Out of all of the major conferences in NCAA college football, the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) looks like it’s on the weaker end of things. However, that doesn’t change the fact that they have the defending champion and annual powerhouse Clemson Tigers in the conference.
Last season, the Tigers would finish with an undefeated record in the ACC, and now heading into the new campaign, they’re the favorites to take the conference once again — and by a massively strong margin as well.
According to web-based sportsbook Bovada, Clemson comes in as the top favorite to win their fifth consecutive ACC title with -375 odds. Afterwards, the Miami Hurricanes come in a very, very distant second place at +750, followed by their rival Florida State with an even more distant +2200 in third. They share that position in a tie as well with the Virginia Tech Hokies and Syracuse Orange to round out the top five.
For yet another season, it won’t even be a competition for the Clemson Tigers. Instead, it’ll be a cakewalk for them to win a fifth straight ACC championship, and this is despite of them losing three of four All-American defensive linemen to the NFL: Dexter Lawrence, Clelin Ferrell, and Christian Wilkins. That’s because of the power recruiting from head coach Dabo Swinney and staff, bringing in enough depth to replace the power of those three.
For the sake of conversation, let’s say Clemson does take a hit defensively. Even if that is the case, it still doesn’t change the fact that the Tigers are massively potent on offense, and their defense will be good enough to carry them to an undefeated record, again.
Armed with weapons such as Tee Higgins, Justyn Ross, and Travis Etienne, sophomore quarterback Trevor Lawrence is sitting pretty to be apart of the Heisman Trophy conversation at season’s end. All four Clemson Tigers were vital to last season’s success in each the regular season, their postseason run and the national championship win over Alabama.
With all that being said, you can fully expect Clemson to be back in the College Football Playoff, and with an undefeated record at that. Also, the Tigers will most likely be back in the national championship alongside Alabama, again. Their exact figure to take the Atlantic Coast Conference is set at -375, obviously not much value here. Well, that’s unless they lose, and we all know that won’t happen.
No one matches the Clemson Tigers in talent, it’s not even close, but that’s not the only reason why no other school in the ACC can compete with the powerhouse program. With the exception of the Florida State Seminoles, there’s not another school who can pull in five-star recruits like Clemson can. Then when you bring up Florida State, they’re so far behind Clemson it’s not even funny. The Tigers are going to blow away with the conference from week one. Actually, they’ve already won it.
But just because it’s my job, let’s go over some of the favorites and their odds, shall we? Afterwards, I’ll give you my official locked-in prediction to win the ACC (which you already know), and I’ll also give you my long-shot pick. (I’m sure Clemson fans are laughing at that, I know I am. But it’s part and parcel of each conference breakdown, give me a break here.)
The Clemson Tigers are the obvious choice here. Not only would they win the ACC Atlantic Division and ACC conference championship last season, but they would also win the Cotton Bowl Classic and be the consensus national champions. They would also hold the No. 1 rankings in the Coaches and AP polls, and this after going 15-0 (8-0 ACC) for the entire season. Offensively, they were massively potent with the fourth-best in the nation with an average of 44.3 points-per-game. When you flip on the defensive side, they were a horse placed No. 2 in the nation with 13.7 points allowed-per-game. It was a powerful season for the Tigers that would lead to the national championship, and with a load of talent coming back, they’re in the position to do it again. They would lose some players to the draft, but their returners and incoming class will be able to replace the outgoing players just fine. They would bring in the 10th ranked best recruiting class in the nation. I said it once and I’ll say it again: It’s a lock for Clemson to win the ACC.
The Miami Hurricanes would have a dismal season by their standards, but it’s something that the fan base down there has grown accustomed to. They would finish the season 7-6 (4-4 ACC) that would lead to the retirement of head coach Mark Richt, once again putting the Hurricanes in the situation of a coaching change. In the ACC Coastal Division, they would take a third-place finish. Miami’s offense in the rankings was pretty lousy, taking the No. 66 position with an average of 28.8 points-per-game. That’ll need to improve, obviously. On the defensive end, the Hurricanes are actually sitting pretty. Last year, they would end the season sitting with the 15th best defense in the country allowing just 18.2 points-per-game to opposition. If they can clean up the offense, they might be able to do something with their defensive production. They won’t compete against Clemson, but they’ll have a winning season. With that being said, however, I’m also a bit concerned with their incoming talent. They would only place No. 27 in the recruiting rankings. Now granted, they’re a young team, but still, the Hurricanes program is in a negative state right now — and it’s been like that for years now. However, they would still lose a nice load of talent to the pros. (S Sheldrick Redwine, CB Michael Jackson, DE Joe Jackson, S Jaquan Johnson, RB Travis Homer) I’m seeing the possibility of another long year again for the Hurricanes under first-year head coach Manny Diaz, and another season that has them on the bubble to even be in a bowl. There’s a lot of issues with the Hurricanes other than defense.
