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Previewing the ACC Atlantic Division
Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports

Previewing the ACC Atlantic Division

This division begins and ends with Clemson until someone proves otherwise. It is foolish to predict anyone else even though they are breaking in a new QB and a new running back as well as 5 other offensive starters. But, there is no reason to feel sorry for the Tigers as they recruit as well as anyone and the Atlantic Division isn’t exactly stocked with powerhouse programs. If new QB, D.J. Uiagalelei comes through as expected, a lot of questions will be answered.

The best of the rest might just be the NC State Wolfpack who are returning a lot of offensive firepower especially if QB Devin Leary stays healthy which is questionable. The defense has to shore up their ability to stop the run and will they be able to win a couple of toss-up games. They get Clemson and North Carolina at home and road games at Miami and Florida State could very well define their season.

Will Florida State make giant strides in Coach Mike Norvell’s second season? The Noles were a dismal 3-6 last year but Norvell can coach and had their usual Top-25 recruiting class. They also gain the services of UCF-transfer QB, McKenzie Milton, who is just what the doctor ordered if he is healthy. He is coming back from a horrendous knee injury and time will tell what he can do. Another priority will be massive improvement on the defensive side of the ball.

Wake Forest has an experienced offense returning from a 4-5 team in 2020. But, the defense is leaky, and depth is always a problem for the Deacons. They are always well-coached and usually knock off someone they shouldn’t but a small private school has too many problems to contend for championships. However, a soft early schedule gives them an opportunity to build some momentum.

Boston College went 6-5 last year and has high hopes coming into the 2021 season. They have a good returning QB in Phil Jurkovec who transferred from Notre Dame and had a breakout year in 2020. The receivers are solid and the offensive line returns all 5 starters. On defense the optimism is not near as high. Linebacker is a problem area, at least on paper, and there needs to be improvement across the board. But, home games against Missouri and NC State will probably be key to a couple of more wins.

In the horse country of Kentucky, there is optimism among fans of the Louisville Cardinals with QB, Malik Cunningham, back for a third season at the helm. However, the Cards must find a running back and some capable receivers. The non-conference schedule is potentially tough with home games against Kentucky and UCF and a neutral site game in Atlanta with Mississippi. If Louisville loses all three of those it could be a tough year.

Finally, there are tons of question marks at Syracuse. They are coming off a 1-10 season and an 8-game losing streak. Their offensive line was awful last year and must show improvement. The QB is back but he is going to need some help. The defense isn’t much better. The non-conference schedule is manageable and there is a chance to start the season 3-0 and that will go a long way in determining how their season will turn out.

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