2014 ACC Predictions and College Football Futures Odds
by Robert Ferringo - 8/25/2014
It's a new year but the same story for the ACC: parity or mediocrity?
The conference does boast the defending BCS National Champion with Florida State. But they have gone just 4-13 in BCS bowl games and still have too many 7-6-caliber teams populating the league.
Florida State is nearly a lock to win the Atlantic Division this season. But there is no clear-cut second-place team, and there is a jumble of four schools jostling behind the Seminoles. At -600 to win the Atlantic and -300 to win the ACC championship, the Seminoles are the largest conference favorite in the country.
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The Coastal Division is completely up in the air. North Carolina, Virginia or Miami could surge forward to challenge the Seminoles. And that doesn't even include defending divisional champion Duke or perpetual spoilers Georgia Tech and Pittsburgh. This division should be completely unpredictable. But not necessarily in a good way.
There will be a lot of teams in the ACC fighting for regional and national respect. But are any of them capable of truly testing the resurgent 'Noles? I wouldn't count on that. But I would count on a lot of upsets and plenty of underdogs covering the spread in this muddled mess of a conference.
Here is a look at my 2014 ACC football predictions and futures odds, with the college football odds courtesy of Bovada:
The Favorite: Florida State (-300)
Florida State is the defending National Champion and will open the 2014 season No. 1 in the county and as a 17-point road favorite versus a strong Oklahoma State program. What more needs to be said about how much respect the books have for this squad? After years of underachieving, the Seminoles went 11-2-1 against the spread last year, Jameis Winston avoided jail time long enough to win the Heisman, and the team went undefeated and finally chopped the head of the SEC's BCS dynasty. It was a hell of a year. Florida State lost plenty from last year's title team, including five of its six top defenders. But they still have Winston and one of the most experienced and talented offensive lines in the country, so the offense is going to score points at will. That will take the pressure off a defense that makes up for its youth by having wave upon wave of talented athletes to plug in and play. Florida State won its games by an average of 39 points per game last year. That number could be cut in half and they would still be one of the best teams in the country. They are a legit contender to win back-to-back titles.
The Challenger: Clemson (+1000)
After going 32-8 straight up over the last three years - and a solid 24-16 ATS - the Tigers are clearly the second-best program in the ACC right now. However, I am not as high on this Tigers team as a lot of people. The Tigers are ranked No. 16 in the preseason poll. But they have to replace their quarterback, top two receivers and top running back. The entire offense is unproven, beginning with senior quarterback Cole Stoudt. The defense should again be formidable. Clemson has seven senior starters in that group, including four three-year starters, and the Tigers have 17 of their top 21 tacklers back. But Clemson has to play at Georgia and at Florida State in the first month of the year, and they close against Top 10 South Carolina. Any upset along the way - something Clemson has avoided in recent years but that has plagued them forever - and the Tigers could find themselves out of the Top 25, out of the ACC race, and into some third-tier bowl game. Unless their young offensive players are much better than people realize, that's exactly where I see this season heading.
The Dark Horse: Virginia Tech (+1200)
The cloak of invincibility surrounding Frank Beamer has been removed. The Hokies have gone just 15-11 straight up the past two years and are just 12-27 ATS the past three season. The truth is that the Hokies benefitted from comically easy schedules for most of the past decades, rarely facing Top 10 competition and getting most of their Top 25 and key ACC games in Blacksburg. Tech lost quarterback Logan Thomas. But he was as much of a problem as he was a solution for a struggling Hokies offense that has averaged around 25 PPG the last three seasons. Tech has nine other offensive starters back. And if they can maintain their usual high standards on defense and special teams then the Hokies could earn their third trip to the ACC title game in five years. Also, they have a trip to Ohio State on Sept. 6. The Buckeyes, who are equally overrated, just lost Heisman candidate Braxton Miller and could be vulnerable. A win in the Horseshoe could vault Tech - who enters the season unranked and has been outside the Top 25 for 21 of its past 26 games - back into the national discussion.
