Best and Worst Case 2014 Scenarios for Every ACC Football Team
Everyone is undefeated in July. Then again, everyone is winless as well.
Each team in the ACC has the potential to go 15-0 or 0-12 this year, so before the Florida State Seminoles can object, here's a look at the realistic best and worst-case scenarios for each squad.
The conference should be its deepest in years, especially with the addition of Louisville. That means every win will have to be earned if the likes of Wake Forest or Virginia hope to sneak into bowl games or if Florida State or Clemson wish to contend for a national title.
Best Case: Head coach Steve Addazio finds a solid quarterback who can minimize mistakes. Myles Willis has a breakout year in the backfield behind a strong and experienced line on the way to an eight-win season for the Eagles.
Worst Case: Boston College looks inexperienced and unsure in its opening games with only nine returning starters from a year ago. With no playmakers at quarterback or receiver, this year's team cannot match last year's win total and manages only four victories.
Best Case: The Tigers retool and find playmakers like quarterback Cole Stoudt to replace Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins. The defense becomes the best unit in the conference and carries the team in a few close wins to snag 11 victories.
Worst Case: Clemson can't muster much on offense as it searches for answers at both quarterback and receiver. The QB competition extends well into the season and becomes a polarizing point in Death Valley en route to seven wins and a mediocre bowl apperance.
Best Case: The exact same thing that happened on the way to the national title last year. Jameis Winston backs up his Heisman season with another prolific year and his receiving corps come up big when he needs them most. The Noles run the table and repeat as national champs.
Worst Case: Winston has a sophomore slump and his defense gives up points with several young starters on this year's squad. Florida State can't wake up in the opener against Oklahoma State and slips up again against Clemson to finish 11-2, just outside of the four-team playoff.
Best Case: The Cardinals score points almost at will as the offense returns almost everyone not named Teddy Bridgewater. New starter Will Gardner plays within the offense and allows his teammates to carry the load on the way to 10 wins.
Worst Case: The defense forces the offense to put up big numbers just to stay in games. With four all-conference defenders leaving last season, Louisville gets rung up by opposing passing attacks and can only manage seven wins in a disappointing first season back for Bobby Petrino.
North Carolina State
Best Case: The Wolfpack shows great strides in Dave Doeren’s second year at the helm with Florida transfer Jacoby Brissett now eligible to play at quarterback. He leads an experienced offense to eight wins.
Worst Case: The defense once again gives up over 30 points per game, and the Wolfpack lose some winnable games to the ACC bottom-dwellers. A sub-.500 season repeats from last year.
Best Case: Syracuse rides the momentum from a strong finish last season. Quarterback Terrel Hunt has a breakout year and puts up huge numbers, especially in the nonconference slate, opening up the run game against ACC foes.
Worst Case: The defense can’t cope with the loss of linebacker Marquis Spruill and others. The Orange let a few games get away from them and can only reach five wins against a relatively easy schedule.
Best Case: The Demon Deacons find a quarterback who minimizes mistakes and capitalizes on opportunities to score. The defense keeps every game close, and the Deacs get to six wins after sweeping the nonconference games.
Worst Case: The offense can’t score points due to a lack of weapons, and while the secondary is strong, Wake can’t stop the run and gets worn down when fourth quarters come around. Dave Clawson’s first year yields only three wins.
Best Case: The Blue Devils repeat their 10-win season and go bowling for a third straight year. Kelby Brown leads a formidable defense at linebacker and the Dukies return to the ACC title game.
Worst Case: Leading receiver Jamison Crowder does everything he can to carry the offense, but the Blue Devils can’t keep their quarterback upright. The defense fails to force turnovers like last year and the team dips back to a six-win season.
Best Case: Quarterback Justin Thomas has a breakout year in the triple-option, and a downfield threat emerges to keep defenses honest. The Yellow Jackets minimize turnovers and beat Georgia to reach eight wins.
Worst Case: Paul Johnson can’t find reliable running backs to pair with Thomas, and the offensive line is slow to pick up the option at the start of the season. A tough schedule only allows five wins as the Jackets miss a bowl for the first time under Johnson.
Best Case: Miami achieves its full, talent-laden potential as it reaches the program’s first ACC title game.
“The Hurricanes have concerns at quarterback and on defense, but in terms of overall talent, Miami owns the No. 2 roster in the ACC,” says Athlon Sports’ Steven Lassan.
Duke Johnson plays a big part of the run to 10 wins and a New Year's Day bowl.
Worst Case: The Hurricanes start slowly and get beat by Nebraska in the highly anticipated nonconference clash. Injuries take their toll on the talented squad again, and the defense shows no improvement from its struggles last year as the Hurricanes fizzle at the end for a six-win season.
Best Case: The Tar Heels passing attack continues to improve under quarterback Marquis Williams, who threw for almost 300 yards per game over the last month of last season. The Heels pick apart secondaries for a nine-win season and a New Year's Eve bowl.
Worst Case: The defense doesn’t allow the offense to shine as they give up long drives and allow over 400 yards per game for the second straight year. Every contest is a high-scoring affair on the way to a 6 – 6 season.
Best Case: An offensive line that returns four starters dominates teams off the ball, and receiver Tyler Boyd provides a safety blanket when things break down. Pitt rides an easy schedule to nine wins and contends for the ACC Coastal Division crown.
Worst Case: The defense rebuilds this year after key loses like Aaron Donald, and it shows on the scoreboard. Quarterback Chad Voytik struggles to find consistency in his first year and Pittsburgh only claims five wins.
Best Case: The Wahoos find a quarterback who relies on steady production from running back Kevin Park, who leads the conference in rushing yards. Virginia runs out the clock on a few ACC opponents and reaches six wins and a bowl game
Worst Case: The Cavaliers have talent on offense but no one to shoulder the load at quarterback. The one-dimensional attack means defenses can key on Parks, and only two nonconference wins keep the Cavs from going winless.
Best Case: The Hokies return to prominence under Frank Beamer. Talent at both running back and receiver makes the offense dangerous and V-Tech gets 10 wins in spite of a tough schedule.
Worst Case: The defense can’t match its stout efforts from a year ago, when it gave up 19.3 points per game. Kendall Fuller can’t impact games at corner as offenses avoid him and attack the D-line. The Hokies fall out of contention in the Coastal Division and finish with seven wins.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand.