We’re going conference by conference looking at each team’s win total for the upcoming college football season. With the Group of 5 conferences completed, we can move on to the big boys. I’m an ACC guy living in ACC country but other than Clemson, the conference has been underwhelming of late. With teams like UNC, Miami, and others on the rise hopefully that starts to change. Let’s look at the Atlantic division first.
ACC Win Total Favorite Plays:
North Carolina State: 6.5 Wins
Right off the bat, NC State has gone over 6.5 wins in six of the last seven seasons. HC Dave Doeren has this program in a rock solid place. 2019 was an injury-riddled mess, but the Wolfpack have gone bowling every other season except Doeren’s first, back in 2013.
Returning from a broken leg this season is QB Devin Leary who will have all three of the Pack’s leading receivers from last year back in the fold. Four starters on the OL return and both RB’s Zonovan Knight and Ricky Person are productive. Barring Leary stays healthy, this offense should crank out the points in 2021.
Defensively, the unit wasn’t as stingy as usual last year. NC State allowed over 40 points in four games, of which, they lost three. In fact, their only regular season L’s were the three games where the defense struggled mightily. Returning are nine starters from a year ago led by an exceptionally strong group of linebackers. Specifically, be on the lookout for Payton Wilson who might be the best LB in the ACC. Expect this unit to improve in 2021.
Congrats to our @AthlonSports preseason All-ACC selections.
— NC State Football (@PackFootball) May 21, 2021
Looking at the schedule, every game in the ACC is winnable with the exception of the home matchup vs Clemson. However, getting UNC and Miami from the Coastal is tough. Out of conference, The Wolfpack have USF, Furman, and La Tech at home and a road trip to Mississippi St. Overall, it’s a manageable schedule and this is an above .500 team. Call me a homer but smash the Over.
My Prediction: OVER
Florida State: 5.5 Wins
The fact that FSU’s win total sits at 5.5 is a clear sign how quickly this program has fallen off. That’s what happens when you go 3-6, 6-7, and 5-7 over the last three years. Other than the UNC upset a year ago, 2020 was a total disaster. Losing to GT, getting whipped by 42 vs Miami, by 32 vs Louisville, and by 24 vs Pitt is unacceptable.
In Mike Norvell’s defense, first year coaches get a free pass from me for last year. The ‘Noles were decimated by injuries, COVID, and opt-outs. They also played a slew of underclassmen which should benefit them in 2021.
Offensively, Jordan Travis returns at QB but UCF transfer McKenzie Milton should win the job. Travis is an athlete who is dangerous with his feet but lacks top notch passing abilities. Milton should be able to open up the offense with his arm. While there’s turnover in the RB and WR positions, the OL returns all five starters. The unit needs to be stronger, but the experience and cohesiveness should help.
Last year, the FSU defense was abysmal – finishing close to last in the ACC while giving up 36 points per game. The transfer portal has gone wild on this side of the ball with several players departing and several players coming in. As of now, it would be a giant leap to assume this unit drastically improves.
Scheduling Florida and Notre Dame out of conference isn’t going to help a rebuilding team make a bowl game. Throw in road games at Clemson, at UNC, and a cold weather trip to BC in late November and this schedule is rough. There’s three sure-fire wins (you’d hope) vs Jacksonville State, UMass, and Syracuse but it gets dicey after that. I need FSU to prove it to me first.
My Prediction: UNDER
ACC Win Total Solid Bets:
Wake Forest: 7 Wins
The Demon Deacons have a nice and easy start to the season, opening up with Old Dominion and Norfolk State at home. Apparently, they are attempting to show their dominance over the Tidewater area of Southern VA. That’s fertile recruiting ground so perhaps the scheduling isn’t coincidental.
The other out of conference matchups are at Army and at UNC (this technically isn’t counted as an ACC game as it was scheduled by the two schools independently). Wake ends the season on a tough note with road games at UNC, at Clemson, at BC, and home to NC State.
