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Predicting the 2020 ACC landscape

The Hurricanes won’t need to make room for a new trophy

NCAA Football: Florida State at Miami Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Picture if you can December 8th, 2019. I know that it’s quite a ways away and seeing that far into the future seems futile after the whole Back to the Future predicting Miami’s pro baseball team being good debacle. However, much like Planet of the Apes the musical, I think we can assume they’ll finally make a monkey out of me over these predictions.

However, it’s the off-season and we’re in need of some silly commentary to hold us all over until our beloved football is back. Here are my ACC Football predictions that could shock the world by New Year’s Eve 2019.

NCAA Football: Clemson Spring Game Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Clemson wins the ACC, again

Oh, wait, Clemson winning the ACC again wouldn’t shock anyone. The Tigers are the clear favorite to win the down ACC and I predict they’ll face a two-loss Hurricanes squad in Charlotte, NC. The Tigers return Trevor Lawrence, Travis Etienne, and head coach Dabo Swinney as they reload, they don’t rebuild.

The best chance to knock the Tigers off? The Syracuse Orange seem to have the Tigers number over the past couple of seasons but Lawrence isn’t Kelly Bryant and as long as he’s healthy (and in 2018, even when he wasn’t) The Tigers will hold off Dino Babers Orange.

NCAA Football: Miami Spring Game Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Dan Enos has moved on from Miami

No, there isn’t some wacky in-fighting inside the IPF down in Coral Gables, FL. Instead Dan Enos does so well with the Hurricanes offense and (insert quarterback here) that he’s the new head football coach of the Virginia Tech Hokies in Blacksburg. Justin Fuente has struggled to build and develop and the Hokies fanbase isn’t going to put up with 7-8 win seasons under Fuente.

Enos has head coaching experience from Central Michigan and has been a successful offensive coach at Arkansas and Alabama before coming to Miami. It isn’t going to take long for teams to take notice of his prowess developing QB’s and with the Nick Saban “rub” he’ll get offers before other coaches.

NCAA Football: Temple at Connecticut David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

ACC Coach of the Year, Geoff Collins

Geoff Collins isn’t going to miraculously drive the Yellow Jackets into the ACC Championship Game or anything but to push their way to a 6-2 start before a tough slate of games to end the year would be a wild turnaround for Georgia Tech. Remember, the Jackets were running the flexbone triple option from 2008-2018. That’s a long time for a system and culture to get embedded into the program.

Tech hasn’t used a tight end, a major part of Collins system, since 2007. The Jackets receivers have practiced more downfield cut blocking than option routes, and the quarterbacks were mostly undersized and weak armed runners. Collins will have his work cut out for him changing the culture of Georgia Tech football although his Atlanta area style has already been paying off on the recruiting trail.

He may not out-win Dabo Swinney and Clemson but he’ll do one hell of a job getting the Yellow Jackets into the Coastal conversation by 2019.

NCAA Football: Florida at Florida State Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports

FSU starts secretive search for a new head coach

Willie Taggart is on thin ice. The Florida State head football coach inherited an FSU program that was beginning to fall apart under Jimbo Fisher. In 2018, the Seminoles finished 5-7. In 2019 fans, boosters, and alumni will be looking for a drastic push into the positive direction. The biggest issue is that Taggart, an offensive minded coach, hasn’t found a quarterback of the future.

Another issue is that in his prior two head coaching stops he’s had some massive administrative errors as a CEO. At Oregon it was the rhabdo outbreak and his subsequent hiring and firing of David Reaves in Eugene. At FSU, the ‘Noles have already had issues with players being removed from the program, a low APR grade from the NCAA (mostly Fisher’s fault though, to be fair) and the David Kelly position swap with Ron Dugans fiasco that cost FSU an on-field assistant coach.

Unless FSU can muster an eight win season I can see the Seminole brass looking for a new head coach under the radar for 2020. A few names to consider: Urban Meyer (probably winds up at USC), Brent Venables, Gus Malzahn, and a name they should but won’t look at is UAB’s Bill Clark.

NCAA Football: North Carolina at Duke Nell Redmond-USA TODAY Sports

Heisman Trophy stuff

Trevor Lawrence is going to win the Heisman Trophy in 2019. I’m not that much of a Heisman guy but that’s not exactly too bold of a prediction to throw out there. The award has predominantly been won by QB’s over the past decade and the ACC has had a winner in Jameis Winston back in 2013.

The more striking prediction is that I think UNC running back Javonte Williams gets his Heisman campaign going with a strong 2019 before being a legit candidate in 2020. Breakout stars on breakout programs have won the award in the past- think about Baylor and Robert Griffin III, or Johnny Manziel under Kevin Sumlin at Texas A&M. While A&M isn’t exactly a “breakout program” they have been just above average for the past few decades before Manziel took the college football world by storm.

I have seen Williams run the football in person and I’m really excited about his prospects in a Phil Longo offense. He’ll run for over 1,500 this season and 15 touchdowns in Mack Brown’s resurrection project in Chapel Hill.

NCAA Football: Citrus Bowl-Kentucky vs Penn State Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

‘Canes Bowl Game

Now for the question we’ve all been waiting for: will the Miami Hurricanes make a New Year’s Six bowl game or something one step below? I think Miami lands in the Camping World Bowl against the Oklahoma State Cowboys. While the Coastal and much of Miami’s schedule is weak, having an inconsistent offensive line, no clear-cut starting QB heading into the summer, and most of all a bad kicking game will hurt Miami.

The ‘Canes should never lose to the likes of Virginia, Pitt, Duke, Georgia Tech or UNC but always seem to lose a game here or there to lesser talent. 2019 will be no different and Miami will lose close games because of poor special teams play.

Heading into 2020

With the 2019 season almost behind us at this point in the post, let’s take a look in the crystal ball for 2020.

Tier 1: Clemson Tigers

Tier 2: No one!

On the rise: Georgia Tech, UVA, Miami, and UNC

On the decline: NC State, Wake Forest, Duke

Coaching changes: Virginia Tech

I could foresee changes to the coaching staffs at Virginia Tech heading into 2020 and at Duke and FSU for 2021. One thing will remain certain- unless the ACC can get two more programs into elite status with Clemson, or at least close, it’ll still be “that other southern conference.”