Media projects NC State, Duke and UNC to finish middle of the pack in ACC

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The Atlantic Coast Conference is expecting defending national champion Clemson to claim its fifth consecutive conference title.

For the Triangle’s three football teams, though, a middle of the pack finish is the best it gets, according to ACC media projections.

After finishing third in the ACC’s Atlantic Division last season, the N.C. State Wolfpack are projected to finish fourth when the 2019-2020 season is all said and done.

The Pack received no first-place votes, but tallied 666 total points, as Clemson was a near-unanimous pick for the Atlantic division crown.

N.C. State has been busy producing a wealth of NFL talent, generating more draftees than North Carolina and Duke combined in the past two years (11 players to 5). Three-year starter Ryan Finley was among those 11 players, and coaches from Dave Doeren’s staff have also been pegged for other jobs, including former offensive coordinator Eliah Drinkwitz (named head coach at Appalachian State).

As it seems, the amount of turnover isn’t likely to affect the Wolfpack too much. They also boast an experienced defense littered with more NFL-level talent. Who Doeren chooses to lead the team at quarterback may be the deciding factor in how well they perform.

Switching gears to the North Carolina Tar Heels who brought in Mack Brown to help return the program to prominence.

Brown coached the Heels from 1988-97 and enjoyed some success while producing NFL talent like Dre’ Bly, Vonnie Holliday, Greg Ellis, and Jeff Saturday.

According to 173 media members who voted at the 2019 ACC Kickoff in Charlotte, North Carolina last week, the Tar Heels will finish ahead of just one team in the Coastal — the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.

Projections are just projections, and may not tell the tale of what’s going on behind closed doors. The on-field product, or proverbial “eye test” will likely define Brown’s first year back in North Carolina. Some players already see a difference around thanks to his leadership.

“The first thing that comes to me is just the effort that he put in making a change as quickly as possible. This is the fastest I’ve ever seen something be turned around. The day he walked in he said he’d make changes and that’s exactly what he did,” said UNC safety Myles Dorn.

The Tar Heels have not had a winning season since 2016 and have only won five games over the past two seasons. The last time they won the Coastal division was 2015 when quarterback Marquise Williams led the team to 11 wins.

Tobacco Road foe Duke is projected to finish fifth in the Coastal division, one spot above the Tar Heels.

The Blue Devils, according to coach David Cutcliffe, boast one of the best defenses in the ACC.

“I’m more excited about this defense than any defense we’ve had in the 12 seasons I’ve been here,” Cutcliffe said at the ACC’s annual media day event.

The Blue Devils will need to prove Cutcliffe’s words from jump street as they open against the Alabama Crimson Tide.

Though not a conference game, the contest will be a great test for Duke’s lauded defense and fifth-year senior quarterback Quentin Harris, among others.

It’s a year of transition for all of our Triangle college football teams.

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