The X-Factor Horse: Louisville (+1000)
I don't know anyone - not a gambler, analyst, or opposing coach - that isn't terrified of Louisville this year. The Cardinals should be primed for a letdown after last season's fantastic 12-1 season. The Cards have just 11 returning starters and lost their coach to Texas. Enter Bobby Petrino. Petrino is one of the bigger scumbags in sports. But the man can coach. And he can win. And he has regained a post in Louisville where he went 41-9 before bolting for the Atlanta Falcons. Petrino is trying to turn Charlie Strong's defensive-oriented squad into a pass-wacky offensive one. He has a load of seniors back on offense (nine) but has to break in a new quarterback and replace six of his top eight tacklers. Petrino, and Louisville, is a wild card. They play at Clemson and they have a bye week before hosting Florida State on a Thursday night. And they could be favored in nine of their other 10 games this year. I don't see the Cards winning the ACC in their first year in the conference. But with Petrino at the helm they will certainly be dangerous, and there is just no telling how good the offense will be or how many upsets they'll be able to pull.
The Disappointment: Duke (+2000)
The Blue Devils are the defending ACC Coastal champions and actually received 71 votes in the preseason AP Top 25, ostensibly making them the No. 29 team in the nation. I don't see any way Duke is one of the best 30 teams in the nation, even with 14 returning starters (eight on offense). Duke played a cupcake schedule last year. And they simply caught a rush late in the year, pulling out last-second wins over Virginia Tech, Wake Forest and North Carolina. They have another easy schedule this season, avoiding Florida State, Clemson and Louisville from the Atlantic. But they also aren't going to sneak up on anyone this year. Their season win total was set at 8.5 by Las Vegas. But I don't see them topping that mark or getting back to a significant bowl game.
North Carolina (+1200) - It has been a really tough few years for the Tar Heels. Between injuries, suspensions, scandals, investigations and coaching changes, the North Carolina program has been in a perpetual scramble over the past six seasons. However, despite all the distractions the Heels have posted six straight winning years. And things may be looking up in Year 3 of the Larry Fedora Era. UNC has 15 starters back, including super-athletic quarterback Marquise Williams. Williams took control late last year and sparked a 6-1 close to the year that culminated with a blowout bowl win. The Heels have a lot of outstanding athletes. They start the season No. 23, so UNC isn't exactly underrated. But they are some tough road wins away from having double-digit wins and a real breakout season.
Georgia Tech (+3300) - Paul Johnson is all but a lame duck at the helm for the Yellowjackets. The locals are tired of his triple-option offense and ready to move on after four straight mediocre seasons have resulted in a 28-26 mark. The transfer of last year's starting quarterback, Vad Lee, may have been the final nail in the coffin, as Johnson only has 10 returning starters to work with. Johnson has been one of the best ATS coaches in the nation the past decade and thrives in the underdog role. But I can't see anything better than another 7-5 season, and I don't think that will be enough to save his job.
Pittsburgh (+4000) - The Panthers were pretty game last year in their first trip through the ACC. That despite an inexperienced roster around graduated quarterback Tom Savage. Replacing Savage will be tough for coach Paul Chryst, and the Panthers have a green defense. But they also have one of the easiest schedules in the country. And if they can beat Iowa in Pitt and stave off any early-season upsets then the Panthers could be 6-0 and coming off a bye week heading into a nationally-televised Thursday home game against Virginia Tech. That kicks off a stretch with three straight, and four of five, at home. They need a quarterback to emerge, though, and the defense has to improve after its worst statistical season in six years in 2013.
Virginia (+6600) - Mike London is another coach on the hot seat after a pair of underachieving seasons and a weak 18-31 SU record in four years in Charlottesville. The Cavaliers have a deep and experienced roster. But they don't have a quarterback. And their schedule features opening-month games against UCLA, Louisville and at BYU. Virginia also closes with four of its final six games on the road (and they will likely be home underdogs to North Carolina and Miami in between those trips). If the Cavaliers had Duke's schedule they would be bowling. But this slate is too much. Watch out for the Cavs to pull an upset or two. But an ugly start could lead to an early end for London and could throw this entire year into chaos.
