Caesars Entertainment released 2020 college football season win totals last week. Let’s focus on the ACC, a league that features one of the nation’s premier programs that’s light years ahead of the rest of the pack.
Obviously, we’re talking about Clemson (14-1 straight up, 11-4 against the spread), a team that owns an incredible 72-5 SU record in its last 77 games dating back to late in the 2014 regular season. The Tigers have the country’s highest win total at 11.5 (‘over’ -140, ‘under’ +120).
Dabo Swinney’s team returns six starters on offense, including quarterback Trevor Lawrence, running back Travis Etienne and wide receiver Justyn Ross. The Tigers bring back five starters on defense. They’re favored by at least 17 points in every lined Game of the Year with one exception (-7 at Notre Dame via FanDuel).
Clemson’s non-conference home games are vs. Akron, vs. The Citadel and vs. South Carolina. The Tigers’ two games against the Coastal Division are at Georgia Tech in their opener and vs. Virginia in Week 4. I wouldn’t risk much due to the expensive -140 price, but I lean ‘over’ on Clemson’s win total.
The second-highest ACC win total belongs to Miami (nine flat, -110 either way). The Hurricanes were an unmitigated disaster in Year 1 of the Manny Diaz Era, limping to a 6-7 record both SU and ATS. They went winless against Conference USA competition, losing 30-24 to FIU at Marlins Park and 14-0 vs. La. Tech in the Independence Bowl.
One reason for optimism in Coral Gables is the arrival of grad transfer QB D’Eriq King, who missed out on a chance to create chemistry with his new teammates when spring practice was cancelled due to the coronavirus. Nevertheless, King will be poised to make an immediate impact.
He had a 50/10 touchdown-to-interception ratio at Houston over parts of four seasons, but he put in most of that work in 2018 with a 36/6 TD-INT ratio. King also has 28 rushing TDs, three TD receptions and one kickoff return for a TD.
UM returns 11 starters, seven on offense and four on defense. The ‘Canes start the year with three non-conference home games vs. Temple, Wagner and UAB, before they go to East Lansing and face Michigan State. They draw a home game vs. FSU and a road assignment at Wake Forest from the Atlantic Division.
King will give the offense a lift, but I think he made a terrible decision in going to this once-storied program that’s won 10 games only once in the last decade. I lean ‘under’ nine for Miami.
I think North Carolina (7-6 SU, 8-5 ATS) will be the second-best team in the ACC. The Tar Heels go into the year with a proven QB after Sam Howell ripped it up as a true freshman in 2019. Howell, who flipped from FSU to UNC on National Signing Day, completed 61.4 percent of his passes for 3,641 yards with a 38/7 TD-INT ratio. He finished second in the ACC behind Lawrence in passing yards and QB Rationg (160.25).
In Year 2 of his second tour of duty at the school, Mack Brown will have 10 starters on offense and seven on defense coming back. All six of UNC’s defeats last year were one-possession games. Three of the Tar Heels’ losses came by six combined points, including a 21-20 setback vs. Clemson.
UNC’s season win total is 8.5 flat. The Tar Heels have a pair of layups in non-conference play with home games vs. James Madison and UConn. They open at UCF and have a Week 2 showdown vs. Auburn in Atlanta at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
UNC can’t complain about its draw from the other side of the league, as it hosts Pitt and plays at Boston College (albeit on Nov. 21 in a cold-weather contest). I lean ‘over’ 8.5 on UNC’s total and anticipate the Tar Heels getting a rematch with Clemson at the ACC Championship Game.
FSU (‘under’ -115, ‘over’ -105) and Louisville (flat) have win totals of 7.5 in the ACC Atlantic. Mike Norvell takes over an FSU program after an oustanding run at Memphis. With a new coaching staff and new systems to incorporate, the Seminoles will be hurt by no spring practice.
FSU has three tough non-conference games, facing West Virginia in Atlanta for the season opener, going out West to the smurf turf for a revenge game against Boise State and hosting Florida in the regular-season finale. The Seminoles are currently 17-point home underdogs vs. Clemson at FanDuel.
FSU also has road assignments at Louisville, at Miami and at Syracuse on a short week for a Thursday game. Norvell has his work cut out for him after the ‘Noles went 9-12 before Willie Taggart was pink slipped after a lopsided home loss to Miami last year.
Taggart ran FSU football into the ditch with the quickness. Eight of the 12 defeats on his watch came by margins of at least 19 points.
Scott Satterfield led a massive turnaround in his first season at the helm in Louisville. U of L went from 2-10 SU and 1-11 ATS in 2018 under Bobby Petrino to 8-5 both SU and ATS. The Cardinals capped the year with a 38-28 win over Mississippi State at the Music City Bowl, where they overcame a double-digit, first-half deficit by scoring 31 unanswered points as 4.5-point underdogs.
