ACC preview

Steve Merril | Sep 2, 2017 | ARCHIVE


2017 ACC Football Preview

Atlantic Division


Boston College Eagles (2016: 7-6 SU, 6-6-1 ATS)

Odds to win the conference:
+20000

Season win total:
4

Why to bet the Eagles: BC's defense is a strength led by Harold Landry up front. He had 16.5 sacks in 2016. Jon Hilliman was an effective running back in his limited time in the backfield. Three of their final four games are in the state of Massachusetts.

Why not to bet the Eagles: Quarterback is a big time question mark no matter who wins the job. The wide receiver group isn't that great either, so the defense will be in a lot of tight, low-scoring battles if they do their job. There are several tough games to start the schedule, especially in the first game with an interesting matchup at Northern Illinois.

Season win total pick: Under 4

--------------

Clemson Tigers (2016: 14-1 SU, 8-7 ATS)

Odds to win the conference:
+400

Season win total:
9.5

Why to bet the Tigers: Whoever is under center will have a great group of wide receivers to throw to. Deon Cain, Ray Ray McCloud and Hunter Renfrow are all very talented. The front line of Clemson's defense is going to have little trouble getting to the quarterback. Clelin Farrell, Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence are fantastic as a group.

Why not to bet the Tigers: There will be a target on the national champ's backs, so we'll see how they handle being the hunted. The signal caller has yet to be decided and there will be growing pains trying to replace Deshaun Watson. Clemson gets Auburn and Louisville in the first three weeks of the season, so the new QB will not be eased into action. The team also has a tough road game at Virginia Tech at the end September.

Season win total pick: Under 9.5

--------------

Florida State Seminoles (2016: 10-3 SU, 8-4 ATS)

Odds to win the conference:
+100

Season win total:
9.5

Why to bet the Seminoles: Much like Clemson, Florida State's defense is led by their front line. The Seminoles do have one of the best corners in the conference in Tavarus McFadden. He had eight interceptions last year. Deondre Francois flashed some brilliance as quarterback in 2016 and will be a year older.  He's a threat to leave the pocket.

Why not to bet the Seminoles: Unlike Clemson, FSU's wide receivers are unproven. On paper, the athleticism is there, but can they perform when it matters. The offensive line also has to replace some talent from last year. Games against Clemson, Florida and Alabama are all away from home. We've seen many good teams struggle after facing the Crimson Tide in a season opener.

Season win total pick: Over 9.5

--------------

Louisville Cardinals (2016: 9-4 SU, 5-7-1 ATS)

Odds to win the conference:
+600

Season win total:
9

Why to bet the Cardinals: Plain and simple, when you have Lamar Jackson you are going to win a lot of ballgames. The Heisman Trophy winner accounted for over 5,000 yards and 51 touchdowns in 2016. Reggie Bonnafon is a former quarterback that converted nicely to wide receiver. The team's secondary figures to be a strength led by Jaire Alexander.

Why not to bet the Cardinals: Jackson's weapons are very unproven and the offensive line is going to be young in spots. Jeremy Smith is a solid running back, but the quarterback could be asked to do more. The team played poorly at the end of last season with a three-game losing streak.

Season win total pick: Over 9

--------------

NC State Wolfpack (2016: 7-6 SU, 9-4 ATS)

Odds to win the conference:
+2500

Season win total:
7.5

Why to bet the Wolfpack: Eight starters are back on both sides of the ball, including pretty much all of the front seven on defense. Bradley Chubb would be getting talked about more if not for the copious amount of talent on the defensive line in this conference. Jaylen Samuels is such a weapon that NC State will line him up all over the field in different formations to get him open.

Why not to bet the Wolfpack: Ask almost any NC State fan about how their team performs with expectations. The Pack has consistently fallen short when people expect them to do well. For as good as the front seven will be, the secondary could be a weak point. Only Shawn Boone is back. They have a tough four-game stretch against Louisville, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame and Clemson.

Season win total pick: Under 7.5

--------------

Syracuse Orange (2016: 4-8 SU, 5-7 ATS)

Odds to win the conference:
+17500

Season win total:
4.5

Why to bet the Orange: Experience is huge with 19 starters back and an offense that is capable of keeping up with almost anyone. When healthy, Eric Dungey is a game changer with the ability to beat you on the ground and through the air. Amba Etta-Tawo had a great 2016 season at wide receiver so Steve Ishmael and Ervin Phillips could be busy.

Why not to bet the Orange: The majority of a defense that allowed 76 points in the season finale is back. The secondary was one of the worst in the country and could be under siege once again if the front line doesn't get pressure on the quarterback. They travel to LSU, Miami, Florida State and Louisville, so wins could be an issue late in the season.

Season win total pick: Over 4.5

--------------

Wake Forest Demon Deacons (2016: 7-6 SU, 8-5 ATS)

Odds to win the conference:
+17500

Season win total:
5.5

Why to bet the Demon Deacons: Confidence is high after finishing last season with a bowl victory over Temple. The offense showed some rare production that can be built on this year. Cade Carney is a bruising back, while Cam Serigne is a weapon across the middle of the field. The defense should continue to be a strength, despite losing their coordinator.

Why not to bet the Demon Deacons: Kendall Hinton and John Wolford are alright at quarterback, but their biggest problem is staying healthy. There is not much in the way of depth behind them. The defense has only five starters back so it might take time for them to gel. They've got four games on the road over a six-week stretch which includes a bye week.

