Bronco Mendenhall is one of the hottest coaches out there – will he be make the championship game again without QB Bryce Perkins to support him? Sophomore QB Brennan Armstrong isn’t as talented but could perhaps shift the UVA offense to a more run-focused game. Thus, Wayne Taulapapa could be the difference maker for the Cavaliers this season.
Pitt will surely have a dominant defense with returning safeties Damar Hamlin and Paris Ford lurking deep, but the offense has a lot of question marks. QB Kenny Pickett is ok, but will the O-Line (which had many problems last year) be able to set him up for success? The Pitt offense will have to have a good run game – AJ Davis could be the difference between contending for a good bowl or losing almost every game.
The main headline from Duke’s offseason is bringing in QB Chase Brice, who backed up Trevor Lawrence at Clemson. Chase Brice looked extremely promising in his playing time at Clemson, granted this wasn’t during Clemson’s best opponents. Brice has star tight end Noah Gray, a senior who is likely NFL bound after this season, as well as experienced receivers Jake Bobo and Jalon Calhoun. Where Duke will really shine is defense; Chris Rumph II is one of the best pass rushers in America. Cutcliffe is also back to calling the plays after OC Zac Roper disappointed last year, so expect a re-energized and feisty Duke team to make some major upsets.
How Miami’s season goes depends a lot on if D’Eriq King lives up to his potential. King had 6,300 yards of offense at Houston, but will he mesh into this young Miami system? Plus, many are suspicious if second year head coach Manny Diaz will be able to fix the culture issues that arose last season. We have Miami down at 7 because of inexperienced receivers and a lackluster defense, but King’s abilities at QB enhanced by a great O-Line will allow Miami to win most of their games and make a better bowl than last year.
6. Florida State
Florida State and Miami are both teams trying to recover from disappointment. However, what will better equip FSU to bounce back is their experience. QB James Blackman had some issues last season but has looked great in camp and should be a capable starter. Plus, he has capable receivers in Tamorrion Terry and DJ Matthews. The main thing that puts FSU over Miami is their defense, with starters returning including preseason All-American Marvin Wilson.