Can Florida State pull this off? Will Clemson rise again? Connelly breaks down the ACC

A proud, loud fan base never disappears. It just occasionally goes dormant.

The college football universe went without the chestiness of fully confident, fully engaged Florida State fans for a few years. The Seminoles won the 2013 national title and reached the inaugural College Football Playoff in 2014, but they slid to a top-15 level in 2015 and ’16, then collapsed. A burned-out Jimbo Fisher left after 2017, and Willie Taggart and Mike Norvell combined to go just 19-27 over the next four seasons.

Doak Campbell Stadium reawakened last fall. Norvell’s Noles beat LSU in Week 1, and after a frustrating midyear losing streak, they ignited late, winning their last five regular-season games by an average of 44-15, then beating Oklahoma in the Cheez-It Bowl to finish 10-3 and 11th in the final AP poll.

The surge years are the most fun, but now comes the real test: expectations. Colleague Mark Schlabach has FSU third in his most recent preseason rankings, and while SP+ is a bit more conservative, it still places the Noles 10th and tabs them as ACC co-favorites with Clemson.

You know, Clemson? The defending champ? The team that has won seven league titles (with six CFP appearances and two national titles) over the past eight years? One guesses that Tigers coach Dabo Swinney has welcomed the FSU hype. His program has slipped a bit of late but is still the league flag bearer, and now he gets to play the “Everyone’s underestimating little ol’ Clemson!” card.

The Seminoles and Tigers are clear league leaders as we prepare for 2023. Can anyone else mount a surprise? In Part 1 of the ACC preview last week, we took a look at the teams in the former Coastal Division. Now let’s look at the former Atlantic.

Every week through the offseason, Bill Connelly will preview another division from the Group of 5 and Power 5 exclusively for ESPN+, ultimately including all 133 FBS teams. The previews will include 2022 breakdowns, 2023 previews and burning questions for each team.

Earlier previews: Conference USA, part 1 | Conference USA, part 2 | MAC East | MAC West | MWC Mountain | MWC West | Sun Belt West | Sun Belt East | AAC, part 1 | AAC, part 2 | Independents | ACC, part 1

2022 recap

Indeed, while FSU stole headlines, Clemson rolled to the final Atlantic title with an 8-0 league record. The Tigers were too flawed to contend for a CFP spot — they lost by three touchdowns at Notre Dame, then suffered a late collapse and fell to South Carolina for the first time since 2013 — but they were too good for anyone in a flawed ACC, pummeling North Carolina by 29 in the title game.

Elsewhere, Louisville, NC State and Wake Forest all went 8-5 — a step down for the latter two and a rebound for the former — and Syracuse overcame three straight losing seasons to win seven games. Boston College was the only Atlantic team to finish under .500; Jeff Hafley’s Eagles battled quarterback injuries (again) and watched their defense collapse on the way to a 3-9 record.

2023 projections

Teams in today’s preview in bold

SP+ gives us basically three tiers when it comes to ACC title odds:

Tier 1: Clemson 29%, Florida State 28%

Tier 2: North Carolina 10%, Louisville 8%, Pitt 6%, Miami 6%, NC State Wolfpack 5%

Tier 3: Wake Forest 2.5%, Syracuse 2.2%, Duke 1.8%, Virginia Tech 0.8%, Georgia Tech 0.5%, Boston College 0.5%, Virginia 0.4%

Among the former Atlantic teams, Louisville seems most poised to challenge for Tier 1 status, but a new coach (Jeff Brohm) and an army of transfers make the Cardinals difficult to project. NC State has more questions than normal on offense but could surprise, and Wake has made a habit of exceeding projections while disappointing defensively.

Burning questions

Can Florida State defend the run, though? Indeed, FSU has expectations again. It’s not hard to see why. The first top-15 finish since 2016, plus a six-game winning streak, plus a top-10 returning production ranking, plus a top-20 recruiting class, plus another strong transfer haul equals top-10 hype.

The Seminoles might have a Heisman candidate, too. Quarterback Jordan Travis blossomed in 2022 — among returnees, only USC’s Caleb Williams and Kansas’ smallish-sample Jalon Daniels ranked higher than Travis in Total QBR. He raised his completion rate to 64% and managed a 24-to-5 TD-to-INT ratio. And because he’s Jordan Travis, he also averaged 8.0 yards per nonsack carry and 9.7 yards per scramble. Opponents hold their breath the moment he looks to leave the pocket.

