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Bullseyes & Blackeyes - Accountability for Preseason Predictions about Clemson and the ACC

Before the season, I laid out a seemingly infinite number of projections, prognostications, and predictions. Now, it’s time to pay the piper. I nailed it on some of these, but whiffed like a fool on others.


Clemson Wide Receivers:

Before the season, I wrote:

“Dabo said the big five were Beaux Collins — who he called out as the key guy in the group — Antonio Williams, Adam Randall, Cole Turner, and Brannon Spector. If you believe three of these five will put together strong, complete seasons, you should pick Klubnik to exceed 3,000 passing yards and 25 TDs and Clemson to make the playoff. There are reasons for concern though.”

Unfortunately, my concerns have played out. Of those five WRs, none are having strong, complete seasons. Antonio Williams has 145 yards in 3 games (48 yards per game) and missed the FSU and Wake Forest games. Beaux Collins has 339 yards in 5 games (68 yards per game). Adam Randall (78 yards), Cole Turner (28 yards; out for season with injury), and Brannon Spector (9 yards) have combined for just 115 yards. For the third year in a row, the Tigers WRs have struggled to stay healthy, block on the perimeter, get separation, and avoid drops.

I suggested they needed an impact transfer (see Louisville’s Jamari Thrash) and I was right. No, it’s not all on the WRs. Troy Stellato has stepped up in a major way and was often open and not seen vs. Wake Forest and Tyler Brown has been a blessing, nevertheless this was a weakness that wasn’t hard to see or impossible to fix.

Clemson Defense:

I was high on Clemson’s defense coming into the season citing depth at defensive tackle and improvement in the secondary. I said:

“If the offense can be just a bit more proficient and put them in better situations, expect Goodwin’s defense to go from good to great in 2023”

The offense hasn’t held up their end of the bargain, but even then the defense bailed them out the best they could. When they fumbled a routine exchange, and gave Wake Forest the ball at the 9-yard line, the Tiger defense didn’t even give up a point. There’s not much more you can ask from this defense right now.

Florida State:

The Seminoles replaced Micah Pittman with Keon Coleman to upgrade an already good wide receiver room. I cited this and their veteran quarterback as reasons to believe they’d have a stronger offense than Clemson. It is, but I also suggested that their defense could be a problem. Their defense hasn’t cost them a game yet, but at 383 yards per game allowed, they rank just 79th in total defense.

Louisville is good:

I was very high on the Cardinals in Jeff Brohm’s first year. I didn’t necessarily think they would beat Notre Dame, but I had them as a sleeper ACC Champion:

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Virginia is bad:

I had major questions about Tony Elliott dating back to his time as Clemson’s sole offensive coordinator and I predicted Virginia would go 2-10. That’s looking pretty accurate so far.

Miami starts well and then goes sour:

I predicted Miami to start 4-0 including a win over Texas A&M, but have a losing record in ACC play. In all humility, I didn’t think they’d actually lose to Georgia Tech, but however we get to my prediction being right I’ll take it.

Black Eyes

Clemson’s Start to the Season:

Clemson’s start to the year didn’t look all that daunting to me. To me it was all about Florida State and that would determine if they were 6-0 or 5-1. Unfortunately, crazy mistakes and faux pas cost them not just the win against Florida State, but Duke as well.

I looked at the stretch after the open date of at Miami, at NC State, and Notre Dame and reasoned that a loss would come in that stretch, not before and certainly not to a team other than Florida State. I didn’t think this team had the playmakers to compete for a National Championship, but having two losses at this point was not something I was even close to projecting.

Jake Briningstool:

A big reason I was optimistic about Clemson despite being so down on the wide receiver corps is because I thought Briningstool would breakout. I was imagining a big year from “Brinny” that helped make up for some of the missing production at wide receiver. Instead, he hasn’t filled the void of departing tight end Davis Allen in terms of blocking or receiving let alone make up for a somewhat undermanned WR room.

“Brinny” has just 125 yards and most notably only 1 TD. He is 5th on the team in receiving yards and I never would have guessed that Tyler Brown and Troy Stellato would be two of the players ahead of him.

North Carolina & NC State:

I had a bold take that UNC was overrated and NC State was overlooked. UNC’s offense continues to chug along despite losing their offensive coordinator (Phil Longo) and best WR (Josh Downs). Their defense is improving too.

Over in Raleigh, I thought the reunion of QB Brennan Armstrong and Offensive Coordinator Robert Anae would bring back some of the magic the two had in 2021 when Armstrong threw for 4,449 yards. Incredibly, it imploded instead. Armstrong had 5 TDs and 6 INT while averaging 194 passing yards per game through five games. He was officially benched in favor of MJ Morris before their game against Marshall and that appears to be the plan moving forward. This was my biggest miss of the 2023 season.