Keeping with the football spirit, here is the breakdown of the best of the best and greatest conference in college football history. This is our annual SEC prediction which will show the picks for the championship as well as individual awards which will excite even the most cynical of fans. These picks are as good as money, and you can say that you “heard it here first!”
With 10 of 11 starters returning on offense, the main question marks are on the defense. With how the defense disappointed last season, there could be a chance that even though there were major losses on the defensive side of the ball, the team could rank higher in total defense than last year’s squad. The main thing everyone will be watching will be quarterback Aaron Murray who needs to raise his big game poise for his team to take the next step.
I almost do not even need to write anything about our defending champions. It feels like this team is set up so perfectly to win 4 out of 5 National Championships this season. They are one of the best program dynasties that we have ever seen, and possibly the greatest. If they can get past Texas A&M and LSU, they could run the table yet again.
SEC Dark Horse- South Carolina Gamecocks
This team has the best player in the conference in Jadeveon Clowney, and a solid overall team. The Dual quarterback play has always scared me, but has become the way Steve Spurrier likes to run things. Dylan Thompson and Connor Shaw both have starter potential and the confidence to get it done. Mike Davis is a solid replacement for Marcus Lattimore, and this should fuel them to big places and potentially a BCS bowl game.
This team returns 4 out of 5 offensive lineman and the top two rushers from last season in Rajion Neal and Marlin Lane. Justin Worley is stepping in at QB and they have 8 starters returning on defense, this is enough for new head coach Butch Jones to work with. They will look more like the Tennessee teams of the past.
Western Division Surprise Team- Auburn Tigers
With the Gus Bus coming to town, this team can actually use the talent that new head coach Gus Malzahn actually recruited. He will be able to maximize their early potential, and I think he will build this program back to a championship level. Nick Marshall has transferred in to become a quarterback in this offense, and as a former defensive back at UGA it shows his athleticism.
Conference Champion- Georgia Bulldogs
This probably shocked most of you, but this seems to be too perfect of a storm for Alabama to repeat, and you have to like this offense that returns everyone. The defense will be ready by this time in the season to contain the Tide enough for Murray and the offense to finish the drill.
Conference MVP- UGA QB Aaron Murray
If the Bulldogs are to win the championship, then Murray will have to be at this level and thrive. He has all of the tools and weapons to get it done.
Offensive Player of the Year- UGA RB Todd Gurley
Gurley is potentially the best running back in the nation, and his hard-nosed running could coax any deficiencies in the defense this season.
Defensive Player of the Year- South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney
Possibly the best player in the nation, but Clowney is never satisfied, so he will stay hungrier than ever this season.
Coach of the Year- Tennessee HC Butch Jones
The job of turning around the Volunteers is no easy one, especially with no SEC experience under his belt. He will take this team back to the rocky top.
Newcomer of the Year- Auburn QB Nick Marshall
This JUCO transfer played quarterback in high school and when he went to UGA they made him a defensive back and now he gets to play his desired position with the Tigers. He could have all the talent that Malzahn needs to make this unit go.
Full Conference Predicted Standings
This is how I see this conference playing out this season, with some usual suspects leading the way. There are 10 total bowl teams in this conference, by my calculation.
SEC Eastern Projected finish SEC Western Projected finish
1. Georgia 11-1 (7-1) 1. Alabama 11-1 (7-1)
2. South Carolina 10-2 (-2) 2. LSU 10-2 (6-2)
3. Tennessee 8-4 (5-3) 3. Texas A&M 10-2 (6-2)
4. Florida 9-3 (5-3) 4. Auburn 8-4 (4-4)
5. Vanderbilt 7-5 (3-5) 5. Mississippi 7-5 (4-4)
6. Kentucky 4-8 (1-7) 6. Arkansas 5-7 (1-7)
7. Missouri 4-8 (0-8) 7. Mississippi State 4-8 (1-7)
That’s right everyone, football is back and no other way to kick it off with a conference preview to get you excited for this year. This will be the annual ACC prediction for this fall with everything from conference champion right down to the individual awards predicted. Whatever you see, go ahead and mark it down because it’s going to happen. Well let’s go ahead and dive into it…
The Clemson Tigers will take the Atlantic Division, but not by a landslide by no means. They will experience stiff competition from their division rival Seminoles, but they get to play them at home this year, probably at night, which will swing heavily into their favor. They have the most explosive offense in the ACC and a defense that showed some late season improvement which is encouraging going into this season. This is it, led by Senior QB Tajh Boyd and Junior WR Sammy Watkins, this is their year to do it big and leave their mark on the last year of the BCS. If they can get out of their own way and beat who they are supposed too and earn some tough, much needed wins against rivals Georgia and South Carolina, they could very well be in position for that chance at a national championship. I see Clemson doing it and atleast winning the ACC, but don’t be shocked if this time in November you look up and they are in prime position for a National Championship appearance.
