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Staff Roundtable: How will the Hoos do in the ACC? Which team has surprised so far?

Someone on staff thinks Virginia goes 8-4 and another thinks 5-7. Who will be right?

NCAA Football: Florida State at Syracuse
“Hey, we almost shut you out.”
Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

We are on the cusp of starting the ACC season, and Virginia welcomes Louisville to kick things off this weekend. With three games in the books, we asked the staff here at Streaking the Lawn how they think the Hoos will fare in the ACC this season, and which team has been a surprise (good or bad) so far this season.

Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below!

Pierce: I think the Hoos will go 3-5 in the ACC games, with wins over Louisville, UNC, and one of the Duke/Pitt/GT group (probably GT if I have to pick). While Miami has struggled some early this year, I don’t think UVa’s going to have enough to keep up with the Canes...and I’ll predict a win against VT after I see the streak is over with my own eyes. NCSU should be too strong to realistically predict a W - so best case scenario would be 4-4 with two wins in the tossup group. The biggest changes for me have been VT answering questions about their defensive roster and its ability (though the FSU win sure looks less impressive), Louisville’s inability to score, and just how terrible UNC has looked so far. All three are relatively unexpected, but the debacle in Chapel Hill is probably the most dramatic.

Tiki: I agree with Pierce that 3-5 looks like the most likely outcome. The three home games are all winnable, with both Louisville and UNC seeming like obvious win opportunities. We still don’t really know what Pitt is, but GT might not be good and we’ve historically played pretty well in Atlanta. Since I don’t see Virginia beating Miami, NC State or VT, Pitt/GT are the key games. Both of those games are probably in the “toss up” category right now, so let’s say they got 1-1. I’m also (pleasantly) surprised at just how bad UNC has been. But that’s a matter of degree, because we already knew they were bad. But FSU is shocking. Yeah, they struggled last year. But we all assumed that was largely due to the injuries, and eventually the team basically giving up. This year, they seem healthy, they were top 20 preseason and they look like garbage. They’re 123rd nationally in scoring, against a pretty easy schedule (VT notwithstanding). That’s the biggest surprise, by far in my opinion.

Danny: I think 3-5 is a reasonable prediction for the ACC schedule. The obvious three wins are the games that UVA is currently favored to beat (Louisville, UNC, and Pitt), but nothing is predictable with Virginia football. The Hoos could upset Miami at home, but stumble against Pitt and still be 3-5. The road games against Duke and Georgia Tech are winnable as well. The team that has changed the most compared to my preseason opinion would be Louisville. While I thought replacing Lamar Jackson would be tough, I did not think the Cardinals would struggle this much to the point in which UVA would be favored in this matchup.

Tiki: Danny, I almost went with Louisville as my biggest surprise. Really thought they’d be better than this.

Brian Leung: I’m actually a little more optimistic than these guys. I’m going with 4-4 for a 7-win season to reach bowl eligibility again. I’m mostly there with Pierce, with wins over Louisville and Carolina, and then taking a look at that Duke/Pitt/GT toss-up group, except that I think Virginia can take two out of three. I think Georgia Tech might actually be bad. I think Pitt might actually be confusing, but mostly not good. Duke I think could actually look pretty good when that time comes. Florida State is my big surprise so far this season. We knew Louisville would have some question marks, and most of us ranked them preseason right in the middle of the pack. But we all ranked FSU as a top-four conference team and, at least to this point on the season, everyone on STL has them as a bottom-four team. WOOF.

Hobeck: I’m gonna go crazy on this one. I’m thinking UVA will split the first four games of the ACC slate, losing a close one to Miami and Atlantic Division contender NC State, while beating Lamar Jackson-less Louisville and injury-riddled Duke. In that stretch of UNC, Pitt, and Georgia Tech, I expect the Hoos to drop one of those winnable games - most likely Georgia Tech, a team they haven’t beaten on the road since 2008. Including the Liberty win, that would put Virginia at 7-4 heading into the Virginia Tech game. While the Hokies are undoubtedly a good team and it’s fair (read: clinically sane) to approach that annual game without expecting a win until UVA does finally win one, VT hasn’t been much more impressive than UVA has to this point. They cruised against Florida State, a team that’s dropped from 3rd to 13th since the preseason in my power ranking, and against FCS William & Mary. Bud Foster’s Week 12 defense is always better than his Week 1, sure, but I don’t think that relatively young corps won’t be able to stop the three-headed monster of Perkins, Zaccheaus, and Ells. I think UVA finishes 8-4 with a 5-3 conference record.

Wiley: As always, I’m going to blindly follow the analytics. Bill Connelly’s S&P+ predicts just a shade under four wins for the Hoos in the ACC (3.99, to be exact). Game by game, the projections fit the eyeball test: favored against Louisville; win one of three against NC State, Miami, and Duke; and favored again at home against Pitt and North Carolina before two tough road matchups to close the slate. None of what the numbers say jumps out at me as categorically nonsensical, so I’ll fall in line: 4-4, plus a win over Liberty, to go 7-5 overall.

Ryan Reese: I’ve got Virginia going 4-4 in the ACC. Wins against Louisville, Duke, Pitt, and UNC; leaving losses against NC State, Miami, Georgia Tech, and VA Tech. Call me crazy, but 5-3 isn’t out of the question with the games against Georgia Tech and VA Tech being winnable. FSU is my biggest surprise. With as much talent as they have, I’d expect them to be at least more competitive. I watched most of their game against Syracuse this Saturday and it wasn’t even remotely as close as the 30-7 score may appear.

Will: I am reminded of the old adage “Never forget, we are a UVa blog.” 3-5? 4-4? I have only been a UVa fan for 15ish years now, but over those 15 years, I have never seen anything to inspire confidence that a UVa team will punch upwards and be 2-3 wins better than I thought they were going to be heading into the season. No, this team will beat Liberty to go 3-1 in the out of conference portion and disappoint yet again with a sound 2-6 ACC record leaving us to love the bottom of the Coastal division yet again. They’ll probably beat UNC and they might even do something strange like beat Louisville or miracle a win against Miami, but there is far too much hope for anything more than that to happen. And end the streak against Virginia Tech? There is no chance. 5-7. Miss a bowl.

Darns: I think Virginia is going to get wins over Louisville, UNC, one of Pitt/Georgia Tech, and Liberty to head into the game with Virginia Tech at 6-5. Unlike my esteemed colleagues who need to see it to believe it (which I totally understand), I think Virginia goes on the road, has nothing to lose, and actually decides to score some points and pick up a win in Blacksburg to go 7-5. This varies slightly from my preseason podcast predictions, because Duke has honestly been the biggest surprise to me..and in a good way. They’ve dealt with injuries left and right and still have an unblemished record with two power five wins. I still think that’s a winnable game for the Hoos, but seeing how Pitt and Georgia Tech have played so far, those seem like much easier wins.