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Five ACC Declarations

By BJ Bennett
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Five ACC predictions for the 2019 season.

1. Trevor Lawrence Continues His Progression Into One of the Greatest of All Time
Clearly, the foundation is already in place. After quarterbacking the first-ever FBS team to a 15-0 national championship, Lawrence, fresh off 347 yards and three touchdowns against Alabama in the College Football Playoff Final, has an unparalleled start to his career. So much so that he may, in fact, be underrated. Lawrence's success, leading Clemson to wins of 20 points or more in ten straight games to end the year, came so fluidly and so naturally that the nation still may not fully appreciate it. The Georgia-native has proven to be a phenom of generational proportions --and he is just getting started. Expect even more production, along with more wins, this fall, furthering a legacy that will ultimately be regarded as one of the singular standout individuals in the game's history, perhaps even the G.O.A.T.

2. Miami Has the Nation's Best Set of Linebackers
The Hurricanes ranked fourth in the country in 2018, allowing just 278.9 yards per game; the status quo is set to continue. Seniors Shaq Quarterman and Michael Pinckney have combined for 452 career tackles, 60.5 tackles for loss, 21 sacks, 26 quarterback hurries, 14 pass breakups and four interceptions. Both are All-American candidates. Fellow senior Zach McCloud also has 129 career stops and is a versatile defender. At a place with a remarkable history at the position, Miami's linebackers are set to lead the way.

3. Syracuse is College Football's Best on Special Teams -- and It May Not Be Close
We are talking recent history, here, in terms of a unit this complete. Kicker Andre Szmyt won the Lou Groza Award as a true freshman, converting 30-of-34 field goal attempts. Punter Sterling Hofrichter ranked second in the ACC with 42.9 yards per boot and 24 of his 67 punts were downed inside the 20-yard line. Then there is return specialist Sean Riley, who led the ACC in and ranked second in the nation with 16.4 yards per try. Dino Babers has done an excellent job of making special teams a priority. The Orange will win games with their efficiency in the kicking game this season. 

4. Florida State's Defense Ready to Return to Form
Tackles Marvin Wilson, a potential first round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, and Cory Durden give the Seminoles a premier interior tandem. There is also proven production at linebacker, led by Dontavius Jackson. In old-school style, Florida State has impressive depth in the secondary, with standouts ranging from Stanford Samuels to Levonta Taylor. Coordinator Harlon Barnett has multiple versatile playmakers to work with, dynamic talents like Jaiden Lars-Woodbey and Hamsah Nasirildeen. With more personnel experience and better comfortability in the system, this athletic and talented unit should jump from 11th in scoring defense into, at least, the ACC's top half. 

5. Georgia Tech to be Better Than People Think
It goes without saying that the program overhaul is an significant one. Offensively, no team in college football is going through a more dramatic change. That said, the Yellow Jackets have two commodities in high quality: athleticism and energy. Paul Johnson recruited versatile playmakers to the Flats, often talents who were do-it-all quarterbacks for their prep teams; that flexibility will give Geoff Collins more options than some think. Also, there is a very real excitement around all that Collins is doing, a mindset that can accelerate any learning curve. Make no mistake about it, this is a time of transition. That progress, though, has potential and some of the very modest outside expectations will be surpassed.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: / Twitter: @BJBennettSports