Ultimate Guide to the 2021 ACC + Best Bets!

The worst power 5 conference actually has more than one good team this year. Clemson will unshockingly run the table but there are some other teams I believe are not getting the credit they deserve.

Atlantic Division

Clemson Tigers (12-0)- Led by the best defense in the country that returns all 11 starters from 2020, this should come as no surprise. Losing Trevor Lawrence will not hurt as much as some believe because DJ Uiagalelei is elite and will prove it in Clemson’s season opener against a loaded Georgia squad. As someone who was in attendance for his first High School start, I can say I have full confidence he will win a Natty or Heisman in his time at Clemson and I believe he will win both this year. Justyn Ross returns which will be huge as both Cornell Powell and Amari Rodgers left for the NFL. Two players to look out for are Joe Ngata and Lyn-J Dixon, Ngata, the 6’4 220 lb receiver has spent most of his college career behind the likes of Ross, Powell and Rodgers but I believe this is the year he breaks out. Lyn-J Dixon has also been waiting for his time to shine, but has shown major flashes as he rushed for 635 yards in 2019 as a backup for Travis Etienne. On defense, look no further than the linebacking duo of Baylon Spector and James Skalski who are both absolute beasts at stopping the run as well as dropping back and defending the pass. Nolan Turner is the best safety in the country, coming off a 52 tackle and 3 INT season, anything less would be a major disappointment. The same goes for Clemson as a team, anything less than 12-0 and a CFB Playoff berth would be a huge disappointment and it all starts in week one versus Georgia.

Boston College (9-3)- Going with the Golden Eagles at 9-3 and second in the Atlantic, I believe the schedule is easy enough and the team is good enough to make it happen. Phil Jurkovec had a strong 2020 season, throwing for over 2,500 yards, 17 TDs and only 5 INTs. I expect him to build off of that as the whole offensive unit except for tight end Hunter Long and running back David Bailey return. One player to look out for is wide receiver Zay Flowers, who had over 50 receptions and 800 yards last season. The only question mark on offense is running back. With Bailey leaving, someone must emerge, the early favorite is Travis Levy, however he was far from impressive in 2020 as he only averaged 3.2 YPC. BC’s defense loses a lot. Their two leading tacklers who had 107 tackles and 99 tackles respectively both moved onto the NFL. That void is going to be impossible to fill but defensive coordinator Tem Lukabu specializes in linebackers, so it would not surprise me if two new guys burst onto the scene in a big way. They still have some solid players in the secondary such as Jahmin Muse who had 37 tackles and a team leading 3 INTs in 2020 and Deon Jones who had 38 tackles, a sack and 2 fumble recoveries last season. The Golden Eagles have a plethora of offensive weapons and a great defensive coaching staff, which I expect to lead them to a great season, for BC standards.

Wake Forest (8-4)- I personally love Sam Hartman and think he is very underrated. They have one of the best receivers in the country in Jacquarii Robertson who had over 60 receptions and 900 yards last season. Their ground attack is also very solid as they had two backs rush over 550 yards last season and neither rushed for less than 4.9 YPC. With a great air attack and a steady ground attack, Wake Forest’s offense will be able to score a lot on ACC defenses. On defense, Wake Forest was not great in 2020, however they return 10 starters and have a lot of potential. Defensive back Nick Andersen had 63 tackles and 4 INTs. Expect him to have another great year. Myles Fox and JaCquez Williams are also great players that can disrupt the opposition's rushing attack as well as get to the passer. The offense will be great, but if the defense can step it up, this Demon Deacons team will be dangerous.

Louisville Cardinals (6-6)- Now here is the first case of a team that is much better than their record will indicate. Louisville’s schedule is brutal. They have to play 2 SEC teams and their first two conference games are on the road and they also have UCF on their non-conference schedule. Their offense is led by Malik Cunningham, who has had a very consistent and under the radar college career as he had a 78.5 QBR in 2020 and a 83.9 in 2019. I expect him to keep up these great numbers in 2021 despite having to play an extremely tough schedule. Running back Javian Hawkins departed for the NFL so Jalen Mitchell will have to take his place. Mitchell averaged 6.7 YPC on 52 carries in 2020 so he showed flashes of being a solid back. Tutu Atwell and Dez Fitzpatrick, the Cardinals top 2 receivers both depart so I expect the Cardinals offense to struggle early in the season as they have many voids to fill. In 2020, the Cardinals defense was great in every category other than sacks. They return many great players such as their two leading tacklers C.J. Avery and Rodjay Burns. The secondary is where the Cardinals thrive as even though they did not have a player with more than one INT, opponents only averaged 189 yards through the air against them. This is a team I can see being in a lot of close, low scoring games but eventually falling short due to lack of experience on offense.

