The Atlantic Coast Conference enters its first season with 14 teams as University of Pittsburgh as well as Syracuse University have joined the conference.
Boston College had a disappointing season last year, only winning two games. Steve Addazio was named new head coach in the offseason. He was previously the head coach at Temple University. Quarterback (QB) Chase Rettig returns for his senior season after passing for more than 3,000 yards last season. He will have help in the passing game from fellow senior wide receiver (WR) Alex Amidon who caught more than 70 passes last season for more than 1,000 yards. On the other side of the ball, linebacker (LB) Steve Divitto looks to make the most of his final collegiate season after recording more than 90 tackles last season. Boston College will have tough road games against Clemson and USC. Addazio will be expected to immediately improve the win total of the team with so many experienced seniors playing on the team.
Clemson comes off an 11-2 season including a Chick-fil-A Bowl game victory against Louisiana State University. Everyone should expect this team to contend for the ACC Championship, as well as for a National Championship. One of the most important returning starters is senior QB Tajh Boyd who passed for close to 4,000 yards last season. He also added 10 touchdowns on the ground. He will have help in the passing game from WR Sammy Watkins who recorded more than 700 reception yards last season. LB Spencer Shuey returns for his senior season after making more than 90 tackles last season. Clemson will start the campaign with a home game against University of Georgia. The game will likely indicate where both teams stand early in the season.
Florida State University
FSU is coming off a 12-2 season including a victory in the Orange Bowl against Northern Illinois University. The biggest question mark heading into this season is how to replace graduated QB EJ Manuel, who was drafted by the Buffalo Bills. There is currently a quarterback competition going on between redshirt freshman Jameis Winston and redshirt sophomore Jacob Coker. In the spring game last April, Winston completed 12 of 15 passes for 205 yards, and two touchdowns. Coker completed 15 of 26 passes for 186 yards and one touchdown, but also threw two interceptions. The Seminoles return two running backs who had a lot of success last season. Devonta Freeman rushed for more than 600 yards and eight touchdowns last season, while James Wilder ran for more than 600 yards and 11 touchdowns. WR Rashad Greene returns for his junior season after catching six TDs last year. LB Christian Jones had close to 100 tackles last season, and will look to make the most of his final collegiate season. Fans in Tallahassee will expect the Seminoles to continue its success and make a run at the ACC Championship as well as the National Championship.
North Carolina State University
NC State enters its first season under Head Coach Dave Doeren, who was in charge at Northern Illinois last season. The Wolfpack is coming off a 7-6 season, including a disappointing loss to Vanderbilt in the Music City Bowl. QB Mike Glennon graduated last season which has created an ongoing quarterback competition going into this season. RB Shadrach Thornton rushed for close to 700 yards in his freshman season, and he will look to improve this season. WR Quintin Payton returns for his senior season after recording close to 800 reception yards last year. Defensive end (DE) Darryl Cato-Bishop had more than six sacks last season, and will look to make the most of his final collegiate season. Fans in Raleigh should expect Doeren to bring them back to a bowl game this season.
The Orange enter its first season in the ACC with new Head Coach Scott Shafer. Previous Head Coach Doug Marrone took the head-coaching job with the Buffalo Bills. QB Ryan Nassib graduated last season, and Shafer has yet to name a starting quarterback for this season. The run game will have plenty of experience with Jerome Smith returning for his senior season after rushing for close to 1,200 yards last season. LB Cameron Lynch recorded more than 40 tackles and four sacks last season. Lynch, only a junior returns looking to continue going after the quarterback. Fans in Syracuse will expect their team to go back to a bowl game, but they do face a few difficult opponents this year. They play Northwestern, Penn State and Florida State this season.
Wake Forest University
WFU will be hungry to make a bowl after just missing out last season with a record of 5-7. QB Tanner Price returns for his senior season after passing for more than 2,000 yards last year. Price will have help in the passing game from WR Michal Campanaro who recorded more than 700 reception yards last season. RB Joshua Harris added more than 600 yards on the ground last season. LB Justin Jackson also returns for his senior season after recording more than 80 tackles and four sacks last year. Demon Deacons fans will hope that their team gets back to their winning ways, and returns to a bowl game.
University of Maryland
Maryland comes off a disappointing season, managing to only win four games, but has reason to have hope this year with numerous starters returning. Last year the quarterback position dealt with numerous injuries. C.J. Brown, injured in the spring of 2012, will start this year after sitting out last season. Brown will look to make the most of his final season. He passed for more than 800 yards in 2011. WR Stefon Diggs had more than 50 receptions and six TDs in his first collegiate season, and more will be expected of him in his second season. CB Dexter McDougle will look to make the most of his senior season after recording more than 70 tackles last year. Fans in College Park will expect their team to improve their record and possibly return to a bowl game.
