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The Miss Cleo of College Football’s 2018 Preseason Prognostications: Part I, The ACC and the AAC

I, the Miss Cleo of College Football, have looked up into the heavens and learned what is going to happen this season.

Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl - Florida International v Temple Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images

Give me 10 minutes of your time.

I, the Miss Cleo of College Football, have looked up into the heavens and learned what is going to happen this season.

Today, I am going to start out by previewing the ACC and our very own AAC.

Now for a quick look at what is going to happen nationally in 2018.

Executive Summary:

Playoff Teams: Wisconsin, Alabama, Clemson, West Virginia

National Title Game: Wisconsin 24 Alabama 17

Heisman Trophy Winner: Benny Snell, Kentucky

Coach of the Year: Mark Stoops, Kentucky

My Conference Picks:

ACC:

Championship Game: Clemson 27 Georgia Tech 7

Atlantic:

1. Clemson: Clemson has won 61 games in the last five years. Dabo Swinney has clearly established himself as the best coach in the program’s storied history. There is no reason to think that the Tigers will do anything less than this in 2018. Clemson’s offense can score in innumerable ways and its defensive line of Clellin Ferrell, Dexter Lawrence, Christian Wilkins and Austin Bryant sounds like the first round roll call of the 2019 NFL Draft.

2. Boston College: Steve Addazio’s team is going to ground and pound its way to a 10-win season in 2018. A.J. Dillon has superseded Bam Bam Bigelow as the Beast from the East. With five road graders returning up front, this club has the best offensive line east of Madison. Defensive end Zach Allen and linebacker Connor Strachan lead a stout defense.

3. Florida State: A quarterback short of a trip to the ACC title game.

4. Louisville: Jawon Pass isn’t going to make people forget Lamar Jackson, but he is going to make people remember Jawon Pass. This sophomore 6’4 powerhouse of a passer will develop quickly into one of the ACC’s top signal callers.

5. N.C. State: Last year was a lot of fun in Raleigh. They return a fantastic quarterback in Ryan Finley but many of his leading targets from 2017 are now in the NFL.

6. Wake Forest: Dave Clawson’s crew could sure score some points last year, averaging better than 35 per game in 2017. With a cadre of talented receivers, I expect them to do the same in 2018. The problem is that the Demon Deacons’ defense is too polite for its own good.

7. Syracuse: Great journalism school.

Coastal:

1. Georgia Tech: Taquon Mitchell is arguably college football’s best running quarterback. Tech will rebound from a disappointing 2017. Mitchell will run Paul Johnson’s offense to perfection, bolstered by the play of a largely incumbent offensive line and veteran slotbacks Qua Searcy and Clinton Lynch. Georgia Tech’s new look 3-4 defense under coordinator Nate Woody will also thrive in 2018. Led by inside linebacker Brant Mitchell, this will be a much more aggressive Yellow Jackets team. Look for big things in Atlanta this year.

2. Virginia Tech: Incumbent sophomore starting quarterback Josh Jackson is an explosive player who will get to work in 2018 with a fairly experienced retinue of skill players and several stalwarts on the offensive line. The Hokies have a similarly solid defense but might be in need of some senior leadership. The No. 1 question mark on Tech’s roster is at cornerback. Will superhero-like talent Adonis Alexander ever decide what he wants to be when he grows up? Is it just me, or does Virginia Tech seem like pretend Texas A&M?

3. Miami: 2017’s late-season hangover will continue for Miami. Things will start poorly against LSU and the Hurricanes, who lack experience on defense, especially in their front seven, will struggle to stay in the Coastal division race. The weakness of the bottom half of their division will enable the U to achieve a respectable finish in 2018.

4. Pitt: Pitt has a strong front seven. They have great depth at linebacker and a sturdy D-line anchored by Shane Roy and Keyshon Camp. The departures of Avonte Maddox and Jordan Whitehead left some big holes in the Panthers’ secondary. Pitt has a lot of young talent but few experienced players on offense. Expect them to eek out 6 wins and get back into Capital One Bowl Week.

