LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Atlantic Coast Conference football media days will unfold in Charlotte, North Carolina, next week, the latest sign that we’re only seven weekends from the first major weekend of the 2021 college football season.
Another major sign came Friday morning when I talked to Phil Steele, the editor and publisher of one of the game’s top pre-season yearbooks: Phil Steele’s 2021 College Football Preview. I will post the conversation on the WDRB Sports podcast next week.
Priced at $19.95, the 352-page yearbook has been available for two weeks.
But today? Let’s edge closer to the first game with the top five ACC football questions:
1. After overachieving in 2019 and underachieving last season, which Louisville football team will we see this season?
In his personal rankings, which run through 61 teams, Steele did not rank the Cardinals. In his power poll, Steele evaluates teams in nine areas like talent, rushing, passing, special teams and scoring margin. The Cards rank 65th in Steele’s power poll.
Steele said in his overall rankings, Louisville did not make the top list, because those are teams more likely to make bowl games. He said 88% of the teams ranked in his top 60 generally make bowl appearances.
He said Louisville has several “question mark” games that make him wonder if the Cardinals will earn bowl eligibility.
“An amazing stat was that for the season, Louisville was plus-75 in yards (but still had a losing record),” Steele said. “Generally, when you’re plus-75 in yards, playing an 11-game season, you are going to be 8-3. They were 4-7. It was due to the fact they were minus-12 in turnovers.’’
Steele said that he believed it was a positive development that Cards’ head coach Scott Satterfield will be the team’s play caller this season. He also said Satterfield told him he expected quarterback Malik Cunningham to improve his accuracy.
Steele said he had Louisville favored over Eastern Kentucky, Virginia, Boston College, Syracuse and Duke. He had the Cards as underdogs against Clemson, N.C. State, Wake Forest, Florida State and Ole Miss.
That leaves home games against UCF and Kentucky that Steele called “toss-ups.” The Cards will play those two games at home.
2. Can anybody make Clemson sweat?
No — at least not in the Atlantic Division.
That was easy.
In his power poll, Steele ranked Clemson No. 3, just ahead of Georgia and Ohio State, behind Alabama and Oklahoma.
The only other ACC teams ranked in his top 25 are Coastal Division squads: North Carolina is No. 14 and the Miami Hurricanes are 17.
North Carolina State sits at No. 28, Wake Forest No. 36, Florida State No. 52, Boston College No 54 and Louisville No. 65.
3. Who’s at the bottom of the Atlantic Division?
It’s Syracuse, which visits Cardinal Stadium Nov. 13. The Orange are No. 84. The only Power 5 programs ranked behind Syracuse are Michigan State, South Carolina, Tennessee, Duke, Arizona, Vanderbilt and Kansas.
Steele does not have a Hot Seat list for coaches. Other publications do. Syracuse coach Dino Babers is a prime contender.
4. Is North Carolina’s Sam Howell the league’s best quarterback?
That was also easy. Howell is Steele’s top QB in the league. He is ranked second behind Spencer Rattle of Oklahoma on his list of top quarterbacks for the 2022 NFL Draft. He also named Howell a second-team all-American, behind Rattler.
Louisville does not play UNC this season. The Cards’ crossover opponents from the Coastal Division are Virginia and Duke.
5. Who is most likely to be the ACC’s Surprise Team?
Steele likes Miami.
The Hurricanes are the only ACC representative on his list of ACC surprise team, landing at No. 5. He believes Miami is capable of making the ACC title game.
Steele likes Miami quarterback D’Eriq King and notes that the Hurricanes return 19 starters from a team finished 8-3 and won five of its last six games.
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