2011 ACC Football Predictions and Futures Odds
by Robert Ferringo - 8/8/2011
Where have all the quarterbacks gone in the ACC?
Last season the likes of Christian Ponder, Ty Taylor and Russell Wilson led a group of ACC signal callers that rivaled any conference in the country. But thanks to graduation and defection the ACC is now staring one of the most inexperienced crops of quarterbacks in the nation. Seven teams in the ACC will have a new quarterback under center this fall. That number is high, but not shocking in the ever-changing college football betting landscape.
However, three of the five returning starters are just sophomores. Also, the lone senior under center is Miami’s Jacory Harris, who is currently engaged in a quarterback competition. If Harris loses his job to sophomore Steven Morris, that would make eight new starters in the ACC and it would make it the only conference in the nation without a single senior starter at the quarterback position.
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That lack of experience at the most critical spot on the field means that this should be a pretty wild and pretty unpredictable season in the South’s Other Conference. And with that in mind, here is a look at my 2011 ACC football predictions and futures odds, with the college football odds courtesy of BetOnline:
The Favorite: Florida State (+175)
Florida State is another team that has “everything but”. That is to say that they have everything that you need to win a conference championship and play in a BCS bowl game. But they have major quarterback questions. Athletic E.J. Manuel takes over for Ponder – who seemed like he was at FSU for 12 years – and he has a load of weapons to work with. FSU has a devastating offensive line, deep backfield, and a trio of three-year starters at wideout. The defense is fast, strong, and experienced and Jimbo Fisher is ready to make a major move with the ‘Noles. But perhaps more important than talent, the Florida State football schedule is tailor made. They have a huge nonconference home game against Oklahoma in September and that could put FSU in the national title hunt. Outside of that they have a clear path to the ACC title game.
The Challenger: Virginia Tech (+200)
The Hokies have a lot of juice right now. New quarterback Logan Thomas is being touted as The Next Cam Newton, and there is a ton of hype coming out of Blacksburg. Frank Beamer just knows how to get it done, and Tech currently has the longest streak of 10-win seasons in the nation. But there is no way that this year’s crew is better than the team that lost three games last year. Tech has its typical garbage nonconference slate and they get their toughest ACC games at home. They appear on a collision course with FSU for the ACC Title. Virginia Tech is an amazing 56-32-2 against the spread over the last seven years. So even if they are, in my opinion, overrated, this is a team to ride until the wheels come off.
The Dark Horse: North Carolina State (+3000)
This could finally – FINALLY – be the breakout season that everyone has been waiting for from Tom O’Brien. The Wolfpack did lose quarterback Russell Wilson (to Wisconsin), but they do have Mike Glennon, who was neck-and-neck with Wilson for the starting spot just two seasons ago. If he can take care of the ball then I think that the running game will improve and that a very underrated defense can take over. The Wolfpack have a very manageable schedule. And if they can steal a win at Cincinnati in late September then they stand an excellent chance of opening 7-0 or 6-1. This team was a surprise nine-game winner last season and I have a feeling that they could actually top that mark this year. O’Brien’s group has gone 24-11 ATS in the last three seasons so this is a team that should be on every college football handicappers’ radar.
The X-Factor: North Carolina (+650)
No team in the country had a more bizarre 2010 than the Tar Heels. And the absurdity has already spilled into this season as Butch Davis was fired just weeks ago in Chapel Hill. But there is still some promise in this team. And they are sitting on the razor’s edge of implosion or ascension. The young guys they have were baptized by fire last season amidst a season marred by suspensions and injuries. That makes this group more experienced and, more importantly, more resilient than they appear. T.J. Yates is going to be impossible to replace. But they have top-end talent at certain positions on both sides of the ball. Outside of a pair of tough road games at Clemson and at Virginia Tech, there is a chance that UNC could do some damage. But all of that is contingent on this team staying focused (again) despite a litany of off-field distractions.
The Disappointment: Miami (+400)
Stop me if you’ve heard this one: Miami is finally ready to regain its place among the nation’s elite college football programs. Well, I’ve got bad news for Miami fans – The Good Ol’ Days will not return. The Glory Days are over. What remains is an ultra-athletic, underachieving, overhyped team that has gone 28-45 ATS over the last six years. The perfect symbol of this mess is Jacory Harris, who is a turnover machine and a train wreck who is the face of the team despite the fact that he may not retain his starting job. Al Golden takes over this circus after some overrated years at Temple. He has one of the most difficult schedules in the conference, with games against Va. Tech, North Carolina and Florida State on the road. However, other than that the Canes play seven of their last 11 games at home and nine of their last 11 are in the Sunshine State. Caveat Emptor on this team.