5. Duke: Best epaulettes in the ACC.

6. North Carolina: Maybe Larry Fedora should spend less time doing crunches and spend more time crootin.

7. Virginia: I hope Bronco Mendenhall listens to podcasts that advertise for ziprecruiter.com.

The American

Championship Game: Houston 24 Temple 17

East:

1. Temple: Geoff Collins found himself a quarterback last season in Frank Nutile. The senior signal caller will be one of the steadiest in college football this season. The Owls have a bruising running back with Ryquell Armstead. Nutile has strong passing targets in wide receiver Isaiah Wright and tight end Chris Myarick. On defense, the Owls will benefit from depth and experience. Their linebacker corps, which is led by Shaun Bradley, is the best in the conference. Safety Delvon Randall is one of the top pass defenders in the AAC.

2. USF: To protect wildlife, confetti, rice, and balloons are not permitted at weddings held on beaches in St. Petersburg, Florida. With rules like that, I think they should change St. Petersburg’s name back to Leningrad. Moreover, Quinton Flowers isn’t walking through that door again. It remains to be seen if new signal caller Brett Kean can lead this offense to the great heights it achieved in recent campaigns.

3. UCF: “après moi le déluge”- Scott Frost. Sure, McKenzie Milton and company are going to put up some points but this defense was battered by graduation, especially in the front seven. They won’t be able to stop anyone from running the football.

4. Cincinnati: Our Bearcats are not that far off from contending for an AAC crown. With Gerrid Doaks bearing the load full-time at running back, our ground game is bound to improve considerably. Quarterback Hayden Moore has legitimate weapons in the passing game in receivers Khalil Lewis and Thomas Geddis. A lack of experience on the offensive line is the Bearcats’ largest offensive question mark. On defense, this team needs to generate a pass rush. We have solid pieces on the defensive front in Marquise Copeland and Cortez Broughton, a pair of strong linebackers in Perry Young and Malik Clements, but, collectively, the front seven needs to bring the heat to bail out our youthful corners. I predict that the Bearcats do just enough to get bowl eligible.

5. East Carolina: The graduate transfer of quarterback Gardner Minshew to Washington State really gummed up the works for this improving team. Their defense will remain a liability in 2018 while the offense lost much of its spark to Mike Leach.

6. Connecticut: Randy Edsall is undertaking a full-scale rebuild in Storrs. Year two won’t be pretty but it will help the Huskies rebuild into a more competitive team in 2019 and 2020. Edsall’s history at UConn gives me confidence that the school’s leadership will give him enough leash to complete this undertaking.

West:

1. Houston: Houston’s Ed Oliver could probably be an NFL All-Pro defensive tackle in 2018. Instead, he will dominate the AAC West. The rest of Houston’s defense is none too shabby either with their retinue of experienced linebackers and defensive backs. The Cougars will throw the ball downfield frequently with D’Eriq King at the helm.

2. Navy: Quarterback Malcolm Perry is an incredibly elusive runner. He will guide the Midshipmen to a strong record in 2018.

3. Tulane: Willie Fritz’s option offense will kick into high gear in 2018. Incumbent senior field marshall Jonathan Banks is the perfect athlete and leader for this offense. Tulane will control the football Georgia Southern-style, overcoming its defensive youth sufficiently to win eight games this season.

4. SMU: A transition year in University Park. I think they will get bowl eligible behind the offensive prowess of quarterback Ben Hicks and tailback Xavier Jones.

5. Memphis: Sure. They’ve got plenty of talent but this is a young team. Memphis’ marvelous freshman and sophomores will lose a lot of games to the good juniors and seniors on the other teams in the AAC West.

6. Tulsa: “I love that the foodie scene here is constantly growing and developing. Customers are becoming more educated and they enjoy knowing what is new, unique, and cool.”- quote from Tulsa restauranteur in 2018 Tulsa Visitor and Vacation Guide.

For more of the same, follow me on Twitter: @ClaytonTrutor