Football season is looming, believe it or not, as we start the first day of summer. Fall camp will be rearing its head in about a month and we are that much closer to the start of the season (first game is on Saturday August 26th). As we wait through the longest part of the year, I figured we could talk about what we were most excited about for our ACC team. I listed (3) things each team’s fanbase should be excited for in order of how Vegas predicts each team will finish in 2023.
Virginia – 2022 Record: 3-7 / 2023 Vegas Odds: 3.5 wins
1. Tony Elliot has his first year under his belt – Year 1 is over and new Head Coach Tony Elliot left a lot to be desired. Think of it this way, it can’t get much worse than that and Elliot won’t let that be the norm. If I know him at all, Elliot has learned so much from the past year, has made changes accordingly and has begun to get his guys, coaches and players, in the building.
2. Fresh new roster – As alluded to in the first point, Tony Elliot has only been the Head Coach for a year. He now has had time to get the coaches that he wants in the door and has been able to get his recruits. Look for this Virginia team to look vastly different from last year.
3. The chance to shock the ACC / the Nation – Vegas has Virginia’s total wins odds slated at a whopping 3.5. Now, this sounds awful, but it really can be a good thing. The Wahoos have a chance to come out and make some noise in the ACC and prove some people wrong. This could be fun as a fan, or a gambling man looking to take a risk on a team predicted to perform so poorly.
Georgia Tech – 2022 Record: 5-7 / 2023 Vegas Odds: 4.5 wins
1. You’re not running the Triple Option anymore – Listen, I know it’s been a few years since the Triple Option has reared its antiquated head onto the field in Atlanta, but fans, if you’re out there, every year that you aren’t running that offense, is something to be excited about.
2. New Head Coach Brent Key – Brent Key is already familiar with Georgia Tech as he was on staff as the Offensive Line and Assistant Head Coach after leaving Alabama as the Offensive Line coach from 2016 -2018. Key is a Yellow Jacket alum so it’s safe to assume he’ll bring more pride to the program and may be able to bring Georgia Tech back to relevancy in the ACC.
3. Recruiting received a jolt of life – 2024’s recruiting class is ranked 31st as of today. This is the highest ranking since 2020 and despite losing QB Jeff Sims to Nebraska, Georgia Tech has the chance to consistently field a talented roster for years to come.
1. Young at QB – After graduate transfer and perceived starter Grant Wells, the Hokies are loaded with young talent in the QB room with (2) true freshman and (2) redshirt sophomores. Young QB’s bring hope and excitement to any program.
2. Brent Pry is in his second year – Gone are the days of the Frank Beamer and Justin Fuentes regime and the new guard has begun. Even though Virginia Tech played terribly last year, they can chalk that up to sorting through the gaps of the previous roster.
3. Enter Sandman entrance is electric – Ok, maybe you won (3) games last year, BUT you get to watch the Hokies storm the field to the classic Metallica song, (6) times. Be thankful and grateful for something so amazing. NOTE: watching the VT enter the stadium to Enter Sandman vs UNC in 2021 with a fully packed stadium post COVID, literally brought tears to my eyes.
Boston College – 2022 Record: 3-8 / 2023 Vegas Odds: 5 wins
4. Easiest Schedule in the ACC (76th Rank in Strength of Schedule) – Well, you may be lacking in some areas in terms of talent, but with an easy schedule that will be a much easier pill to swallow. Boston College has a good shot of making a bowl game as they are dodging tough bouts with Notre Dame and Clemson.
5. Prove it year for Jeff Hadley – Jeff Hadley has had a pretty bumpy ride at the helm for the Golden Eagles, and I believe this is a make or break it year for him. The exciting thing for fans with this is, either Hadley is the guy, and you have more hope for the future, or he’s not the guy, and you get to spend the days after his firing speculating how you’re going to get Matt Ryan and BJ Raji back to coach the team.
6. There was (2) things to be excited about – Boston College has had a rough go of it since leaving the Big East in 2005, but hey, this year you have a couple of things to look forward to!
1. Jahmal Banks and Donovan Greene – Although Sam Hartman, arguably the greatest QB in Wake history, has left the program for Notre Dame, Wake Forest can still have hope due to Jahmal Banks and Donovan Greene. After 5thround pick A.T. Perry, Greene and Banks finished with over (600) yards a piece accompanied by (6) and (9) TDsrespectfully. You can’t replace Hartman, but it makes the transition to a new QB a lot easier with good WR’s.
2. Malik Mustapha – The keystones to the offense are listedabove and the keystone to the Demon Deacon defense is here. Malik Mustapha is a safety, but you can find him all over the field making plays. Guys that play with his grit and determination are contagious and key to the culture that has been built by number (3) on this list.
3. Head Coach Dave Clawson – Dave Clawson ranks 3rd all-time in Wake Forest wins with 112 behind Jim Grobe (159 from 2001-2013) and Peahead Walker (134 from 1937-1950) despite only having half of the time on job as the 1stand 2nd place coaches. Now they don’t make ‘em like Peahead Walker anymore, but Clawson has changed Wake Forest from a joke of team to a formidable opponent. Any time he’s stepping on the field, the Demon Deacon loyalists should be excited.