Florida State (6-6)- The Mike Norvell era of FSU football starts this fall and versus a very tough opponent, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. The Noles made a huge splash in the transfer portal adding UCF legend Mckenzie Milton who has not had much playing time since his devastating injury a couple years back. If he can get back to his 2017/2018 form I believe the Seminoles offense can be elite as Milton’s arm will be complimented by three running backs who all had over 350 yards last year and none averaged less than 5 YPC. I expect their offense to be one of the best in the ACC but I can see them starting slow as they have to adjust to a new system under Norvell. The defense was simply not good last year and after losing Asante Samuel Jr. to the NFL things were looking worse. However, FSU killed the transfer portal adding many Power 5 players to add depth and talent to their defense. I don’t expect them to be elite, but I think they can hold their own and have a solid season on the defensive side of the ball. An extremely tough schedule will hold them back as they play both ND and Florida in the non conference, but I expect the highlight of the Noles season to be an upset win at home versus Miami. They made a great choice with Norvell and the rebuild of FSU football is well underway.

NC State (5-7)- NC State had a very good 2020 as they went 8-3 in the regular season, with them returning 10 starters on offense and 8 on defense it would be expected of them to have another good campaign. That won’t happen though. Quarterback Bailey Hockman is good at literally nothing, he has a noodle arm, he isn’t athletic and he has a knack for throwing the ball to the other team. Their running backs are very good but can’t do it all for the Wolfpack on offense. If this squad is going to prove me wrong however, it will be through their defense which has some serious ballers. Linebacker Payton Wilson had 108 tackles in 2020 and his partner Isaiah Moore had 98. Obviously they aren’t Spector and Skalski but this is one of the scariest linebacking duos in the country. Their secondary is legit as well as Safety Jakeen Harris and the cornerbacking duo of Tyler Baker- Williams and Shyheim Battle combined for 25 pass breakups in 2020. This is one of the most underrated defenses in the country and it is a shame they have to play with Bailey Hockman. With the combined factors of a tough schedule and poor QB play, it is hard to see the Wolfpack replicating their 2020 season and making a bowl game.

Syracuse Orange (2-10)- They’ll be lucky if they win a conference game. This team is a joke.

Coastal Division

Miami University (10-2)- More likely than not, Miami will lose to the hands of Alabama in week one and if they get blown out, they will get “overrated” shouts by 12 year olds on twitter and tiktok. Despite what these experts will tell you, Miami is a very talented team and it seems that D’eriq King’s healing process is ahead of schedule, which is huge news for the Canes and their offense which returns basically everyone. Look out for receiver Mike Harley to build off an impressive 800 yard and 7 TD campaign. With great weapons to throw to and a balanced backfield between King and Cam’ron Harris, Miami’s offense is due to be better than it was in 2020. On defense they lose Jaylen Phillips, Gregory Rousseau and Quincy Roche which is huge as they were three of the best defensive lineman in the country. Despite these losses, the Canes still have some ballers such as the safety trio of Bubba Bolden, Amari Carter and Gilbert Frierson, who all had over 50 tackles in 2020. Miami’s secondary is bound to improve but the defense as a whole will most definitely regress because of how much talent they lost up front. Their 10-2 record gets them to the ACC Championship game where they may lose by 50.

North Carolina (10-2)- UNC burst onto the scene last year with a potent offense led by future first round draft pick Sam Howell. He returns and the Tar Heels look to keep improving under Mack Brown. However, they lose four of their most important players in Javonte Williams and Michael Carter, who both rushed for over 1100 yards in 2020. With no clear cut RB1, I expect UNC to have trouble running the ball early in the season. The pass offense will regress as well as UNC loses both Dynami Brown and Dazz Newsome, two of the best receivers in the ACC last year. This offense will go as far as Howell can take them. On defense, they lose their best player in Chazz Surrat, but I still expect them to be good, as they were a top 5 defense in the ACC in 2020 and return the rest of their defense. UNC is still a good team but with 5 of their 6 best players leaving, they will regress. An easy schedule helps them to a 10-2 season.