The ‘Deacs went 4-4 in the regular season last year before dropping a bowl game to Wisconsin, 42-28. All 11 offensive starters are back if you consider Christian Beal-Smith who split time with Kenneth Walker last year, a starter. QB Sam Hartman has been around forever and watch out for our DFS darling, Jaquarri Roberson, at WR (see highlights). If the offensive line can improve, Wake is going to score a ton of points this year.
However, their defense isn’t exactly a steel curtain. Their secondary returns in full but they’ll be replacing portions of the DL and LB group who both got pushed around too often a season ago. Allowing 436 yards and 33 points per game isn’t going to cut it and I worry improvement this year may be minimal.
Overall, Dave Clawson has done an excellent job in Winston Salem. There’s a lot of winnable games on the schedule, but reaching 8 may be a stretch. In his seven years at the school, the team has only reached that many regular season wins once, going 8-4 in 2019. This line is placed perfectly but I believe a 6-6 season has a higher likelihood than 8-4.
My Prediction: UNDER
Boston College: 7 wins
The Golden Eagles went 6-5 in 2020 under first year coach Jeff Hafley. While the wins weren’t all that impressive, it should be viewed as a positive step in building this program back up. Things got a bit stagnant in Chestnut Hill under Steve Addazio who couldn’t win more than seven games in a season in the seven years he was Head Coach.
The Notre Dame transfer, QB Phil Jurkovec, shined in his first year as a starter. During a three game stretch in October, the quarterback threw for over 300 yards in each contest vs UNC, Pitt and VT. The OL brings back all five starters and wideout Zay Flowers has all ACC potential. Sure, they have to replace TE Hunter Long and they need a tailback to step up but this offense will turn some heads this season.
It’s a new day for Boston College as their offense will be a step ahead of their defense for a change. Giving up over 40 points to VT, Notre Dame, and UVA isn’t ideal but there were more impressive outings like limiting UNC to 26 or even limiting Clemson to 34 in a tight loss. They’ll have several gaps to fill from players that have graduated so I’d expect this unit to be no more than a mid tier ACC defense.
Looking at the schedule, there’s a good chance BC starts 3-0 vs Colgate and at UMass and Temple. The competition spikes quickly with home dates vs Mizzou and NC St and road tilts against Clemson and Louisville. Three of the last four games are home affairs which should prove to be a strong end to the season.
Similar to my Wake Forest breakdown, 8-4 is a tall order for a team that hasn’t won that many games since 2009. With a slightly easier schedule than Wake, I’ll lean Over but I’m not betting the house on it.
My Prediction: OVER
Louisville: 6.5 wins
Entering the 2019 season, the hire of HC Scott Satterfield seemed like a slam dunk. In his first season at Louisville, he capped off a 7-5 regular season with a win over Mississippi St in the Music City Bowl. By all accounts, it was a solid first year for the Cardinals. However, 2020 was more of a struggle and Satterfield finished year two with only a 4-7 record.
The Cardinals return 8 starters on offense including the dynamic Malik Cunningham at QB. While the dual threat QB is a human highlight reel, he was also responsible for 15 turnovers last season. It goes without saying that he needs to be more careful with the ball this year.
Louisville needs to replace a bunch of skill position guys that are now in the NFL but Jalen Mitchell and Hassan Hall should step right up at RB. Restocking the WR position may be more of a challenge but let’s see what Georgia Southern transfer Shai Werts (previously played QB) can bring to the team. Upfront, four offensive lineman return which will certainly help.
Satterfield’s gang is going to have to score some points because the defense could be iffy. The DL should be solid but the linebacker and defensive back positions will be very young and inexperienced. Expect some struggles especially early on vs explosive offenses like Ole Miss and UCF.
Speaking of Louisville’s opponents this season, the Cardinals decided to really challenge themselves outside of the league. They play Ole Miss at a neutral site and get Eastern Kentucky, UCF, and their annual game vs Kentucky at home. Not many teams in the country play three out of conference games against teams like that. Best case scenario probably has Louisville 2-2 here.