Coastal Division Champion- Miami Hurricanes
Last year’s real division winner, but due to self-imposed sanctions removing them from postseason play, the Miami Hurricanes did not represent the Coastal division in the ACC championship game. This year, as long as there are no more sanctions imposed or self-imposed, Miami should make their first trip to an ACC championship game since it has joined the league. That’s right it has yet to make a trip, man how far “The U” has fallen. This year should be redemption though, led by Senior QB Stephen Morris and rising star RB Duke Johnson, their offense should continue putting up points. A solid, experienced offensive line will be their biggest asset on their offense to open up holes for Johnson. Their defense is the weak link but will see improvement, I mean as porous as it was, it has too. Their schedule is a pretty favorable one that should have them in first in the Coastal by the end of the season. Not going to be a classic Miami type season but look for Miami to have a solid enough year to win the division.
The reigning Conference Champion, FSU will be looking to defend their title and has more than enough weapons and experience to do so. They return all their offense except their starter at QB which may or may not be a good thing, as far as talent goes. His experience will be missed though for sure. Stepping in is freshman Jameis Winston who could be a star very soon in this league. There are experienced, very good pieces around him on offense to help him along. The Seminoles’ strongest unit is ofcourse it’s defense which will reload and look to be the main reason it will pull through games this season. They lose K Dustin Hopkins, but no worries, they will be more than fine at that position with K Robert Aguayo who nailed a 58 yarder in their spring game. They pose the only threat to Clemson and rightfully so, although the big game is in Clemson, this team has all the pieces to defend their title. Watch out for the Noles, if they get past Clemson, they would win the ACC and could be a dark horse for a National Championship appearance.
Atlantic Division Surprise Team- N.C. State Wolfpack
In the Atlantic Clemson and FSU are head and shoulders above everyone else, but if there was a surprise team, it would be those pesky N.C. State Wolfpack. Just ask Clemson and FSU who has been the biggest thorn in their sides, I’m sure they would say these guys. First year head coach Dave Doeren looks to continue his coaching career success here after being at Northern Illinois for the past two seasons. Using his ‘Run ‘n Gun’ type offense to put up lots of points, N.C. State will be sure to be in every game along with solid play from their defense as usual. With an early home game against Clemson, this would be a perfect time for a signature win. Other than Clemson and FSU, the rest of their schedule is very winnable, so look out for the Wolfpack to make some serious noise this season.
Coastal Division Surprise Team- Georgia Tech
The Wramblin’ Wreck got a chance to really surprise this year, and if it weren’t for FSU, I might even say a dark horse for the conference. They are in the position that their schedule could either be really daunting for them or very easy for them. I’ m saying it will be quite manageable for them. Their biggest improvement needs to be on defense and going back to the 4-3 should help that because they never really had success in the 3-4. Led by LB Jeremiah Attaochu, this defense will be hungry to redeem itself. Their offense will be led by new QB Vad Lee, who has probably the best tools of any QB Paul Johnson has had to work with in his offense. Their offense will keep them relevant in every game and could very well be on their way to a quiet, surprising successful season in the ACC. Better hope that’s how it is or you can feel the seat under Paul Johnson getting ever so hotter.
