ACC Odds, Predictions, Betting Preview 2022 College Football

Last year, the Atlantic Coast Conference had its first champion that wasn’t Clemson, Florida State, or Virginia Tech since 2006 in Pittsburgh. With the Seminoles and Hokies in a rebuild and the Tigers having a rare down year, the conference became wide open for the first time in a while. Clemson is back as the favorites in the ACC, but there are plenty of teams more than capable of presenting a solid challenge for the title. In this article, I’ll break down the ACC betting odds and pick the over-under on the win total for each team.

ACC Betting Preview & Odds

Last season was the first time in the College Football Playoff era that the ACC didn’t send a representative to the national semifinals. Of course, that representative has been Clemson every time, and the Tigers’ down season set up a fascinating campaign in this conference. Clemson’s offensive struggles haven’t been fully resolved, and the value could be in finding longer odds with other teams to rise up and win the conference.

With the looming questions about the realignment of college football, the ACC is at an intriguing inflection point. The ACC Atlantic is the strength of the conference, as it has Clemson, NC State, and Wake Forest ready for title pushes. This conference is also full of transition as half of the teams have a new defensive coordinator, and another ten have new offensive coordinators.

Clemson Tigers Odds

Odds to Win National Championship:
Odds to Win ACC:
Regular Season Win Total:

What to Know:

  • 2021 Record: 10-3
  • Head Coach: Dabo Swinney
  • Key Players: QB DJ Uiagalelei, RB Will Shipley, DE Myles Murphy, DT Bryan Breese
  • Key Losses: WR Justyn Ross, CB Andrew Booth Jr., LB James Skalski, CB Mario Goodrich
  • Key Transfer: N/A
  • Game to Circle: at Notre Dame, November 5

The 2021 season was a disappointment for Clemson as they ended their six-season streak of ACC titles and CFP appearances with a 10-3 record. However, despite all of their issues, it took a matchup against the eventual champions Georgia, a road game against the eventual ACC champ Pitt, and a double OT game against NC State to take them down. A bounce-back should be for the Tigers this season.

For the results to be different, the offense has to be better after ranking just 100th in the country in total offense. DJ Uiagalelei, a former five-star recruit, was dreadful as he completed just 56% of his passes with nine touchdowns to ten interceptions. Clemson finished dead last in the ACC in passing efficiency. Uiagalelei’s starting spot is far from guaranteed as Cade Klubnik arrives as a fellow five-star recruit and the sixth-best prospect in the 2022 class.

The Clemson offense lost Justyn Ross to the NFL after he led the team with 46 catches for 514 yards, but they return their next four leading receivers in Joseph Ngata, Beaux Collins, Dacari Collins, and Davis Allen. Will Shipley and Kobe Pace also return after combining for almost 1,400 yards and 17 touchdowns last year.

The offensive line was excellent in pass protection last season, particularly as Jordan McFadden was one of the best left tackles in the country – PFF tracked him with no pressures allowed in over half of his games. Will Putnam also returns after being a 2021 All-ACC honorable mention.

Last year, the Clemson defense kept the team afloat as they finished second in the country in scoring defense, allowing just 14.8 points per game, and led the ACC in overall defense. Coordinator Brent Venables left to become the Oklahoma head coach, but former assistant coach Wes Goodwin will keep a similar structure.

The returning defensive line is the best in college football and should be even better next year with more luck in the injury department. Bryan Bresee played four games before tearing his ACL, but he should continue to break out as a future NFL first-round pick. NFL teams will also covet Myles Murphy, the seventh-best overall recruit in the 2020 class, who leads the Power 5 in PFF’s run defense grade since arriving at Clemson.

The back-end of the defense is less set in stone, although the linebacker corps should be stout. Leading tacklers James Skalski (87) and Baylon Spector (74) departed, but Jeremiah Trotter Jr., a top-40 recruit in 2021, is set to break out as a full-time player. He’s joined by Trenton Simpson, who finished with 6.5 sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss in 2021. Andrew Mukuba returns as an elite safety who was tremendous in his freshman season.

Clemson’s defense should again be among the best in the country, but significant concerns about the offense remain. If Uiagalelei plays at the same level as last year, it’s difficult to envision the Tigers going over their projected win total. I’m not rushing to put money on Uiagalelei or a true freshman Klubnik, but with the most challenging conference games (NC State and Miami) at home, I’d take a slight lean to the over here.

