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College Football Win Total Predictions: ACC (Coastal)

College Football Win Total Predictions: ACC (Coastal)

In case you missed it, check out my column on the MAC Win TotalsSunbelt Win TotalsMountain West Win Totals, Conference USA East and West Win Totals, and AAC Win Totals.

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We’re going conference by conference looking at each team’s win total for the upcoming college football season. We’ve already taken a look at the ACC Atlantic Division (see here) so it’s time for the Coastal. Let’s do this!

ACC (Coastal) Favorite Play:

Miami:  9 Wins

Miami Hurricanes Season Preview | The College Football Experience (Ep. 727)

I don’t trust Miami, especially if D’Eriq King isn’t fully healthy. Although his rehab from a torn ACL is apparently going smooth, it’ll be interesting to see if they roll him out Week 1 vs Alabama. If not, I feel sorry for backup Tyler Van Dyke.

The rest of the offense is fairly loaded with talent and experience. It’s a strong group of backs and receivers with an excellent tight end, in Will Mallory. The offensive line was inconsistent a year ago but the majority returns and should be improved. There’s a chance this OL could be a top 5 unit in the ACC.

Defensively, the secondary should be fantastic but there are serious question marks surrounding the front seven. Jaelan Phillips and Quincy Roche are now in the NFL which means the DL will be very green. There’s some experience coming back at linebacker but let’s just say there’s no Ray Lewis on the roster. Overall, this was a top half of the ACC defense in 2020 but they may take a step back this year.

Lastly, money-in-the-bank kicker, Jose Borregales, also graduated and has since signed on with the Buccaneers. Don’t underestimate the importance of a good kicker, especially in close games. We’ll have to see who the Hurricanes have waiting in the wings, but it’s safe to assume that it will be a downgrade from Borregales who made 18 of 20 FGs last year.

Even if King plays, The U isn’t beating Bama. Out of conference, they also get App State and Michigan State at home. Be careful for that App State game in Week 2. Teams are usually beat up and don’t perform well after playing the Crimson Tide. An 0-2 start to the season would be disastrous.

Take care of business at home in the early part of the season, and there’s a chance Miami is 4-1 entering a big road game at UNC. Other road trips include at Pitt, at FSU, and at Duke. If you consider Bama as a loss, the Hurricanes need to go 10-1 in the other games to hit the Over. Come on – this isn’t 2003. Give me the Under.

My Prediction:  UNDER

ACC (Coastal) Solid Bets:

Pittsburgh:  7.5 Wins

Entering Year 7 at Pitt, Pat Narduzzi is still searching for a breakthrough season. So far, the team’s records have fallen somewhere between 8-5 and 5-7 every year. Sure, there has only been one below .500 season (5-7 in 2017) but they also haven’t gotten close to double digits. Given the high level of talent in the program, they’ve underperformed. Perhaps this is the season Pitt puts it all together.

QB and Super Senior, Kenny Pickett, is back to lead the offense after an injury-riddled 2020. With Pickett in the lineup, the Panthers lost to NC State by one point, to BC in OT by one point, and to Clemson. Without the veteran QB, Pitt got blown out by Miami and Notre Dame. If he can stay healthy, this team will be tough to beat.

The offensive line only returns three starters but both tackles are back. If the interior of the line can step up, the running game will have a chance to improve behind RBs Vincent Davis and AJ Davis. Pitt is also loaded at WR, led by Jordan Addison, who caught 60 balls last year. This should be the best Pitt offense in at least the last five years.

Defensively, is where Pitt has excelled the last couple of seasons. In 2020, the Panthers only finished behind Clemson in Total Defense inside the league. Their Rushing Defense was the best in the ACC (only allowing 93.5 yards per game) and they tied Clemson for the most sacks in the conference with 46 each.

Unfortunately for Pitt fans, three defensive linemen were just taken in the NFL draft along with two defensive backs. They’ll reload at both positions but it will take some time. In the meantime, possibly the best quartet of linebackers in the ACC call Pittsburgh home and while that will make up for youth elsewhere, the unit may slightly regress this year.

