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2023 ACC Football Conference Preview

ACC Football Conference Preview
(Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports)

2023 ACC Football Conference Preview

The conference previews keep rolling, with the SEC and Pac-12 already done, we will be shifting our focus out East to the ACC. Big changes were made this offseason to the conference, as they eliminated their divisions, the Coastal and the Atlantic, and now the top two teams will be vying for the conference championship. Clemson has had a chokehold on this conference for almost a decade, but there is a team in Tallahassee that has something to say about that. How does the conference shake out? Let’s talk about it in this 2023 ACC Football Conference preview!

No. 1: Florida State

Since Mike Norvell took the reins in 2020, the Seminoles’ program has surged forward, undergoing remarkable development. As the team steps into the ’23 season, they carry the potential to dethrone Clemson from the top spot in the ACC and secure a return to the College Football Playoff. Anchored by the dynamic leadership of quarterback Jordan Travis, the offense boasts a formidable lineup, including potential top RB in this year’s class Trey Benson, as well as receiving talents Keon Coleman and Johnny Wilson. It helps that this is the strongest O-Line Florida State has had in years. While there is room for improvement in the defense’s performance against the run, it’s worth highlighting that the group held opponents to a commendable average of 20.6 points per game in the previous year. EDGE Jared Verse is also going to make life difficult for opposing QBs.

No. 2: Clemson

Clemson will find themselves in the ACC Championship in this 2023 ACC football conference preview but will be the underdog. Their defense is loaded with talent and the offense should take a step forward under new offensive coordinator Garrett Riley. This is good news for Cade Klubnik, as he will be the starter this year and is poised for a potentially huge year. The biggest question mark for this team is going to be the offensive line and the lack of true star talent at receiver.

No. 3: North Carolina

North Carolina looked like a potential ACC champion last year after starting 9-1 but would drop their last four games. However, there is reason for optimism for the Tar Heels with Drake Maye under center. Keeping Maye upright must be a priority this season, as he was sacked 40 times a year ago. The defense should improve after giving up the most points per game in the ACC a year ago (30.8, returning eight starters plus bringing in a number of key transfers.

No. 4: Duke

Our first slight change from the national consensus in this 2023 ACC football conference preview with Duke being the fourth-best team in the ACC this year. I believe a big reason for this belief is Quarterback Riley Leonard and this vastly improved defense. Leonard has looked incredible this off-season and will look to build on a nice 2022, while the defense will look to make another massive step from a year ago that saw them drop their points per game allowed from 39.8 down to 22.1. This roster is deeper and even more experienced than a year ago, they will be a very tough team to play.

No. 5: Miami

I’m in with Trey that Miami could really stink this year. I really thought about putting Miami even lower down on this list, as I have next to no faith in Mario Cristobal, but you can’t argue with the transfers and signings they have made. They are bringing in two five-star freshmen at tackle and Javion Cohen from Alabama should bring more talent to this offensive line to protect Tyler Van Dyke. The Hurricanes have to cut down on the big plays, as this defensive unit allowed 16 plays of 40 or more yards a year ago. New defensive coordinator Lance Guidry from Tulane should help with that.

No. 6: Louisville

Louisville gets the No. 6 spot in this 2023 ACC football conference preview thanks in large part to their schedule. They avoided Clemson, Florida State and North Carolina which will be huge for them. Jeff Brohm is in the building and is known for high-powered offense and this should continue here. However, he will have a transfer at Quarterback Jack Plummer from Cal. This was a very solid defense a year ago, and even with losing some key pieces to the draft, they still return six starters from a year ago.

No. 7: Pitt

Pitt should be one of the harder teams to face in the ACC in 2023 based solely on their defense. This was a team that allowed just 22.4 points per game a year ago. While they are losing some big names, coach Pat Narduzzi always gets the best out of his defensive unit. This team goes as far as quarterback Phil Jurkovec takes them.

No. 8: NC State

Coach Dave Doeren aims to revitalize the offense with the reunion of quarterback Brennan Armstrong (formerly from Virginia) and coordinator Robert Anae. Despite a meager 24.3-point average last year, Armstrong’s pairing with Anae bodes well. Playmaker development and a consistent ground game are essential. Departures aside, the defense, tied for ACC’s lowest points allowed (19.2), remains potent, bolstered by Payton Wilson’s return and standout cornerback Aydan White.

No. 9: Wake Forest

Sam Hartman is gone, and took the heart and soul of this team with him. What’s left of this Wake Forest team is an offense that lost its QB from a year ago along with three starters on the offensive line, and a defense that allowed 33.8 points per game in the conference a year ago. Mitch Griffis could become a solid player, but it is far too early to tell. This should be viewed as a bit of a rebuilding year for the Demon Deacons.

No. 10: Georgia Tech

Georgia Tech finished the year last year 4-4, which helped former interim head coach Brent Key earn the full-time job. Georgia Tech hit the transfer portal as hard as anyone in the conference and they landed some big names, most notably Haynes King (Texas A&M) and receiver Dominick Blaylock (Georgia). The Yellow Jackets also brought in a number of guys on defense as well to help a unit that allowed 5.6 yards per play a year ago. Things are trending the right way down in Atlanta.

No. 11: Syracuse

I just don’t know what to make of Syracuse in this 2023 ACC football conference preview. They lost one of the best backs in the country last year in Sean Tucker and a handful of key starters on defense and didn’t really do a good job replacing them. Bringing in Rocky Long should help a below-average defense from a year ago but this team just lacks overall talent on both sides of the ball.

No. 12: Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech only averaged 19.3 points per game last season and there isn’t much optimism that it’ll get much better this year. The Hokies did hit the portal hard, bringing in guys like Kyron Drones (Baylor) to compete with Grant Wells, along with key pickups at running back Bhayshul Tuten and receiver Ali Jennings III. This defense allowed 5.4 yards per play last year but does have a sneaky good cornerback in Mansoor Delane who could break out this year.

No. 13: Boston College

After consecutive six-win seasons, Coach Jeff Hafley’s Eagles plummeted to 3-9. A return to bowl contention hinges on bolstering the offensive line, disrupted by injuries and turnover. Guard Christian Mahogany’s return from injury is pivotal. QB Emmett Morehead, who displayed promise with 1,254 yards and 10 TDs, aims to shine with a full offseason as the starter. The defense, surrendering 30.3 points per game, needs a bit of work as only five starters return.

No. 14: Virginia

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde are this Virginia team. What do I mean? Well, this offense only averaged 17 points per game a year ago and failed to put up 30 against an FBS team. But this defense was actually fairly good, only allowing 24 points per game. The defense returns six starters from a year ago so look for them to be in low-scoring affairs all year as question marks surround the entire offense.

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