Is there a team capable of keeping Clemson from winning a fifth straight conference title? On paper there doesn’t seem to be, but as we all know, the games aren’t played on paper.
The Tigers are indeed a heavy favorite to win the ACC again in 2019. Clemson has what should be one of the nation’s best offenses led by sophomore trigger man Trevor Lawrence, but must replace seven starters off one of the nation’s best defenses.
In the Atlantic, there are probably just three teams that have any chance at supplanting the Tigers, however minimal those chances are.
Syracuse has given the Tigers fits the last two seasons, and are coming off of a ten win season, their best yet under Dino Babers. Tommy Devito takes over for Eric Dungey at QB, but the Orange do get seven starters back on the defensive side. They also get the Tigers at home, in primetime.
Florida State is coming off of one of its most disappointing seasons in forever, finishing just 5-7 in Willie Taggart’s first season. Kendall Briles has been brought in to run the offense, but unless they are much improved along the offensive line, the Seminoles are still a year or two away from being serious contenders again. They still have plenty of talent, but it all starts up front.
NC State is looking at a rebuild on offense. Dave Doeren is bringing in a new offensive coordinator, and must replace QB Ryan Finley, two 1000 yard receivers, and three offensive linemen. The Wolfpack do return eight starters on defense, so the news isn’t all bad in Raleigh.
BC returns QB Anthony Brown and RB AJ Dillion, but have some pieces to replace on defense. Wake, well Wake is Wake, and Louisville is entering year one of a complete rebuild under former App St coach Scott Satterfield.
On the Coastal side, it’s looking like a three team race. Virginia, Miami, and Virginia Tech all have shots at winning this division.
Bronco Mendenhall has his best team yet at UVA, and his Wahoo’s are a slim favorite. He brings back one of the best QBs in the conference in Bryce Perkins, plus most of a defense that was pretty good in 2018. They’ve not beaten Va Tech since 2003 and they’ll likely need to break that losing streak to win this division.
Miami has a new head coach in Manny Diaz and although the Canes are probably good enough on the defensive side, they’ll need to be much improved on the offensive side under first year offensive coordinator Dan Enos. The Canes do get both UVA and Va Tech at home.
Up in Blacksburg, patience could start wearing thin with head coach Justin Fuente if the Hokies don’t start showing signs of improvement. They were uncharacteristically bad on the defenseive side last year and inconsistent on offense. With QB Ryan Willis back, along with one of the ACC’s better group of receivers, the offense should be better, especially if they can get the running game going. With this being Bud Foster’s last season coaching the defense, expect a much improved unit. No way he goes out with two straight subpar seasons.
Pitt has to replace ten starters, including two 1000 yard rushers, while Duke must replace Daniel Jones at QB. Both teams will be fighting to finish .500. Mack Brown’s hiring in Chapel Hill has already started to pay off on the recruiting trail. There’s some young talent to work with, including freshman QB Sam Howell, but this team is still a year away. Georgia Tech is beginning a complete overhaul of their roster under first year head coach Geoff Collins. He will be transitioning the Yellow Jackets from the option attack to a more traditional, spread offense, and will take some lumps in year one.
Clemson over UVA
It’s really hard to see a scenario in which Clemson doesn’t win their fifth straight ACC Championship. While UVA looks like they’ll be a pretty good football team, they’re still a long ways from matching the talent the defending national champs have across the board.