ACC second-half predictions: Clemson reigns, and the ACC upends the SEC

What’s the second half of the ACC season have in store? Leave it to me -- who is in last place in our weekly game picks this season -- to look into the crystal ball and see what awaits us.

Clemson makes the College Football Playoff.

Pretty bold, huh? The Tigers, however, would be just the second team to make the playoff two years in a row, and they need to play much better than they did last week against NC State. The target is on the Tigers’ backs the rest of the way, but after withstanding a trip to Florida State out of the bye, here’s guessing Clemson goes 13-0 for the second straight season, leaving the selection committee with an easy choice.

Deshaun Watson’s strong play earns him another NYC invite.

Watson played his best late last season, as Clemson’s offense picked up plenty of steam and the quarterback made it to New York, where he finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting. He was the frontrunner entering this season, and despite some uneasy offensive play, here’s guessing Watson makes it back to NYC, although Lamar Jackson ultimately takes the grand prize.

DeMarcus Walker wins defensive POY.

The senior has been Florida State's leader through good times and bad. His second-half performance against Ole Miss served as the catalyst for a big comeback, and his block of Miami’s potential game-tying extra point clinched FSU’s win there too. Expect more of the same from the defensive end as he helps the Seminoles’ defense get back to its winning ways after a subpar start.

Louisville earns strong playoff consideration but ...

The Cardinals will win the rest of their regular-season games, including a big victory at Houston, to earn serious CFP consideration. Alas, their lack of a league title will doom them, as they fail to be “unequivocally” better than the four league champions that do make the field.

The ACC gets three teams in New Year’s Six bowls.

North Carolina will win the Coastal before losing to Clemson in the ACC title game again. But a 10-3 record will be looked upon more favorably than last year’s 11-2 mark, as the Tar Heels will have beaten Florida State, giving them the edge in the battle for that last major bowl berth.

The ACC goes 4-0 vs. its year-end SEC rivals.

Clemson over South Carolina, and Louisville over Kentucky, may seem like foregone conclusions, but Florida-FSU and Georgia Tech-Georgia usually are less predictable. Nevertheless, the Seminoles and Yellow Jackets will pull out the victories and give the ACC a leg up on the SEC, finishing the season 7-2 against the league.

The ACC finishes with a winning record against Notre Dame.

The league is in its third year of its scheduling agreement with the Irish, having gone 2-2 in 2014 and 1-4 last season. This year, however, things change -- not that that’s saying a whole lot given the state of the 2-5 Irish. The ACC is 2-1 against Notre Dame so far, with Duke and NC State winning and Syracuse losing. Miami and Virginia Tech will visit South Bend, and here’s guessing one, if not both, escape Touchdown Jesus victorious.