Travis began his career at Louisville before transferring in 2019; that’s pretty symbolic considering this team is a transfer portal best-case scenario. Leading rusher Trey Benson came from Oregon, leading receiver Johnny Wilson from Arizona State. All-conference guard D’Mitri Emmanuel started at Charlotte, and explosive defensive end Jared Verse was a one-year star at Albany. Defensive tackle Fabien Lovett, returning from injury after a solid 2021, came from Mississippi State, linebacker Tatum Bethune from UCF.

There are plenty of homegrown contributors, too — most of the secondary has played only at FSU, as has linebacker Kalen DeLoach. But somehow, when Mike Norvell took over a directionless program in 2020, he brought stability from the portal, the last place you’d think to look for it.

Predictably, Norvell is going back to the well. Michigan State receiver Keon Coleman, UTEP offensive tackle Jeremiah Byers, Western Michigan defensive tackle Braden Fiske, South Carolina defensive end Gilber Edmond and Virginia cornerback Fentrell Cypress II are among this year’s marquee transfers, and they join a team that both clicked massively in 2022 and returns 14 starters. The two-deep overflows. If the new additions up front allow the Noles to actually slow opposing run games, there isn’t an obvious hole.

That hole definitely needs plugging, though. The pass defense was first-rate last season — albeit with some luck in the “opponents’ starters getting hurt” department — and opponents did whatever it took to avoid throwing. FSU ranked ninth in yards allowed per dropback and fifth in sack rate, and opponents ran the ball 5% more than the national average on both standard and passing downs. The Seminoles were rewarded for the ground-game commitment: FSU ranked 63rd in rushing success rate allowed and 93rd in percentage of opponent carries gaining at least 4 yards. Louisville, Florida and Oklahoma all topped 250 rushing yards against the Noles, and while FSU won all three of those matchups, it had to average 38 points per game to do it. When you’ve got top-10 (or higher!) expectations, you can’t leave yourself that vulnerable.

Was Garrett Riley all that Clemson was lacking? “Old Dabo would’ve hired Zach Kittley.” That’s what a coach friend texted after Swinney, dealing with a suddenly decrepit offense in 2021, promoted from within to solve his problems instead of bringing in a high-upside outsider like Texas Tech’s Kittley. A decade or so ago, when Swinney was still attempting to get the Clemson plane off the ground, he brought in key outsiders, asking Chad Morris to modernize his offense and Brent Venables to modernize his defense. All those conference titles, and the pair of national titles, suggest it worked. But now that he had built his culture and his model, he shunned outside help last offseason.

New coordinator Brandon Streeter indeed engineered improvement: Clemson bounced back from 63rd to 39th in offensive SP+, and quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei jumped from a dire 97th in Total QBR to 51st. But 39th and 51st don’t get you in the national title conversation, especially when your first-year defensive coordinator produces only good and not elite results. Swinney acknowledged this by finally calling on an outsider. After helping to bring TCU to the national title game, Garrett Riley takes over as the Tigers’ offensive coordinator. He made a Heisman finalist out of Max Duggan, and with Uiagalelei off to Oregon State, Riley will try to make something similar out of blue-chip sophomore Cade Klubnik.

Klubnik was more efficient than Uiagalelei over 116 dropbacks, albeit with a couple of bowl-game interceptions against Tennessee. He will benefit from a much more experienced skill corps than what Clemson had last year: Receivers Antonio Williams, Beaux Collins and Jake Briningstool are back after playing primary roles as freshmen or sophomores, and junior running back Will Shipley returns after rushing for 1,182 yards (with 38 receptions). Only Shipley is a star, but Riley and his varied formations should help spice up the passing game, especially with a well-seasoned line protecting Klubnik.

Even with the offensive improvement last season, Clemson actually fell from 11th to 14th overall in SP+ because the defense slipped more than the offense improved. The defense had no clear and obvious weaknesses in coordinator Wes Goodwin’s first year, but it went from great to good in a lot of categories and slipped from first to 25th in defensive SP+. A sophomore-heavy secondary was a little on the passive side, and the line battled injuries; even with more offensive improvement likely, the defense will need to at least bounce back to a top-15-or-so level for Clemson to have national aspirations.

