AP Photo/Richard Shiro
Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018 | 2 a.m.
It’s ironic that when the ACC first expanded and added a championship game 13 years ago, the talk was that the league could be the most parity-driven in college football.
The opposite has turned out to be true — especially in recent years. Clemson has won the ACC title in three straight years, and enters this season as the biggest favorite in any Power 5 conference.
The Tigers’ rise followed a three-year run where Florida State accomplished the same stretch of dominance. In total, it’s been eight years since a team other than Clemson or Florida State reigned in the ACC.
Is there hope for anyone else to step up in 2018?
Read below for Talking Points’ thoughts and over/under win total picks on every team in the ACC in the blog’s final installment in the series through every college football conference.
over/under: 6.5 (minus-185, plus-155)
Last Year: 7-6 straight-up, 8-4-1 against the spread
Boston College might be the third most popular bet in the ACC behind Clemson and Miami, which is a little disarming for a team that’s typically mid-tier at best. But it’s also easy to see the root of bettors’ enthusiasm. The Eagles offense transformed following the midseason breakout of now-sophomore running back A.J. Dillion last year, and they always field a competent defense. Coach Steve Addazio has won seven regular-season games three times in five seasons in Chestnut Hill, Mass., and none of those teams were as promising as this one.
Guess: Over 6.5 wins at minus-185
over/under: 11 (minus-115, minus-105)
Last Year: 12-2 straight-up, 8-5-1 against the spread
There’s no surer thing in college football this season than Clemson. Nope, not even Alabama. Clemson’s schedule — it’s currently favored by at least 10 points in every game — and experience — they’re in the nation’s top 25 in returning production per Football Outsiders — make them look virtually flawless. And yet, it’s never advisable to lay a price on an undefeated season. This bet likely winds up a push anyway.
Guess: Under 11 wins at minus-105
over/under: 8 (minus-125, plus-105)
Last Year: 7-6 straight-up, 4-7-2 against the spread
The betting market hasn’t stuck Florida State with a win total this low since Bobby Bowden’s final year as head coach. The number seems to ignore Florida State’s still-stratospheric talent level, as it ranks in the top five by long-term composite recruiting ranks, and marked improvement at the end of last season, which included closing with four straight wins and covers. Oh, and the return of quarterback Deondre Francois, who was considered a Heisman sleeper before getting injured in week 1 last year.
Lean: Over 8 wins at minus-125
over/under: 7 (Even, minus-120)
Last Year: 8-5 straight-up, 5-8 against the spread
This all comes down to sophomore quarterback Jawon “Puma” Pass. As if the highly touted green quarterback needed any more pressure considering he’s succeeding 2016 Heisman winner Lamar Jackson. Yes, succeeding because there is no replacing Jackson. If Pass proves serviceable, however, Louisville’s offense is still loaded including at receiver with Jaylen Smith, Dez Fitzpatrick and Seth Dawkins. The defense is sketchier a year after being the chief culprit of an underwhelming season. Stock is down on second-year defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder, which might be part of the reason the price on Louisville’s win total has dropped.
Lean: Over 7 wins at Even money
North Carolina State
over/under: 7.5 (plus-110, minus-130)
Last Year: 9-4 straight-up, 5-7-1 against the spread
There’s some excitement on the Wolfpack with senior quarterback Ryan Finley and junior receiver Kelvin Harmon back after breakout campaigns. That’s taking some of the focus off of all that NC State lost, though. The school had a record seven players taken in the NFL Draft, which isn’t easy to replace. Last year was the first time the Wolfpack topped seven regular-season wins in eight years.
Lean: Under 7.5 wins at minus-130
over/under: 5.5 (plus-105, minus-125)
Last Year: 4-8 straight-up, 6-5-1 against the spread
Remember when Syracuse upset Clemson as 24-point underdogs last year? How about when the Orange knocked off Virginia Tech while getting 23 points on the betting line in 2016? Unfortunately, those might remain the highlights of coach Dino Baber’s early tenure for another year. Syracuse is stuck in an unfair situation, suffocated by the stacked ACC Atlantic Division. The Orange currently only project as a favorite in three games this season, and one of them is a tricky opener Saturday at Western Michigan.
Lean: Under 5.5 wins at minus-125
over/under: 6.5 (Even, minus-130)
Last Year: 8-5 straight-up, 8-4-1 against the spread
Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson built everything towards last year, and the Demon Deacons still leaned on some good fortune for their breakthrough season. They went 3-1 in games decided by a touchdown or less and ranked in the nation’s top 25 with a plus-8 turnover margin. They also leaned heavily on four-year starting quarterback John Wolford, whose presumed replacement Kendall Hinton is suspended for three games to start the season.