Best Bet: Over 10.5 wins

NC State Wolfpack Odds

Odds to Win National Championship:
Odds to Win ACC:
Regular Season Win Total:

What to Know:

  • 2021 Record: 9-3
  • Head Coach: Dave Doeren
  • Key Players: QB Devin Leary, WR Thayer Thomas, LB Drake Thomas, S Tanner Ingle
  • Key Losses: RB Zonovan Knight, RB Ricky Person, OT Ikem Ekwonu, LB Vi Jones
  • Key Transfer:
  • Game to Circle: at Clemson, October 1

Last year should have been the year for NC State. An overtime win over Clemson was a massive part of a 5-1 start, but one-score losses to Miami and Wake Forest ultimately saw the Wolfpack miss out on the ACC Championship game. However, in a conference full of transition, Doeren returns virtually every member of his coaching staff for a team looking to break through with a Championship appearance.

Devin Leary headlines the Wolfpack this season after a season where he was overlooked in a conference full of standout quarterbacks. Leary led the second-most efficient passing offense in the ACC as he threw for 3,433 yards and 35 touchdowns to just five interceptions. He’s excellent under pressure – he had ten touchdowns to just two picks when the heat was on – and he tied for third in the Power Five in PFF’s big-time throw rate.

While Leary lost his leading receiver Emeka Emezie (60-802-6), the offense returns Thayer Thomas and Devin Carter, who combined for over 1,100 yards and 14 touchdowns. Six players had 200+ receiving yards last year, and Leary will continue to spread the ball around. The running back room is a more significant question mark after losing Zonovan Knight and Ricky Person Jr., who combined for 1,785 yards from scrimmage and ten touchdowns.

The offensive line lost Ikem Ekwonu, an All-American offensive tackle and the number six overall pick in the NFL draft. However, the line returns plenty of experience after it ranked with the second-fewest sacks and tackles for loss allowed in the ACC. Bryson Speras and Grant Gibson headline the experienced group, and redshirt sophomore Anthony Belton is a candidate to replace Ekwonu at left tackle.

The Wolfpack defense returns eight starters from the group that ranked second in the ACC and 14th in the country with just 19.7 points allowed. In addition, a handful of injured stars return after missing time last year. Drake Thomas is back after a First-Team All-ACC campaign at linebacker – he had 99 tackles, three interceptions, and four pass breakups as an excellent defender against the run and pass. He’s joined by two returning top talents, Isaiah Moore and Payton Wilson, who form arguably the best linebacker corps in the conference.

The linebacker corps is the strength of NC State’s 3-3-5 defense, particularly as they generate consistent pressure with a low 21% blitz rate. Still, the secondary is full of talent, as well. Shyheim Battle had PFF’s fourth-highest coverage grade in the ACC last year, while Tyler Baker-Williams is one of the best slot defenders in the country. Tanner Ingle also returns after a First Team All-ACC campaign with 82 tackles.

The NC State schedule breaks nicely as they should be 4-0 heading into their road game against Clemson after a start against East Carolina, Charleston Southern, Texas Tech, and Connecticut in non-conference games. The Wolfpack also gets a well-timed bye week before a home stand against conference foes. With an elite quarterback, coaching staff remaining intact, and one of the best defenses in the country, the over on the win total is the easy bet. However, let’s think bigger – let’s get some action on ACC futures.

Best Bet: over 8.5 wins (would bet to 9.5), to win the ACC at +800

Miami Hurricanes Odds

Odds to Win National Championship:
Odds to Win ACC:
Regular Season Win Total:

What to Know:

  • 2021 Record: 7-5
  • Head Coach: Mario Cristobal
  • Key Players: QB Tyler Van Dyke, OT Zion Nelson, DT Leonard Taylor, CB Tyrique Stevenson
  • Key Losses: WR Mike Harley, WR Charleston Rambo, DE Zach McCloud, DE Deandre Johnson
  • Key Transfer:
  • Game to Circle:

The hype is building in South Beach as Miami native and former player Mario Cristobal takes over a team full of talent with its third head coach since 2016. The Hurricanes will be hoping the third time is the charm here, and there’s plenty to be excited about, starting with the returning elite passer Tyler Van Dyke.

