Ryan Mayer

The calendar has flipped to August, which means we’re a little more than two weeks away from the first college football action of the 2018 season. With that in mind, it’s time to dust off the old school t-shirt, tune up the marching band, and get that yard work done so your Saturday afternoons are free. To get you up to speed, we’ll be providing quick overviews of each conference and laying out the Vegas win totals for each of the 130 FBS teams. You can find all of this year’s conference previews here. Let’s dive in with the ACC, where Dabo Swinney’s Tigers look to remain on top.

Atlantic Division

Clemson Tigers

(O/U 11 wins)

The Tigers entered last season needing to replace a record-setting QB, top wide receiver, top running back and the usual cadre of defensive talent that departed for the NFL. Still, they reached the CFP semis. Now, they return the entire defensive line (plus two stud back-ups and stud incoming freshmen), a starting QB who’s battling the nation’s top recruit at the position, a talented sophomore running back, and a veteran offensive line. Yep, it’s feeling like championship-or-bust in Clemson once more. Push 11

Florida State Seminoles

(O/U 7.5 wins)

Welcome to the Willie Taggart era. After Jimbo Fisher left for greener pastures ($75 million guaranteed greener) in College Station this offseason, Taggart was brought in to replace him. It’s been a fast ascent up the coaching ladder for him, going from Western Kentucky to USF to Oregon to FSU in the last nine years. He inherits a team that finished last season, winning five of six with talented guys like RB Cam Akers and WR Nyqwan Murray returning. The biggest question is the QB spot, as Deondre Francois returns from injury to battle last year’s freshman starter James Blackman. The schedule is tough having to travel to Louisville, Miami, N.C. State and Notre Dame while hosting Clemson. They need to win at least one of those games to hit the over. Over 7.5

Louisville Cardinals

(O/U 7 wins)

We all know the big story here. How do you replace Lamar Jackson at QB? However, while you can’t easily replace a player like Jackson, head coach Bobby Petrino has a good track record of success on offense, regardless of who’s pulling the trigger. The defense? That’s a different story. New DC Brian VanGorder is in town taking over a crew that ranked 84th in Bill Connelly’s S&P+ metric. He loses basically all of last year’s secondary including first-round pick Jaire Alexander, so it’s largely a rebuild on that side. A brutal opener with Alabama and a trip to Clemson loom, but they get Florida State at home, and the rest of their games are winnable. Assuming Petrino works his magic on offense, the Cardinals can top this line. Over 7

North Carolina State Wolfpack

(O/U 7 wins)

Let’s start with the bad news. Seven draft picks are gone from a team that went 9-4 last year, and that includes the entire defensive line. Good news: QB Ryan Finley returns with his top five receivers and a trio of solid offensive linemen. The defense has to be nearly completely rebuilt, however. They have to travel to Clemson and Louisville while getting the ‘Noles and West Virginia at home. Whether they hit the over will depend on winning all their other games or stealing one/two of those four if they falter elsewhere in a tough ACC. Not sure that happens. Push 7

Syracuse Orange

(O/U 6 wins)

Dino Babers has already captured some signature wins with the Orange, most notably knocking off Clemson when the Tigers were ranked #2 last season. Yet, they’ve been 4-8 in each of his first two seasons, largely because QB Eric Dungey has been unable to stay healthy and the defense has struggled. Dungey is back for his senior season and has proven capable of lighting it up in Baber’s high-tempo offense. But he’ll have to find a pair of top targets after losing the top two receivers from last year’s group, who combined for 194 catches and 2,251 yards. Road trips to Wake Forest, B.C. and Clemson, with home dates against N.C. State and Louisville, make it tough to see over six wins. Under 6

Wake Forest Demon Deacons

(O/U 6 wins)

The Demon Deacons surprised many, myself included, with an 8-5 finish last season. Head coach Dave Clawson has done a tremendous job building up the program. He has a question mark at QB to start this year, as John Wolford is gone while Kendall Hinton is suspended to start the year. But whoever starts will have receiver Greg Dortch and RB Matt Colburn II to help ease them into the role. The defense has some work to do after losing Duke Ejiofor and Grant Dawson (among others), but most of the secondary returns. Away dates with Louisville, FSU and N.C. State, along with home dates with Clemson and Notre Dame, make the schedule tough. But the Deacs, provided they survive the first few weeks without Hinton, should hit the over. Over 6

Boston College Eagles

(O/U 5.5 wins)