Duke comes off a frustrating bowl game loss to Cincinnati in the Belk Bowl, their first appearance since the 1994-1995 season. Fans in Durham shouldn’t have to wait that long again to see their team in a bowl game. QB Sean Renfree graduated last season, and will be replaced by Anthony Boone this season. He passed for more than 500 yards and five touchdowns in his sophomore season. He will have help in the passing game from WR Jamison Crowder. Crowder had more than 1,000 reception yards and eight TDs last season. DE Justin Foxx returns for his senior season after recording more than 40 tackles and close to five sacks last year. Duke will have a tough road game when they travel to Blacksburg in late October to play Virginia Tech.
Georgia Tech was allowed to go to a bowl game, despite a 6-7 record and a loss in the ACC Championship. They made the most of it, and beat USC in the Hyundai Sun Bowl. They return many starters on both offense and defense. QB Tevin Washington graduated last season, but one of his potential replacements Vad Lee did get a lot of valuable playing time. He passed for close to 600 yards in his freshman season. RB David Sims returns for his senior season after running for close to 700 yards and four touchdowns last year. WR Robert Godhigh also returns for his senior season after catching four TDs last year. The defensive side will feature DE Jeremiah Attaochu who recorded 10 sacks in his junior season. Yellow Jackets fans will expect their team to get back to a bowl game this season.
The Hokies come off a 7-6 record that included a Russell Athletic Bowl Victory against Rutgers. While winning a bowl game is always impressive, in 2011 the Hokies went 11-3 and did not live up to their expectations for last season. QB Logan Thomas returns after passing for close to 3,000 yards last season and rushing for nine touchdowns. The team will miss several wide receivers from last season, but they do have WR Demitri Knowles who in his freshman season caught close to 20 passes for more than 200 yards and one touchdown. Senior DT Derrick Hopkins will anchor the defense this season after recording more than 50 tackles and close to four sacks last year. Fans in Blacksburg will expect their team to get back to a bowl game and be a contender for ACC Championship. Starting the season against the defending national champion University of Alabama Crimson Tide will by far be their toughest challenge.
University of Miami
Miami comes off a 7-5 season with no bowl game. They self-imposed a bowl sanction due to an NCAA investigation. Since the investigation is ongoing, the NCAA has yet to inform the university of any penalties or sanctions, however that may change in the near future. QB Stephen Morris returns for his senior season after passing for more than 3,000 yards last season. Morris will have help in the passing game from WR Phillip Dorsett who had more than 800 reception yards last season. The run game will feature RB Duke Johnson who rushed for more than 900 yards and 10 touchdowns in his freshman season. DE Anthony Chickillo is back on defense after recording more than 40 tackles and four sacks last year. Assuming there are no sanctions from the NCAA, fans in Coral Gables will expect this team to get back to a bowl game and possibly contend for the ACC Championship.
University of North Carolina
UNC comes off a 8-4 season. The team was also not eligible for a bowl due to NCAA sanctions. Among returning players is QB Bryn Renner who threw for more than 3,000 yards and 28 touchdowns last season. Assisting him in the passing game will be WR Quinshad Davis who had more than 60 receptions for close to 800 yards in his freshman season. DE Kareem Martin returns for his senior season, after recording 40 tackles and four sacks last year. While there is much to look forward to in Chapel Hill this year, the Tar Heels will face a tough opponent in week one when they play the University of South Carolina.
University of Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh heads into its first year in the ACC coming off a 6-7 record and BBVA Compass Bowl loss to the University of Mississippi. Tom Savage will replace graduated senior Tino Sunseri at QB this year. Savage has plenty of experience, having been a quarterback at both University of Arizona and Rutgers University before transferring to Pittsburgh. He was the starting quarterback at Rutgers as a freshman in 2009 and passed for more than 2,000 yards and 14 touchdowns. WR Devin Street also returns for his senior year. He had close to 1,000 reception yards last year. DT Aaron Donald looks to finish his collegiate career on a high note on the defensive side after recording close to six sacks last season. Fans in Pittsburgh should expect the Panthers to get back to a bowl game.
University of Virginia
Virginia comes off a disappointing season in which they only won four games. The starting quarterback this season will be QB David Watford who sat out last season as a redshirted player. Watford did see some action in 2011 as a freshman and passed for close to 350 yards that season. He will have help in the passing game from WR Tim Smith. Smith returns for his senior season after recording more than 400 reception yards and four TDs last year. RB Kevin Parks will be back after rushing for more than 700 yards in his sophomore season. Among the seniors returning on defense is DE Jake Snyder who recorded more than 40 tackles and close to three sacks last season. Fans in Charlottesville are hoping the Cavaliers will improve their record this season and get back to a bowl game.
Statistics courtesy of Phil Steele’s College Football 2013 preview.
Images courtesy of sportslogos.net