Van Dyke wasn’t expected to start last year, but D’Eriq King had a season-ending shoulder injury in the first week of the season. From there, as a redshirt freshman, Van Dyke took off like a rocket with almost 3,000 yards and 25 touchdowns to six interceptions. He finished the season with six straight games of 300+ passing yards and 3+ touchdowns.

The arrival of offensive coordinator Josh Gattis provides a new feel for the offense, particularly the run game that averaged just 3.7 yards per carry and went over 100 yards four times. Gattis led the best rushing offense in the country at Michigan last year, and he has two talented junior backs to work with in returning Jaylan Knighton and Ole Miss transfer Henry Parrish.

Those two may need to do some heavy lifting in the passing game after Miami lost Charleston Rambo and Mike Harley, two record-breaking receivers. Keyshawn Smith and Will Mallory return, as does sophomore Brashard Smith, who will likely see a ton of work on end-arounds, reverses, and sweeps as Gattis’s gadget player.

Miami rounds out its offense with an elite offensive line now coached by Mario Cristobal, a former offensive tackle and line coach. Three starters return, including Zion Nelson and D.J. Scaife Jr., who led the Power Five in PFF’s pass-blocking grades from Week 4 on last season. They’re joined by guards Jonathan Denis and Logan Sagapolu, who followed Cristobal from Oregon.

The defense got a facelift over the offseason, but that’s for the best with key transfers and young recruits ready to step into critical roles. Leonard Taylor, a 2021 five-star recruit and the 11th-best player in his class, tied for the team lead with 8.5 tackles for loss in just six games. He’s joined up front by four transfers who round out a deep rotation. The linebacking corps returns leading tackler Corey Flagg (60 stops) and adds Caleb Johnson from UCLA.

The secondary could be the best in the conference with tons of young talent headlined by Tyrique Stevenson, a former four-star Georgia transfer with the highest PFF grade in press coverage among ACC corners. James Williams is another 2021 five-star recruit on the defense who has elite physical traits and should break out as a top player this year. Kamren Kinchens and Avantae Williams join him in the secondary as young talents with enormous upside.

The schedule breaks down nicely for Miami this season from start to finish. An early-season road game against Texas A&M is likely a loss. Still, home games against Bethune Cookman, Southern Miss, and Middle Tennessee give the team plenty of opportunities to set the tone for the Mario Cristobal era. Later road games against Virginia Tech and Clemson are possible losses, but the Hurricanes should be favored in nearly every game.

This is the highest-upside team in the country compared to preseason expectations. They have a stout offensive line, all-world quarterback, defense loaded with five-star talents, and a coach ready to instill a new culture who brings one of the best play-callers in college football. Yeah, I’m on the over.

Best Bet: over 8.5 wins

Wake Forest Demon Deacons Odds

Odds to Win National Championship:
Odds to Win ACC:
Regular Season Win Total:

What to Know:

  • 2021 Record: 11-3
  • Head Coach: Dave Clawson
  • Key Players: QB Sam Hartman, WR A.T. Perry, LB Ryan Smenda Jr., DE Rondell Bothroyd
  • Key Losses: WR Jaquarii Roberson, OL Zach Tom, CB Ja’Sir Taylor, LB Luke Masterson
  • Key Transfer: DT Kobie Turner
  • Game to Circle: Clemson, September 24

UPDATE: Sam Hartman is sadly out indefinitely with an undisclosed medical condition. The star quarterback’s status will obviously greatly determine Wake Forest’s competitiveness this season. For now, I’m leaving the analysis below as it was written prior to the news about Hartman.

In an ACC season wide open, Wake Forest took advantage with Dave Clawson’s first ten-win season, a final ranking of 15 in the AP Poll, and a bowl win. The Demon Deacons have gone bowling in the last seven years despite lacking the talent and prestige of other ACC programs. This year, the Deacons are faced with replicating their success under the added pressure of new lofty expectations.

The Wake Forest offense ranked fourth in the country with 41 points per game and was the best passing offense in the ACC. Sam Hartman led the way with 4,228 passing yards, the sixth-most in ACC history, and 39 touchdowns as he thrived in the team’s unique long-mesh RPO offense. Hartman’s 14 interceptions were far from ideal, but it’s the cost of doing business with the willingness of the offense to air the ball out – he had 20 deep touchdowns, the most in the FBS per PFF.