At this point, I have the Pitt program further along than Tennessee and Georgia Tech (road games in the first half of the season) so we could be looking at a 5-0 Panthers squad going into Blacksburg, VA on 10/16. Also on the second half of the schedule, there are road games at Duke and at Syracuse. If Pitt is as good as I think they can be, that’s a solid base of 7 wins right there. They’ll win a couple more at home to clear the bar and hit the Over.

My Prediction:  OVER

Virginia:  6.5 Wins

In full disclosure, I’m an unabashed fan of UVA QB Brennan Armstrong. In a season where he missed a couple games with injuries, the sophomore QB still threw for over 2,100 yards with 18 TDs to just 11 INTs. Additionally, he ran for 552 yards and 5 more TDs. It’s no coincidence that UVA struggled in the games he missed which were part of a 4 game losing streak last October.

Joining Armstrong this season are all five starters from last year’s offensive line, a couple of solid RBs, and most of the wide receiver group. They’ll miss TE, Tony Poljan, but he’s replaceable. There’s a lot to be optimistic about in regards to the offense if you are a fan of the Wahoos.

Somewhat surprisingly, the defensive side of the ball is what really came up short for UVA in 2020. More specifically, the pass defense finished last in the ACC. The leader of the secondary, S Joey Blount, is back after an injury forced him to miss most of 2020 and his presence on the field will be a big boost. Overall, most of the defense returns, they just need to play better.

Looking at the schedule, the Cavaliers’ home games are against W&M, Illinois, Wake, Ga Tech, Duke, and Notre Dame. That could be 6-1 right there. Throw in some road wins and we’re on the Over!

My Prediction:  OVER

North Carolina:  9.5 Wins

North Carolina Tar Heels Season Preview | The College Football Experience (Ep. 743)

Sam Howell for Heisman! If that’s going to come anywhere remotely close to happening, the Tar Heels will be in store for a special season. In just two years, the program’s turnaround under Mack Brown has been amazing. Of course, Sam Howell has been a huge part of the resurgence under Brown’s return to Chapel Hill.

While Howell is one of the best quarterbacks in the country, this team just had their top two RB’s (JaVonte Williams and Michael Carter), their top two WR’s (Dyami Brown and Dazz Newsome), and their top defensive player (LB-Chazz Surratt) selected in the NFL draft. Mack Brown has done an outstanding recruiting job, but the Tar Heels have to miss these guys, right?

While some of the top playmakers are gone, the offensive line is expected to return all 5 guys. Defensively, they’ll miss Surratt but pretty much everyone else returns. If you ask me, I’d rather replace RBs and WRs rather than a QB, offensive line, or the majority of a defense.

When looking at the schedule, it’s all about the road games. That starts opening week at Virginia Tech on Friday night. Lane Stadium, at night and at capacity, will be rocking. If UNC can get the W, they’ll be in good shape this year. Other tough road trips include a revenge game at Notre Dame (Fighting Irish won 31-17 at UNC last year), a November trip at Pitt, and the rivalry game at NC State to close out the regular season.

I’ll have to sweat this one out, but I have UNC going 9-3 this year. Perhaps they get upset by NC State on the day after Thanksgiving to secure the Under.

My Prediction:  UNDER

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Virginia Tech:  7.5 Wins

In Justin Fuente’s first year at VT, the Hokies won double-digit games and represented the Coastal Division in the ACC championship. Since the inaugural season, Fuente has been unable to replicate that success. A 9-4 season in 2017 and even an 8-5 season in 2019 isn’t too shabby but 6-7 in 2018 and 5-6 in 2020 won’t cut it.

In Fuente’s defense, VT was hit unbelievably hard by COVID last season but still elected to play the games. However, COVID issues or not, the fanbase is becoming a bit antsy in Blacksburg. This is a big year for Fuente and the Hokies.

Braxton Burmeister should get the nod at QB. He split time with Hendon Hooker a season ago but has the talent and experience to lead this offense. The WR unit, with Tre Turner, Tayvion Robinson and others should be one of the best in the ACC especially if you throw in TE James Mitchell. There’s some turnover at OL, but the Hokies should be able to patch together a solid starting five.