Play: Under 6.5 wins at minus-130
over/under: 6.5 (Even, minus-120)
Last Year: 7-6 straight-up, 7-5-1 against the spread
The Blue Devils went on an extreme youth movement last year, and should reap the benefits this season. They’re ninth in returning production, per Football Outsiders, including several potential stars like quarterback Daniel Jones and running back Brittain Brown. The schedule is no slouch, as they play the two ACC favorites — Clemson and Miami — on the road and also travel to Baylor and Northwestern in the non-conference. But David Cutcliffe is one of the most underrated coaches in America, especially to bet on. He’s only had one unprofitable against the spread record in 10 years at Duke.
Lean: Over 6.5 wins at Even money
over/under: 6 (minus-120, Even)
Last Year: 5-6 straight-up, 7-3-1 against the spread
Has the ACC finally figured out coach Paul Johnson’s triple option? That’s a bold theory, but it’s hard to deny that the Yellow Jackets have been trending downwards. They’ve endured losing seasons in two of the last three years, and overachieved statistically during their only winning season in the span. Defense has been a bigger problem than offense, however, and the Yellow Jackets are bringing in new coordinator Nate Woody this season. Woody doesn’t have much proven production to lean on in his inaugural season, though.
Lean: Under 6 wins at Even money
over/under: 9.5 (minus-115, minus-105)
Last Year: 10-3 straight-up, 5-8 against the spread
There’s a buy-low case to be made on the Hurricanes considering their stock seems to be artificially deflated after finishing last season 0-3 straight-up and against the spread. They were beaten up by then, and the 11-0 start deserves more weight anyway. But there’s also a sell-high argument, centering on Miami overachieving last year. The Hurricanes barely outgained ACC opponents and relied on turnovers — remember the turnover chain? — with many of the players up front who set the takeaways into motion now departed.
Guess: Over 9.5 wins at minus-115
over/under: 5.5 (minus-150, plus-120)
Last Year: 3-9 straight-up, 5-7 against the spread
Seemingly ever swirling with sanctions, North Carolina will start the season with 13 players suspended for selling team-issued Jordan shoes. The win total didn’t see much adjustment, despite some of the players’ absences extending four games. The Tar Heels have three close, must-win games in that span — at California, versus UCF and versus Pittsburgh — if they’re going to go over on the season. Aside from the suspensions, the Tar Heels have a lot looking up. Last season wasn’t as bad as it looked, as they suffered from a horrific amount of injuries and went 1-4 in games decided by a touchdown or less.
Guess: Under 5.5 wins at plus-120
over/under: 5 (minus-160, plus-130)
Last Year: 5-7 straight-up, 5-5-2 against the spread
Coach Pat Narduzzi has failed to produce the high-powered defenses expected out of him when he was hired after previously serving as Michigan State’s defensive coordinator. Even when the Panthers found success in Narduzzi’s first two years, it was more because of their offense. That could change this season. In fact, it somewhat changed near the end of last season. Narduzzi’s defense coalesced down the stretch, and now most of the standouts — including linebacker Oluwaseun Idowu and cornerback Dane Jackson — return. Similar offense exists on offense, where sophomore quarterback Kenny Pickett has graded out strongly in training camp.
Play: Over 5 wins at minus-160
over/under: 5 (plus-110, minus-140)
Last Year: 6-7 straight-up, 6-7 against the spread
Virginia looked like a new program at the start of last season, with coach Bronco Mendenhall leading the team to five wins in its first six games. Then regression kicked in, and Virginia started to look like, well, Virginia, in going winless both straight-up and against the spread in its final four games. Depth to endure late-season injuries was a problem, and Mendenhall has already bemoaned it as an issue again this year. Virginia is also light on experience and explosive playmakers.
Lean: Under 5 wins at minus-140
over/under: 8 (minus-130, Even)
Last Year: 9-4 straight-up, 6-7 against the spread
A bet on Virginia Tech is a bet on Virginia Tech’s infrastructure. Coach Justin Fuente has emerged as a constant overachiever, beating his preseason win total in four straight seasons. Perhaps even more important is the nation’s most consistent defensive coordinator in Bud Foster. If anyone can deal with the quagmire of Virginia Tech’s compounding losses on defenses, it’s the 23-year-veteran coordinator. Offensively, there are fewer issues as quarterback Josh Jackson progressed throughout his freshman season and should be steadier as a sophomore.
Lean: Over 8 wins at minus-130