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Predicting the ACC Atlantic’s Win Totals

Surely none of these prognostications will come back to haunt me

Syndication: The Greenville News Ken Ruinard / staff via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Since no one knows what the hell is going to happen in this wave of conference realignment, with the exception of Oklahoma and Texas most likely (they are) moving to the SEC, I’m not going to pretend I do either. I may get into some hypothetical moves in the next few weeks as the dust settles and things become more clear, but for now I’d like to focus on something more normal for pre-season discussions before my brain explodes: ACC Atlantic Win Totals.

Lost in the shuffle of Oklahoma and Texas dropping an atomic bomb on college football was Louisville being selected to finish 6th in the ACC-Atlantic. My feeling about the media vote is that those closer to Louisville and the ACC generally think more highly of Louisville than those in the national media do this year, which explains why the vote totals were so close. But what I really want to get into is what the computers and Vegas are thinking.

So let’s go through the Vegas win totals using Mr. Bovada’s latest totals, and compare them to my favorite college football computer, Bill Connelly’s SP+ ($)*.

*You may notice that Connelly’s SP+ win totals look a little odd, but the easiest way to understand them is that SP+ takes the odds of each game, adds up the win probabilities of all 12 games, and then spits out a result. Put simply, they’re extremely conservative numbers. So, when you see a number like Clemson at 10.9 projected wins, that means that SP+ conservatively sees Clemson finishing around 11 wins. CONSERVATIVELY!

Clemson Tigers – Over/Under 11.5 Wins, SP+ 10.9 WIns

I actually think this is one of the easier bets on the board. Clemson opens the season with one of the biggest season openers we’ve seen in years as they face the Georgia Bulldogs in Charlotte. The Tigers are only favored by 4 points at this time and I could see that line getting closer to a pick ‘em as the game gets closer.

Clemson is obviously stocked with talent once again, but replacing talents like Trevor Lawrence and Etienne is easier said than done. I’m sure they’ll still be great this year, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a highly touted Georgia team give a relatively new offense some trouble in Week 1.

And even if Clemson wins that game, they usually let one lesser opponent at least scare them if not outright beat them during the regular season. Behind D.J. Uiagalelei they don’t have a ton of depth at QB, and if he were to miss some playing time due to an injury at some point this season they may be in enough trouble to drop at least one game.

Prediction: Under 11.5 Wins.

NC State Wolfpack – Over/Under 6 Wins, SP+ 6.9 Wins

NC State bounced back from a 4-8 campaign in 2019 to win 8 games last season. Some, including myself, have found that win total to be hollow in some areas, and I think a subpar UK team exposed them in the Gator Bowl, but I think that the over/under of 6 wins is a little conservative. It appears SP+ agrees as well.

The Wolfpack return 76% of their total team production from 2020 and I think a healthy Devin Leary at QB makes them legit. Couple that with a non-conference schedule that includes USF, Furman and Louisiana Tech at home, as well as Mississippi State in Starkville, and you’re probably looking at 4 wins already before even getting into conference play. I obviously don’t think Clemson or North Carolina will be wins, but that still leaves 6 games for them to get 3 more wins. If they go .500 across those games they hit the over, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they get back to 8 wins again.

Prediction: Over 6 Wins.

Boston College Eagles – Over/Under 7 Wins, SP+ 6.6 Wins

While NC State was picked to finish second in the ACC Atlantic by the media, Boston College is getting a little more love from the sportsbooks, at least in the projected win totals. I really liked what I saw from Notre Dame transfer QB Phil Jurkovec and head coach Jeff Hafley last year, but as Hafley enters his second season in Chestnut Hill I’m not so certain that they can get more than 7 wins.

Jurkovec did an outstanding job slinging the ball around, but BC’s run game left a lot to be desired and their defense was pretty awful as they finished 98th overall in SP+. The eagles don’t have an awful OOC schedule with Colgate, UMass, and Temple looking like comfortable wins. That’s 3 wins right there, make it 4 with Syracuse, and the only obvious loss on their schedule is Clemson. That leaves them with 7 games to win 4 more and hit the over. But with so many toss-up games against Missouri, Virginia Tech, NC State, Louisville, and Georgia Tech, I think they have little room for error. I could see them winning 7 games and this pushing, but if I’m putting my money on it I’m playing it safe.