Syracuse(+6600) - Just as I predicted they would, the Orange held their own in their first season in the ACC. Now Syracuse is positioned as a very dangerous team in the league heading into this season. If junior quarterback Terrel Hunt can make some strides then the Orange offense could be one of its best in a lean decade. They have 15 total starters back, including seven on defense, and Syracuse is getting some of its old swagger back. The problem is a ruthless midseason stretch that has them facing Notre Dame, Louisville, Florida State and Clemson in a five-game stretch. Only one of those games is on the road, though, and an upset or two would give this team confidence. However, they still lack the top-end talent to compete at FSU's level, and the best the Orange could hope for is an emergence to the top of the second tier in the league.
Boston College (+20000) - I was one of the only handicappers in the country that was actually high on Boston College last year. They had one of the most experienced teams in the country, a solid quarterback, and a strong defense. B.C. was able to cobble together a bowl season and actually gave Florida State and Clemson decent games, covering the spread in both in the process. But now reality is going to set in for second-year head coach Steve Addazio. The Eagles have gone from 17 returning starters to just nine, and they need to replace their veteran quarterback and hero running back. The Eagles only leave the state of Massachusetts one time in the first eight weeks of the season. But don't be fooled by any moderate early success; this team will be lucky to win more than four games.
North Carolina State (+10000)- The Wolfpack started last year in promising fashion, going 3-1 and posting a game effort in a loss to Clemson. But then the wheels came off for new head coach Dave Doeren, and N.C. State lot its final eight games of the year. The Wolfpack do have 14 starters back and some statistical indicators pointing toward a turnaround season. But it is almost solely dependent on Florida transfer quarterback Jacoby Brissett. If he can lend stability to the position then State has a lot of experience in the rest of the offense. They lost their three top tacklers on defense but still have 10 of the top 13 back. The Wolfpack have a very manageable schedule, and this team should be in line for a bounce-back year and its fourth bowl game in five years.
Wake Forest (+20000) - Now that Wake Forest is horrible again it really puts into perspective what a good job former coach Jim Grobe did in his time here. Grobe stepped aside and former Bowling Green head coach Dave Clawson takes over in Winston-Salem. Clawson, who has a career record of 32-31, is someone that I think will be in over his head. Wake only has 10 returning starters and lost a very good QB-WR combo with Tanner Price and Michael Campanaro graduating. Clawson will get a honeymoon year. But this team stinks, and I have a hard time seeing them winning more than one ACC game.
Miami(+1200) - Last season was a strange one for Miami. After years of being declared "back," the Hurricanes played their way to a 7-0 start and a slot in the Top 10. But then they dumped three straight by an average of 21 points per game and were eventually throttled by Louisville in a bowl game. Still, Miami won nine games for just the second time in eight years. And with the healthy return of Duke Johnson and Philip Dorsett, 15 returning starters, and 11 three-year starters, this could be Al Golden's best team yet. However, like Pittsburgh and Georgia Tech, Miami doesn't have a quarterback. And nonconference games against Nebraska and Cincinnati offer stiff competition. It all comes down to quarterback play, though, and this is a team to watch in the Coastal.
2014 ACC Conference Predictions: Predicted Order of Finish
1. Florida State
4. N.C. State
6. Boston College
7. Wake Forest
1. Virginia Tech
2. North Carolina
5. Georgia Tech
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Robert Ferringo was the top football handicapper in the country last year, earning nearly $8,000 in total football profit in 2014-14 and posting one of the best seasons in America. He hit 62.1 percent for the entire NFL season (95-58) and was amazing down the stretch, closing with 11 of 14 winning NFL weeks and 12 of 15 overall winning football weeks. Robert has posted 3 of 4 winning football seasons, 6 of 7 winning NFL seasons, 30 of 44 winning football months, and 6 of 7 winning NFL preseasons. Also, Robert's proprietary KING College Football Betting System posted another winning season (now 2-for-2) and is 83-58 over the last two years (58.9 percent).
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