Projecting 2015 Win-Loss Records for Every ACC Football Team

Brian Pedersen@realBJPFeatured ColumnistMarch 31, 2015

Projecting 2015 Win-Loss Records for Every ACC Football Team

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    Grant Halverson/Getty Images

    The ACC had 11 teams play in bowl games last season, sending two into New Year's Day games, including one into the first College Football Playoff. While the overall postseason results weren't spectacular—they collectively went 4-7—all in all the conference had a pretty good year.

    What's in store for 2015? Based on what every team has coming back and the schedules each one has been handed for this fall, we can start making some predictions as to how the ACC will play out.

    We've projected the overall and conference records for all 14 schools, mapping out the entire season and detailing how things will play out in the Atlantic and Coastal Divisions and potential playoff spots. Click through to see how each team should finish during the regular season; then give us your thoughts in the comments section. 

    NOTE: Starters returning based on numbers provided by PhilSteele.com.

Boston College

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    Winslow Townson/Getty Images

    2014 record: 7-6, 4-4

    Starters returning: 9

    Coach Steve Addazio lost more "dudes" than any other team in the ACC, including his starting quarterback and the entire starting lineup. Boston College has been through this before, having to insert an all-new set of skill players last season and still managing to finish above .500.

    But this rebuilding job looks to be a little tougher, as there's no graduate transfer around to play quarterback like Tyler Murphy in 2014. Instead, BC is choosing between two redshirt freshmen (Troy Flutie and Darius Wade) and a true freshman (Elijah Robinson), and whoever gets the job might be running for his life behind an inexperienced line.

    The Eagles open with back-to-back games against FCS teams before diving right into ACC play with a visit from Florida State, and they also have a pair of arduous road trips in October (at Clemson, at Louisville) and November (at Notre Dame, at Syracuse). They could pull a surprise late in the season, but don't expect them to contend in the Atlantic Division. They should fall short of a third straight bowl bid.

    Projected 2015 record: 5-7, 2-6

Clemson

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    RICHARD SHIRO/Associated Press

    2014 record: 10-3, 6-2

    Starters returning: 11

    After being the Atlantic Division bridesmaid for three seasons, this is the year Clemson breaks through and asserts itself as the best team on that side of the ACC and makes a hard push for a playoff berth. That's assuming the Tigers' young but promising offense can carry the mantle while their defense adjusts to new playmakers up front.

    That offense no longer has whiz Chad Morris calling plays, but exciting athletes like quarterback Deshaun Watson and receivers Artavis Scott and Mike Williams will still be able to move the ball. We saw this last year when Watson was healthy, and with him making significant progress from ACL surgery in December, the prognosis for a strong attack is good.

    "This offense has the potential to be as good—if not better—than the crew Tajh Boyd led a few years ago," wrote ESPN.com's Andrea Adelson.

    Shaq Lawson and D.J. Reader must step up on defense to keep the Tigers strong on that side of the ball, though to expect another year of No. 1-ranked production is asking a lot.

    Clemson must beat Florida State to truly show it's the class of the Atlantic, but that game doesn't come until November unlike in the past few years. Instead, the Tigers' early tests come during a four-week stretch in September and October that sees them visit Louisville and host Notre Dame and Georgia Tech on consecutive Saturdays.

    With both of those and FSU all coming to Death Valley, the table is set for a potential perfect season that could hinge on the season-ending trip to in-state rival South Carolina.

    Projected 2015 record: 10-2, 7-1

Duke

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    Gerry Broome/Associated Press

    2014 record: 9-4, 5-3

    Starters returning: 12

    Duke's unprecedented success will continue in 2015, but still look for some drop-off as the Blue Devils must break in a new quarterback, new receivers and replace their most dependable offensive lineman. That offense only ranked 69th in FBS last season, and with further regression Duke must become more dependent on its defense to get the job done.

    Thomas Sirk looks to be the answer at quarterback, though he's been used more to run the ball than throw it to this point. With a decent group of ball-carriers coming back, look for the Blue Devils to eat clock and control the pace in a conference that's becoming more and more uptempo.

    Another soft nonconference schedule—despite two road games—should give Duke plenty of cushion to make a fourth straight bowl game—a school record—and the conference crossover games (Boston College, Wake Forest) are among the easiest possible. But it will be the Coastal Division slate against a collectively improving group that will keep Duke from finishing above .500 in the league.

    Projected 2015 record: 7-5, 3-5

Florida State

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    Grant Halverson/Getty Images

    2014 record: 13-1, 8-0

    Starters returning: 11

    Florida State overcame plenty of attrition to make it through the regular season without a loss last year, but that's because what came back outweighed what was lost. It's not the same in 2015, as the Seminoles figure to be noticeably less effective at numerous positions.

    This goes far beyond just having to replace quarterback Jameis Winston, but that's a big part of it. Whether it's junior Sean Maguire or one of the many freshman and sophomore passers coach Jimbo Fisher has on his roster, he'll be operating behind a rebuilt offensive line. The Seminoles will also be without last season's top two pass-catchers, but the return of rising sophomore running back Dalvin Cook will prevent FSU's offense from falling off too much.