Two New ACC Teams- Pittsburgh Panthers and Syracuse Orange
Well the ACC has officially gotten bigger everyone. This year 2 former Big East (now AAC) members have defected. Pittsburgh will be apart of the Coastal Division and Syracuse apart of the Atlantic Division. I expect two rough starts for these two but the good thing about the ACC, who knows what can happen, but look for both of these to be around the middle of the pack at best just for the reason of transitioning to what I feel is a tougher conference than what they were apart of. Either way Pitt, Syracuse, welcome to the ACC and good luck on your new journey in a new conference.
Conference Champion- Clemson Tigers
Too much talent and to much of a fiery, good coach to not win the conference. Yabo-Dabo-Doo and his Tigers will take home the ACC Championship this year. If they are able to atleast win the big one against FSU, the rest of their ACC schedule is very manageable so long they don’t trip up themselves. If they make it to the big game, no one in the Coastal Division is even close to Clemson, it would be a landslide, once again showing that the true two best teams in the conference are in the same division. No matter how it’s done, if they do it, they would have certainly earned it, a tip of the cap to Clemson when they capture the Conference Championship this season.
Individual Player Awards:
Conference MVP- Clemson QB Tajh Boyd
If Clemson is going fulfill their expectations this season by winning the Conference and possibly more, he has to be the MVP, simple as that.
Offensive Player of the Year- Clemson WR Sammy Watkins
The former freshman phenom is more focused than ever and is determined to be great again. He’s too explosive to not be the OPY and his big season could mean big things for Clemson and his NFL future, so no more motivation needed.
Defensive Player of the Year- FSU CB Lamarcus Joyner
Pound for pound the hardest hitter in the ACC and maybe even the hardest hitter in the game, this play making corner will be all over the field for the FSU defense and be the leader of a unit that could very well be top 10 again this season.
Coach of the Year- Miami HC Al Golden
Leading Miami to their first Conference Championship game since their ACC inception and first Conference Championship in their history has to warrant him a Coach of the Year.
Newcomer of the Year- FSU QB Jameis Winston
The future star that will be the face of FSU football very soon, if he gets settled in the ACC early, it could be a very good year for the Noles. Maybe so good it leaves Clemson fans very disappointed.
Full Conference Predicted Standings
Now a quick look at how I see the entire ACC playing out this season, a very interesting but more competitive conference it will be this year.
Atlantic Division Coastal Division
1. Clemson 12-1 (8-0) 1. Miami 9-4 (6-2)
2. Florida State 10-2 (6-2) 2. Georgia Tech 8-4 (5-3)
3. N.C. State 8-4 (4-4) 3. Virginia Tech 8-4 (5-3)
4. Maryland 7-5 (4-4) 4. North Carolina 7-5 (4-4)
5. Wake Forest 6-6 (3-5) 5. Pittsburgh 6-6 (3-5)
6. Syracuse 4-8 (2-6) 6. Virginia 3-9 (1-7)
7. Boston 3-9 (0-8) 7. Duke 3-9 (0-8)
So there you have it, the entire ACC football preview, getting you excited isn’t it? I know it’s getting me excited. I can’t wait for football season and all that it holds. Who do you think will win the ACC? Who do you think will be the MVP? What about the surprise teams? Hope you enjoyed reading about the upcoming ACC season. Let us know what you think right here, we are very interested in hearing your opinions on the upcoming ACC season.
The former Panther stud back is now playing for the home town NFL franchise. He is listed as the 6th running back on the Falcons roster behind tailbacks Steven Jackson, JaQuizz Rodgers, Jason Snelling, Antone Smith, and fullback Bradie Ewing. The Falcons recently made the move to sign Steven Jackson, and it looks like the only potential playing time at tailback will come between him and JaQuizz Rogers as well as Jason Snelling, the others will be splitting time on special teams.
This would be big for Georgia State if Russell could make the hometown team, because there has been recent success for GSU players making NFL rosters. Russell has the type of potential to create a very recognizable brand for Panther football. The program is making the jump this year into Division 1 and entering the Sun Belt Conference, with Georgia Southern soon to follow.