Hartman is supported by a fantastic group of wide receivers, despite the loss of 71-catch Jaquarii Roberson. A.T. Perry is back after registering 71 catches for 1,293 yards and 15 touchdowns; he’s one of the most physically imposing receivers in college football as he uses all of his 6’5”, 206-lb frame to bully defenders at the line of scrimmage.

Taylor Morin and Ke’Shawn Williams are also excellent – they combined for 70 catches and eight touchdowns. Williams’ separation rate ranked in the 95th percentile in FBS last year per PFF, and Morin was a top-25 graded return specialist per the site. Donovan Green also returns after missing all of last season.

The offensive line should be solid with four returning starters, including Sean Maginn at guard and Michael Jurgens at the center. Je’Vionte’ Nash also returns for his seventh year at Wake after a season-ending injury in 2021, and he’s expected to start at left tackle. The line has to be better at run-blocking as the Deacons averaged under 4.0 yards per carry. Justice Ellison and Christian Turner still combined for over 1,000 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2021.

The Wake Forest defense kept it from reaching an even higher ceiling in national contention as it allowed 413 yards and 29 points per game, along with the sixth-most first downs in the FBS. Leading tackler Luke Masterson is gone, but Ryan Smenda Jr. returns after compiling 83 tackles, 4.5 for a loss, last year. Eldrick Robinson (Georgia Southern) joins him from the transfer portal at the pivotal linebacker spots in the 4-2-5 defense.

The secondary should be a strength of the defense after forcing 15 interceptions. Caelan Carson has ranked third in PFF’s coverage grades among ACC corners since 2020. Malik Mustapha showed big-play ability in his true freshman season. Gavin Holmes and Nick Anderson round out a strong group. The run defense has to be better, though. Wake Forest will be hoping the transfer addition of Kobie Turner (Richmond) helps bolster the interior rotation as an FCS All-American.

Brad Lambert’s return to Wake Forest and growth from young talent should provide hope for a significant defensive improvement. However, the Deacons will live and die by the arm of Sam Hartman for the most part. That was a winning proposition in 2021 much more often than not, and I’d bet on that being the case again this year.

A non-conference schedule against VMI, Vanderbilt, Liberty, and Army should have the team 4-1 at worst, with the Clemson game mixed into that start. Road games against Louisville and NC State present potential pitfalls later in the year, but most teams the Deacons play simply won’t be able to keep up with their high-powered offense. Bet on the over now and take advantage of some clear hedge opportunities later in the season if necessary.

Best Bet: over 8.5 wins, small bet to win the ACC Atlantic at +700

Pittsburgh Panthers Odds

Odds to Win National Championship:
Odds to Win ACC:
Regular Season Win Total:

What to Know:

  • 2021 Record: 11-3
  • Head Coach: Pat Narduzzi
  • Key Players: QB Kedon Slovis, WR Konata Mumpfield, DE Habakkuk Baldonado, DE Calijah Kancey
  • Key Losses: QB Kenny Pickett, WR Jordan Addison, CB Damarri Mathis, LB Cam Bright
  • Key Transfer: QB Kedon Slovis
  • Game to Circle: at UNC, October 29

Pittsburgh went just 42-34 in its first six seasons with Pat Narduzzi, but last year’s 11-3 run put any hot seat talk to bed. The Panthers finished with eleven wins for the first time since the Dan Marino era and earned their first top-25 finish in the AP Poll in 12 years. Pittsburgh lost some talent this offseason, namely star quarterback Kenny Pickett and receiver Jordan Addison, but those losses may have caused an overreaction. This team has been in two of the last four ACC Championship games and could be in for another strong season.

Last year, the Pitt offense ranked third in the country with 41.4 points per game. However, Narduzzi criticized former offensive coordinator Mark Whipple earlier this offseason, saying he “had no desire to run the ball. Everybody knew it. He was stubborn.” The Panthers had Kenny Pickett, a Heisman finalist, and Jordan Addison, the Biletnikoff winner – of course they weren’t a run-first team!