Boston College (+2000) –The Eagles will fight, that’s for sure. Frank Spaziani begins his third year at the controls of one of the toughest, hardest-working teams in the country. The Eagles had the No. 13 defense in the country last year and went 7-6 despite being shackled with the country’s No. 109 offense. The good news is that with nine starters back, including slick running back Montel Harris, B.C.’s offense can only get better. The bad news is that the defense lost a lot of punch, and if anything happens to stud Luke Kuechly the levy could break on that side of the ball.
Clemson (+1500) - I anticipated a serious letdown for this program last year and they didn’t disappoint. But, actually, these guys were a bit spryer than I expected, losing five games by five points or less. Can that lead to a step back forward this season? Sophomore quarterback Tajh Boyd was impressive in the bowl game, but he is the biggest question mark on the offense. Their skill players are young, but explosive, and if this team can find some cohesiveness on defense they could be a player in the ACC. But this is also the year we find out if Dabo Sweeney actually belongs as a head coach after a pair of sketchy seasons at the helm. Clemson closes the year with three of four on the road, and we are going to see what this team is made of during a killer three-week stretch against Auburn, FSU, and VT.
Maryland (+1500) –Randy Edsall takes over for Ralph Friedgen and the new coach has quite a bit to work with in College Park. Edsall was a master at getting his Connecticut teams to overachieve, and he could do the same with the Terps this year. This team is built to play Edsall’s style: run the ball and play good defense. They have a stocked backfield, led by Davin Meggett, and 16 of the Top 20 tacklers back from the country’s No. 21 rush defense last year. The problem is the schedule. They come right out of the gate against Miami in a key ACC battle and then have to take on a talented West Virginia team. Things soften up there, but they actually play their final three games of the year away from home. I expect this group to go bowling, but I don’t see them as an ACC threat.
Wake Forest (+10000) –It seems like ages ago that Jim Grobe was guiding an 11-3 Demon Deacons team to a Top 20 ranking. But after a sweet three-year run with Riley Skinner at the helm the Deacons have gone just 8-16 the last two years. Sure, they have 17 starters back this season. But this same group lost five games by 30 points or more last year and finished No. 101 or lower on both offense and defense. They will be better than last year’s 3-9 mess. But not by much.
Georgia Tech (+2500) –Just 19 months ago Paul Johnson had Georgia Tech inside the Top 10 in the country. But after a disappointing follow-up last year, serious attrition due to graduation, and some negative publicity from an NCAA investigation this offseason, it looks like Johnson is rebuilding. As many as 10 freshmen and sophomores could be starting for Tech this year. And after an easy nonconference schedule things get very tricky for the Jackets, starting with a trip to Miami in Oct. Johnson’s teams always overachieved when he was at Navy, so don’t count him out. But Tech should be in for a bumpy ride this season.
Virginia (+3300) –Mike London seemed to hit every bump in the road during his first season at Virginia. His Cavs beat only two D-I teams, and one of them was Eastern Michigan. Virginia welcomes back an ACC-high 18 starters and have 11 seniors in their Top 22. But they have a new quarterback and their schedule affords them no breaks after their Oct. 8 bye week.
Duke (+15000) –I like what David Cutcliffe has done in keeping the Blue Devils (relatively) competitive in the ACC. This could be his best team yet. But the Blue Devils are still just fodder for the top teams in the league. They play FSU, VT and Miami within a four-week stretch and they close the year with three of four on the road. However, I could see Duke starting out 4-3. And they have some situational edges when they face Miami (the week before the Canes play FSU) and North Carolina (the week after the Heels head to Blacksburg). If they can find a way to block some people, their skill players have a chance to make the Blue Devils a very active underdog.
2011 ACC Conference Predictions: Predicted Order of Finish
1. Florida State
3. N.C. State
4. Boston College
6. Wake Forest
1. Virginia Tech
3. North Carolina
4. Georgia Tech
Robert Ferringo is an NFL and college football handicapper and is coming off an exceptionally profitable 2010-11 football season (college and pro). Over the last year his clients have more than tripled their bankrolls with his predictions in all sports. He is looking forward to building on his stellar football handicapping resume again this fall and you can check him out here.
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