(You can also listen to my 2018 ACC College Football Preseason Prediction Right Here!: https://bit.ly/2v3HZX8)
Clemson has strung together 10+ win seasons consecutively dating back to 2011 and I expect the trend to continue this season. This team is very experienced and returns 15 starters. However, the toughest tests will come against Texas A&M on the road during week 2, NC State at home on Oct. 20, and then on the road against FSU during week 9.
Florida Statewill be much better than its 7-6 record from a season ago. Injuries to FSU’s starting QB during the Bama opener last year really derailed the ‘Noles. Francois returns along with 7 other starters on offense. Total offense was the lowest its been in 7+ seasons. Willie Taggart inherits an FSU squad that underperformed last season but has a roster loaded with offensive playmakers.
NC State is a team to be on the lookout for this season after coming off an impressive 9-4 record last year. Graduate transfer Ryan Finley returns to the Pack after racking up over 3500 yards through the air. Now despite NC State losing a handful of playmakers this season their schedule is very favorable. And I fully expect Dave Doeren’s team to play Clemson and FSU very close. The past two seasons NC State has played these teams very close and I expect NC State to steal a win from one, if not both of these squads in 2018.
Louisvilleamassed over 545 yards of total offense per game last season, which was best in the entire ACC! Louisville will have a hard time replacing 2016 Heisman winner Lamar Jackson with his departure to the NFL. I don’t expect the Cardinals to rack up those kinds of totals this season, but offensive minded Bobby Petrino will draw up the right plays to get the ball to his playmakers. They return 7 starters on offense and after their matchup against Bama in Week 1 they have a very manageable schedule. The Cardinals could be a surprise team out of the Atlantic division this season.
Miami is coming off its first 10-win season in 14 years! The team returns 14 total starters and the Canes play a very favorable schedule in ’18. They are my top pick to win the Coastal. The Defense last season forced 22 turnovers, which was #1 in the ACC. The defense is still loaded this season and so expect the oversized gold turnover chain to reappear on the Hurricanes sideline again this year.
Virginia Tech is coming off a 9-4 season which is great by most teams’ standards but just feels like it was okay for fans in Blacksburg. With blowout losses to Clemson and Miami, and a heartbreaking 6-pt loss to Georgia Tech, this Hokies team fell short of the mark to repeat as Coastal champions. Virginia Tech had the second best defense in the ACC last season but I see this team struggling to get that same production this year with only 5 returning starters. This team will need to rely heavily on the offense if they want to catch the Hurricanes.
Georgia Tech had a very disappointing season in 2017 only winning 5 games after stringing together 9 wins in 2016. This season the Yellow Jackets will benefit from having 13 total returning starters however they play a very tough schedule with games on the road against Louisville, Virginia Tech, North Carolina , & Georgia. I fully expect this team to win at least 7 games this season.
North Carolina is another team that disappointed and underachieved in 2017. The Tar Heels went 3-9 and only managed 1 win in conference. Larry Fedora will welcome 13 returning starters back this season and plays a more favorable schedule. Some analysts think UNC is a team to watch this season but I’m not confidence that the Tar Heels will be dramatically different. I see them going 4thin the Coastal, at best. However with news of the recent player suspensions, I could see the Tar Heels dropping even lower in the standings.