Football season is finally here, and there is no better way to kick off the new year by going over some win totals. You can find some amazing value if you look in the right places, and I am here to give you a good start. If you’re a casual who hasn’t been paying much attention during the summer months, then let me be the first to say welcome back to college football.
First of all, in terms of quarterback talent, this is the best conference in the country this year. I see seven or eight really good/NFL caliber quarterbacks. On top of that there has been a ton of coaching turnover. Four new head coaches enter the league (Duke, Miami, Virginia, Virginia Tech) as well as a handful of new coordinators. Those factors are always important considerations when looking at win totals or conference futures. Here are some win totals I like in the ACC Coastal this year.
FanDuel: 3.5 (+165/-195) — DraftKings: 3 (-115/-105)
I hate to get things started on such a bad note, but here’s Duke led by new head coach Mike Elko. Elko comes in with a tall task on his hand: make Duke respectable. He will have to overcome some key losses like last year’s starting QB Gunnar Holmberg, who is now at Florida International. Their leading rusher Mataeo Durant is off to the NFL, best receiver Jake Bobo transferred to UCLA, and 2021’s leading tackler and best defender Lummie Young transferred to Tulane. It’s a very young team with a lot of new faces–highlighted by the fact they only return nine starters, second fewest in the ACC.
Two sophomore quarterbacks, Riley Leonard and Jordan Moore, will battle it out for the starting spot but don’t be surprised to see a rotation between them. Four offensive line starters return as does the experienced playmaker Jalon Calhoun at receiver. Hopefully, they can put together some pieces to improve an offense that was last in the ACC in scoring at 22 points per game. Defensively, the Devils lose eight of their top 13 tacklers, but the real trouble lies with a young and inexperienced secondary that starts two sophomores. This year should be a lot of the same from the defense that gave up 40 points per game in 2021.
As bad as things look, I actually wouldn’t be opposed to taking the over 3 wins at DraftKings, only because of the potential to push if Duke finishes 3-9. They should beat Temple at home in Week 1 (Duke -8) and will handle NC A&T in Week 3. It’s the two non-conference road games at Northwestern and at Kansas that will be key for this win total. If the Blue Devils can win one of those, that’s three wins right there. I expect Kansas to be a better team than last year, so Duke’s best chance would be winning the Week 2 matchup in Evanston. Don’t expect them to win a conference game, however. My favorite bet would be Duke under 1.5 ACC wins at -250 on DraftKings.
Prediction: 2-10 (under 3, -105 DK) (under 1.5 ACC wins, -240 DK)
FanDuel: 3.5 (+105/-125) — DraftKings: 3.5 (+100, -120)
Hey look, it’s the other awful team in the ACC. Let me go ahead and tell you to bet this under right now. I already did. Head coach Geoff Collins is on the hot seat…and by hot seat, I mean his chair is engulfed in flames. It doesn’t help that the Yellow Jackets got absolutely decimated by the transfer portal, losing star RB Jahmyr Gibbs to Alabama as well as countless other players. Add in a new offensive coordinator, and there is a ton of player and coaching turnover. Tech also returns only seven starters, the fewest in the ACC. As one anonymous ACC coach said, “Every good player they had is gone or in the portal.”
Jeff Sims is back at quarterback, which is fine, I guess, but he will be playing behind probably the worst offensive line group in the conference. It’s an extremely inexperienced unit that will feature five sophomores, with only one of them a returning starter. The development of some young receivers will be key in determining how good this offense can be. Overall, this group had trouble scoring last year and it looks to be more of the same. On defense, they lost eight of their top 11 tacklers in what was already the worst defense in the conference outside of Duke. Linebacker Charlie Thomas is the best player and could be All-ACC, but after him, there is a steep drop off in talent. There is almost no returning production in the secondary, which could see the Jackets give up more than the 33 points per game they allowed last year.
The worst part about this is the schedule (Phil Steele ranks it as the third hardest in the country). It’s an absolutely brutal slate that looks like it was made to get a coach fired. Three of Tech’s five hardest games come on the road, and it’s looking highly likely that they start off 1-4. They are three touchdown underdogs hosting Clemson in Week 1, but soon after, it is…*deep breath*…vs. Ole Miss, at UCF, and at Pitt. Georgia Tech will be double digit underdogs in all three of those. That’s not mentioning trips to Florida State, UNC, and Georgia. They’ll also host Miami in between those. The only winnable games are Western Carolina, Duke, and maybe Virginia. Either way, the inexperience and horrible schedule makes this an easy under play for me.
Prediction: 2-10 (under 3.5, -120 DK)
FanDuel: 9 (-105/-115) — DraftKings: 8.5 (-135/+115)
Finally, some positive news about a team in the Coastal. Miami comes in with a new face leading their program and it’s former Oregon coach Mario Cristobal. There are high expectations for the Hurricanes, but they have the athletes to match it, and it starts with sophomore QB Tyler Van Dyke. When D’Eriq King went down last year, it was Van Dyke who came in and put up some great numbers. He finished 6-3 as a starter, with the three losses coming by a combined eight points. Coaches and scouts believe he has the potential to be the best signal caller in the conference, if he isn’t already. He will play behind an experienced offensive line that ranks among the top in the country. Zion Nelson dominates at left tackle and will be a first round pick next April. Returning running back Jaylan Knighton will be All-ACC this year, and the Clemson transfer Frank Ladson adds talent and depth to a wide receiver room that lost it’s two best playmakers. The Canes scored 34 points per game in 2021 and don’t be surprised to see similar or better numbers this time around.
