hill.
I think Duke bounces back from its 4-8 season with some nice wins and a bowl game, but there’s not enough there for me to think they seriously contend for the Coastal.
Lamar Jackson’s encore
Has everyone forgotten how good this guy is? As Pat Forde wrote last week, Jackson enters 2017 as possibly the most under-appreciated returning Heisman winner ever. That’ll happen when you lose three of your last four games in humiliating fashion. Jackson wrapped up the Heisman with one of the most breathtaking two-month stretch in college football history.
I mean just look at this:
Jackson will put up bonkers numbers again this season – 5,000 yards total offense, 50+ touchdowns – and will be in New York as a Heisman finalist. The safe bet is to pick Clemson and Florida State ahead of the Cardinals. There’s just a deeper pool of talent on both of those rosters. But, Lamar won the Heisman a year ago without a division title. I wouldn’t be surprised if he does it again.
Player of the Year: Lamar Jackson, QB Louisville
Newcomer of the Year: Cam Akers, RB Florida State
Conference Champion: Clemson
Yeah, yeah I know I have Virginia Tech beating Clemson in September, but outside of the questions at quarterback I don’t see much difference between the Tigers and Alabama. After a full regular season under his belt, and with revenge on the Tigers’ minds in my hypothetical world, I think Kelly Bryant comes back in December and beats the Hokies for the second straight year to make the College Football Playoff, continuing Clemson’s ascension towards becoming the next dynasty in college football.