ACC football predictions 2022: Conference standings, impact transfers, best games

Will Clemson hit back in 2022?

The Tigers had a streak of six straight ACC championships last season in a year dominated by 40-point offenses.

Pitt averaged 43.0 and won the conference championship behind the efforts of quarterback Kenny Pickett, who finished third in Heisman Trophy voting. Wake Forest averaged 41.2 points per game and won the ACC Atlantic Division. The conference features a wealth of quarterback talent in 2022. Six ACC quarterbacks are ranked in SN’s Top 25 QBs for 2022.

There were four coaching changes, and all took place at the ACC Coastal. Duke’s Mike Elko, Miami’s Mario Cristobal, Virginia’s Tony Elliott and Virginia Tech’s Brent Pry are the new coaches on the block. A few other ACC coaches might be in the hot seat, including Florida State’s Mike Norvell, Georgia Tech’s Geoff Collins and Syracuse’s Dino Babers.

MORE: SEC Predictions | Big 12 Predictions | Big Ten Predictions | Pac-12 Predictions | 2022 All-America Team

Last season offered a sense of parity within the conference, but Clemson still won 10 games in 2021. The Tigers are ready to bounce back, but they need offense to keep up with their ACC counterparts.

Who is coming out on top in the ACC this season? Here’s a closer look at the ACC, with predictions, big games, Heisman competitors and more:

2022 ACC predicted finish order

ACC Atlantic

  1. Clemson
  2. NC state
  3. guard forest
  4. Louisville
  5. State of Florida
  6. Boston College
  7. Syracuse

Clemson has the nation’s longest home winning streak at 34 games, and NC State (October 1) and Miami (November 19) both come to Memorial Stadium. The road to the ACC Championship still leads through Death Valley. The Wolfpack remain the top challengers, returning most of their production as of 2021, including quarterback Devin Leary. This is Dave Doeren’s best shot at an ACC championship. Wake Forest’s place is tenuous with Sam Hartman sidelined indefinitely with a non-football illness. Louisville, Florida State and Boston College are interchangeable in places 4-6. Of those three, the Eagles are the only ones with a .500 record over the past three seasons at 18-18. Syracuse has won two ACC games or fewer in five of Dino Babers’ six seasons.

ACC coast

  1. Miami
  2. North Carolina
  3. Pitt
  4. Virginia
  5. Virginia Tech
  6. georgia tech
  7. duke

Too early for Mario Cristobal? Miami has enough talent around quarterback Tyler Van Dyke, and North Carolina and Pitt visit Hard Rock Stadium. The non-conference game at Texas A&M on September 17 should be an interesting barometer for the Hurricanes. North Carolina was the chic offseason sleeper last season, and now they’re off the radar. The Tar Heels are an interesting bounce back candidate with either Jacolby Criswell or Drake Maye as quarterback. Pitt has a tough schedule within the division with road trips to North Carolina (Oct. 29), Virginia (Nov. 12) and Miami (Nov. 26). The Panthers didn’t win in Miami or North Carolina under Pat Narduzzi. Virginia and Virginia Tech are a toss-up with their new coaches, but the Cavaliers have the better record over the past three years and Brennan Armstrong is a real answer at quarterback. Georgia Tech’s Geoff Collins is 7-18 in the ACC game and Duke opens a new chapter with Elko. Will he keep them as competitive as David Cutcliffe?

Top Storyline: What About The U?

The Hurricanes have been 136-90 since joining the ACC in 2004 — and they have yet to win a conference championship. Cristobal’s arrival has raised hopes that The U can return, but it really begins to build a team capable of winning that first conference title.

Miami is 16-26 against ranked opponents since 2004, which is the third best record among full-time ACC schools. Clemson (34-22) and Florida State (20-28) are better. That’s the way back, and Van Dyke offered hope by beating back-to-back ranked opponents in Pitt and NC State last season. He had 751 yards, seven TDs, and one interception in those two games.

The ACC needs Miami as a challenger for Clemson, and a worthy one at that. Once that happens, there can be serious talk of The U coming back.

Impact newbies

Cade Klubnik, QB, Clemson

Klubnik (Westalke, Austin, TX) is a five-star quarterback from a Texas football factory, and he’s become a popular name among Clemson fans. He’s not the starter, but there’s enough talent he could be pushing for the job if DJ Uiagalelei falters. It will be interesting to see how new offensive coordinator Brandon Streeter interferes with Klubnik early in the season, if at all.