Syracuse – 2022 Record: 7-6 / 2023 Vegas Odds: 6.5
1. Dino Babers – Dino Babers brings a tough mentality to his team, and you can see it personified through how his players play. The culture has changed at Syracuse, and they are no longer consider a “pencil in, win” but an opponent to watch out for.
2. Garrett Shrader – Speaking of tough, Garrett Shrader is the epitome of tough. He is the mouthpiece for Babers’ culture on the field and the other players rally behind him.
3. Oronde Gadsden II – Gadsden is a stud and does not get enough hype. At 6’5”, this massive WR hauled in 61 passes for 969 yards and 6 TD’s – huge for a run first team. This year will be his coming out party and look for him to join some end of year award lists.
1. Athletes at QB – Virginia transfer Brennan Armstrong (perfect last name for a QB right?) looks to be the starter, but don’t count out rising sophomore, MJ Morris, to get some time. Both of these guys have strong arms but can get it done on the ground as well.
2. New OC, Robert Anae – Robert Anae brings his offense from Syracuse to replace Tim Beck, who took the head job at Coastal Carolina. Anytime a new coordinator takes over, there’s an air of excitement; some due to the unknown of it the system will apply for the new team
3. Toughest games in 2023 are at home – NC St. has a tough schedule, but the good news is, the toughest games are all at home! The Wolfpack faithful will need to bring their A-game as the likes of Notre Dame, Clemson, Miami, and UNC are all coming to Raleigh for a bout with the Pack.
Pittsburgh – 2022 Record: 9-4 / 2023 Vegas Odds: 6.5
1. Phil Jurkovec – Pitt was able to upgrade from Kedon Slovis and improve its offense. Also, anytime your team gets a new QB, you’re excited.
2. Pat Narduzzi – Head Coach Pat Narduzzi has made headlines this offseason (see complaints about Deion Sanders roster management methods). Narduzzi has never shied away from voicing his opinions and he makes for an exciting offseason.
3. Veterans at OL– Pitt’s OL years are as follows: Redshirt Jr, Redshirt Sr, Redshirt Sr, Redshirt Sr, and (bet you can’tguess) Redshirt Sr. That’s an average of 4.8 years of college experience on this offensive line and to put that in perspective, players (traditionally) only have 5 years of eligibility. Experienced OL = good OL = good run game and clean QB
Duke – 2022 Record: 9-4 / 2023 Vegas Odds: 6.5
4. Riley Leonard – Riley Leonard is one of the top QB’s in the ACC and can beat teams with his arm, and, what he’s most known for, his legs. Leonard and first year coach Mike Elko led the Blue Devils to a 9-4 record, which is Duke’s best record since 2014. What can also be exciting – Leonard is a rising Jr. so he could return for one more year.
5. Hype carried over from 2022 – As mentioned above, Duke won the most games last year (9) since 2014 and won their bowl game against UCF. Although I don’t expect Duke to play for the ACC championship this year, I can safely predict that they will contend and be a tough out for everyone on their schedule.
6. Opportunity to make a statement week 1 – With the hype comes opportunities to build on the hype or get deflatedlike a popped balloon. Duke will have this chance week 1against Clemson in Durham. Expect the stadium to be packed and ready to put their hype to the test on Labor Day against the Tigers.
Miami – 2022 Record: 5-7 / 2023 Vegas Odds: 7.5
1. 1 Year of Mario Cristobal Personnel (Coaches and Players) – Cristobal had a ROUGH first year at Miami, but the good news is – last year is over and done with. Cristobal and co. have hit the recruiting trail hard and made some coaching changes to get this program back to it’s 80’s to early 2000’s prowess. With the amount of money being spent on the new coaching staff, Cane fans can be excited that the University is no longer afraid to invest in this team. Look out.
2. Tyler Van Dyke is back – Tyler Van Dyke had a quieter year than people expected, but don’t get it twisted – Van Dyke is a baller. Him coming back is huge for this offense and first year OC Shannon Dawson. He’ll have a good arsenal of weapons and a chance to be one of the top QB’s in the ACC. Good veteran QB’s are always something to be excited about.
3. New OC, Shannon Dawson – Turns out running a 1980’s Big10 3 yards and a cloud of dust offense, does not work in today’s game. Miami noticed this and ditched former Broyles Assistant Coach of the Year winner at OC and replaced him with Shannon Dawson. Hurricane fans should be extremely excited to see what a new OC can do with this offense.
Louisville – 2022 Record: 8-5 / 2023 Vegas Odds: 8
1. New talent – Louisville has hit the recruiting trail hard the past two years (’23 and ’24 classes) and have sported the highest ranked classes since 2011. I’m not saying the Cardinals will be back to the Lamar Jackson days, but with the young guys they have debuting this year and potentially coming in next year, the future is looking bright.