It has the talent to do so. Tackles Ruke Orhorhoro and Tyler Davis combined for 19 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks, and after missing most of 2022 with injury, sixth-year end Xavier Thomas should provide a boost on the edge. Nickelback Barrett Carter and linebacker Jeremiah Trotter Jr. (combined: 16.5 TFLs, 18 passes defended, 24 run stops) are incredibly well-rounded. An aggression boost in the secondary could make a big difference.

Does Jeff Brohm still have the magic first-year touch? The 2016 Purdue Boilermakers were, in a word, dismal. Fourth-year coach Darrell Hazell was fired midway through a 3-9 season and left town with an overall record of 9-33. The offense was occasionally interesting, but the defense kept figuring out ways to get worse. It felt like first-year coach Jeff Brohm was facing a long-term rebuild heading into 2017.

But in his first game, with help from very few transfers, the Boilermakers nearly knocked off Lamar Jackson and Louisville. Two weeks later, they clocked Missouri on the road, 35-3. After a midseason offensive funk, they knocked off Iowa, rival Indiana and then Arizona in a wild Foster Farms Bowl to finish 7-6. In one year, Purdue jumped from 108th to 54th in SP+. Brohm didn’t necessarily improve things much further — the Boilermakers went 29-35 with an average SP+ ranking of 55.8 after that initial turnaround — but this was an incredible first impression.

Brohm’s second first year at a major program will be different in a couple of ways. For one thing, the former Louisville quarterback inherits a team that has already rebounded a bit. After slipping to 4-7 in 2020, Scott Satterfield’s Cardinals moved back to 8-5 and 33rd in SP+ last fall. Only a couple of narrow conference defeats (to FSU and Boston College by a combined five points) prevented an even bigger year.

For another thing, Brohm isn’t looking to simply make the most of what he inherits. He has been as aggressive as anyone not named Deion Sanders in the transfer portal, adding 25 transfers and counting, including power-conference starters in Cal quarterback Jack Plummer, Purdue tackle Eric Miller, Stanford defensive end Stephen Herron and a load of defensive backs including UNC corner Storm Duck. He also brought in maybe Georgia State’s two best players in receiver Jamari Thrash and defensive tackle Jeffery Clark.

Add that to inherited stars in running back Jawhar Jordan, all-conference center Bryan Hudson and cornerback Jarvis Brownlee Jr., and Louisville is the biggest wild card in the conference. Maybe chemistry problems will arise, and Brohm’s magic first-year touch no longer applies. Or maybe an already solid team leaps to a top-15 level of play and becomes the de facto No. 3 challenger in the ACC. There might still be depth issues at receiver and linebacker, but there’s a lot to like here, and the last time Brohm changed schools, short-term magic followed.

Can two familiar newcomers fix a broken offense in Raleigh? Historically, NC State has boasted a high but difficult-to-maintain ceiling. Each of the past five Wolfpack coaches has won nine games in a season at least once, but only one has done it more than twice: Dave Doeren. The 51-year-old enters his 11th season in Raleigh having gone through a couple of up-and-down cycles. His Pack went 9-4 in both 2017 and 2018, fielding top-25 offenses and individually talented but inconsistent defenses. The offense completely collapsed during a 4-8 stumble in 2019, but the school remained married to Doeren, who rewarded the faith with 25 wins in three seasons.

The defense has grown increasingly stout, rising to 22nd in defensive SP+ in 2021 and 13th last fall. But injury and inexperience at quarterback led to a total offensive collapse, and after a 7-2 start in 2022, the Wolfpack lost three of four to finish. (Average points per game in five losses: 14.2.)

With veteran QB Devin Leary transferring to Kentucky and offensive coordinator Tim Beck taking the Coastal Carolina head-coaching job, Doeren made a couple of intriguing additions. The 2021 Virginia offense, led by coordinator Robert Anae and 4,400-yard passer Brennan Armstrong, finished 16th in offensive SP+; Doeren said “Give me that,” recruiting both Anae and Armstrong to Raleigh.

Anae’s UVA offense was heavy on misdirection, motion and multiplicity, and it certainly got the most out of the Cavaliers’ personnel. It will need to craft some big plays without any proven big-play pieces beyond Cincinnati receiver transfer Jadon Thompson (14.6 yards per catch). Receiver Terrell Timmons Jr. and running back Michael Allen, both sophomores, have potential but haven’t yet realized it. Even with the relationship between Anae and Armstrong, it’s difficult to set the bar particularly high here.