Zach Reis, T, North Carolina

Rice (Liberty Chiristan Academy, Lynchburg, Va.) is a 6-5, 320-pound five-star tackle Mack Brown got in the 2022 recruit class. Rice missed fall camp through injury, but if he’s healthy he should be able to work on the rotation. He could be a full-time starter in the second half of the season.

transfer effects

Kedon Slovis, QB, Pitt

Slovis joined from USC and will be looking to get his career back on track. Pitt has a new offensive coordinator in Frank Cignetti Jr. Slovis has a bizarre career arc. He had 30 TDs and seven INTs as a freshman but has 28 TDs and 15 INTs over the past two seasons. He’s the X factor in Pitt’s hopes for a second straight ACC championship.

Grant Wells, QB, Virginia Tech

Wells has to beat South Carolina transfer Jason Brown for the starting job, but there are reasons to buy into the Marshall transfer. He was 14-9 as a starter, and that experience could help ease the transition to Pry. Wells struggled with turnovers last season and that needs to change.

Frank Ladson, WR, Miami

Ladson hasn’t played much for Clemson in 2021. He’s had 428 yards and six TDs over the past three seasons, and now he’s getting a second chance with the Hurricanes. He’s home now and could find a rhythm with Van Dyke in a high-volume offensive.

Kobie Turner, DE, Wake Forest

Turner, a 6-3, 290-pound edge rusher, joined from Richmond where he was a disruptive player. Turner has compiled 31.5 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks over the past three seasons. He could develop further with the Demon Deacons.

Heisman hopefuls

DJ Uiagalelei, QB, Clemson

Crazy how that could work. Uiagalelei needs to improve after having nine TDs and 10 interceptions last season. If he struggles, Uiagalelei could end up behind Klubnik on the depth chart. Or Uiagalelei could thrive on a conference championship team and field big numbers and get into the Heisman mix. Which door should it be?

Tyler Van Dyke, QB, Miami

Van Dyke has had three or more TD passes in each of Miami’s last six games. The wins over NC State and Pitt were stepping stones, and he was to thrive under Cristobal. Miami hasn’t had a quarterback in the Heisman mix since Ken Dorsey finished second in 2001.

Devin Leary, QB, State of NC

Devin Leary

Leary is the real deal. He has 35 TDs and five interceptions this past season, a +30 TD:INT ratio that was third behind Bryce Young of Alabama (+40) and CJ Stroud (+38 of Ohio State). This flawless game is the reason the Wolfpack are considering an ACC championship. Rivers placed seventh in the 2003 Heisman poll.

ACC’s biggest games of 2022

1. NC State at Clemson (Nov. 1)

The Wolfpack defeated Clemson in a 27-21 thriller last season, a game in which Leary passed for 238 yards and four TDs. The next step is winning at Memorial Stadium. NC State has not won there since Philip Rivers led a 38-6 blowout on October 24, 2002.

2. Miami at Clemson (Nov. 19)

The Tigers have won the last three games with an aggregate score of 136-20. That included a 42-17 smasher at Death Valley in 2020. This could potentially be the Tigers’ 40th straight home win. Remember, the Canes have the 58-game home winning streak record, set from 1985-1994.

3. North Carolina in Miami (8 Oct)

This is an early swing game on the ACC Coastal schedule, and the Tar Heels can make a mark here. Brown is 3-0 against the Hurricanes since returning to Chapel Hill, and the most recent trip to Miami was a 62-26 blowout in 2020.

4. Pitt in Miami (Nov. 26)

The Panthers have won the ACC Coastal twice in the last four years, but have lost to the Hurricanes four times in a row in that run. Narduzzi is 1-6 against Miami. This game could decide the division, and the Rivalry Week spotlight makes it more interesting.

5. NC State in North Carolina (Nov. 25)

The rivalry takes place on Black Friday, and it’s a crossover game that should be exciting given last year’s 34-30 nailbiter won by the Wolfpack in Raleigh, NC. Will this result have any bearing on who makes the ACC Championship game? It’s possible, and one of these teams could also be a spoiler.

ACC stats that count

For all the offensive struggles, Clemson only allowed 15.0 points per game last season. The Tigers conceded 20+ points to four division opponents in Louisville, Florida State, Wake Forest and NC State. Defensive coordinator Wes Goodwin is the replacement for Brent Venables, and the Tigers are bringing back three SN Preseason All-Americans in Bryan Bresee, Myles Murphy and Trenton Simpson. Clemson should be very good on this side of the ball, but offense needs to follow.

ACC Champion: Clemson

The schedule is not easy. The Tigers have back-to-back weeks of ACC Atlantic games against Wake Forest and NC State, and November sees a road trip to Notre Dame on Nov. 5 before two home games against Miami and rivals South Carolina to end the season. This isn’t one of those years to hammer the Tigers’ soft schedule. Defense should be dominant, and Swinney has proven in the past that he’ll make a tough quarterback decision when it comes to that. The Tigers return to the CFP for a chance to renew their heavyweight credentials.

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