As we head into the 2019 season, here is the biggest question in the ACC: who will face Clemson in the ACC Championship Game?
The Tigers are the top-ranked team in both the AP Top 25 and the Coaches Poll, and there is not much faith in the conference among the prognosticators in the coaching or sports journalism worlds. Syracuse is the only other league member with a preseason ranking outside of football holdout Notre Dame.
Beyond that big question surrounding the ACC title, there are a ton of questions surrounding each program in the league.
With that in mind, in honor of those questions and the uncertainty creating this preseason power ranking, below are the team rankings and a question facing that program in 2019:
Can the Tigers avoid any missteps to make their way back to the College Football Playoff?
When looking at Clemson’s schedule this season, the two biggest challenges will be in Weeks 2 and 3 versus Texas A&M and at Syracuse. If the Tigers survive those two tests, can they run the table? It is certainly possible, and it will likely be needed if the ACC is as weak as the experts predict.
Will the Orange be giant killers and flip the league on its head?
As mentioned with Clemson, the biggest date on the conference calendar so far in 2019 is Saturday, September 14. Syracuse will host Clemson in New York and an Orange victory will have ripple effects throughout college football. And it can happen: just look at the past two seasons between these teams.
Can Jarren Williams be a difference-maker for the Hurricanes’ offense?
The redshirt freshman won the training camp battle for the starting quarterback role and made his first collegiate start against Florida on Saturday night in the first game of the 2019 season. The Hurricanes had some chances to win in an ugly first game of the season, but Williams will need a lot more help from his offensive line to breakout this year.
4. Virginia Tech
Will the Hokies make use of their experience?
Last season, Virginia Tech had to replace a lot of players on both sides of the ball and finished just below .500. In 2019, the Hokies return 18 players who started at least a handful of games last year.
Can the Cavaliers’ defense take them to the next level?
The UVA defense ended the year ranked 20th in the nation and many of those pieces, including cornerback Bryce Hall, are returning in 2019. Hall received the most votes on the 2019 All-ACC Preseason Football Team on defense.
6. Florida State
How hot is Willie Taggart’s seat?
With reports about the toxic end of the Jimbo Fisher era, it seems that Taggart inherited more of a mess in Tallahassee than initially thought. However, another mediocre season will crank the heat under Taggart’s seat. He has brought in new coaches and there seems to be a better product on the field this season, especially with the return of James Blackman as the starting quarterback. However, their schedule will not be a piece of cake, with road tests against Clemson, Virginia, and Florida.
7. NC State
Can the Wolfpack defense carry the load?
NC State will return eight players on defense, but lost a lot of talent on offense. Their x-factor for the past few seasons, Ryan Finley, helped the Wolfpack offense perform at a higher level than expected. Without him at the helm and experienced playmakers at skill positions, fresh faces must make plays for the Wolfpack to maintain their recent successes.
Will Kenny Pickett have any help on offense?
The defending Coastal Division champions scored 42 offensive touchdowns last season. Exactly half of those came from Darrin Hall and Qadree Ollison on the ground and both players are fighting for spots in the NFL. The Panthers relied heavily on rushing offense last year and now must look to their junior quarterback Kenny Pickett to carry the offense.
9. North Carolina
Can the Tar Heels sweep their Big Four opponents?
If you are reading this site, you are more than likely a Tar Heel fan. My colleagues have provided extensive coverage during the offseason and training camp and there are plenty of questions that will be answered in the coming weeks. Expectations may be low, but there is certainly hope in the future with the successes on the recruiting trail in the new Mack Brown era. But this season, UNC fans (especially this one) desperately want to end the three-game losing streaks to both the Blue Devils and Wolfpack.
Can Deon Jackson improve upon his 2018 breakout season?
With Daniel Jones in the NFL and all the top receiving targets gone, the offense load for the Blue Devils lands squarely on the shoulders of Deon Jackson. The all-purpose back had over 800 yards rushing and 250 yards receiving last year. He must stay healthy and productive for Duke to have a decent season.
11. Wake Forest
Will the Demon Deacons take advantage of their early schedule?
The Deacs have quietly put together three straight bowl seasons, albeit just at the cutoff in two of those years. Wake can be well on the way to doing that again if they take advantage of their early season schedule because the back half does them no favors. It is conceivable that WF can be 6-0 before ending on a six-game losing streak. If they squander their favorable schedule, things could snowball quickly in Winston.
12. Boston College
Will the offense take the next step?
The Eagles were right in the middle of league last year in total offense, ranking seventh with 410 yards per game and scoring 50 total offensive touchdowns. BC returns all their important pieces, including 1,000-yard rusher AJ Dillon and 2,100-yard passer Anthony Brown.
Can head coach Scott Satterfield right the ship?
The wheels fell off for the Cardinals last year and there is a lot of work to do on and off the field in Louisville. Scott Satterfield was brought in to do just this after his success at Appalachian State as a new FBS program. It might not happen this year, but he seems to have the pedigree to do so.
14. Georgia Tech
What is life after Paul Johnson?
There are new coaches in the league and there will be changes that go along with each new regime. However, there will be no transition as great as the one in Atlanta. After a decade of the option, Geoff Collins is not bringing back Paul Johnson’s offense. With personnel fit for old system, the transition may take a full year to successfully process.