Season win total pick: Under 5.5

====================

Coastal Division

Duke Blue Devils (2016: 4-8 SU, 7-5 ATS)

Odds to win the conference:
+8000

Season win total:
5.5

Why to bet the Blue Devils: David Cutcliffe is a very good coach, especially on the offensive side of the ball where he has Daniel Jones back. The sophomore only had nine interceptions in 430 attempts in 2016 as a freshman. The Blue Devils have six of their first eight at home, so they can try and build some momentum there.

Why not to bet the Blue Devils: The skill positions on offense are solid, but unspectacular. There are a lot of question marks on defense especially in the secondary. Some of those early home games are against Northwestern, Baylor, Miami and Florida State, so wins will be tough. Duke is still trying to build a consistent fan base when it comes to football.

Season win total pick: Under 5.5

--------------

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (2016: 9-4 SU, 7-4-1 ATS)

Odds to win the conference:
+3000

Season win total:
6.5

Why to bet the Yellow Jackets: The triple-option will be in good hands with Matthew Jordan running things. He's got Clinton Lynch, J.J. Green and Dedrick Mills back at running back, along with four returning starters on the offensive line. The back end of the defense will be very experienced with everyone returning.

Why not to bet the Yellow Jackets: Special teams could be a struggle with a couple of freshmen in the mix at kicker and punter. The front seven is rather young, so getting to the quarterback might be an issue. They play UCF, Miami and Clemson on the road and none of those games will be easy. Conference opponents are becoming more familiar with defending the triple-option each season.

Season win total pick: Under 6.5

--------------

Miami Hurricanes (2016: 9-4 SU, 9-4 ATS)

Odds to win the conference:
+600

Season win total:
9

Why to bet the Hurricanes: Mark Walton and Ahmmon Richards are among the players on this offense that will bring back memories of the talented teams from the past. The defense also has a ton of talent returning led by Shaq Quarterman and Chad Thomas. The Hurricanes get three straight games at home at the beginning of November.

Why not to bet the Hurricanes: There are some tricky games out of conference with a trip to Arkansas State before a big matchup in Tallahassee against Florida State. They also host Toledo who will not be an easy out. The quarterback position is undecided since Brad Kaaya left. Malik Rosier and N'Kosi Perry are both highly touted, but are unproven on the field.

Season win total pick: Under 9

--------------

North Carolina Tar Heels (2016: 8-5 SU, 8-5 ATS)

Odds to win the conference:
+3500

Season win total:
7

Why to bet the Tar Heels: QB Mitchell Trubisky's departure was softened a bit by the pickup of Brandon Harris out of LSU. He has good experience and Austin Proehl out wide. Larry Fedora will do good things with this offense, especially if his preferred fast pace tires out the opposing defenses.

Why not to bet the Tar Heels: UNC's defense was better last year, but they still struggled against the run. There is returning talent on every level, but they need to show continued improvement. Running back is a potential weakness as they need to find a reliable ball carrier.

Season win total pick: Over 7

--------------

Pittsburgh Panthers (2016: 8-5 SU, 5-8 ATS)

Odds to win the conference:
+5000

Season win total:
7

Why to bet the Panthers: Much like the Heels, Pittsburgh got a nice transfer to help with their transition at quarterback. Nate Peterman is gone and USC's Max Browne steps in to replace him. He's has game breakers in Quadree Henderson and Jester Weah out wide, along with Qadree Ollison in the backfield. The offensive production should remain solid this season.

Why not to bet the Panthers: The defense took a pair of hits in the offseason when the coaching staff suspended Jordan Whitehead for three games and kicked defensive lineman Rori Blair off the team. They were two of the four returning starters from a group that allowed 35.2 points per game in 2016. Chris Blewitt is gone, so a new kicker has to step up.

Season win total pick: Under 7

--------------

Virginia Cavaliers (2016: 2-10 SU, 4-7-1 ATS)

Odds to win the conference:
+20000

Season win total:
5

Why to bet the Cavaliers: In a conference of talented defenses, the Cavaliers have Andrew Brown, Micah Kiser and Quin Blanding to rely on. It's nice to have a really good player on each level of the stop unit. Kurt Benkert provides some consistency at quarterback and the team hopes to use Olamide Zaccheaus more.

Why not to bet the Cavaliers: It's hard to get a winning attitude when you haven't been winning as a program. The offensive line has some holes to fill. While it's nice having the same quarterback returning from last year in Benkert, he wasn't that great, averaging just 6.3 yards per pass with only 56% completions. Virginia closes the season with tough games against Louisville, Miami and Virginia Tech.

Season win total pick: Over 5

--------------

Virginia Tech Hokies (2016: 10-4 SU, 8-6 ATS)

Odds to win the conference:
+900

Season win total:
9

Why to bet the Hokies: Bud Foster's defense will be strong once again with arguably the best secondary in the ACC. Brandon Facyson and Greg Stroman will be playing on Sundays and Adonis Alexander provides good depth. The linebackers should flow nicely to the ball led by Andrew Motuapuaka. Joey Slye is a good kicker to have in close games.

Why not to bet the Hokies: Jerod Evans' unexpected departure leaves a hole at quarterback where several players are vying for the position. Cam Phillips represents the lone known quantity at wide receiver with Isaiah Ford and Bucky Hodges leaving. The offense as a whole will take some time to improve. They jump right into the season with a tough game against West Virginia at FedEx Field in Maryland.

Season win total pick: Over 9

Desktop View: Switch to Mobile View