U of L might be favored in 8-9 games and will only be a significant underdog twice – at Clemson and at Notre Dame. The Cardinals get Kentucky, Murray State and Western Kentucky at home in non-conference play, and they go on the road to face Notre Dame in late November. They bring back 16 total starters, eight on each side of the ball.
Wake Forest (8-5 SU, 5-7-1 ATS) has gone bowling in four straight seasons, but its three-game winning streak in the postseason ended with last year’s 27-21 loss to Michigan State at the Pinstripe Bowl in the Bronx. Nevertheless, Dave Clawson is getting the job done in Winston-Salem, where he’s about to enter his seventh season.
Wake Forest lost star QB Jamie Newman, who left for Georgia as a grad transfer. But Sam Hartman, a rising junior, has started 11 games in the last two seasons. He started nine games as a freshman and two in 2019, leading the Demon Deacons to a 22-20 home win over FSU by throwing for 308 yards. Hartman has a 20/10 career TD-INT ratio.
Clawson’s team has a season win total of seven that’s highly juiced to the ‘over’ (-165, ‘under’ +145). The Deacs play all four of their non-conference games to start the season: at Old Dominion, vs. Appalachian State, vs. Villanova and vs. Notre Dame in Charlotte. From the Coastal Division, Wake Forest has a home game vs. Miami and plays at Duke.
Wake Forest returns three starters on offense and eight on defense.
Syracuse was one of the nation’s biggest disappointments in 2019. Without Eric Dungey, Dino Babers’s offense lost its way in a hurry and the defense was even worse. The Orange limped to a 5-7 SU record and a 4-8 ATS mark, salvaging the season somewhat by winning two of its last three games.
Syracuse has a win total of 5.5 (‘over’ -120, ‘under’ +100). The Orange have seven starters returning on offense but only four on defense. They have a pair of non-conference road assignments at Rutgers and at Western Michigan, in addition to home games vs. Colgate and vs. Liberty.
Boston College (five flat) and North Carolina State (4.5 ‘over’ -145, ‘under’ +125) round out the ACC Atlantic.
Virginia Tech has a win total of eight (‘over’ -115, ‘under’ -105). The Hokies finished 8-5 SU and 6-7 ATS last year, losing 39-30 at Virginia in their regular-season finale that decided the ACC Coastal. They dropped a 37-30 decision to Kentucky at the Belk Bowl.
Virginia enjoyed a breakout campaign, winning the ACC Coastal and making the Orange Bowl. Unfortunately for UVA, it lost by double digits to Clemson at the ACC Championship and to Florida at the Orange Bowl.
The Cavaliers lose dynamic QB Bryce Perkins, but they return seven starters on offense and eight on defense. Caesars issued the Cavs a win total of 6.5 (‘over’ -125, ‘under’ +105).
Pittsburgh also has a total of 6.5 (‘under’ -140, ‘over’ +120). The Panthers bring back eight starters on offense and seven on defense. Thanks to an outstanding defense that picked up a pedestrian offense, they finished 8-5 SU and 7-6 ATS.
Pat Narduzzi’s club trailed nearly the entire game at the Motor City Bowl vs. Eastern Michigan, only to rally late for a 34-30 comeback win. The Eagles took the cash, however, as 12-point underdogs.
Pitt’s rushing attack must improve after finishing No. 121 in the nation in rushing yards out of 130 FBS schools. The Panthers had a pair of RBs (Qadree Ollison and Darrin Hall) run for more than 1,000 yards in 2018, but junior A.J. Davis ran for a team-best 530 yards last year.
From 2012-2018, David Cutcliffe took Duke to six bowl games in seven seasons. However, the Blue Devils fell flat in ’19 after losing QB Daniel Jones a year early to the NFL Draft. They finished 5-7 both SU and ATS.
Duke started the year 4-2 with its losses coming to Alabama on a neutral field and a 33-30 setback vs. Pitt. But the Blue Devils lost five in a row after a home win over Ga. Tech, including four setbacks by 12 points or more. They closed the season on a positive note, however, by downing Miami 27-17 as 9.5-point home underdogs.
Duke returns 14 total starters, seven on each side of the ball. The non-conference slate includes home games vs. Middle Tennessee, Elon and Charlotte, in addition to a trip to South Bend to face the Fighting Irish. The Blue Devils have an excellent draw from the Atlantic, as they are at North Carolina State and get Wake Forest in Durham.
Cutcliffe’s squad has a win total of 5.5 (‘under’ -120, ‘over’ +100).
Rounding out the ACC, Georgia Tech has the conference’s lowest win total of three (‘under’ -220, ‘over’ +185). Geoff Collins took on a tall task when he left Temple for Midtown Atlanta to replace Paul Johnson.
The Yellow Jackets are tied with Houston and Northwestern for the nation’s most returning starters with 19 (nine offense, 10 defense), however. They finished ’19 with a 3-9 record both SU and ATS. Georgia Tech’s non-conference slate includes home games vs. Gardner-Webb and UCF, in addition to a clash with Notre Dame at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in downtown Atlanta and a trip to Athens to face Georgia.