The secondary should be a strength on defense this year. Before his late season injury, the former Georgia transfer Tyrique Stevenson was one of the best corners in the conference, and the five star recruit James Williams is a budding star at safety. If the Canes can sure up some questions along the defensive line–where they lost their two best pass rushers–then they could find themselves at the top of the league with teams like Clemson and NC State. Cristobal and his staff are hoping a handful of defensive transfers pan out. And don’t forget special teams where Miami has an All-American punter and an accurate kicker.
Outside of road games at Texas A&M and Clemson, it’s a very favorable schedule. They will get Duke and Georgia Tech for two free wins along with their three non-conference games, and a trip to Virginia looks less daunting in what should be a down year. Pitt comes to Miami to end the season. This is a Miami team that had seven games last year finish within four points (finished 4-3 in those games). But with a better coaching staff and more talented roster, they can top those numbers and win more games. Nine wins seems about right so I’ll take the DraftKings number and go over.
Prediction: 9-3 (over 8.5, -135 DK)
FanDuel: 6.5 (-160/+135) — DraftKings: 7.5 (+105/-125)
Mack Brown has pulled in three straight Top 15 recruiting classes, yet there is still uncertainty about what to make of this UNC team. Last year was supposed to be the breakthrough season where all the pieces came together. Instead, it was barred by injuries, poor redzone execution, sacks, and penalties, which left the Heels at 6-7 following an upset loss in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl. Sam Howell is gone to the NFL, which means there’s a QB competition between two young guys that don’t possess much experience. Running back Ty Chandler is also gone, along with three offensive line starters. On an offense filled with question marks, the only guaranteed thing is receiver Josh Downs, who is one of the best in ACC.
Gene Chizik is in at defensive coordinator to try and fix a group that underperformed in 2021. Myles Murphy made second team All-ACC on the defensive line and is by far the most talented player on this side of the ball. Storm Duck (amazing name) and Tony Grimes lead a cornerback unit that when healthy could be towards the top of the conference. For the most part, this defense is high ceiling, low floor. In a way, that describes the entire team.
Another story for UNC last year were the struggles on the road. The Heels were winless (0-6) away from Chapel Hill last season. That’s going to have to improve as visits to Miami, Virginia, and Wake Forest come calling. A surprising part of this schedule are the non-conference games. Week 1 will be a win against Florida A&M but then it’s off to Boone to play Appalachian State in a game that will not be easy. North Carolina is currently a 2.5-point favorite in that game. Then there’s a trip to Turner Field to play Georgia State. It may look like a push over, but ask Tennessee and Auburn; they’ll tell you Georgia State is no joke. Other games include Notre Dame, Miami, Pitt, Wake Forest, and NC State. There are only three easy wins I see on this schedule, and I don’t have enough confidence to even come up with a prediction for this team. They could win eight, or they could win five. I want no part of this, but if I had to play it, I would take the under on DraftKings.
Prediction: 7-5 (under 7.5, -125 DK)
FanDuel: 7.5 (-190/+160) — DraftKings: 8.5 (-115/-105)
Most of the offseason chatter about Pitt has been about the loss of QB Kenny Pickett and WR Jordan Addison. But there is more to Pitt than just some key losses, as this team brings back a ton of returning production. This will be a classic Pat Narduzzi team that runs the ball and controls the line of scrimmage on both sides. The Panthers return their entire offensive line, a group of five seniors that are good and have played a ton of football. It’s probably the best offensive line in the conference. Kedon Slovis comes in at quarterback, a senior who is an experienced player from his years at USC. He will have the most protection he’s had in his career and I’m expecting a good season from him. Trying to replace Addison will be Akron transfer Konata Mumpfield, an explosive, playmaking receiver that should become Slovis’ number one target. Behind Pickett, this offense scored more than 40 points per game last year, ranking third in the nation. It will be hard to recreate that spark, but I believe the Panthers can be lethal on this side of the ball again.
Who has the best defensive line in the country? The answer is Clemson…but second would be Pitt. An experienced, veteran group that ranked second nationally in sacks last season. At linebacker, second team All-ACC pick SirVocea Dennis is back after leading the team in tackles. In the secondary, is a group who underperformed in 2021 but should be much improved this season.
Two of Pitt’s three losses last year were by three and four points, respectively; a few points away from being undefeated and going to the playoff. This year, the slate is favorable as Pitt plays the five worst ACC teams, with only one of those games being on the road. This win total will really come down to a handful of games. The first two weeks (vs West Virginia, vs Tennessee) are crucial. Both games are winnable but even coming away 1-1 is good. Following a bye week, Pitt travels to Louisville and then UNC. Pitt should be, at worst, 5-1 coming into that Louisville game, and if they can split those two road trips, then you’re feeling good. A game at Miami in the last week of the season should decide the division, but I believe the win total will be decided by then. I’m going over on the Panthers. They are a solid, veteran team with a favorable schedule.