The offense will need to improve a decent amount, though, because the defense has a decent amount to replace. Sacks leader Drake Thomas, run stops leader Isaiah Moore and a major havoc creator in safety Tanner Ingle are all gone. Corner Aydan White is a star, and the return of senior Payton Wilson means the Wolfpack still have at least one excellent linebacker. But Doeren felt the need to add Old Dominion safety Robert “Poogie” Kennedy III and a pair of jucos to the secondary, and depth up front is unproven. Coordinator Tony Gibson gets the benefit of the doubt after fielding back-to-back top-25 defenses, but hitting last year’s high notes — holding five opponents to 17 or fewer points and five under 5 yards per play — might be difficult.

How many key pieces can Dave Clawson lose at Wake Forest? It is a compliment and a curse: The more success a team has, the more star talent — of the player and assistant coach varieties — it has to replace. At some point, the replacements don’t fare as well, and the success flags.

Clawson’s success at Wake Forest has not yet flagged. The Demon Deacons had finished under .500 for five straight years when he took over in 2014, and he first built them into a regular bowl program (seven straight going back to 2016), then took them even further, winning 11 games and the Atlantic Division in 2021, backing the success up with an 8-5 campaign last fall, and spending parts of both seasons in the AP top 10. (Total top-10 appearances for Wake before 2021: zero.)

Clawson’s reward for this level of success: losing two defensive coordinators in six years to bigger jobs and losing several stars to the transfer portal, including running back Kenneth Walker III (to Michigan State) in 2021, running back Christian Beal-Smith (South Carolina) in 2022 and both quarterback Sam Hartman (Notre Dame) and defensive end Rondell Bothroyd (Oklahoma) in 2023.

Wake hit an offensive peak over the past two years with Hartman behind center. He threw for a combined 7,929 yards and 77 touchdowns, and Wake ranked fifth and eighth, respectively, in offensive SP+. That papered over defensive cracks. With offensive coordinator Warren Ruggiero still in place — no one has successfully plucked him away yet — along with a diverse and potentially dynamite receiving corps, the floor should remain high. But can a new starting quarterback (likely 5-foot-11 sophomore Mitch Griffis) create the same ceiling? And will the offensive line regress after losing three starters?

The defense hasn’t really recovered from Mike Elko’s departure in 2017. The Deacs averaged a 21.0 defensive SP+ ranking with Elko but have averaged an 87.2 since. Over the past five years, they’ve allowed a ghastly 44.4 points per game in losses. Second-year coordinator Brad Lambert has success on his résumé, and he’s got disruptive pieces such as end Jasheen Davis, linebacker Chase Jones and safety Malik Mustapha to work with. In theory, the defense will need to offset offensive regression for Wake to keep winning, but Clawson’s track record suggests the Deacs will figure out a way.

Which once-shining star has more brightness left, Dino Babers or Jeff Hafley? Long-term success is difficult to pull off at schools that have limited resources (of the recruiting and/or infrastructure varieties) compared to some of their conference peers.

For all of Syracuse’s historic success — 10 top-15 finishes and countless pro stars, from Jim Brown to Larry Csonka to Donovan McNabb to Marvin Harrison to Dwight Freeney — the Orange have managed just two top-10 finishes in the past 30 years.

For the highs that Boston College has seen as a program — a top-five finish with Heisman winner Doug Flutie at quarterback in 1984, a top-10 finish with Matt Ryan in 2007 — the Eagles have won one bowl and spent a grand total of seven weeks ranked in the past 15 years.

Both of these schools’ current coaches, Syracuse’s Dino Babers and BC’s Jeff Hafley, have learned that initial success and sustained success are different beasts. Babers upset defending national champion Clemson in his second season and won 10 games in his third but proceeded to go just 11-24 in Years 4-6. A successful former Ohio State defensive coordinator, Hafley improved BC from 70th to 48th in SP+ in 2020, his first season in charge, but his Eagles went from an unlucky 6-5 to a lucky 6-6 and 73rd in 2021, then a downright bad 3-9 and 112th last year.

If anything else, Hafley might be able to take encouragement from Babers’ trajectory. After bottoming out spectacularly at 1-10 in 2020, Syracuse rebounded to 5-7, then 7-6. He heads into his eighth season at an interesting inflection point. The Orange’s offense improved last fall behind the coaching combo of coordinator Robert Anae and QB coach Jason Beck; with Anae off to NC State, Beck takes over the playcalling and could have fun with the pass-catch combination of Garrett Shrader and Oronde Gadsden II. But the loss of 1,000-yard rusher Sean Tucker and both starting tackles could prove to be an obstacle.