2021 Louisville Football Schedule pic.twitter.com/8Mh8b9f9pn
— NCAAF Nation (@NCAAFNation247) January 28, 2021
In conference, Louisville is fortunate to get UVA and Duke from the Coastal. Plus, UVA is a home game and traveling to Duke is never a daunting task (half the stadium will be fans of the road team). Hitting the Over might come down to consecutive road trips at FSU and at Wake. Win both and Louisville has a shot. Drop one and we may be looking at a 6-6 season. Louisville will get to a bowl but it may be by the skin of their teeth – give me the Under.
My Prediction: UNDER
Syracuse: 3 Wins
Whatever happened to the Syracuse program? It was just the 2018 season when The Orange won double digit games with QB Eric Dungey under center. It seemed like the team fell apart as soon as he graduated. In 2019, Tommy DeVito never looked the part at QB and Syracuse limped to a 5-7 season. It all unraveled in 2020, with Dino Baber’s squad only going 1-10.
To be fair, the Orange had a lot to deal with in 2020 including opt outs and missed games due to COVID. At one point they had a fullback playing offensive line. However, Syracuse wasn’t the only team dealing with difficult circumstances last year, and with Babers entering his sixth season, his seat is starting to smolder.
For the coming season, DeVito is back but watch out for Mississippi St transfer Garrett Shrader to win the starter QB gig. Sean Tucker is a very solid RB and they have some nice wideouts even with Nykiem Johnson transferring out. The biggest question mark is the offensive line that’s been awful the last couple of years. Improved line play and more consistent QB production will go a long way in turning around this program.
Looking at the defense, they weren’t very good last year but the anemic offense didn’t do them any favors. The D line is loaded with super seniors and 11 of the top 12 tacklers from last season return but there are some gaps to fill in the secondary. This can be a much improved unit from a season ago especially if the offense doesn’t continually put them in bad situations.
🚨 HERE IT IS 🚨
Your 2021 Syracuse football schedule ⤵️ pic.twitter.com/k4y5zO2E9v
— Syracuse Football (@CuseFootball) January 28, 2021
As for the schedule, the out of conference slate is tricky. At this point, the Liberty and Rutgers programs are further along and should beat Syracuse even with both games in the Carrier Dome. While the game vs Albany will be a W, there’s a tough road trip to Ohio. Earlier in the offseason, I was predicting the Bobcats to pull the upset but their coach Frank Solich just retired due to health issues. Especially being a Week 1 game, this is a break for Syracuse.
If Dino Babers can get two out of conference wins there’s a chance of hitting the Over. However, Syracuse will be a dog in each of their eight conference games. Unluckily for them, they miss out on playing fellow cellar-dwellers Duke and GT from the Coastal. I want to pick the Over but I just can’t. They’ll surprise someone within the league and get to a push, but two conference wins is a stretch.
My Prediction: UNDER
ACC Win Total Least Favorite Plays:
Clemson: 11.5 Wins
Will Clemson go undefeated in the regular season or will they stumble somewhere along the way? Obviously, the opening week matchup vs Georgia is a toss up. If you are picking the Over you have to feel confident about the opening week. It would be a shame to burn a ticket after just one week.
In conference, there are road games at NC St, at Pitt, and at Louisville which could be tricky but this is Clemson. Last time they played each school they won by 45, 35, and 35 respectively.
Clemson has had some momentary lapses of concentration vs ACC schools (like a 2017 loss at Syracuse or a 2016 loss at home to Pitt) but the Tigers will be a double digit favorite in every game except Week 1. The fact that we can remember each ACC loss over the last five years speaks to Clemson’s dominance over the conference.
Yes, Trevor Lawrence, Travis Etienne, and others are gone but Clemson will reload. DJ Uiagalelei will fill in for Lawrence without missing a beat and you know Dabo’s got a stable full of skill position guys ready to roll. Just looks at with DJ U did in limited action last year.
Perhaps more importantly, the defense has a chance to be special this year. The unit played a lot of young guys a season ago and these players now have experience to go along with talent. Even with star power lost on both sides of the ball, you could argue Clemson could be better than a season ago.
With that said, I’m on the Under. The UGA game is a 50/50 toss up and there’s always a chance of an upset in-conference. Now, if you’ve bet against Clemson in recent years, you are probably broke, so tread lightly. I certainly don’t love the play.
My Prediction: UNDER