On the defensive side of the ball, gone are the days of Frank Beamer and Bud Foster. The Hokies gave up 45 points to Clemson, 47 to Pitt, and 56 to UNC last year. To make matters worse, only six starters return from the below-average 2020 D. Fuente has been active in the transfer portal and several Power 5 guys are coming into the program, but this unit needs big-time improvement if the Hokies are going to win 8+ games.

Looking at the schedule, the Hokies are only away from Blacksburg one time in the first eight weeks of the season (at WVU). A strong start will be required with road games littered through the back half, including two different back-to-back away game stretches. Specifically, at Miami and at UVA to end the year will be tough.

I have VT with an 8-4 record this year. Fueled by one of the best home-field advantages in the country, the Hokies will go 6-1 at Lane stadium.  Toss in a couple more wins on the road and I’m on the Over.

My Prediction:  OVER

Georgia Tech:  4.5 Wins

It may not be easily apparent, but Geoff Collins is slowly turning around the GT program. Sure, records of 3-9 and 3-7 in his first two seasons are less than ideal but transforming the former triple-option team takes at least a few years.

QB Jeff Sims started as a true freshman a season ago and, as you might expect, had an up and down campaign. He threw 13 touchdowns but also tossed 13 INTs. He had awful outings vs Clemson and Syracuse, but impressive performances vs Duke, Louisville, and UCF. Sims is dangerous on the ground but needs to become more of a polished passer. Bump up that 55% completion percentage and work on the TD to INT ratio and we’ll have a really nice player for the next couple of years.

The Yellow Jackets have two solid RBs with Jordan Mason and Jahmyr Gibbs and a nice receiving corps led by Malachi Carter and Adonicas Sanders. Upfront, they’ll be replacing a couple of starters from a year ago but have some new faces in the program which should help.

Defensively, the secondary is rock solid but the Ramblin’ Wreck needs better play from the front seven. If GT has dreams of bowling, finishing 14th out of 15 in Total D isn’t going to cut it. Unfortunately, I don’t see a dramatic improvement on this side of the ball for the coming season.

Reviewing the schedule, GT has games against two playoff-caliber schools in Clemson and Georgia along with a road trip to Notre Dame. They should knock off Kennesaw and Northern Illinois but might be favored in only one other game all year (at Duke). It’s just too tough of a schedule for an Over. The baby steps continue and GT goes 4-8.

My Prediction:  UNDER

ACC (Coastal) Least Favorite Play:

Duke:  4 Wins

When you turn the ball over 39 times in 11 games (3.5 per game) you aren’t going to win many football games. That’s exactly what Duke did a year ago over the course of a 2-9 season. The Blue Devils lost 20 fumbles and threw 19 interceptions. On top of that, the Duke defense was last in the ACC against the run and the offensive line gave up the second most amount of sacks.

As great as HC David Cutcliffe has been for the Duke football program, that’s two straight losing seasons. While no one should ever question his job security, 2021 is a huge year for this program that went bowling in 6 of 7 seasons between 2012 and 2018. A quick turnaround is going to be a tall task. In the four-game losing streak to end last season, they lost by 3+ TDs in every game.

QB Chase Brice transferred to App State which opens the door for expected starter, Gunner Holmberg. Brice doesn’t deserve all of the blame for the turnovers last year, but he was way too reckless with the ball. With players like RB Mateo Durant and WR Jake Bobo, the skill position guys are solid but only three starters return from a bad OL a year ago. If Duke is going to sniff a bowl game, better QB and better offensive line play is a requisite.

As far as the defense, the back seven has a chance to be very good. However, the front four will be a pain point with Duke having to replace three starters. As good as the linebackers and DBs are, it all starts up front. Duke was awful against the run last year, and if you aren’t stout in the trenches, the whole defense suffers.

The schedule is fairly light this year. Every out-of-conference game is winnable but we’re probably looking at 2-2 or, at best, 3-1 outside the league. Within the ACC, they get Louisville and Wake from the Atlantic. Sure, they dodge Clemson but also miss out on having the good fortune of playing Syracuse.

I’ll chalk up the conference road games as L’s which means the Blue Devils need to knock off Georgia Tech and either Pitt, Louisville, or Miami at home. I’m a Duke fan but I can’t put my money behind one of the worst interiors in the conference with inexperience at QB to boot.

My Prediction: UNDER

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