Defensively, Syracuse has ranked between 58th and 71st in defensive SP+ for four straight years but returns 10 of 14 players with 300-plus snaps, including sixth-year tackle Caleb Okechukwu (9.5 TFLs, seven sacks) and edge man Marlowe Wax (11.5 TFLs, 4.5 sacks). Babers also made an intriguing new coordinator hire, bringing veteran Rocky Long, master of the 3-3-5 defense, over from New Mexico. If the 73-year-old has some more tricks up his sleeve, Syracuse could improve its win total again. SP+ isn’t yet convinced, though.

Boston College has a lot further to go. The offense has ranked 94th for two straight years, and after showing loads of promise in Hafley’s first two seasons, the defense bottomed out to 102nd last year. Even the special teams unit collapsed to 123rd. Nothing worked. And that was with first-round NFL draft pick Zay Flowers at receiver, former blue-chip quarterback Phil Jurkovec and loads of veterans in the defensive back seven.

Hafley moved tight ends coach Steve Shimko to quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator and brought in former NFL OC Rob Chudzinski as something called the “associate head coach for offense and offensive development.” This tandem will be working with one of two young, mobile QBs — either Emmett Morehead or UCF transfer Thomas Castellanos — and a mostly unproven skill corps. The biggest home run threats are probably newcomers in wide receiver Ryan O’Keefe (UCF) and running back Kye Robichaux (Western Kentucky). The line is probably the best feature, returning all five starters, plus 2021 star Christian Mahogany (injured last fall) and starters from Virginia (tackle Logan Taylor) and Texas State (all-Sun Belt guard Kyle Hergel).

Defensively, BC has a star in end Donovan Ezeiruaku, and linebackers Kam Arnold and Vinny DePalma are keepers, but the secondary is under renovation. Hafley’s track record suggests a bounce-back is possible, but the pass defense is worrisome.

My 10 favorite players

QB Jordan Travis, Florida State. FSU ranked 94th in pressure rate allowed last season but just 43rd in sack rate because Travis is one of the best escape artists in college football. He’s also one of the best quarterbacks, period.

QB Brennan Armstrong, NC State. The last time Armstrong led a Robert Anae offense, he threw for 4,449 yards and 31 touchdowns, with nine rushing TDs to boot. If the reunion goes as well, he could pilot the Wolfpack’s best offense in a half-decade.

RB Will Shipley, Clemson. Shipley hits the hole as hard as anyone, he almost completely avoids negative plays, and he averaged 7.0 yards per carry outside the tackle box. The former top-25 recruit has lived up to all billing.

WR Jamari Thrash, Louisville. Eight players ran at least 350 routes and averaged at least 2.8 receiving yards per route last year. Among them: Ohio State’s Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka, Tennessee’s Jalin Hyatt, TCU’s Quentin Johnston … and Georgia State’s Thrash. That’s good company right there.

Slot Oronde Gadsden II, Syracuse. Good receiver stats don’t always translate to wins because teams throw more when they’re losing. But when Gadsden gained at least 100 receiving yards, the Orange went 4-0. When he didn’t, they were 3-6. He’s a difference-maker.

DE Jared Verse, Florida State. It’s sometimes difficult to figure out how an FCS-to-P5 transfer might translate at a higher level, but the former Albany Great Dane was incredible in 2022, making 16.5 TFLs, 9 sacks and 12 run stops in less than 400 snaps.

DE Donovan Ezeiruaku, Boston College. Even with the Eagles’ defense collapsing, Ezeiruaku enjoyed a massive sophomore breakout in 2022; the 250-pounder was a serious disruptor against both run (15 run stops) and pass (7.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles).

LB Jeremiah Trotter Jr., Clemson. When Trotter rushed the passer, he got there (6.5 sacks, 20% pressure rate). When he dropped into coverage, he was as good as any nickelback (2 INTs, 7 breakups, 0.4 QBR allowed). He even made 15 run stops! All-around force.

CB Jarvis Brownlee Jr., Louisville. Brownlee was one of only seven power-conference defenders who were targeted on at least 60 passes and forced an incompletion more than 20% of the time. He and Storm Duck will be one of the most aggressive cornerback duos in FBS.

