Every week, some or all of the Confidential’s correspondents will “roundtable” issues regarding the ACC, as well as recapping the week that was and previewing the week to come. As we are still in the preseason, we are looking forward exclusively this week.
Q1: OK, with the football season right around the corner, who are the 5 best teams in the ACC (including Notre Dame) in order? Which two are playing in the ACC Championship Game? And who, if anyone, from the ACC will make the playoffs?
Steve Callahan (Notre Dame): The Clemson Tigers are the best team in the ACC. Following them, is Florida State, Notre Dame, North Carolina, and the Miami Hurricanes. ACC Title Game: FSU vs UNC. Playoffs: FSU
Harrison Huntley (NC State): Clemson, FSU, Miami, UNC, Louisville. Clemson and Miami playing in Charlotte. I think any ACC champ would make the playoff assuming they only have a loss or two
Anthony Caffrey (Syracuse): 1, Clemson; 2, FSU; 3. Notre Dame; 4. Miami; 5. Louisville. Clemson vs Miami, with Clemson in the playoffs.
Q2: Looking objectively at your team, which team is your team most likely to upset? And which team is most likely to upset your team?
Steve Callahan (Notre Dame): With an early home game and the Spartans having holes to fill in their starting offensive line, the Irish have a very good chance of beating Michigan State at home in the third week of the season. Since the Fighting Irish’s schedule doesn’t give them many opportunities to pull off an upset, Michigan State would be my choice, even if they are close in the rankings. With only three away games this season, Notre Dame will avoid hostile environments and be less likely to get upset. I will pick the Miami Hurricanes as one team who can upset the Irish this season. Quarterback Brad Kaaya is special and will be looking to increase his draft stock with a big win in South Bend.
Harrison Huntley (NC State): That’s easy: FSU. It’s in Raleigh, and for whatever reason, NC State always does well against the Noles at home. I think Syracuse has the best chance to pull an upset, just because it’s on the road. Normally I’d say BC or Wake, but both are at home this year so State SHOULD be ok against these guys.
Anthony Caffrey (Syracuse): Most Syracuse fans will say Virginia Tech because it is a home game. But in Week 2, Louisville will have very little film to scout (and Colgate may not provide a preview of the entire offense), a Syracuse team without depth may be as healthy as it will be for any game all year, Louisville will still be “green” on its own, Syracuse is at home, etc. I would not bet your kids’ lunch money on an upset, but it is my pick. As for upsetting Syracuse, it is difficult with so few games to choose from. UConn is likely to be an underdog if Syracuse starts strong, so look for that as a potential loss in the same spirit as the USF win over Syracuse last year. Sadly. Frankly, it would be better for the ACC if B.C. or Wake Forest is the answer to this question–but both may be favored.
Q3: Who is one offensive player from your school for fans of other schools to keep an eye on in 2016?
Steve Callahan (Notre Dame): I know it may be cliché to choose the starting running back, but Tarean Folston is ready to be the star of the Notre Dame offensive attack. Folston was all set to be the starter last season but tore his ACL after three rushing attempts in the season opener. In 2014, Folston had four 100-yard rushing games, including 120 yards and a touchdown at #2 Florida State. Keep an eye out for the senior running back, who will be playing with a chip on his shoulder.
Harrison Huntley (NC State): You won’t see Jaylen Samuels on many watch lists, but that’s because he has no position. He can play RB, WR, TE, and anywhere in the backfield. He’s big and fast, a great combination.
Anthony Caffrey (Syracuse): In this Dino Babers system, gotta go with the QB: Eric Dungey. If he stays healthy and grasps the system, Dungey could put up huge numbers. But those are some big “ifs” to watch for. With a fairly decent compliment of skill players (relative to past seasons), we really may see Syracuse play fast and be fast.
Q4: Who is one defensive or special teams player for fans of other schools to take notice of?
Steve Callahan (Notre Dame): Cole Luke will be the leader in the secondary. The senior is coming off a little disappointing season after his breakout sophomore season. Luke only had 6 passes defended last year meanwhile he had 11 in 2014. Watch the 5’11” senior come back to form in his last year with the Fighting Irish.
Harrison Huntley (NC State): Nyheim Hines is a guy that’s so fast, he lines up at RB and WR. This speed is what makes him a great option when returning kicks and punts
Anthony Caffrey (Syracuse): After 7 years of Scott Shafer as defensive coordinator and head coach, and with a very inexperienced and not-so-deep defense, this could be a struggle. All the more reason that Syracuse will need to score a lot and actually convert turnovers (however many) into points. With linebacker perhaps the area with most returning depth, and Zaire Franklin the junior that was a captain last year as a sophomore MLB likely to anchor that unit, watch Franklin.
Well, that is what these correspondents think. What do you think? Please feel free to share below. And if you are interested in being a correspondent, see here.