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September 2, 2014

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Vegas-style college football preview: ACC at the sports book

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ASSOCIATED PRESS

Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston (5) makes a face as he clowns around in an interview during the NCAA college football media day on Sunday, Aug. 11, 2013, in Tallahassee, Fla. In back, reacting to Winston, is wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin, left.

Odds to win the ACC

  • Florida State: 5-to-4
  • Clemson: 2-to-1
  • Virginia Tech: 6-to-1
  • Miami: 6-to-1
  • North Carolina: 10-to-1
  • Georgia Tech: 18-to-1
  • Pittsburgh: 40-to-1
  • NC State: 50-to-1
  • Maryland: 50-to-1
  • Virginia: 50-to-1
  • Syracuse: 60-to-1
  • Duke: 60-to-1
  • Wake Forest: 100-to-1
  • Boston College: 100-to-1
  • Numbers from LVH Superbook

ACC win totals

  • Florida State: 10 (over -120, under Even)
  • Clemson: 9.5 (over +115, under -135)
  • Miami: 8.5 (over -105, under -115)
  • Numbers from LVH Superbook

Note: This is the final installment of Talking Points' conference previews leading up to the college football season. Check out the first five leagues here and scroll to the bottom of the page for odds on all the ACC games released so far.

Fans of ACC football programs who ventured to Las Vegas this summer may have instinctually felt like they needed a shovel and searchlight in the sports book.

Gamblers had to dig deep and peer hard to find ways to bet on the ACC. Compared to the rest of the nation’s major college football conferences, teams from the now 14-member North Carolina-based league weren’t overwhelmingly present on betting boards and sheets.

The LVH Superbook posted win totals for only three ACC teams and attached national championship odds to just six teams. Both are the lowest figures among conferences previewed in this space.

The omission extended to the Golden Nugget’s Game of the Year lines, which were the first spreads posted two-and-a-half months ago. Lines for ACC games that weren’t either a non-conference matchup or involved Florida State or Clemson were as rare as a perfect sandbar a mile off of the coast.

There’s a reason for this, of course. A couple actually. The ACC simply hasn’t been very strong for the last several years, which has made betting interest as a whole relatively subdued.

Sharp bettors will take a stab in any game they think they hold an edge in, but Joe Casual isn’t going to waste his time pondering what the line should be for Maryland’s October trip to Virginia.

Anyone who’s ignored the ACC, however, has missed on at least one valuable moneymaking opportunity. Betting against the conference has yielded great results. For the fourth straight year, the ACC posted a losing record against the spread in non-conference games last season.

It’s gone 97-106 against the spread in non-conference games since 2009 despite two winning marks during bowl season.

Florida State ensured a positive return for ACC postseason bettors last year by beating Northern Illinois 31-10 as 14-point favorites in the Orange Bowl. It was the easiest assignment imaginable, the perfect opportunity for the ACC to win a second BCS game in its last 14 tries.

The win gave the Seminoles their third 12-win season in program history. While the first two delivered national championships, last year’s brought the return of annually high expectations.

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Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd (10) on the sidelines during the second half of the Orange Bowl NCAA college football game against West Virginia, Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2012, in Miami .

At least in Las Vegas. Bookmakers aren’t in agreement with all the polls that rank Clemson ahead of Florida State.

Despite losing 11 starters, all of which were picked in the NFL Draft, the Seminoles are alone as the team to beat in the ACC according to the odds. They’re minus-120 (risking $1.20 to win $1) to win the league and got significant action for a while in the future book.

The Seminoles got as low as 18-to-1 to win the national championship at the LVH Superbook after opening at 40-to-1. Florida State settled at 25-to-1, the same price currently offered on Clemson.

But sports books’ power ratings favor Florida State. Just look at the team’s much-anticipated meeting on Oct 19 when the Seminoles travel to Death Valley as 2.5-point underdogs. Apply the smallest possible adjustment for home field advantage — three points — and it shows Florida State would be favored on a neutral field.

Florida State has a bye week before the game that will most likely decide the ACC championship, while Clemson finds it in the middle of a seven-week stretch with no break.

Clemson, however, has beaten Florida State at home five straight times. The Tigers are also on a four-year streak of covering against the Seminoles.

Clemson has been the better bet since the two teams entered new eras. The Tigers are 30-23 against the spread in four years under coach Dabbo Swinney, while Jimbo Fisher is a dead-even 20-20 through three seasons for the Seminoles.

It was a popular storyline that Fisher returned Florida State to the prominence of Bobby Bowden’s best years last season. But Fisher went only 4-7 against the spread as a favorite, illustrating that the Seminoles weren’t mercilessly smashing opponents like the teams from the late 1990s and early 2000s.

The rest of the Atlantic Division shouldn’t muster much of a fight against Florida State and Clemson. None of the five teams are less than 50-to-1 to win the conference.

The lone question is which teams will string together enough wins to become bowl eligible. Look out for the teams that finished in the last two spots last year, Maryland and Boston College.