Prediction: Under 7 Wins

Florida State Seminoles – Over/Under 5.5 Wins, SP+ 5.4 Wins

FSU getting picked to finish fourth was a pretty big surprise to a lot of ACC fans, and is why I think the national media likely are responsible for FSU being so high and Louisville so low. Anyone that watched FSU last year, especially Louisville fans, came away unimpressed and with the realization that Mike Norvell has an even bigger rebuilding job than we originally thought. Vegas and SP+ appear to agree with that as well.

The ‘Noles have a great story and leader with UCF transfer McKenzie Milton likely starting at QB. But there has been some chatter out of Tallahassee that Jordan Travis is making a legitimate push for the starting job and if I’m an FSU fan that would make me worried. Travis is a very talented runner, but his passing ability held back the FSU offense last year. Milton can throw the ball extremely well, but his ability to run and his overall health are both a concern as he tries to bounce back from a catastrophic leg injury (SFW).

FSU’s schedule isn’t great either. They play Notre Dame, North Carolina, Clemson, Miami, and Florida this year, so go ahead and mark those as sure losses. Winning 6 of the last 7 with the way they performed last year, especially on the road, and I just don’t see the path to 6 wins.

Prediction: Under 5.5 Wins

Wake Forest Demon Deacons – Over/Under 6.5 Wins, 6.2 Wins

Other than Louisville, I think many fans around the ACC were surprised to see Wake Forest selected to finish below FSU. I know most of us don’t love Dave Clawson, but you have to tip your hat to the job he’s done at Wake over the years. A lot of UofL fans saw Wake Forest as an easy W when Louisville first joined the ACC, but Clawson has made sure that they have to be taken seriously. And with the return of Sam Hartman at QB, this year shouldn’t be any different.

The Deacs only played 9 games last year, going 4-5, due to constant cancellations and postponements. In fact, they played only one game between Halloween and Dec. 12 thanks to covid issues around the league. That type of disruption will take an effect on any team, and is why I think they’ll be a solid match this year.

But that doesn’t mean I love their schedule or their ability to win more than 6 games. The only sure wins on their schedule are Old Dominion and Norfolk state at home, and on the road at Syracuse, but even games in the Carrier Dome can be tricky. They also play out of conference games at Army (WHY?!) and at North Carolina (WHY?!), and no that last part is not a typo. Toss in an auto-loss to Clemson, and the path to 7 wins is not the smoothest. I don’t think it would be outrageous for them to hit 7 wins, but I also wouldn’t put my lunch money on it.

Prediction: Under 6.5 Wins

Louisville Cardinals – Over/Under 7 Wins, SP+ 7 Wins

Picked to finish second-to-last in the Atlantic, Louisville has been given a decent chip on their shoulder entering the season. Both Vegas and SP+ appear to think the Cardinals will be better than the media does, and I don’t disagree with them there.

Where I do run into some trouble is picturing them winning more than 7 games. We’ve talked about what to expect from Louisville and how they need to play this year ad nauseum, so let’s just focus strictly on their schedule.

Cliff notes: It’s tough.

The OOC schedule of Ole Miss, EKU, UCF, and UK is a bear. All are winnable games, but UofL could also easily lose to everyone except EKU. And with the Cards first four games against Ole Miss, EKU, UCF, and at FSU, there’s a chance we could see Louisville start 1-4. Best case scenario I see us going 3-1, but my guess is we’ll be 2-2. Give us wins against Duke and Syracuse, and a loss to Clemson, and Louisville is left with 5 toss-up games to win 4 games.

With even an average OOC slate I think this Louisville team would be able to reach 8 wins. But this schedule is a tough one, and we may have a solid and improved team that only wins 5 to 7 games. I think they hit 6 and go bowling.

Prediction – Under 7 Wins

Syracuse Orange – Over/Under 3 Wins, SP+ 3.5 Wins

Last year was bad. 1-10 bad, to be precise. I think this year there are a lot of unknowns with Syracuse and how Dino Babers will turn things around, but it’s going to be tough.

Syracuse was stricken with injuries and covid issues last year that caused them to have to play a lot of inexperienced and young players. The results on the field spoke for themselves, but if you’re looking for a silver lining I think the experience can’t hurt them. I also don’t think we ever really got to see the real Syracuse last year and I’m a big fan of Babers, so I would be shocked if they don’t improve.

That being said, their schedule isn’t doing them any favors. The only sure win on their schedule is Albany, and there’s a decent chance they lose the rest of their non-conference games against Ohio, Rutgers, and Liberty. Then you get into conference play and I’m just not sure where the wins are supposed to come. I don’t see a path to 4 wins and even 3 wins is difficult to imagine. I’m playing this one safe.

Prediction: Under 3 wins