As the college season slowly kicks off and we begin anticipating conference play, I’ll be taking you through the BetOnline numbers for each conference championship and looking at which lines look most profitable to bet in a weird season. Earlier this week, I took a look at the SEC West; today, it’s the ACC.
Before you go betting on the ACC conference title, it’s important to understand how the game works this year. For their COVID-adopted schedule and temporary inclusion of Notre Dame into the fray, the ACC has copied the Big 12 model for their conference rankings this year. Each team will play 10 conference opponents, and the two teams with the best winning percentage in the conference will meet in the championship game. That means no more Coastal division, and for the many teams who have spent the last five years under Clemson’s thumb, no more Atlantic division either.
With the inclusion of Notre Dame remembered, here are the odds for ACC champion in 2020.
- Clemson (-350)
- Notre Dame (+450)
- North Carolina (+1000)
- Miami (+1200)
- Florida State (+2000)
- Virginia Tech (+2000)
- Pittsburgh (+3300)
- Louisville (+4000)
- Virginia (+5000)
- NC State (+8000)
- Wake Forest (+8000)
- Boston College (+10000)
- Duke (+10000)
- Syracuse (+10000)
- Georgia Tech (+25000)
Clemson remains the heavy favorite and appropriately so. Clemson has not lost an ACC Championship in each of the last five seasons, and returns a national champion quarterback in Trevor Lawrence along with a potential first-round running back in Travis Etienne and offensive tackle in Jackson Carman. No, the defensive roster isn’t the best it’s been for Dabo Swinney, and the wide receiver room is a little thin with the loss of Justyn Ross for the season. But the Tigers are still the team to beat.
Beyond the Tigers, we should look at advantageous scheduling, as well as healthy and returning starters to find a potential combatant in the championship game. The heavy favorite here is Notre Dame, who returns their entire starting offensive line and starting quarterback in Ian Book, and reloads on defense with rising stars in safety Kyle Hamilton and linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, as well as a stable of veteran defensive linemen. Notre Dame plays Clemson at home, so they should be good for at least one loss, barring games against North Carolina on the road and Louisville at home.
Notre Dame misses both Miami and Virginia Tech, who are currently tied with North Carolina with 7 ½ win totals on BetOnline, behind Notre Dame’s projected 8 ½ wins. Of course, those numbers take into account the additional out-of-conference games scheduled, but let’s call the three equivalent for now.
North Carolina was spunky when led by freshman quarterback Sam Howell last year, and in Mack Brown’s second season of recruiting, figure to bring in more talent. They experience heavy turnover on the offensive line, and critically, they do not play Clemson in the regular season. They even get Notre Dame and Virginia Tech at home, with Miami on the road later in the season. Of course, we shouldn’t overestimate home/away games this year, as fans will be limited, but Miami does have one of the most aggressive plans for fans at home games, with 20% capacity currently on deck.
North Carolina also is the ACC program most recent to draw blood on Clemson, as they took them down to a two-point conversion attempt last season during Clemson’s sleepy September. If anyone can feel confident going up against the Orange Machine, it’s Brown’s plucky Tar Heels.
Virginia Tech brings back all of their starting offensive linemen from last season, and a rising stud at quarterback in Hendon Hooker, who they kept from the transfer portal this offseason. Tech also returns almost all of their defensive starters on what was a solid final season for defensive coordinator Bud Foster, but there will be a question on that unit as Justin Hamilton steps into the role for the first time as the first new defensive coordinator for the Hokies since 1995. Tech plays UNC, Miami, and faces Clemson to finish the season out.
Miami is fun in theory, with Houston transfer quarterback D’Eriq King landing along with SMU offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee to add some juice to an anemic 2019 attack. But the Hurricanes are largely starting middling seniors and young prospects at the skill positions, with star tight end Brevin Jordan standing out as the lone proven threat. On defense, the Canes will need something huge from Temple transfer Quincy Roche to account for the loss of Defensive Rookie of the Year Greg Rousseau, who has opted-out of the season and has his sights set on the NFL.
Miami should be better—but with a tough opening slate of UAB, Louisville, Florida State, BYE, Clemson after such a weird year of camp, as well as Virginia Tech and North Carolina later in the season, they’re tough to buy into as anything more than an improved, but still growing contender.
As such North Carolina and Virginia Tech are really our two big threats to Notre Dame to get into that ACC Championship game. North Carolina is priced a little more evenly, but for my money, they’re still the bet. They have the better quarterback and head coach, as well as the history of facing well against Clemson, who they don’t have to play in the regular season. It could come down to the Nov. 27 game against Notre Dame deciding the second ACC contender among two unbeatens. And in a one-off, I’ll take Brown and the Tar Heels.
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