Midseason ACC football awards and bold predictions for the second half of the 2016 college football season.
Top ACC Coach
Jonathan Bass – Justin Fuente. There seems to be little-to-no friction with incumbent defensive coordinator Bud Foster, Jerod Evans has been spectacular, and as such Virginia Tech has received a much-needed jolt. Bobby Petrino and Dabo Swinney have been fantastic, but Fuente is coming out of the gate much quicker than most expected.
Brian Stultz – Bobby Petrino. He’s doing exactly what he did in his first stint at Louisville: winning and winning big.
Jeff Bartl – Bobby Petrino. Lamar Jackson obviously makes him look better, but the Cardinals wouldn’t be College Football Playoff contenders without Petrino.
Top ACC Player
Jonathan Bass – Heisman frontrunner Lamar Jackson.
Brian Stultz – Lamar Jackson. He’s the most exciting player in college football.
Jeff Bartl – There’s no chance I’m putting someone else besides Lamar Jackson here.
Top ACC Team
Jonathan Bass – Hard to go with anyone other than Clemson, considering they beat Louisville, the conference’s second-best club. The Tigers have looked shaky at times (see: NC State shanking away an upset), but have managed to stay atop the conference
Brian Stultz – Clemson. The Tigers are on the way to another appearance in the College Football Playoff.
Jeff Bartl – It’s Clemson, but I write that begrudgingly. I don’t think the Tigers are as good as they were last year, and it wouldn’t surprise me one bit to see them lose. But they haven’t, so they’re going to stay in this spot until they do.
Jonathan Bass – Florida State losing to UNC. The Tar Heels are good, but heading into the season, if there was any game that would snap FSU’s home winning streak, smart money would’ve been on the Clemson tilt. Ever since the BCS Championship Game against Auburn, there’s been a troubling trend of Jimbo Fisher’s team starting games slowly and then zooming back in the second half. Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn’t. Against UNC, it didn’t.
Brian Stultz – Virginia Tech. The Hokies are reenergized under Justin Fuente after becoming stale in Frank Beamer’s last several years.
Jeff Bartl – Miami’s quick fall. First-year coach Mark Richt had the Hurricanes ranked in the top 10, but they’ve dropped three in a row.
Jonathan Bass – ACC schedulers. Why, oh why, would the league give Clemson, Florida State and Louisville games on Friday nights? That is nothing short of moronic. All three teams were expected to compete for a conference title entering the year, yet have at least one contest where they’re buried on the one night of the week nobody cares about college football. Save Fridays for high school football, and stop hiding your best on-field product. Also, FSU-Louisville at noon is nonsense.
Brian Stultz – Georgia Tech. Is Paul Johnson on the hot seat yet?
Jeff Bartl – Florida State. That might seem strange, but consider the Seminoles began the year ranked No. 3 and expected to be in the CFP discussion. They were absolutely crushed at Louisville, then lost at home to North Carolina. Next week’s matchup with Clemson loses a bit of luster with FSU already having suffered two defeats. It’ll be even more disappointing when … well, check out my bold prediction below.
Bold Predictions For Second Half
Jonathan Bass – Syracuse splits its next four games, and then upsets Pitt at Heinz Field to gain bowl eligibility in its final game of the regular season.
Brian Stultz – Georgia Tech will win only one of its final five games and miss out on a bowl.
Jeff Bartl – Florida State beats Clemson, runs the table, gets really nothing for it. Wins over Miami and Clemson will be wasted because of its earlier flubs.
Who Wins The ACC?
Jonathan Bass – Clemson, though I think they lose a game before the ACC Championship Game.
Brian Stultz – Clemson. The Tigers are too loaded on both sides of the ball to get beat by any team in the conference.
Jeff Bartl – Clemson is going to lose, but it has the tiebreaker over Louisville to reach the conference title game. Therefore I’m taking the Tigers.