ACC teams are looking to step up their game in 2020, knowing full well that they face a tall order in attempting to unseat Clemson from its 5-year reign as conference champion.
Clemson is 43-2 in ACC games since 2015, including the 5 conference championship game victories.
It all starts with the Atlantic division where Florida State hopes to pose a stiffer challenge to the Tigers under first-year head coach Mike Norvell. Seminole fans and alumni are eager for vast improvement after witnessing the Willie Taggart debacle of a 9-12 overall record and a 6-9 conference mark. More disastrous was an 8-12 record vs. FBS teams and a 6-11 record vs. Power 5 Conference teams.
Either Clemson or Florida State have won the last 9 ACC titles, which means the last time the ACC championship came out of the Coastal division was 2010 when Virginia Tech knocked off Florida State for the title.
The Hokies, with virtually an entire roster returning, will likely be the preseason favorite to win the Coastal this year. If they follow through on those expectations, they would become the first two-time winner of the Coastal division over the last 8 seasons. The big question for Virginia Tech will come on defense where the school won't have Bud Foster (retired) on the sideline for the first time since 1986.
North Carolina could offer a stiff challenge in Mack Brown's second season after the Tar Heels surprised everyone with a 7-6 debut. UNC will be tested in its first two games as a visit to UCF precedes the Atlanta game against Auburn.
Virginia ended a 15-game losing streak to Virginia Tech and won the 20219 Coastal crown, but it's highly unlikely the Cavaliers will repeat that feat. They play Virginia Tech and Clemson on the road, and QB Bryce Perkins is gone. Perkins was unquestionably crucial to Virginia's success last year as he accounted for 79 percent of the Cavs’ yardage and 33 of the team’s 51 touchdowns.
Overall, ACC teams will play 29 games against non-conference opponents that participated in bowl games last season, the most of any Power 5 conference. They have 19 games against Power 5 competition, the most of any Power 5 conference. And ACC teams will play 15 non-conference games against teams ranked in the final 2019 Associated Press Top 25 poll, the most of any Power 5 conference.
The difficult slate starts early, with two ACC teams participating in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff series on opening weekend. Florida State battles West Virginia on Saturday (September 5) and Virginia takes on Georgia in the ACC’s traditional Labor Day spot. A pair of conference games will start the ACC season on Thursday (September 3) with Clemson at Georgia Tech, and N.C. State at Louisville. Another conference clash sends Syracuse to Boston College on Friday (September 4) as the Jeff Hafley era begins in Chestnut Hill. Aside from FSU, Boston College is the only other ACC team that will begin the 2020 season under new leadership.
Week two highlights include a third kick-off classic game in Atlanta when North Carolina faces Auburn, plus the first-ever matchup between Penn State and Virginia Tech when the Nittany Lions travel to Blacksburg.
Honorary ACC member Notre Dame will face Wake Forest in Charlotte on September 26. The Irish will also travel to Pitt (October 17) and Georgia Tech (November 14). Notre Dame has home dates against Duke (October 31), Clemson (November 7) and Louisville (November 21).
As far as recruiting goes, Clemson continues to stack the deck with another number 1 class. 247Sports.com has the Tigers collecting 5 five-star recruits and no other team collecting a single one. Virginia Tech ranked last in recruiting, but had very few scholarships to offer and an abundance of returnees from a fruitful 2017-2019 period when Justin Fuente landed three consecutive top 5 classes.