If you write about a sport for a decent length of time, you’ll find that you’re wrong a lot. And if you write an every-team, every-offseason preview series for nearly a decade, you’re going to end up wrong more times than you can count. Hopefully you’re right even more, but the volume of wrongness will be impressive after a while.
I’m not sure I’ve ever been more wrong than I was when writing last year’s ACC previews.
In 2016, the ACC reached its 21st-century peak. The league boasted the national champion (Clemson) and the Heisman winner (Lamar Jackson), and it featured seven of S&P+’s top 23 teams and the best overall S&P+ average. That average went up in 2017 (though the SEC jumped past it for No. 1 again), and while it was clear that Clemson was the league’s only national title contender heading into 2018, I thought the ACC might still be the deepest conference in college football*.
The thing that most caught my eye while writing this year’s batch of ACC previews is that every single team in this league has top-40 potential.
I declared Miami’s Ahmmon Richards the best offensive player in the league. I declared the league might not have a single bad team. I even declared Syracuse and Virginia the two teams in which I had the least confidence.
Wrong, wrong, and wrong. Richards retired from football early in the season due to nonstop injuries, Syracuse and Virginia were just about the league’s only overachievers, and … well … the league had some bad football teams.
I also ranked Louisville fifth in my preseason ACC power rankings. In retrospect, this was the most damning error of all.