The 71st season of Atlantic Coast Conference football begins on August 31 with two games. Over the five-day period known as Labor Day Weekend, 12 games in all will involve teams from the ACC. Two of those games will be conference openers, Georgia Tech vs Louisville, and the preseason favorite to win the league the Clemson Tigers vs Duke. Let’s get started with a look at week one of the college football season.
Three teams from the league find themselves in the preseason Associated Press Top 25 poll. Florida State at #8, Clemson at #9, and North Carolina at #21. Four other programs received mention. Pittsburgh, Louisville, Duke, and North Carolina State. The conference boasted two players, both on the defensive side as preseason first-team All-Americans by the Associated Press. They are defensive end Jared Verse of Florida State and safety Kam Kinchens of Miami. Eight other players were named to the second team. The league will play 27 games against teams that appeared in bowl games a season ago. They also play 23 games against Power-5 programs and 11 non-conference games vs teams ranked in the AP preseason Top 25. Thirteen of the fourteen schools will play one game vs a Power-5 school. Eight schools will play two.
Clemson will begin their season as the favorite to win the ACC for the eighth time in the last nine years. They received 103 votes out of the 176 that were cast by media members. They have won at least 10 games in a season for 12 straight seasons. The Tigers are only the third FBS program to have 11 seasons of ten wins, joining Florida State and Alabama who both did it for 14 straight years. On Labor Day night, the Tigers begin their season on the road at Duke. Last season, the Blue Devils were 5-1 at home on their way to a nine-win season. Duke’s offensive line is anchored by Graham Barton who was named to the Sporting News preseason All-American Status. He also holds a Pro Football Focus grade of 88.2, which was done at the end of last year. That grade ranks him fifth in the nation among offensive tackles. He was the only Power-5 tackle to have an 85.0 grade as both a pass and run blocker. This will be just the fourth time these two schools have met in September.
The other conference game has the Yellow Jackets hosting the Cardinals in the Aflac Kickoff Game. Georgia Tech’s junior DB LaMilies Brooks is coming off a season in which he picked off three passes, had 10 passes defended, and 52 tackles. Pro Football Focus grades him as the #3 ranked safety in the league. He earned All-American grades in both pass coverage (86.8) and overall defense (81.5). Louisville center Bryan Hudson has been named to the Rimington Trophy Watch list. Started all 13 games for the Cardinals a season ago, helping the Cardinals offense to average 201 yards on the ground. He was in on 852 snaps and had the highest grade of any member of the group. Both schools will be debuting new head coaches in this game. For the Yellow Jackets, Brent Kay takes over after being the interim head coach and going 4-4 in 2022. For Louisville, Jeff Brohm takes over after spending six seasons at Purdue.
For the second year in a row, the Florida State Seminoles will play in the Camping World Kickoff vs #5 LSU. Last year FSU won a 24-23 thriller over the Tigers that jump-started them to a 10-win season for the first time since 2016. DE Jared Verse was the only player in the league and one of only two Power-5 players to have four games of 2.5 tackles for loss last season. Verse finished the year with 48 tackles, 17 of which were for losses, and nine sacks. Florida State has won eight of the ten previous meetings between the two schools.
Experience at the quarterback position can go a long way toward having a successful season. In the ACC, most teams have that luxury. Eight of the fourteen teams have QBs that have made at least 14 career FBS starts. Virginia Tech’s Grant Wells leads the group with 38. Before transferring to N C. State Brennan Armstrong made 30 starts with Virginia. Florida State Jordan Travis is third with 27.
All season long we will be here with news on the ACC. Enjoy opening weekend!!
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