2. New Head Coach, Jeff Brohm – The prodigal son returns,and the Cardinal faithful have a lot to be excited about with new coach Jeff Brohm (former Louisville QB). Brohm led Purdue to some success (not an easy feat), bringing the Boilermakers to the Big10 championship in his last year.
3. (3) games in NFL Stadiums – Pitt, GT, and Indiana – I’mnot the biggest fan of neutral site games, but it’s sometimes fun to watch them on TV. Georgia Tech will be in the Atlanta Falcon’s Mercedes Benz Stadium, Indiana will be in the Indianapolis Colts’ Lucas Oil Stadium, and the Pitt game will be in the Pittsburgh Steeler’s (and Pitt Panthers’) Acrisure Stadium (still Heinz Field to me – had to look the new name up). Regardless of the opinion on neutral site games, it will be exciting to watch your team on prime time.
North Carolina – 2022 Record: 9-5 / 2023 Vegas Odds: 8.5
1. Drake Maye – Any time you have a Heisman candidate on your team, you have reason to be excited. Drake Maye burst onto the college football scene last year, and if it weren’t for a Charmin Ultra Soft defense, North Carolina could have been in contention for it’s first College Football Playoff appearance. I don’t think they have a chance for that this year, but with Maye, anything is possible.
2. Experience at OL – Like Pitt, the youngest hogmolly(offensive lineman) is a Redshirt Jr. Pair that with new addition of Coastal Carolina transfer Willie Lampkin, the Tarheels look to have one of the better OL’s in the ACC. This never hurts when you have a future first round pick at QB.
3. Experience and Depth at DL – The Tarheels defensive line is dawned by all seniors, but what makes this DL different from years past – depth. Former five-star Travis Shaw is a depth piece along with other grizzled vets. Talent on the DL can keep you in a football game, but only for so long. Depth, on the other hand, keeps the talent going late into the game, especially the close ones.
Clemson – 2022 Record: 11-3 / 2023 Vegas Odds: 9.5
1. New OC, Garrett Riley – The most shocking thing in the last 2 years for this Clemson team, is the under achievement of what used to be one of the most explosive offenses in college football. Was it now Oregon St. QB, DJ Uiagalelei or the lack of depth at WR, or the play calling? Well, Dabo went out and eliminated the last variable, hiring the Broyles Assistant Coach of the Year from the National Championship runner-up team, Garret Riley. The hype around Riley has brought life back to the Clemson faithful and people are foaming at the mouth to see what he can do with former five-star Cade Klubnik.
2. Cade Klubnik has a full offseason as the starter at QB – Cade Klubnik didn’t get the nod for the starting job until the bowl game against Tennessee. Although he got playing time throughout the year, there’s a big difference between coming off the bench and preparing as the starter. With Garrett Riley getting hired early in the offseason, this gives Klubnik and the new OC a full offseason of prep together with Klubnik as the starter. We will see Klubnik’s full potential this year.
3. WR’s are healthy – Last year, Beaux Collins hurt his wrist and shoulder, Adam Randall tore his ACL in the spring and was a shell of himself throughout the season, and Joe Ngata was battling injuries all year as well. The formerly dawned WRU, did not have a 100-yard receiver until the ACC championship with Cole Turner in his second appearance of the year. Now, Collins and Randall are healthy, and Antonio Williams looks to build off his Freshman All-American campaign. WRU status may not be back, but I’dbet a lot of money that the first 100-yard receiver won’t come in the ACC Championship.
Florida St. – 2022 Record: 10-3 / 2023 Vegas Odds: 10
1. Transfer Portal talent – Florida St. couldn’t have a more opposite approach to the transfer portal than Clemson as the Seminoles had 10 transfers come in. These transfers aren’t slouches either – Fentrell Cypress was the former top-rated corner in the ACC out of Virginia, Jahiem Bell was a do-it-all tight end for South Carolina, and Keon Coleman was a stud receiver out of Michigan St. New talent is always fun.
2. Basketball team at WR – The average height for Florida St’s receiving core is about 6’1,” which doesn’t seem crazy at first glance (16 WR’s, 5’9” – 6’7”). However, the projected starting (3) receivers are 6’7” Johnny Wilson Jr., 6’4” Keon Coleman, and 5’10” Winston Wright Jr paired with 6’6” Kyle Morlock and 6’3 Jaheim Bell at Tight End. This makes for a MASSIVE receiving core. Jordan Travis shouldn’t have a problem with overthrows this year.
3. Jordan Travis – Speaking of Jordan Travis, the hardnosed returning starting QB is set to lead the most talented Seminole offense we’ve seen in a long time. Travis is guilty of going cold during stretches in the season, but if he can be consistent, not only will he be a Heisman contender, but Florida St. will be in the College Football Playoff conversation.
I hope you enjoyed this brain exercise as we broke down every ACC school – excluding those conferenceless freaks, Notre Dame. If you want to be excited for them, just know about 75% of college football’s talking heads will pick them as a playoff team, now go watch Rudy and leave me alone. If I missed something or I am just dead wrong about one of my takes or in the rare occasion in which you agree 100% with me, give me a piece of your mind. I enjoy all the interaction. I appreciate every second you put into my work.