2022 NCAA Football preview - ACC Atlantic
So after the PAC-12 and Big 12 mess, we’re gearing up to the top two but we still have the Power Conference middle child up next with the Atlantic Coast Conference.
The ACC has a ton of history (even if a significant part of it comes from the old Big East) and has a lot of big names in both of the revenue sports (5 appearances combined in the last 10 Championship games) along with teams that have had a lot of historical success but have, ummm, hit a bump recently and are looking to right the ship *cough* Florida State *cough* Miami.
First up is the Atlantic division, though next season divisions go away and will be replaced with a 3-5-5 format where each team has three permanent rivals while playing the remaining ten teams on a rotating every-other-year basis.
The teams with the best records would then meet in the ACC Championship game similar to 2020 when Notre Dame joined the ACC for a year.
Boston College Eagles (6-6)
Head Coach – Jeff Hafley (12-11 in 2 seasons, 1 bowl)
Top Recruit – Joseph Griffin Jr. - WR - 4 stars
Biggest question for 2022 – Will the return of Phil Jurkovec (QB-SR) from a fracture to his throwing hand be enough to push the Eagles to an 8-win season; their first since 2009?
If things go right. . . the Jurkovek/Zay Flowers (WR-SR) combo is a thorn in their opponent’s collective side and powers the offense leading to an upset or two along the way to an 8(possibly 9) win season.
If things go wrong. . . losses along the offensive line (one returning starter – Christian Mahogany, RG) will be to blame for the offense not clicking leading to the Eagles dropping a winnable game or two.
Likely outcome for the season. . . I feel like another seven-win season is on tap for BC, but in HC Hafley’s third year as they continue to add “his” players and build the culture he wants, the Eagles are moving in the right direction.
Clemson Tigers (10-3)
Head Coach – Dabo Swinney (150-36 in 14 seasons, 18 bowl games)
Top Recruit – Cade Klubnik – QB – 5 stars
Biggest question for 2022 – Who is under center for the Tigers? Is it incumbent DJ Uiagalelei (JR) or true freshman (and #1 QB in the 2022 class) Klubnik? Everything else about this team screams National Title contender.
If things go right. . . an undefeated regular season, an ACC Championship, and a College Football Playoff spot are all in the offing. We all remember what happened the last time a true freshman took over for an incumbent starter at Clemson, right?
If things go wrong. . . we’re treated to a repeat of last year and the mess that came with it.
Likely outcome for the season. . . I doubt we get a repeat of 2021 this season, but who knows? The schedule is much easier this time ‘round (opening with Georgia Tech and not Georgia for instance) and I feel the quarterback situation will be settled by the time the Tigers have to travel to @Wake Forest and follow that up with a home game against NC State. If they can stay undefeated, they’ll get a CFP slot.
Florida State Seminoles (5-7)
Head Coach – Mike Norvell (8-13 in 2 seasons)
Top Recruit – Sam McCall – S – 4 stars
Biggest question for 2022 – Will the Florida State administration stick with HC Norvell if he can’t lead the Seminoles back to bowl eligibility or listen to what will surely be calls for his replacement?
If things go right. . . you could see a 7-win season, maybe 8 if they pull a real upset off, in Tallahassee and the FSU fan base breathes a little easier.
If things go wrong. . . the ‘Noles drop every single toss-up game and stagger to a 4-8 season.
Likely outcome for the season. . . Norvell finds a way to get the ‘Noles across the finish line for 6 wins and a bowl game, a bad bowl game, probably played on a Wednesday afternoon before Christmas, but a bowl game nonetheless.
Louisville Cardinals (6-7)
Head Coach – Scott Satterfield (18-19 in 3 seasons, 2 bowls)
Top Recruit – Popeye Williams – EDGE – 4 stars
Biggest question for 2022 – Can the Cardinals' defense improve enough in 2022 (allowed 5000+ yds in 2021) to allow a dynamic offense to take over games?
If things go right. . . look for the Cards to enter November at a solid 6-2 with a shot at an 8-win season.
If things go wrong. . . the Cards could be limping into 3-5 or worse and HC Satterfield would be about to be/already fired.
Likely outcome for the season. . . I feel like another .500 season is in the making here but an upset or two and a seven-win season isn’t out of the question.
North Carolina State Wolfpack (9-3)
Head Coach – Dave Doeren (64-49 in 9 seasons, 6 bowls)
Top Recruit – Michael Allen – RB – 4 stars
Biggest question for 2022 – Can the Wolfpack repeat last year’s performance where they defeated Clemson and lost two league games by a combined 4 points?
If things go right. . . A repeat of 2021 is on the table (though maybe not a win @Clemson) and the ‘Pack is looking at double-digit wins.
If things go wrong. . . QB Devin Leary gets hurt leaving freshman Ben Finley to take the reins and the defense (ten returning starters and the 14th best scoring defense in 2021) to pitch shutouts.
Likely outcome for the season. . . it will come down to a few toss-up games, but there’s no reason to think that NC State isn’t capable of a 10-2 season with a manageable out-of-conference schedule and Clemson the only “all-but-certain” loss on the schedule.
Syracuse Orange (5-7)
Head Coach – Dino Babers (29-43 in 6 seasons)
Top Recruit – Francois Nolton Jr. – DL – 3 stars
Biggest question for 2022 – Will the Orange implode at any point during the October 15 – November 5 portion of the schedule that includes home games against NC State and Notre Dame and trips to @Clemson and @Pitt?
If things go right. . . The Orange leave that stretch of games mentioned above with a record no worse than 5-4 and have a chance to get win #6 against Florida State, @Wake Forest, or @Boston College.
If things go wrong. . . the Orange enter November with a 2-6 record (only wins are @UConn and Vs. Wagner) and zero momentum.
Likely outcome for the season. . . With all of their “need-to-win” games at home and a winnable game @UConn, a 6-6 season and a bowl game is within reach.
Wake Forest Demon Deacons (11-3)
Head Coach – Dave Clawson – (51-48 in 8 seasons, 6 bowls)
Top Recruit – Wesley Grimes – WR – 4 stars
Biggest question for 2022 – Can the Demon Deacons repeat as ACC CG participants? With Clemson at home but away games @Louisville and @NC State, it will take a truly historic season to do so.
If things go right. . . The Deacs could be looking at an 11-1 season and their best bowl game ever.
If things go wrong. . . The late October/ early November schedule knocks Wake off their feet and the losses to Boston College, @Louisville, @NC State, and North Carolina snowball into losing winnable games Vs. Syracuse and @Duke. They may already be going wrong, because on August 10 ESPN reported that QB Sam Hartman would be out indefinitely with an undisclosed, "non-football-related issue".
Likely outcome for the season. . . 9-3 looks right to me and with nine returning starters on offense (Including the ENTIRE O-line, all three receivers, and QB Sam Hartman (JR) they could even manage a 10-win season. This prediction takes a hit thanks to the issue I linked above.
So, we're looking at a division with a College Football Playoff contender, a team that won the division in 2021, but has just taken a real hit to its chances to repeat, a team with it's #1 QB returning from injury, and a team that could be a dark horse contender for the Natty. Yep, sounds like college football.
Look for the Coastal run-down tomorrow.