    But FSU's next wave of future stars on defense will have a harder time getting up to speed, despite a schedule that provides a soft cushion until mid-October. That's when the Seminoles host Miami (Florida) and Louisville and then go to Georgia Tech and Clemson (with a visit from Syracuse in between).

    FSU will have another strong year, but it won't be in the playoff conversation and probably won't be playing in the ACC title game.

    Projected 2015 record: 10-2, 6-2

Georgia Tech

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    Marc Serota/Getty Images

    2014 record: 11-3, 6-2

    Starters returning: 13

    Georgia Tech emerged from the muck of the Coastal Division last year to reach the ACC final then pushed Florida State to the limit in the championship game before finishing on a high note with a strong win over Mississippi State in the Orange Bowl. The Yellow Jackets have the capability to make it back to the conference title game again, though it will involve a few more bumps in the road.

    Coach Paul Johnson's triple-option run game ranked second nationally in rushing last season, but outside of quarterback Justin Thomas the rest of the skill positions will feature newcomers. The Yellow Jackets also graduated their best offensive lineman, Shaq Mason, and while this system should still produce, it will struggle early.

    That could prevent Tech from being able to match what it did last season, as the first half of the schedule includes trips to Notre Dame, Duke and Clemson. It also faces Florida State, making for a brutal set of crossover opponents (with Clemson), but gets the Seminoles in Atlanta.

    Projected 2015 record: 8-4, 6-2

Louisville

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    Grant Halverson/Getty Images

    2014 record: 9-4, 5-3

    Starters returning: 9

    The first season of Bobby Petrino's second regime went quite well, though not in the way one would expect under a coach more known for offensive prowess. That's what Louisville will be defined by this season, since its No. 6 defense lost most of its best players, including the entire starting secondary.

    That unit contributed to an FBS-best 26 interceptions in 2014, with safety Gerod Holliman tying the single-season FBS record with 14. Without that assurance that the defense will be there to save the Cardinals, much more pressure will be put on an offense that has uncertainty at quarterback and is relatively young at the skill positions.

    "I've never used the term rebuilding," Petrino said prior to the start of spring football, per Jeff Greer of The Louisville Courier-Journal. "I think what it is is an opportunity for a lot of guys to step up and get their chance to go out and play. I think it's fun because there's literally going to be a lot of competition."

    It might sound like "fun" now, but it won't feel that way when Louisville opens against Auburn in Atlanta then faces Clemson and North Carolina State in the first half of the season.

    Projected 2015 record: 6-6, 4-4

Miami (Florida)

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    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    2014 record: 6-7, 3-5

    Starters returning: 11

    It's a make-or-break season for coach Al Golden, whose overall, conference and bowl records after four seasons are exactly the same as predecessor Randy Shannon. Shannon was fired after that fourth year. Golden has been given more time to show he can make progress, but instead Miami will slip back even further.

    While quarterback Brad Kaaya has the capability of parlaying his solid freshman year into a significant sophomore campaign, he'll have to do that behind a reworked offensive line and without leading rusher Duke Johnson and the Hurricanes' top receivers.

    Miami's defense could be the stronger unit, but that requires Denzel Perryman's production at linebacker to be handled by others.

    The Hurricanes' schedule also isn't one that will make for smooth sailing. The only road game against a team with a losing record from a year ago is a nonconference trap game at Florida Atlantic, and the home slate includes visits from Nebraska, Clemson and Georgia Tech.

    Projected 2015 record: 5-7, 3-5

North Carolina

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    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    2014 record: 6-7, 4-4

    Starters returning: 17

    North Carolina has headed into each of the previous two seasons with great hope and promise, only to see the results instead make the Tar Heels among the most disappointing teams in the country both times out. Late-season recoveries have gotten them into bowl games, but the talent should have led to better than a 13-13 mark.

    Coach Larry Fedora shook up his defensive staff, bringing in former Auburn and Iowa State coach Gene Chizik to revamp a defense that was pathetic in 2014. Even minor improvement will go a long way thanks to an offense that returns 10 starters, including dynamic quarterback Marquise Williams.

    If UNC gets off to another slow start, it could be absolutely disastrous, since that's the easier half of the schedule. The Tar Heels face two FCS teams, get a vulnerable South Carolina in Charlotte and other than Georgia Tech don't face a quality ACC opponent until late October.

    But that final stretch of five games—at Pittsburgh, Duke, Miami (Florida), at Virginia Tech, at North Carolina State—won't be the kind that a team is able to blaze through in order to contend for a division title.

    Projected 2015 record: 7-5, 3-5

North Carolina State

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    Grant Halverson/Getty Images

    2014 record: 8-5, 3-5

    Starters returning: 14

    North Carolina State was one of the most improved teams in the country last year, and the Wolfpack should continue to rise and possibly be in the mix for the Atlantic Division berth in the ACC championship.