Virginia (7-5)- Brennan Armstrong is by no means a great QB, but he gets the job done as he led the cavaliers in rushing and passing last year. To compliment him on the ground UVA has Shane Simpson and Wayne Taulapaupa who both averaged more than 4.5 YPC last season. They return all their top receivers from last year including running back Billy Kemp who had 67 receptions and deep threat Lavel Davis Jr. who averaged more than 25 yards per receptions in 2020. On defense, I expect them to be a lot better than they were last year as they return sophomore Nick Jackson who had 103 tackles last year. It is not just Jackson too, the Cavs return four linebackers who had over 30 tackles last year. Their secondary is awful but I think the offense and front seven can pick up the slack. However look out for cornerback Nick Grant to break out as he put together a great 2020 campaign. An easy schedule will benefit UVA greatly and they are poised for a very solid season. 8-4 is a little bold so I would not be shocked to see them disappoint but their schedule is hilariously easy.

Pittsburgh (7-5)- Pitt’s offense is what held them back in 2020 as their defense was relentless and the second best in the ACC. The offense will be better this year though as they return everyone important including quarterback Kenny Pickett who threw for over 2400 yards in 2020. They ranked second to last in total offense last year but I expect them to be more in the middle of the ACC this year as they bring back a lot of experience and there will be more pressure as they lose a ton on the defensive side. The thing that made Pitt’s defense so nasty in 2020 was their defensive line, however they lost their two leaders in sacks, Rashad Weaver and Patrick Jones. As they only return 5 starters, there is no way around it, this defense will regress. Expect the linebacking duo of SirVocea Dennis and Cam Bright to lead the way for the Panthers.

Virginia Tech (6-6)- I’ve always respected VT’s program and liked many of their players, but this team is bad. Losing Khalil Herbert was enough, then losing Hendon Hooker and then having to play Braxton Burmeister as your starting QB, it is going to be a long year for Hokie fans. To describe their offensive in one word, I’d have to go with depressing. Their new running back only averaged 3.8 YPC last year and watching Braxton Burmeister play football will just give you a headache. They have some great receivers but Burmeister simply won’t be able to feed them. Without Herbert and Hooker I expect VT’s offense to regress tremendously. On defense they have some great players such as Dax Hollifield and Chamarri Conner. Sadly the best part about their defense was their line, who loses multiple players who had 5+ sacks in 2020. The defense will not regress as much as the offense, but I believe they will regress. I Hope VT proves me wrong as they’ll always be a program I enjoy watching when they are good.

Duke (4-8)- Duke’s offense was terrible last year. The good news is the only way they can really go is up. Chase Brice threw 5 more INTs than TDs which is impressively bad and it’d be remarkable if he was able to be that bad again. On the bright side Mataeo Duran was a beast last season, rushing for 817 yards on 6.8 YPC, he returns and hopes to carry the Blue Devils offense on his back. If Brice can bring down the INT’s Duke’s offense could be pretty solid. On defense they will be worse than their already bad 2020 team as they lose multiple players to the NFL. If they are going to improve, it starts in the secondary as Jeremiah Lewis and Nate Thompson are both very solid players. A very easy schedule gets them to 5-7 but this team is very bad.

Georgia Tech (2-10)- Quarterback Jeff Sims simply is not good at football. He threw 4 Ints last year versus Syracuse, the laughing stock of the ACC and he never really showed flashes of maturing as the season progressed. This offense was bad in 2020 and I am expecting more of the same this year. Jahmyr Gibbs and Jordan Mason are both solid running backs but nothing special. Their defense was also awful in 2020 as they allowed 37 points per game. They return 10 of their 11 starters but none of them stick out. Expect another bad season for GT.

Best Bets

Clemson to win the National Championship +400

Boston College over 7.5 wins

Virginia Tech Under 7.5 wins

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