Well, my article assignment today is on the ACC football season, and the conference winner. This will be pretty darn easy: No one is beating Clemson barring major injury/COVID issues on the Tigers – even with stars like Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne in the NFL (both with the Jaguars). Clemson is a massive -700 favorite on the college football odds to win a seventh straight ACC title.
Analysis ACC Football 2021 | Can Clemson Be Dethroned?
Last year, the Tigers did actually lose a regular season game, which is pretty rare. Lawrence was out due to COVID issues when Clemson visited Notre Dame and lost 47-40 in double overtime. However, with Lawrence back the Tigers got revenge in the ACC title game with an easy 34-10 win over the Irish. Lawrence had 412 yards of offense and three touchdowns and Etienne ran for 124 yards and a score. Clemson’s depleted defense allowed Notre Dame to pile up 518 yards in the first meeting, but limited the Fighting Irish to 263 yards in the title game. The Irish were only one-year ACC members and are back to independent.
Coach Dabo Swinney recently got great news when wide receiver Justyn Ross was been medically cleared to play this season. Ross has been out since March 2020 with a congenital fusion in his spine, a condition he was born with but was unaware he had. In 2019, Ross had a team-high 66 receptions for 865 yards and eight touchdowns — a year after gaining 1,000 yards as a true freshman. Ross has been named to several preseason award watch lists.
While Lawrence may go down as the best QB in school history, the Tigers have another five-star talent in D.J. Uiagalelei. He completed 78-of-117 passes for 914 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions in 235 snaps over 10 games (two starts), while also adding four rushing touchdowns amid his 28 carries for 60 yards last year. His 146.4 pass efficiency rating was fifth-best by an ACC freshman quarterback since 2002.
Clemson will be favored in every game without question but could realistically lose its non-conference opener against a very good Georgia team on Sept. 4 in Charlotte. Both will be ranked in the Top 10, maybe Top 5.
The best quarterback in the ACC, though, probably is North Carolina’s Sam Howell – while Clemson should cruise to the Atlantic Division title, either North Carolina (+700) or Miami (+800) should win the Coastal. Neither plays Clemson in the regular season.
Howell could be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. He led the ACC and ranked sixth nationally with 30 touchdown passes and led the ACC and was fourth nationally with 3,586 passing yards. His 68 total TD passes over his first two seasons are the most through a sophomore year in ACC history and are tied for the school record.
Howell, who was named Preseason ACC Player of the Year, enters the 2021 campaign on additional watch lists for the Maxwell Award, Davey O’Brien Award and the Walter Camp Football Foundation Player of the Year Award.
Miami also has a tremendous returning QB in D’Eriq King. He tore his ACl in Miami’s bowl game but will be good to go for the season opener against Alabama.
“It looked like nothing had happened,” Coach Manny Diaz recently said on King’s mobility. “You see the guy spin some of the throws in there and what I actually really liked was — and I felt like he was intentional a couple of times — he took off and he ran…You could see he wanted to go and know he could go, and back up what he had done with our training staff and our [physical therapy] staff and our strength staff in the summer.”
UNC hosts Miami on Oct. 16 and the winner of that will face Clemson for the ACC title.Expert PredictionClemson over Miami in ACC title game
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