S Malik Mustapha, Wake Forest. The former Richmond Spider is a linebacker trapped in a 5-foot-10, 205-pound safety’s body. He ranked third on the team with nine TFLs, and when he rushed the passer, he got there (3.5 sacks, 48% pressure rate!). He’s a keeper.


In 1993, 30 years ago, Bobby Bowden and Florida State finally won one. Under Bowden, Florida State had enjoyed seven top-five finishes and four seasons with just a single loss when they entered 1993 as the top-ranked team in the preseason poll. Behind the work of Heisman winner Charlie Ward and All-American defenders Derrick Brooks, Derrick Alexander and Corey Sawyer, the Seminoles finally got the job done. They won the national title with an Orange Bowl victory over Nebraska and some crucial help from future conference mate Boston College, which upset fellow contender Notre Dame a week after the Fighting Irish’s big win over FSU.

In 2003, 20 years ago, Philip Rivers threw for 4,491 yards. NC State has produced nine top-10 draft picks and loads of NFL stars, especially at the quarterback position, but they’ve somehow never finished in the AP top 10 and only once won double-digit games.

Rivers was the QB when they went 11-3 in 2002, and while the Wolfpack defense never got going in an 8-5 campaign during his senior season, he was almost perfect, completing 72% of his passes for 4,491 yards, 34 touchdowns and just seven interceptions. He led the nation in both completion percentage and passer rating — ahead of No. 2 Ben Roethlisberger and No. 3 Matt Leinart.

In 2008, 15 years ago, a desperate Clemson handed the reins to an unknown interim. Clemson was ranked ninth in the 2008 AP preseason poll, but after a 3-3 start, athletic director Terry Don Phillips fired head coach Tommy Bowden and replaced him on an interim basis with receivers coach and recruiting coordinator Dabo Swinney. Swinney led the Tigers to just a 4-3 record, and Phillips shocked many when he handed the full-time gig to Swinney anyway.

It seems to have worked out pretty well.

Also in 2008, Jeff Jagodzinski’s last Boston College team won nine games. On one hand, it was fair: BC athletic director Gene DeFilippo asked Jagodzinski not to interview for other jobs, and he interviewed for other jobs (namely, the New York Jets head coaching gig), so he was fired after two seasons, 20 wins and two division titles. You can’t say he wasn’t warned.

You can, however, say that the rigid line hurt both parties. Jagodzinski has bounced from job to job and is currently the offensive line coach for the USFL’s Philadelphia Stars. BC, meanwhile, has won one bowl with zero division titles and zero ranked finishes since he left.

In 2013, 10 years ago, Wake Forest hired Dave Clawson. Clawson had proven himself a master builder in stops at Fordham (0-11 in his first year, 19-6 in his last two), Richmond (3-8 in his first year, 11-3 in his last) and Bowling Green (9-16 in his first two years, 10-3 and MAC champ in his last) when he took over a Wake Forest program that had faded late in Jim Grobe’s tenure. And after going 3-9 in each of his first two seasons, Clawson did what Clawson does. His Demon Deacons have bowled for seven straight years and went 19-8 over the last two. This is his longest tenure to date, and he just keeps on winning.

In 2018, five years ago, Bobby Petrino’s last Louisville team flamed out spectacularly. Since the start of the 2000s, only three teams have underachieved against the spread by an average of at least 14 points per game. One team, however, stood out from the pack.

3. 2008 Washington State (2-11, -14.0)
2. 2002 Kent State (3-9, -15.0)
1. 2018 Louisville (2-10, -18.0!)

Winners of 34 games over Petrino’s first four seasons back in Louisville, the 2018 Cardinals lost Lamar Jackson to the NFL and proceeded to repeatedly find a new rock bottom without him. They beat only Indiana State and 3-9 Western Kentucky and lost 10 games by an average score of 51-19. The sportsbooks couldn’t keep up with their awfulness. Petrino has won a lot of games in his career, but when the end arrives, it leaves no doubt.

Also in 2018, Syracuse won 10 games. Babers’ third Orange team nearly upset Clemson for the second straight year, walloped Florida State by 23 points, scored 40 or more eight times and topped West Virginia in the Camping World Bowl to finish 15th in the AP poll. It set the bar awfully high, and it made their collapse to 1-10 just two years later all the more jarring. Babers is still there, and he got Cuse back to a bowl last season. Is another rise on the way?