Prediction: 9-3 (over 7.5, -190 FD)
FanDuel: 7.5 (+135/-160) — DraftKings: 7 (+100/-120)
I have a strong feeling about the Virginia under, and I bet it a few weeks ago at better value. The Cavaliers lost offensive and defensive coordinators, and the former Clemson OC Tony Elliott is in as the new coach, but he inherits a very different team from last season.
Brennan Armstrong is back as one of the conference’s better quarterbacks and two of his favorite targets, Keytaon Thompson and Dontayvion Wicks, return at receiver. But those three are the only returning starters on offense. Expect Armstrong to be running for his life in most games behind a very new and inexperienced offensive line that lost all five starters. Between the five new O-Line starters there is a combined two FBS starts. There is also no established running game, but senior back Ronnie Walker will be getting the bulk of the carries.
The defense isn’t much better, with only five returning starters. In fact, out of Virginia’s 19 sacks last season, 12 came from players who are no longer on the roster, and four of the teams top six tacklers are gone. The only bright spot is the senior linebacker Nick Jackson, who could finish first or second team All-ACC this season. But for the most part, it looks pretty bleak for a defense that gave up 466 yards per game last season, one of the worst in FBS.
Virginia went 6-6 last season (4-4 in conference), but it could’ve looked very different. Miami and Louisville both missed field goals at the horn that could’ve given them the win. Basically, Virginia was two field goals away from being 4-8 last year, in which case their win total for this season would look very different to the 7.5 you’ll see on most sportsbooks.
The Cavs avoid Clemson and NC State, which is good, but even with a favorable schedule, I believe this teams lacks the talent and experience to win a lot of games. Road trips to Illinois and Syracuse (on a Friday night) in the first four weeks of the season will probably see Virginia as small favorites in both games, but I would lean towards betting against them in both. Louisville in Week 6 is a very losable game. Miami, UNC, and Pitt all come to Charlottesville, which could be losses. At Virginia Tech in a big rivalry game will be tough. Even playing Coastal Carolina in a non-conference game will not be easy for Virginia. I’m too down on this roster this year, especially against teams that could make big leaps this season like Syracuse, Miami, and Pitt. It’s an under for me. I’ll personally take the 7.5 at FanDuel, so I don’t worry about a push.
Prediction: 6-6 (under 7.5, -160 FD)
FanDuel: 6.5 (+135/-160) — DraftKings: 6.5 (+125/-145)
Another coaching change took place in Blacksburg where the Hokies brought in Penn State DC Brent Pry. He looks to improve on the 6-7 record from last season. There’s a new quarterback as well and it’s Marshall transfer Grant Wells. Wells has a strong arm and will look to open up some big plays for the offense, something that’s been missing for the last few years. The Hokies return a decent wide receiver room, and the sophomore back Malachi Thomas will get most of the carries. It’s the offensive line that raises questions, however, with little depth or experience other than two sixth year seniors. Should one or two lineman go down, this offense will rely heavily on true freshman to move defenses off the line for a coach that wants to establish a run-first offense.
On defense, it’s not all that bad. This was where the Hokies were best last season, and they return 79% of defensive production. Linebacker Dax Hollifield and safety Chamarri Conner are key weapons and should wind up on All-ACC teams this season. Together, they’ll lead a pretty decent and veteran group of linebackers and defensive backs. Similar to the offense, it is the line of scrimmage that could cause problems. No defensive lineman last year had more than 3.5 sacks and there wasn’t exactly a ton of additions to that group in the offseason.
How many games this team can win most likely depends on the health and level of play on the offensive and defensive lines. But I’m totally out on this team the way I am with Virginia or Georgia Tech, and their schedule gives them a chance to possibly win seven games. Va Tech is just over a touchdown favorite at Old Dominion in Week 1, which could be scary, followed by homes game vs Boston College and Wofford. If Tech could get out 3-0, they welcome in a tough stretch over the next five games: West Virginia, at UNC, at Pitt, Miami, at NC State. If the Hokies could get two wins out of that stretch, then your over is looking good, and the last four games shouldn’t be too much of a problem either. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Virginia Tech win seven games, but betting this win total is a stay away for me.
Prediction: 6-6 (under 6.5, -145 DK)
My favorite bets
Georgia Tech under 3.5
Young roster and awful schedule. They couldn’t have drawn it up any worse, especially with a coach on the hot seat. They will be favorites in two games this season. This team will struggle mightily.
Virginia under 7.5
This is a team that wasn’t that good last year. They were two plays away from a 4-8 season. New coordinators, new head coach and a ton of question marks on the roster this year make for an easy under player for me.
Biggest stay away
This all comes down to how well the offensive and defensive lines play, and how this new offense gels. It’s not an awful schedule, and if the Hokies win the easy games, then they should be fine. But 5-7 is just as likely as 7-5.