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Maryland head coach Randy Edsall walks off the field during an injury time-out in the second half of an NCAA football game against Georgia Tech, Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012, in College Park, Md. Georgia Tech won 33-13

The Terrapins actually went 6-6 against the spread — 4-8 straight-up — despite getting decimated by injuries that saw them get down to their sixth quarterback. Coach Randy Edsall is still a profitable 80-62 against the spread all-time even after a disastrous 9-17 start in two seasons at Maryland.

Boston College brings back virtually everyone, including those on an offense that showed signs of success, under new coach Steve Addazio.

Florida State was a 14-point favorite against Georgia Tech in the ACC Championship Game last season, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Atlantic champ lays double-digits against the Coastal counterpart again in 2013.

Picking which team is most likely to line up against Florida State or Clemson is the difficult part. Oddsmakers see the Coastal race fairly wide open between four teams — Virginia Tech, Miami, North Carolina and Georgia Tech.

Gamblers have taken Miami to go over its 8.5 win total at the LVH Superbook as evidenced by the extra juice applied. But North Carolina might be the team the betting market is highest on going into the season.

Click to enlarge photo

North Carolina players wait to be photographed during the team's NCAA college football media day and photo day activities in Chapel Hill, N.C., Saturday, Aug. 3, 2013.

The Tarheels, which would have represented the Coastal Division in last year’s ACC Championship Game if they weren’t on probation, saw a wave of support come in on them at the Golden Nugget. Five game lines have moved in their favor, including all three against the aforementioned divisional rivals.

Georgia Tech brings back 16 starters from a team that heated up at the end of last year, covering five of six games to finish 9-5 against the spread. As a college football coach for the last 12 years, Paul Johnson is an impressive 75-55-3 against the spread

The only line moves in Virginia Tech games have gone against the Hokies, and it’s not hard to figure out why. They were fortunate to finish 7-6 straight-up and 4-9 against the spread a season ago, with three overtime wins and a fourth that came in the closing seconds. Seventeen returning starters may look nice, but only if the offense can move past the inconsistency that plagued it a year ago.

Bettors lauded Virginia Tech for being a profitable bet in six of the seven seasons just two years ago, but that ticket-cashing invincibility faded with the start of the 2011 campaign.

The Hokies recent trajectory isn’t unlike its conference’s. Both are fading, which has affected their national relevancy. The ACC hasn’t produced a national champion since Miami 12 years ago.

Florida State or Clemson could turn the tide, but being neglected by oddsmakers in the preseason speaks to the chances of the other 12 teams.

Golden Nugget game lines

Aug. 29: North Carolina +12 at South Carolina

Aug. 31: Georgia -2.5 at Clemson

Aug. 31: Penn State +6 at Syracuse

Aug. 31: BYU -4 at Virginia

Aug. 31: Virginia Tech +19.5 vs. Alabama in Atlanta

Aug. 31: Penn State +8 at Syracuse

Aug. 31: Florida Atlantic +32.5 at Miami

Aug. 31: Florida International +21 at Maryland

Aug. 31: Louisiana Tech +14 at North Carolina State

Sept. 2: Florida State -11 at Pittsburgh

Sept. 7: Syracuse + 13 at Northwestern

Sept. 7: Florida +4.5 at Miami

Sept. 7: Oregon -22.5 at Virginia

Sept. 14: UNR +29 at Florida State

Sept. 14: Boston College +21.5 at USC

Sept. 19: Clemson -10 at North Carolina State

Sept. 21: North Carolina +2 at Georgia Tech

Sept. 21: West Virginia +2 at Maryland

Sept. 26: Virginia Tech -1 at Georgia Tech

Sept. 28: Florida State +16 at Boston College

Sept. 28: Wake Forest +21 at Clemson

Sept. 28: Miami +10 at South Florida

Oct. 5: North Carolina +5.5 at Virginia Tech

Oct. 5: Clemson -8.5 at Syracuse

Oct. 5: Georgia Tech +6 at Miami

Oct. 12: Boston College +21 at Clemson

Oct. 12: Pittsburgh +13.5 at Virginia Tech

Oct. 12: Georgia Tech +3.5 at BYU

Oct. 17: Miami +2 at North Carolina

Oct. 19: Florida State +2.5 at Clemson

Oct. 26: North Carolina State +20 at Florida State

Nov. 2: North Carolina -3.5 at North Carolina State

Nov. 2: Miami +9 at Florida State

Nov. 2: Clemson -12.5 at Virginia

Nov. 9: Virginia Tech +3 at Miami

Nov. 9: Florida State -18 at Wake Forest

Nov. 9: Notre Dame -10.5 at Pittsburgh

Nov. 14: Georgia Tech +10 at Clemson

Nov. 16: Syracuse +18 at Florida State

Nov. 23: Virginia +14.5 at Miami

Nov. 29: Miami -7 at Pittsburgh

Nov. 30: Florida State +2.5 at Florida

Nov. 30: Clemson +4.5 at South Carolina

Nov. 30: Virginia Tech -10 at Virginia

Nov. 30: Georgia -9 at Georgia Tech

Three early leans: Virginia Tech -1 at Georgia Tech, Florida State +2.5 at Clemson, Miami -3 vs. Virginia Tech

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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