ACC Football: How the 2020 schedule breaks down for each team
Jeff Griffith (@Jeff_Griffith21)
August 6, 2020
In late July, the ACC announced how it would be doing things for football this season — at least, how the league hopes to do things in 2020. In doing so, it became the first Power 5 league to announce such a plan.
As of Thursday, that plan has dates. ACC teams — which, this year, include Notre Dame — will play 10 league games, with one non-conference game in state.
For now, we'll keep it in the conference. Here’s a quick primer on each team’s in-league outlook:
CLEMSON TIGERS (10-0): Clemson is running the table, and that shouldn’t be a surprise. The Tigers do have to gon the road to Notre Dame, but they’re just flat better than the Irish. Case closed.
NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH (9-1): I don’t think Notre Dame is quite as cleared cut a No. 2 as it feels, and potentially stumbling blocks exist in the form of a mid-season trip to Pittsburgh and a late-season trip to UNC on the road to Charlotte. Still, I’d favor the Irish to win every game but one.
These next three were or four were all in a similar tier to me; they can all challenge the top two, but they won’t — at least, I don’t expect them to.
MIAMI HURRICANES (7-3): I still like Tate Martell. Miami has three really tough road games in Louisville (Week 2), Clemson (Week 5), and Virginia Tech (Week 10) that I’d all pick to be losses. The key toss-up is with UNC in the final week of the season. The ‘Canes are at home, so I give them the edge.
NORTH CAROLINA TAR HEELS (7-3): But, I still think UNC posts seven wins. The Heels are one of just three teams to avoid Clemson, and other than Miami, their only tough road game is Florida State. UNC also has arguably the best chance to beat Notre Dame, at home in the season’s second-to-last week.
VIRGINIA TECH HOKIES (7-3): I’m higher on the Hokies than most, and expect them to get the job done in what is probably their most pivotal game on the schedule — the previously-mentioned home game against Miami in Week 10. I legitimately expect VT to start 8-1 against this schedule, but a sneaky-tough trip to Pittsburgh followed by Clemson to close the slate will doom what will look to be an open door to the ACC title game.
LOUISVILLE CARDINALS (6-4): Talent-wise, I had Louisville right in the same tier as Miami, UNC, and Virginia Tech, but just a smidge behind. As a result, I’ve got the Cardinals dropping road trips to Pittsburgh, Notre Dame and sneaky Virginia, as well as a home tilt with Virginia Tech. Louisville avoids Clemson, though, so if the Cards can flip a couple of those toss-ups, they’ll be in business.
I see the next two in a weird purgatory area. They’ve both got talent, and I think they can hang with anyone, but anything over .500 would be in line with expectation in my eyes.
FLORIDA STATE SEMINOLES (6-4): The Seminoles go on the road to Miami, Notre Dame and Louisville in the span of four weeks, with a home game against UNC right in the middle. To be honest, it’s probable they lose all four of those, but I have them winning the home game. Otherwise, FSU is looking at winnable home games, road trips to the league’s bottom-tier teams, and of course, Clemson. 6-4 is the pick, but 5-5 is pretty likely, too.
PITTSBURGH PANTHERS (6-4): Same story here for Pitt; I have the Panthers winning the games they’re supposed to and picking off one or two surprises. Notably, I have Pittsburgh taking down Virginia Tech and Lousville, both at home. A mid-season stretch of Miami (road), Notre Dame and Florida State (road), with Clemson looming two weeks later (road), will turn a hot start into an average year. Virginia Tech (home) is slotted in between that group, so 5-5 is also plausibe for Pitt.
This next group is just below average. I think they have the talent to win some games, and the extreme ceiling may be six or seven wins, but I feel comfortable with a slightly sub-.500 record for this trio.
WAKE FOREST DEMON DEACONS (4-6): Every time I think Wake is going to be bad — or just okay — they end up being, well, a little better than okay. They get Clemson and Notre Dame out of the way in the first four weeks of the season, which is clutch. What’s weird about Wake’s schedule? Virginia Tech and Miami are home games. I have them as losses, but at home, that’s winnable. And Syracuse, Duke and NC State — three of the league’s more beatable foes — are all road trips. I have them pegged as wins, but wouldn’t be surprised to see Wake drop one or two. 4-6 is the pick, but don’t be shocked to see two wins for this team. Or seven.
SYRACUSE ORANGE (4-6): Syracuse is Wake Forest’s antithesis. The Orange play all the tough teams on the road — Clemson, Notre Dame, Louisville, Pittsburgh, UNC — and all the more winnable games at home — Georgia Tech, Duke, BC, NC State, Wake Forest. Seems like a recipe for 5-5. I think Wake is slightly better, though, hence the sixth loss.
VIRGINIA CAVALIERS (4-6): Without Bryce Perkins and Bryce Hall, I expect Virginia to take a step back this season. The Hoos avoid Notre Dame, but go on the road to Clemson, Virginia Tech, Miami and Florida State. I went out on the limb and have the Cavaliers picking off Louisville at home, but the other three wins feel solid to me.
I don’t expect these squads to be very good. That’s about it.
NC STATE WOLF PACK (2-8): I’ve got the Pack winning home games against Duke and Georgia Tech. I could also see a home win over Wake Forest in Week 2, and a road win at Syracuse in Week 12.
DUKE BLUE DEVILS (2-8): Duke was rough last year, and I don’t see much improvement in 2020. I do think, however, that the Blue Devils are better than BC and Georgia Tech, so that’s one home win and one road win for the ledger.
BOSTON COLLEGE EAGLES (1-9): Boston College is better than Georgia Tech, so there’s your win. A win at Duke seems doable as well, as does a win at Syracuse; the Eagles always play ‘Cuse tough.
GEORGIA TECH YELLOW JACKETS (0-10): No wins. Sorry, Yellow Jackets. The best opportunity, though, comes at home against Duke. That one was a toss-up for me given that it’s in Atlanta.