    A very balanced offense returns almost completely intact, led by quarterback Jacoby Brissett, and NC State has some young players waiting in the wings to contribute and add to this attack. But the key to this team taking the next step will require its defense to become more consistent and give up fewer big plays.

    Dave Doeren has this team on the rise, and he'll again benefit from a very winnable nonconference slate to build momentum for the conference slate. Last year NC State opened 4-0 and had a big lead at home against Florida State, only to blow that and drop four in a row, a trend that cannot get duplicated if the Wolfpack expect to contend.

    Projected 2015 record: 10-2, 6-2

Pittsburgh

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    Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

    2014 record: 6-7, 4-4

    Starters returning: 15

    Pittsburgh continues its trend of being a program in perpetual transition, with Pat Narduzzi becoming the eighth coach (including interims) since the 2010 season.

    But somehow the Panthers have managed to remain competitive amid all that turmoil, and Narduzzi could have the best team yet during that run thanks to some big names coming back on offense to go with a workable defense that should benefit from his reputation as a defensive guru.

    The combination of juniors Chad Voytik at quarterback, James Conner at running back and Tyler Boyd at receiver might be the best trio in the conference. Conner set the school's single-season rushing record last season, topping NFL Hall of Famer Tony Dorsett, while Boyd is the Panthers' best receiver since Larry Fitzgerald.

    Half of a defense that ranked 34th in yards allowed last season is back, and Narduzzi is apt to make that unit even stronger.

    It won't be an easy schedule, but Pitt also avoids Clemson, Florida State and North Carolina State in crossover games and gets to finish with four of five at home.

    Projected 2015 record: 8-4, 5-3

Syracuse

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    Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

    2014 record: 3-9, 1-7

    Starters returning: 11

    Syracuse will have some bright new alternate uniforms to feature this season, but that might be the high point of what the Orange having going in 2015.

    The bottom fell out last year in upstate New York when Syracuse went 1-5 in the Carrier Dome, and it might not do much better at home this fall with Clemson and LSU among those heading into the dome. A lot will depend on how effective Terrel Hunt looks after missing most of last year with a broken leg, as when the mobile quarterback went down, Syracuse's offense fell apart.

    But more concerning is the need to completely redo Syracuse's defense, with only three starters back. Ranked 27th nationally last season, it will be difficult to come close to that unless the newcomers make a major impact.

    Projected 2015 record: 4-8, 2-6

Virginia

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    Jeff Gammons/Getty Images

    2014 record: 5-7, 3-5

    Starters returning: 10

    Coach Mike London has another year to get things going at Virginia, an assurance he received right before blowing a season-ending game against rival Virginia Tech that would have gotten the Cavaliers into a bowl game. The Cavs might be in a similar win-to-get-in situation this year, but it might actually extend further into the middle of the year based on how their schedule plays out.

    No power-conference team faces as tough a non-league slate as Virginia, which opens at UCLA and hosts Boise State and Notre Dame in September.

    Quarterback play will be a key for Virginia this season, with either Matt Johns or Greyson Lambert needing to separate himself as the better option. Those two split time last year because of injury and ineffectiveness, and the lack of consistency prevented the offense from being able to match a solid defense.

    London's seat is warm for this season, and it figures to stay balmy even as the temperatures fall.

    Projected 2015 record: 5-7, 3-5

Virginia Tech

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    Steve Helber/Associated Press

    2014 record: 7-6, 3-5

    Starters returning: 16

    Coming off a mind-boggling season where it knocked off the eventual national champions and a hot Duke team but lost a 6-3 overtime game to Wake Forest that set college football back decades, Virginia Tech enters at somewhat of a program crossroads.

    Its offense has been one of the most milquetoast in the country on an annual basis, and with the Hokies' defensive units failing to be as dominant in the past, the results have been steadily decreasing. There's also the growing speculation of whether longtime coach Frank Beamer is close to hanging it up, a notion that took on extra life after throat surgery caused him to hand over sideline-leadership duties to his son for last year's bowl game.

    Injuries decimated Tech's offense last season, particularly in the run game, and if several of those guys can return healthy it will take pressure off a pass attack that was hot and cold in 2014 with Texas Tech transfer Michael Brewer at the helm. Brewer is being challenged for the starting job, and whether he wins out or a more efficient passer emerges from the competition could be the tipping point for or against a good season for the Hokies.

    Projected 2015 record: 7-5, 5-3

Wake Forest

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    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    2014 record: 3-9, 1-7

    Starters returning: 16

    Coach Dave Clawson's first season at Wake Forest had very few positives and often had negatives when it came to its run game. The Demon Deacons can only go up after averaging 40 yards per game and 1.25 yards per carry, but they'll need a major boost on offense to be able to really compete.

    A solid defense kept Wake in many games last year, and that looks to be the formula for success again this season with six of its front-seven starters coming back.

    Wake's best best this year is to try to build some early momentum with four straight games to start the year against FCS teams or ones that finished below .500, but after that it will probably be a matter of trying to play spoiler to contenders vying for ACC title spots or improved bowl invitations.

    Projected 2015 record: 5-7, 2-6

    Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.