Clemson’s domination of ACC football is now over a decade old and there is not any indication of the dominance ending soon. There have been instances of others challenging, remember Louisville a few years back, but the attempts fail.
Clemson regularly loses top players to the NFL and the Tigers did so again after the 2020 season. But head coach Dabo Sweeney’s team is still loaded and the other schools will be chasing them again in 2021.
I am looking for North Carolina to win the ACC Coastal. UNC also lost talent to the 2021 NFL Draft, but Heisman hopeful Sam Howell remains at quarterback. Howell should be even better this fall as should the Tar Heels defense. How much of a challenge North Carolina can make depends on if head coach Mack Brown can find some skill players to surround Howell.
If he takes the leap most think he will, the Tar Heels will hold position atop the Coastal for the season’s duration. The defense creates pressure and contains the opponent’s passing game well, too. What kind of improvement, if any, arises from this group remains unknown, though, along with who emerges for Howell to throw to. It can’t be a one-man show, but that one player is quite skilled.
My surprise team in the Coastal is Virginia Tech. The Hokies have a talented quarterback in Braxton Burmeister and solid pieces around him at the skill positions and offensive line. Virginia Tech had little defense in 2020 but are hoping adding Clemson’s Jordan Williams to the defensive line can create pressure up front.
Clemson should top the Atlantic Division again. Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne are gone, but the Tigers expect to reload and win again and challenge for a National Title. Quarterback DJ Uiagalelei steps in as the signal-caller and he will work with a skilled supporting cast. The defense is still loaded, too, and should stop everyone in their way. I expect a perfect conference season.
Wake Forest could surprise many this fall. Though the Demon Deacons have numerous questions on the defensive side of the ball, they have plenty of offense. Quarterback Sam Hartman will put up points as there will be plenty of skill position players for him to choose from.
The player to watch this season is clearly Sam Howell. The junior is looking to build off two terrific years as the starting quarterback in Chapel Hill. Howell has the look of an NFL signal-caller. His completion rate was close to 70% last year and you know NFL scouts love that he has only thrown 14 interceptions over the past two seasons. In other words, he takes care of the ball.