In a college football offseason filled with conference realignment news, moves and cues, the ACC finds itself in the spotlight for doing, well, nothing.
There were no announced departures or additions to the Atlantic Coast Conference, but there still were plenty of questions about the future of the league and how it will fit in this land-grab season of major college athletics.
Commissioner Jim Phillips said Wednesday during his ACC Media Days address that his league is exploring all options to strengthen itself off the field.
On the football field, the ACC will also look to get better after a down year in which there was no representative in the College Football Playoff for the first time since its inception, while the conference went 2-4 in bowl games.
The conference will also break in four new coaches this year: Mike Elko at Duke, Mario Cristobal at Miami, Tony Elliott at Virginia and Brent Pry at Virginia Tech.
How they'll do is just one more question in a long list for the ACC this season.
FrontPageBets will try to answer some of them as we break down the conferences favorites, challengers and sleepers.
You know your program has transcended when a 10-3 season is a disappointment. For the first time since 2014, Clemson didn’t appear in the College Football Playoffs. Instead the Tigers settled for a Cheez-It Bowl appearance to wrap up the 2021 season, beating Iowa State.
This year, ACC favorite Clemson is in the top five in odds by most sportsbooks to vie for a national championship. For that to happen, the Tigers must get better offensively, and fast. And that hinges on quarterback play, namely returning starter D.J. Uiagalelei.
Last season, Clemson was second-to-last in the conference in total yards per game (359.2) and ninth in points (26.3). Despite the preseason hype, Uiagalelei struggled last year, throwing for 2,200 yards, nine touchdowns and 10 interceptions as a sophomore, completing just 55% of his passes. Clemson’s passing-yards-per-game offense was 103rd in the nation.
While Uiagalelei is the starter heading into the season, according to head coach Dabo Swinney, five-star true freshman Cade Klubnik, who came to campus early to work out in spring drills, will push for playing time. The Tigers will also have to break in a new offensive coordinator in Brandon Streeter after Elliott left for the head coaching job at Virginia.
Clemson’s defense, however, should be among the nation’s best once again, coming off a season where they finished second nationally in scoring defense, giving up an average of just 14.9 points per game, and eighth in total defense (305.5 ypg).
Longtime defensive coordinator Brent Venables is gone to Oklahoma to lead the Sooners. But new DC Wes Goodwin should be able to continue on with this stud defense.
The challengers: Miami (+550) and Pittsburgh (+900)
Miami will look to win its first-ever ACC football championship. First-year head coach Mario Cristobal returns to The U, where he helped the Hurricanes to two national championships as on offensive lineman in 1989 and ’91.
Cristobal had success leading Oregon to three consecutive Pac-12 championship games and two conference titles. And he’s got talent in Coral Gables, namely quarterback Tyler Van Dyke.
Van Dyke, who is an outside contender for the Heisman Trophy this year at +3500, played extremely well in his freshman season, throwing for almost 3,000 yards in 10 games after coming off the bench three games into the season after an injury to D’Eriq King. Van Dyke was named ACC Offensive Rookie of the Year and ACC Rookie of the Year, throwing for 25 touchdown passes against six interceptions and a 62.3 completion percentage.
Pittsburgh, the defending ACC champion, will need to replace conference Player of the Year in quarterback Kenny Pickett, who also finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting and was drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft by the Steelers.
Those are pretty big shoes to fill, but the Panthers stocked up in the transfer portal during the offseason, bringing in USC’s Kedon Slovis, who has 26 starts under his belt for the Trojans and more than 7,500 passing yards and 58 touchdowns in three season.
The entire offensive line returns for Pitt, which also returns three running backs who saw action last year.
The Panthers defense also returns seven starters, which led the ACC in rushing defense per game and limited opponents to under 24 points per game.
Seventeen starters return for the Wolfpack, which is the most in the conference. Last year, N.C. State went 9-3 and was supposed to face UCLA in the Holiday Bowl before the Bruins had to pull out because of a COVID-19 outbreak. Returning starter Devin Leary leads N.C. State at quarterback, coming off an historic season.
Last year, Leary set a single-season program record with 35 touchdown passes, breaking Philip Rivers’ 2003 record of 34. Leary’s 157.1 passing efficiency is second-best in school history, while his 65.7% completion percentage is third-best in Wolfpack record books.
Paul Sullivan: Ranking all 30 MLB teams at the All-Star break
1. New York Yankees (2)
2. Houston Astros (7)
3. New York Mets (10)
4. Los Angeles Dodgers (1)
5. Atlanta Braves (5)
6. Tampa Bay Rays (13)
7. Milwaukee Brewers (8)
8. Philadelphia Phillies (15)
9. St. Louis Cardinals (12)
10. Boston Red Sox (17)
11. San Diego Padres (3)
12. Seattle Mariners (14)
13. Toronto Blue Jays (6)
14. Miami Marlins (19)
15. Minnesota Twins (21)
16. Baltimore Orioles (30)
17. Chicago White Sox (4)
18. Cleveland Guardians (23)
19. Texas Rangers (20)
20. San Francisco Giants (9)
21. Colorado Rockies (25)
22. Detroit Tigers (16)
23. Arizona Diamondbacks (24)
24. Los Angeles Angels (11)
25. Chicago Cubs (27)
26. Pittsburgh Pirates (28)
27. Cincinnati Reds (26)
28. Kansas City Royals (No. 18)
29. Washington Nationals (22)
30. Oakland Athletics (29)
Mike Szvetitz is the General Manager and Content Director for FrontPageBets.com. Szvetitz is a 22-year veteran reporter and editor, including serving 17 years as a sports editor in Florida, Alabama and Virginia, covering everything from preps to pros. His "View From The Lazy Boy" column won multiple state and national awards. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.