The Florida State Seminoles certainly finished below their expectations last season, placing with a losing 5-7 (3-5 ACC) record that would result in them being excluded from bowl season. Besides problems at the quarterback position, the Seminoles were absolutely terrible on offense, placing all the way down at No. 113 in the rankings only scoring 21.9 points-per-game. It wasn’t much better on the defensive end, with Florida State ranking in a terrible 91st position in the nation allowing 31.5 points-per-game against them. They couldn’t score, they couldn’t stop the opposition. It was just a horrible year overall for the Florida State Seminoles. Recruiting wise, they were okay, but it wasn’t a typical FSU incoming class. They would still place in the top 25, but it would be down at the bottom in No. 19. Not just that, but they wouldn’t bring in any five-star recruits either. It was a weak recruiting class by Florida State’s standards, and with that being said, you can expect another long year for the Seminoles, and possibly Willie Taggart’s job. Yeah, I get they only lost two players to the NFL Draft, but I have zero faith in Taggart as the head coach of Florida State. It’s going to be another bad year for the Noles, I just know it.
Syracuse would have a fantastic season in 2018, scoring double-digit wins with a 10-3 record, and they would also post a flashy 6-2 in the ACC. This would lead them to a convincing 34-18 Camping World Bowl win over West Virginia, and they would land the No. 15 ranking in both the Coaches and AP poll. On offense, the Orange were great last year, nearly cracking the top 10 with the 11th place ranking in the nation with a blazing average of 40.2 points-per-game scored. Sounds great, right? Well, things were a bit in the red for Syracuse’s defense last season, placed 72nd in the nation allowing 27.8 points-per-game against them. Fortunately for them, the potency of their offense was able to counter that 10 games out of 13. Only time will tell if the Orange will be able to repeat that success, they’re bringing in the 55th best recruiting class with no 5-star and 4-star recruits. On the bright side, they only lost one player to the NFL Draft (DT Chris Slayton). It could be another good season for Syracuse, I’ll lean in that direction, and it could be a better season than both Miami and Florida State. Their +2200 odds are very valuable for a long shot pick, but still, you can’t seriously take anyone to dethrone Clemson.
The Hokies wouldn’t have the best season last year at 6-7 (4-4 ACC), but they would still find themselves in a bowl. However, they would lose in the Military Bowl, 31-35, to the Cincinnati Bearcats to solidify a losing season. As you would expect, they weren’t the best statistically either. On the offensive side, they would take a No. 61 ranking in the nation with an average of 29.8 points-per-game, while on defense, they would rank 85th allowing 30.7 points-per-game from the opposition — obviously more than what they would score. The fact that they got into a bowl just shows you how weak the ACC is right now. I would expect more of the same from the Hokies this season, there wasn’t much improvement from them with the 26th ranked recruiting class in the nation. They wouldn’t lose much talent, however, so maybe there will be a slight improvement. With the way I’m seeing it through, It’ll be usual Virginia Tech football, with no threat to Clemson.
The Virginia Cavaliers would have a decent season in 2018, placing with a winning 8-5 record. However, they would only finish with a .500 4-4 record in conference play. Regardless, the winning overall tally would put them into the Belk Bowl, and he would get a blowout victory over the South Carolina Gamecocks, 28-0, to take home the trophy. The Hoos weren’t the best on offense, tied in the No. 70 position with a number of 28.5 points-per-game, however, it was good enough to get the job done. That’s especially true when you consider how good of a defense that Virginia had last year, they were tied for the 29th best in the country with an average of 21.8 points-per-game allowed from the opposition. The defense would take hits losing S Juan Thornhill and CB Tim Harris to the NFL, but it’ll still be good enough to make the Cavaliers a competitive football team this season. Don’t expect any major improvements though, UVA would bring in just the 39th ranked recruiting class in the country, but you can still expect more 8-5 football from the Cavaliers. It’ll definitely be another bowl season.
There’s a lot of value here with NC State’s +2800 odds. Last year, they would nearly grab a double-digit winning season posting winning records both overall and in conference play. Altogether, they were just one win away from a 10-win season at 9-4, and they tallied 5-3 in the ACC. They could’ve had a double-digit winning year if they would have won the Gator Bowl, but they would suffer a 13-52 blow in that game. Still, it was a pretty successful season for the Wolfpack, and it showed through their numbers. On the offensive side, they would have the No. 31 ranking in the nation with an average of 33.8 points-per-game, while on defense, it was a decent 37th position allowing just 22.7 points-per-game from the opposition. They’ll take some hits for sure losing C Garrett Bradbury, LB Germaine Pratt, QB Ryan Finley and WR Kelvin Harmon to the NFL, but I think enough talent will return for the Pack to have another winning campaign. Let’s be honest here, NC State won’t beat Clemson, nobody will, but if you want a long shot pick, the Wolfpack and their +2800 odds are the best you’re going to get.
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