It’s GAME WEEK, people! That’s right after nine months - and one Week 0 mixed in - we have a full slate of college football on the docket.
And with the games about to kick off in full these next few days, we’ve knocked out a whole bunch of conference by conference gambling previews.
Now, it’s time to turn to the ACC. Yes, Clemson has run this league for the better part of a decade now, but with the Trevor Lawrence era now officially over does anyone else have a shot to win this thing?
Let’s take a look, with the odds provided by our friends at DraftKings Sportsbook:
North Carolina (+700)
Virginia Tech (+3000)
NC State (+4000)
Boston College (+4000)
Wake Forest (+4500)
Florida State (+5000)
Georgia Tech (+10000)
The Favorite - Clemson (-750): You know when you see those crazy stories come across your feed that read something like “Man bets $25,000 to win $28 on UConn women” or something like that?
On the one hand, it sounds so, so, so stupid. On the other hand, if you have a near sure-thing, you’re willing to risk it, right?
Well, that’s kind of Clemson in the ACC. With no Notre Dame in the league this year (remember, the Irish were conference members last year) there is no team that’s even in the same stratosphere talent-wise as the Tigers. And even as lousy as the odds are, and as much money as you have to risk to win so little, they’re still the best bet on the board.
Yes, the Tigers move on from Trevor Lawrence but still have one of the most talented quarterbacks in the country in Uiagalelei and return 10 starters off a defense that gave up 17 or fewer points in seven games last season. Clemson might legitimately have the best defense in the country in 2021.
And what’s scary is, as we saw last year in the ACC title game, even if the Tigers get tripped up once during the regular season, they have so much talent that they will still be a prohibitive favorite once they get to the ACC title game in Charlotte.
Again, the odds are lousy, but Clemson to win the ACC is about the safest bet in college football right now.
Does the second favorite have a shot - North Carolina (+800): Listen, Clemson is the overwhelming favorite in this league for a reason. It’d be shocking if anyone other than Dabo Swinney’s club won the conference.
But make no mistake: Not only is North Carolina the second most talented team in the league. But they are also probably the best built to actually match up with Clemson if they meet in the title game (even if they’d be prohibitive underdogs if they played).
One, they have an elite quarterback, a player who is the potential No. 1 pick in the draft next season in Sam Howell. To beat Clemson you’re going to need to score points, and the Tar Heels averaged over 42 per game last year. They could just as good this year with Howell back under center, and Mack Brown has raved this off-season that the defensive depth is the best that it’s been since he got to Chapel Hill.
This might be the best non-Notre Dame ACC team in a few years, and worth the value at 8-1.
Best Value - Miami (+900): Realistically, the “best value” is probably Clemson, but since that’s boring, let’s talk Miami. Because while “The U” might not be back, at 9-1 they do hold some value here.
As easy as it is to forget with Clemson and Notre Dame’s dominance last season, the Hurricanes started 8-1, with their sole loss coming at Clemson during that stretch. More importantly, in Year 1 under new offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee, their offense went from 90th in scoring in 2019 to 26th nationally in 2020, averaging 34 points per game.
Well, with D’Eriq King back for a second year under Lashlee, the offense should be even better in 2021 and the defense brings back nine starters as well.
Oh, and Miami has an advantageous schedule that allows them to play North Carolina at home and avoid Clemson in the regular season altogether.
Stay Away - Virginia Tech (+3000): Behind Clemson, North Carolina and Miami in the ACC odds is Virginia Tech - and I’ll be real, I just don’t get this one.
First off, this program has progressively gotten worse every year under Justin Fuente, from 10-4 in his first season, to 9-4, 6-7, 8-5 and 5-6 last year. Even worse, they have a brutal schedule that has them playing North Carolina on opening night in Lane Stadium, with games at West Virginia and against Notre Dame by the end of September.
While those last two games don’t impact your ACC record, the bottom line is that this team could be playing for nothing by October, with the real possibility that Fuente is fired before the end of the regular season.
I just see absolutely no value here.
Long Shot with the Best Value - NC State (+4000): Like Tennessee in the SEC, NC State athletics seems to be cursed. Every time something good is about to happen, they have the rug pulled out from under them. Just look at last June’s College World Series if you need an example.
So to bet NC State here means that you’re not only betting against Clemson, Miami and North Carolina, but also betting against history and fate. Can you really trust NC State to do something good in college sports?
Don’t answer that.
But this was an 8-4 team last year, despite the fact that their projected starting quarterback Devin Leary appeared in only four games. Also, two of the losses came with the ACC’s best non-Clemson defensive player (Payton Wilson) on the sidelines. NC State’s only losses with Wilson in the lineup were at North Carolina and by three points to Miami. Plus, this year they get Clemson and North Carolina at home - and two of their last four meetings with Clemson were decided by a touchdown or less.
As Jim Carrey once said in “Dumb and Dumber” - “So you’re saying there’s a chance.”
Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying. A chance. Which at 40-1 is all you can hope for.
If you missed our other previews, click below:
The Big 12
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