While several conferences are in a wait and see approach in regards to the COVID-19 pandemic, the ACC is going full speed ahead and proceeding with an 11-game schedule (10 conference, 1 non-conference) for each of their 14 charter schools, and for this season only, Notre Dame will also be a member of the ACC.
That’s right, for the first time in school history, the Fighting Irish will be a member of a conference when they take the field to play college football this season, and for the first time in school history they will also be eligible to play in a conference championship game.
If everything goes according to plan, that could mean two meetings between Clemson and Notre Dame to potentially decide who represents the conference in the College Football Playoff.
But how will the rest of the conference shake out and what should you look for from a gambling perspective? We preview the 2020 ACC Football Season here, with all teams and previews by order of projected finish.
The Top Contenders in the ACC
Projected Win Total: 10.5 (-125o/-105u)
The Hook Projects: 13-0 Overall, ACC Champions, National Champions
It should be no surprise that Clemson wanted to play football this season and was vocal about it from the start. After all, Dabo Swinney’s Clemson Tigers are absolutely loaded heading into the 2020 campaign and are the odds-on favorite to stake claim to their third National Championship in five seasons.
Once again, it does not appear that Clemson will face much resistance towards returning to the ACC Championship game, though the lone potential pitfall looms November 7th when Clemson travels to South Bend to meet Notre Dame. Should the Tigers take care of business there, there is no other opponent on their schedule that they will be an underdog against.
The Tigers boast the presumptive #1 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft and Heisman front-runner Trevor Lawrence at quarterback, with an unfair amount of talent surrounding him from there. Explosive running back Travis Etienne returns to the team this year after passing on entering the 2020 NFL Draft, and Amari Rodgers headlines the next wave of talented Clemson wideouts as the team will be without Tee Higgins (drafted by Bengals) and Justyn Ross (out for season with spinal issue) from last years team.
The gap in talent between Clemson and the rest of this conference is just too much for anyone else to overcome. Look for Dabo’s boys to run the table and win the ACC for the sixth straight season, and eventually go on to win their third Natty in five years.
2. North Carolina
Projected Win Total: 7.5 (-130o/+100u)
The Hook Projects: 11-1, 2nd ACC
North Carolina isn’t just a basketball school anymore. Mack Brown has quickly returned the Tar Heels to the college football scene with an infusion of young talent all throughout the North Carolina roster. The hyper-talented Sam Howell returns to play under center for the Heels with 1,000 yard wide receivers Dyami Brown and Dazz Newsome ready to pick up where they left off in 2019. Carolina will boast a dynamic duo at running back with Michael Carter and Javonte Williams also returning following a 2019 season that had the pair of backs combining for over 2,000 yards from scrimmage.
Mack Brown’s Tar Heels also will get the added bonus of not having to face Clemson this year until the ACC Championship game, further leading us to pound the ever-living life out of the over 7.5-win total. This is outright lunacy and like taking candy from a baby. We are very bullish on North Carolina’s chances this season and project the Heels run the table until their matchup with Clemson in the ACC title game and finish a very respectable 11-1.
If there are still bowl games at the end of the season, North Carolina should be in line for a New Year’s Six spot.
3. Miami, FL
Projected Win Total: 7.5 (-155o/+125u)
The Hook Projects: 9-2, T-3rd ACC
The Canes will have a new quarterback in 2020 as Houston transfer D’Eriq King brings his talents to South Beach. Miami’s season ended in embarrassing fashion a season ago with a 14-0 loss in the Independence Bowl at the hands of Louisiana Tech, leading coach Manny Diaz to aggressively overhaul the offense in the offseason.
How long it will take the very talented King to assimilate into the Canes offense remains anyone’s guess, but if his efforts at Houston are any indication for what Miami is about to see, Canes fans are going to be especially happy. King red-shirted at Houston a year ago but totaled 50 touchdowns in his 2018 season, and brings a skillset the Canes simply haven’t seen on campus in quite some time.
Should new offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee kickstart the Miami offense in the same way he turned the SMU offense into one of the best units in the country in 2019, the Canes could be poised for a big season and run at a potential ACC Championship appearance.
However, unlike North Carolina’s luck of missing out on seeing Clemson during the regular season, Miami will now be forced to travel on the road to see Dabo Swinney’s Tigers after originally having them off their schedule before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
We project Miami will still top their projected total of 7.5 wins, but will lose games to Clemson and North Carolina to keep them out of the ACC Championship.
4. Notre Dame
Projected Win Total: 8.5 (-150o/+120u)
The Hook Projects: 9-2, T-3rd ACC
For the first time in school history the Irish will be a full member of collegiate football conference when they join the ACC for the 2020 season. Brian Kelly’s Irish return several players from a season ago, including senior quarterback Ian Book.
Because of the fact Notre Dame is now in a conference, they no longer have to worry about facing the likes of Stanford, USC, and Wisconsin, though they now have a date with Trevor Lawrence and the Clemson Tigers. The Irish will also skirt out of facing Miami, but will have a road date in Chapel Hill against Mack Brown’s North Carolina squad.
If Brian Kelly can go .500 in those two games, the Irish could very well get two cracks at Clemson for a shot at the playoff. They have to love those chances.
We project Notre Dame to narrowly go over the project win total of 8.5, but go 0-2 against the top of the ACC and finish in a tie for 3rd at 9-2.
How the Rest of the ACC Shakes Out
5. Virginia Tech
Projected Win Total: 7.5 (-125o/-105u)
The Hook Projects: 7-4, 5th ACC
Projected Win Total: 6 (-115o/-115u)
The Hook Projects: 6-5, 6th ACC
Projected Win Total: 7 (-105o/-125u)
The Hook Projects: 6-5, 7th ACC
8. Florida State
Projected Win Total: 7 (-105o/-125u)
The Hook Projects: 5-6, 8th ACC
9. NC State
Projected Win Total: 4 (-150o/+120u)
The Hook Projects: 5-6, 9th ACC
10. Boston College
Projected Win Total: 4 (-140o/+110u)
The Hook Projects: 4-7, 10th ACC
Projected Win Total: 5.5 (-135o/+105u)
The Hook Projects: 4-7, 11th ACC
12. Wake Forest
Projected Win Total: 6 (+110o/-140u)
The Hook Projects: 4-7, 12th ACC
Projected Win Total: 5 (-125o/-105u)
The Hook Projects: 3-8, 13th ACC
Projected Win Total: 5 (-115o/-115u)
The Hook Projects: 3-8, 14th ACC
15. Georgia Tech
Projected Win Total: 2.5 (+100o/-130u)
The Hook Projects: 2-9, 15th ACC