2021 ACC Title Race In Unfamiliar Hands

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The ACC title will likely be finding a new home in a few short weeks. The stranglehold the Clemson Tigers have had over this conference has been lifted, even if only for a season. Over the past decade, only Clemson and Florida State have won the ACC title, with the Tigers claiming the last six. This season is a different story. The conference had three teams highly regarded in the preseason polls, but neither Clemson, Miami, nor North Carolina is currently ranked. That leaves the door wide open for a new name to take home the championship from Charlotte this December.

ACC Title Will Have New Home in 2021

There are three names headlining the list of those likely to take home the ACC title in 2021. Wake Forest, N.C. State, and Pitt all control their oven destiny in terms of reaching the Championship game in Charlotte. There are also a few teams that have an outside shot, but these three remain the frontrunners through week eight. The Virginia Cavaliers have an outside shot to challenge Pitt in the Coastal division, with a trip to face them still on the horizon. Clemson is technically still in the mix, but their play this season does not provide much hope that they will finish strong. The same can be said of Louisville and Florida State.

The Main Contenders

Wake Forest and Pitt sit atop the two divisions as of now. They each still have a lot of work to do, having only played three conference games. N.C. State was handed their first ACC loss this past weekend by Miami, but still control their own destiny by virtue of a match-up with Wake in November. While the Demon Deacons and Panthers are winning with high powered offenses, the Wolfpack are succeeding behind a strong run game and a stingy defense. That contrast will make for an interesting match-up when the two North Carolina schools meet in Winston-Salem next month. Pitt has won their first three ACC contests, and now face four straight Coastal division opponents before a season ending trip to Syracuse.

Not Who We Expected

During the preseason, all the talk in this conference was about the returning quarterbacks. Eight weeks into the 2021 slate and the signal callers are still a hot topic, but its not the guys most thought. Sam Howell, D’Eriq King, and D.J. Uiagalelei were all expected to have huge seasons. Instead, it is Kenny Pickett and Sam Hartman that have taken over the headlines. The two have combined for 40 passing touchdowns against just four interceptions. Looking at those numbers it is easy to see why these two have their programs in the driver’s seat for a shot at the ACC title. Each of these quarterbacks likes to attack downfield, with both averaging over nine yards per attempt.

Jordan Addison is Pickett’s favorite target, with 670 yards and 10 scores. Hartman has a pair of standout pass catchers he likes to go to. Jaquarii Roberson and A.T. Perry each have over 600 yards and have caught 13 touchdowns between them.  N.C. State doesn’t have the high-powered passing attack the other two ACC title contenders have. They have relied more on their run game. Zonovan Knight and Ricky Person Jr. are both among the top seven tailbacks in the conference in yards. They are one of the best rushing duos in the country with over 1000 yards combined.

See You in Charlotte

While these three teams seemingly have the inside track on a spot in the championship game, nothing is settled yet. This is of course ACC football, so one should expect wild things to happen. Pitt and N.C. State each have five more conference games to navigate. Meanwhile, Wake Forest has a trip to Clemson and a visit from the Wolfpack left to deal with. With that said, it would be a surprise if the 2021 ACC title was claimed by one of these three programs. What an accomplishment it would be as well. Pitt has not won a conference crown since joining the league. Wake Forest has won the ACC title just twice, most recently in 2006. N.C. State has topped the conference seven times before, but not since 1979. All signs point to the unfamiliar when it comes to who will bring home this year’s championship trophy. Considering the recent perception of the league being Clemson and everyone else, this change is a welcomed sight.

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