A Look Back At the ACC, 2016

By ObstructedViewer
Jan. 15, 2017

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Before the season I made my predictions/projections/takes on the upcoming year.  With the season sadly over, I am going to discuss each conference and see how accurate I was with my picks & predictions as well as some pressing questions for the 2017 season.  So each week, I will look back and see each conference and how they fared.  Not sure how I am going about doing it, but we will see how it goes.  If you want to look back on my predictions, the link is .  

Louisville's dismantling of Florida State ultimately gave them the 2nd best record in the Atlantic Division.
Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

WHAT DID I GET RIGHT WITH THE ACC?  Well, I nailed my prediction of Clemson winning the conference and national championship, though I wavered a few times on both parts given how they played at different parts.  But I will take it as a win as I said after the national championship.  In regards to the Atlantic Division, I nailed most of it correct with Louisville technically finishing in 2nd, ahead of Florida State.  I mentioned that I could see the top 4 teams in the Coastal could finish anywhere from #1-4 and figured Duke would be a bit of a giant mess as well.  Plus, all the records that the teams had were within the best/worst case scenario.

I had picked Miami to represent the Coastal for the ACC Championship, but Virginia Tech proved me wrong.
Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

WHAT DID I GET WRONG WITH THE ACC?  Mostly it was the placement of the 4 teams in the Coastal (North Carolina, Miami, Virginia Tech, Pittsburgh).  I knew they could have finished anywhere in those spots however, but just didn't get it right in the end with my pick (had Miami, but maybe it was too early).  Also, while I got the NC State pick right for the standing, I thought they'd be a little bit better than a 6-6 record.  

RECAP OF THE 2016 SEASON:  The ACC has dethroned the SEC for being the best conference, going 10-4 against them over the year (including bowl games) and the cherry was Clemson over Alabama.  To add on top of that, you probably had the three of best quarterbacks in the nation residing in the conference (Lamar Jackson, Deshaun Watson, Mitch Trubisky)  The Heisman Trophy Winner in Lamar Jackson resides in Louisville and the Cardinals for a while nearly crahsed the College Football Playoff before they imploded down the stretch.  The competition in the Coastal looks like it will be fierce again with Miami, Pitt, and Virginia Tech making great strides this past year while you can never count out Georgia Tech or UNC.  Syracuse is showing signs of life while Boston College, NC State, and Wake Forest are still trying to find an identity within the conference.  Duke has fallen back to what we have remembered them being, as a punching bag to the rest of the conference while Virginia is trying to get the program off the ground under Bronco Mendenhall.  

QUESTIONS (AND WAY TOO EARLY ANSWERS) FOR THE 2017 SEASON IN THE ACC:

Dabo Swinney's chances of repeating are going to be tough without the likes of Deshaun Watson and Mike Williams.
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

1.  Can Clemson repeat?  Can they?  Yes.  Will they?  Going to be very tough losing Watson, Mike Williams, and Wayne Gallman.  They have Auburn next season in week 2 where we don't know what the Tigers will bring in terms of an offense.  But Clemson had fits with Auburn to start the 2016 season and that was with their offensive stars.  They do get Florida State at home next year but have two major roadies at Louisville and Virginia Tech.  Now people wondered if Clemson would be okay without Tajh Boyd and how their season started in Georgia, many thought it would be problematic and then Watson took over late.  And the rest they say is history.

Did Jackson get figured out by the end of the season?
Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

2.  Can Lamar Jackson shake off his struggles after how the 2016 season ended?  One wonders about this, but I say he will.  The thing is I think he used so much energy early on in the season which by the Houston game came, he was out of gas and it showed down the stretch.  Did they run into a tough Houston team?  Yes.  Did they run into a tough LSU team?  Yes.  But we do have to remember, he is a kid and he will probably pace himself far better than what he did this year.  

The Noles are primed for another national championship run in 2017.
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

3.  Are the Seminoles ready to re-claim their dominance in the ACC?  Many said that Florida State ended Alabama's run of having the top recruiting class year in and year out last season and they've been a top 5 recruiting class the last few years.  If Florida State has everything in order, then yes.  A run is certainly possible for the Noles in 2017, especially with Clemson losing a good bit.  But we've seen this a lot of having Florida State start off highly ranked and stumble over the years, even dating back to Bobby Bowden.  

The future of the Canes is looking brighter under Richt.
Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

4.  Is there going to be any team in the Coastal to break away from the rest?  The good news is that there are 3 teams notably (Virginia Tech, Miami, Pitt) that have the potential, but with offensive coordinator Matt Canada leaving Pitt for LSU does raise a few questions for the Panthers.  But you can look at the Hokies or the Hurricanes to have a strong run this year.  The Canes have a slightly tougher task with a road game at Florida State while Virginia Tech holds Clemson at home, but the Hokies travel to Miami this year so all may be neutralized in that aspect.  But it is probably down to those two schools with Pittsburgh having an outside chance.  I'm not really sold on North Carolina, even if Trubisky stays.

It feels like NC State and Wake Forest can take the next step if they have everything in place.
Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

5.  Will Boston College, NC State, or Wake Forest ever have that breakout season?  For the sake of the ACC holding on to the "Best Conference" title, they need to.  It seemed like early on, both NC State and Wake Forest were going to have a nice run, but NC State's near miss at Clemson stung them and nearly didn't recover from it and Wake Forest slipped off badly after a good start.  There will need to be answers on both teams especially.  Wake needs a quarterback badly while NC State was inconsistent on both sides at times.  But the thing is, both of them need a big win against a big team, whether that is against a Clemson, Florida State, or Louisville.  As for Boston College, I know well enough not to go too high on them as normally they do the opposite when I make predictions.  

Georgia Tech taking down 3 SEC schools helped contribute to the ACC claim of the best conference.
Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports

6.  Can the ACC continue to be the best conference in football?  They can if Boston College, NC State, and Wake Forest can show improvements.  Yes, all 3 won their bowl games, which helped the case, but it is time for all of them to take that next step.  The one program also that people need to look at in terms of "if they get it going" would be Georgia Tech.  The Jackets were somewhat of an unsung hero in the ACC this year, bringing down THREE SEC schools (alongside Clemson doing the same thing), thus tipping the scales for the ACC.  What needs to happen is Miami and Virginia Tech need to remain making progress and with Richt & Fuente there, it does look promising for both programs.  But if Virginia can make strides in 2017 while nobody else really falls off, then, the ACC will hold it for another year.

-Fan in the Obstructed Seat

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