Friedlander: Preseason ACC takes and predictions I'd like to have back
I received an email recently from a Florida State fan I’ll call Travis. Attached was a link to the preseason “25 Bold Predictions for the 2023 ACC football season” column.
“You missed big,” he wrote. “Been saving this since August. Go Noles.”
Travis is obviously referring to my predictions concerning his favorite team. And he’s right, I whiffed big-time on picking Clemson, not FSU, to win the ACC and get to the College Football Playoff.
But here’s something to remember.
First and foremost, there are more important things in life than the preseason prognostications.
And second, preseason predictions are educated guesses, not psychic prophecies. If they were, I’d change my name to Jeane Dixon and have them published in the National Enquirer.
Surprisingly enough, I’ve actually hit or still have a chance at hitting more than I missed with those 25 bold predictions.
Jeff Brohm has, in fact, made an immediate impact at Louisville. North Carolina did beat South Carolina in the opening game in Charlotte. Gene Chizik’s influence has brought about a significant improvement in the Tar Heels’ defense. And an ACC team has finally beaten Notre Dame.
And yet, there are still plenty of picks I’d like to have back.
Now that we’ve reached the midway point in the season, it’s as good a time as any to look back and own up to my misses (especially the one about Travis’ Seminoles).
Oronde Gadsden II will break his school records for catches and receiving yards
The Syracuse star was poised for even bigger things this season after catching 61 passes for 969 yards in 2022, the highest totals in program history and the most nationally by a tight end.
Coach Dino Babers and new offensive coordinator Jason Beck spent the offseason scheming to find new ways of getting him the ball in what figured to be his draft year. Those plans were dashed, however, when Gadsden suffered a season-ending injury in Week 2 against Western Michigan.
He’ll finish the year with only 7 catches for 67 yards and a touchdown. More important, Gadsden’s absence has had a negative effect on the Orange’s offense, which has managed only 3 touchdowns in its first 2 ACC games.
Phil Jurkovec will stay healthy and will play in all 12 regular-season games
This isn’t exactly a swing-and-a-miss. It’s more like a check swing that was ruled a strike on appeal.
Although the Pittsburgh quarterback did suffer a minor injury late in the 1st half against North Carolina, he has started all 5 games so far. And he could continue to eventually see action in all 12 games, though not as a quarterback. Reports this week are that the Boston College transfer has been taking practice reps at tight end.
The reason he’s tinkering with playing another position is that his performance under center has been dreadful. His .509 completion percentage is the lowest in the ACC among qualifying passers and the 1-4 Panthers have yet to win a game against an FBS opponent. He’s managed to make last season’s failed transfer Kedon Slovis look successful.
Jurkovec has been replaced by backup Christian Veilleux for Saturday’s homecoming game against Louisville.
Wake will finish in top 3 in scoring offense for the 4th straight season
The thinking was that the Deacons’ hard-to-defend slow-mesh RPO attack, combined with the experience gained by quarterback Mitch Griffis during his 3 seasons as a backup to Sam Hartman would be the recipe that kept Wake’s offense cooking.
Upon further review, maybe Hartman had more to do with Wake’s success than previously thought.
Without him, the Deacons are only 10th in the ACC in total offense at 391.8 yards per game, 11th in scoring at 25.6 points per game and have already turned the ball over 11 times. It’s not all Griffis’ fault. The offensive line has been a major disappointment and the running game has been inconsistent at best.
They’re going to have to pick up the pace considerably to continue their distinction as the only FBS team to average at least 30 points per season every year since 2017.
Haynes King starts, but GT will rotate QBs
It might have taken King until the week before Georgia Tech’s opener to secure the starting job in a 3-way competition with Zach Pyron and Zach Gibson. But unless the Texas A&M transfer suffers an injury, the prediction that both Zachs will end up starting a game this season is going to fall flat.
That’s because King has been nothing short of spectacular in leading the ACC with 16 touchdowns and 1,631 yards. His quarterback rating of 155.4 is the 2nd-highest in the league behind only North Carolina’s Drake Maye.
King has been the driving force behind Tech’s surprising 3-3 start, which includes an upset of previously undefeated Miami on Saturday.
Garrett Riley’s influence will help more than just Cade Klubnik put up big numbers
Riley earned acclaim as one of the nation’s best young offensive minds for helping to turn Max Duggan into a Heisman Trophy finalist and TCU into a national runner-up last season.
But he’s just a football coach, not a miracle worker.
While his arrival at Clemson was hailed as a major victory for coach Dabo Swinney and a sign that the Tigers are serious about getting back to the College Football Playoff, Riley’s influence has yet to take hold. On Klubnik or the offense as a whole.
The Tigers have put up decent numbers. They’re averaging 32 points and 431 yards per game. But they’re only 4-2 (1-2 ACC) because of a self-destructive tendency that has already produced 10 turnovers.
As for Klubnik, he’s shown steady improvement since the start of his 1st season as a starter. He’s in the middle of the pack among ACC passers, completing 62.5% for 1,370 yards and 11 touchdowns. Hardly the kind of “big numbers” everyone, including me, were expecting.
FSU will be 2-2 after 4 games, but still play Clemson in the ACC title game/Clemson will get the ACC back into the College Football Playoff
OK Travis, here it is. My mea culpa about your Seminoles.
I’m always wary of teams that haven’t had a lot of success recently suddenly receiving the kind of preseason buzz Florida State generated this summer. I also admit to getting too caught up in the hype surrounding Swinney’s hiring of college football’s resident boy wonder to mentor his “next great quarterback.”
As it turns out, Mike Norvell’s Seminoles have been everything they were built up to be. Jordan Travis is a dynamic playmaker who has been surrounded by an equally talented supporting cast. Jared Verse, Kalen DeLoach, Fentrell Cypress and their star-studded defense has been equally as effective.
And neither side of the ball has yet to play its best for a full 60 minutes.
Clemson, meanwhile, is the team that started 2-2 after an opening night loss at Duke and an overtime home defeat to FSU.
While the roles in my preseason prediction have been reversed, don’t count on the Tigers battling back to earn a rematch for the conference championship in Charlotte on Dec. 2. They’ll be watching on TV from home as UNC or Louisville plays the Seminoles for the league title.
So go ahead and bookmark that prediction now, Clemson fans. Just in case you need to remind me of it at a later date.