Pitt broke Clemson's six-year stranglehold on the ACC Championship last year. The Panthers won the Coastal division, and then defeated Atlantic division champs Wake Forest by turning consecutive interceptions into 14 points to turn a 24-21 lead into a 45-21 win in the title game at Charlotte.
Pitt subsequently lost to Michigan State in the Peach Bowl. The Spartans rallied from a 21-10 deficit in the fourth quarter with 21 unanswered points to sink Pittsburgh 31-21. Both teams were without their main star as Kenny Pickett (QB, Pittsburgh) and Kenneth Walker III (RB, Michigan State ) both sat out. Pickett finished 3rd in Heisman voting and Walker 6th.
Overall, the ACC was just 2-4 in bowl games. Miami, BC and Virginia all withdrew from games they were slated to play due to Covid issues.
For 2022, Pittsburgh looks poised to repeat in the Coastal in the final year of the ACC using divisions, but the ACC media poll had Miami over Pitt.
Clemson is picked to return to the top of the Atlantic and prevent Pitt from a perfect season by edging he Panthers in the conference title game. As a result, the Tigers would likely take what would have been Pitt's spot in the Final Four. But Clemson's run the its ACC slate of games relies on the pick of a home win over NC State on October 1 which appears to be a de facto division game. But, you should also circle Clemson's visit to Wake Forest the week before that, as well as NC State's game at home against Wake on November 5.
NC State brings back 17 starters, but not its top two rushers from a year ago, or its top receiver, or to two of its top four tacklers.
Wake Forest was dealt the bad news on August 10 that QB Sam Hartman will be out for "an extended period of time" because of a non-football-related issue. Hartman is the type of player who could literally make-or-break a season for his team.
Duke, Miami, Virginia and Virginia Tech all open with a new head coach. (See: Coaching Changes) Of those, Mario Cristobal at Miami appears to have the most talent to work with and is projected to finish second in the Coastal after a 6-0 start in its conference slate. If the 6-0 start holds true, the 'Canes will have an excellent opportunity to determine their own destiny as they visit Clemson and host Pitt in their final two games.
Virginia Tech is picked to go bowling in the first season under Brent Pry (formerly Penn State DC) as he looks to instill the Frank Beamer/Bud Foster lunch pail toughness that Justin Fuente destroyed.
Virginia's new man in charge is former Clemson OC, Tony Elliott. Brennan Armstrong is back at QB, and his top three receivers also return. But there just 10 returning starters overall with 4 on offense and 6 on defense.
At Duke, Mike Elko replaces David Cutcliffe whose 13-year tenure ended in a third straight losing season (3-9) that included a winless ACC campaign (0-8). Elko has been Jim Fisher's defensive coordinator at Texas A&M for the last four seasons,
|2||9||North Carolina State||ACC-A||89.20||81.77||11||1||7||1||35|
|*Clemson defeats Pitt in the ACC Championship game in Charlotte|