The Eagles found their offense in the second half of last season by riding freshman running back, and tank with legs (6’1″ 245 pounds), A.J. Dillon. The defense loses a key piece in top draft pick Harold Landry, but they get back LBs Connor Strachan and Max Richardson from injury. With an experienced offensive line and improved play from sophomore QB Anthony Brown, the Eagles could surprise. But a tough four-week stretch of Miami, @Va. Tech, Clemson, and @FSU will likely determine if they hit the over here. Under 5.5

Coastal Division

Miami Hurricanes

(O/U 10 wins)

The Hurricanes stormed out to a 10-0 start last season before faltering down the stretch and finishing 10-3 with a loss to Wisconsin in the Orange Bowl. But Mark Richt’s recruiting continues to pick up, and this year’s team returns its top rusher, top four receivers, and most of its offensive line, linebackers and secondary group. Plus, Ahmmon Richards returns from injury. The schedule isn’t easy, but the ‘Canes do get to face the ‘Noles at home. Double-digit wins is possible, but nine wins is more likely. Under 10

Virginia Tech Hokies

(O/U 8.5 wins)

The Hokies have had a tough offseason, with multiple key defensive players leaving the program via injury, ineligibility and dismissal. But the offense should take a step forward in Josh Jackson’s sophomore season in Fuente’s offense. It will likely take a few weeks for the D to round into form, but Jackson and wide receivers Sean Savoy and Hezekiah Grimsley (51 receptions 593 yards and 4 TD combined) should take a step forward. After opening with FSU, the early schedule (William & Mary, ODU and ECU) should allow time for the defense to catch up. Still, the young group may keep the win total under the line. Under 8.5

Duke Blue Devils

(O/U 6.5 wins)

The Blue Devils’ 2017 season was a roller coaster ride, to say the least. That ride was largely due to a ton of young players experiencing their first full season of starting time. Now, the QB (Daniel Jones) enters his sophomore year with his top three wideouts, a pair of solid backs, and a defense that returns star CB Mark Gilbert and most of the front seven. Outside of trips to Miami and Clemson, Duke should have a chance to win every game. But an offensive line returning just two starters could limit the offense’s ceiling. If they get a couple of breaks, matching last year’s seven wins is within their grasp. Over 6.5

Pittsburgh Panthers

(O/U 5.5 wins)

Pat Narduzzi enters his fourth season looking to bounce back from a 5-7 year in 2017. The defense returns basically the entire starting unit from last year, which would seem ideal for Narduzzi’s identity as a defensive coach. Yet, there’s a new defensive coordinator in town in Patrick Bates (previously LB coach at Northwestern), and it could take a few weeks for his system to be fully understood. With games at Notre Dame, at UCF, at Miami and home dates with Penn State, and Virginia Tech looming, six wins looks tough. Under 5.5

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

(O/U 5.5 wins)

Perhaps the most talked-about news of the offseason surrounding this team was the move away from Russell Athletic to join Adidas, ending a 25-year partnership with Russell. As for the on-field product, Paul Johnson has his QB Taquon Marshall back for his sophomore season, along with the top five backs and six offensive linemen with starting experience. The questions come on defense, with a new coordinator (Nate Woody) and five defensive backs, who were their top tacklers, departing. The schedule is also unkind with Clemson, @Louisville, @Va. Tech, Miami and Georgia all on the docket. Under 5.5

North Carolina Tar Heels

(O/U 5 wins)

News broke this week that 13 players for the Tar Heels will be suspended by the NCAA for selling apparel. One of those 13 is reportedly QB Chazz Surrat who was the likely starter heading into this year. Injuries racked this squad last year, but the positive side of that is that the young guys on the roster got playing experience. Now it’s a matter of those youngsters taking a step forward with full-time roles. Over 5

Virginia Cavaliers

(O/U 5 wins)

Bronco Mendenhall didn’t exactly inspire confidence when he stated at ACC media days that he has “27 ACC-caliber players on the roster“. After a surprising bowl-eligible finish to last year, this season looks like a rebuild in Charlottesville. The Cavaliers need to replace their QB, two of the top three wide receivers, three offensive linemen and four guys in the defensive line rotation. That’s a lot of holes to fill in a tough conference. The good news is they miss both Florida State and Clemson in the crossover games and get Louisville, UNC and Pitt at home. Win those three and out-of-conference games against Richmond, Ohio and Liberty and they’re bowl eligible once more. Push 5 wins

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