To be fair to Narduzzi, Pitt averaged just 85.3 rushing yards per game in its three losses. However, the run game should be strong with the return of a trio of veteran backs – Israel Abanikanda, Vincent Davis, and Rodney Hammond Jr. He combined for over 2,100 yards from scrimmage and 19 total touchdowns. Those backs will run behind an offensive line returning all five starters headlined by left tackle Carter Warren, who has been on a constant upward trajectory.

It’s unclear if Pitt’s pass-happy tendencies will be reduced this season, but Kedon Slovis has tremendous upside after transferring from USC. Before his fifth-year breakout, Pickett had thrown for just 39 touchdowns through his first four seasons. Slovis had 30 touchdowns as a freshman and 58 in just 27 games at USC. He won’t match Pickett’s production from last season, but he’s arguably a more accurate passer and will fill in just fine.

Slovis won’t have the luxury of throwing to Addison, who had 100 catches for 1,593 yards and an FBS-best 17 touchdowns, but Pitt still has solid returning weapons. Jared Wayne is a big-play threat who had 47 catches for 658 yards and six touchdowns in 2021. Akron transfer was a Freshman All-American last season with 61 catches for 751 yards and eight touchdowns. Gavin Bartholomew returns as a reliable underneath target.

On defense, Pitt returns six All-ACC selections to a unit that ranked 39th in yards and 42nd in points allowed. The defensive line is the group’s strength as it led to the team ranking second in the country in sacks and fifth in tackles for loss. All-ACC teammates Habakkuk Baldonado (nine sacks, 12 tackles for loss) and Calijah Kancey (seven sacks, 13 tackles for loss) were the group’s leaders.

Leading tackler Sirvocea Dennis returns after a standout season with 87 tackles, nine for loss, four sacks, and a blocked field goal. Shayne Simon (Notre Dame) and Tylar Wiltz (Missouri State) transferred in to help mitigate some of the losses in the linebacker group. At times, the secondary was prone to surrendering big plays, but Brandon Hill (71 tackles) and Erick Hallett (68 tackles) are a heavy-hitting safety pair. Marquis Williams and AJ Woods are veterans locking down the cornerback spots.

I believe Pitt represents a substantial value in the ACC this season as there has been an overreaction to the losses of Pickett and Addison in the betting markets. The Panthers’ schedule is also a breeze – they should be favored in all their first six games, five of which are at home. Late-season road games against North Carolina, Virginia, and Miami present potential pitfalls, but I’ll take the over here with a sprinkle on Pitt to win the ACC.

Best Bet: over 8.5 wins, sprinkle to win the ACC at +1200

Louisville Cardinals Odds

Odds to Win National Championship:
Odds to Win ACC:
Regular Season Win Total:

What to Know:

  • 2021 Record: 6-7
  • Head Coach: Scott Satterfield
  • Key Players: QB Malik Cunningham, OG Caleb Chandler, DE Yassir Abdullah, CB Kei’Trel Clark
  • Key Losses: WR Jordan Watkins, WR Tyler Harrell, S Qwynnterio Cole, LB C.J. Avery
  • Key Transfer: DT Jermayne Lole
  • Game to Circle: Florida State, September 16

This is likely a make-or-break season for Scott Safferfield, who is just 18-19 through his first three seasons as the head coach. The Cardinals had nine of ten winning seasons during the 2010s, and the expectation will be for them to return to that level of competition after a losing record in three of the last four years.

The offense scored 31.6 points per game, the 41st-most in the country, and is led by Malik Cunningham, one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in college football. Cunningham led Power Five quarterbacks in rushing yards (1,142) and rushing touchdowns (20), but it was his improved passing that was most impressive, as he threw for a career-high 2,947 yards while cutting down his turnovers to a career-low six (he had 12 in 2020).

Jordan Watkins (Ole Miss) and Tyler Harrell (Alabama) transferred out after combining for over 1,000 yards and ten touchdowns. However, Tyler Hudson, a transfer from Central Arkansas, was the ASUN Offensive Player of the Year as he finished with 62 catches for 1,229 yards and eight touchdowns. Marshon Ford returns as an HB/TE hybrid and former walk-on who led the team with 550 receiving yards in 2020.

Cunningham is the heartbeat of the team’s rushing offense, but two strong running backs support him. Jalen Mitchell finished with 722 yards and five touchdowns last year. Tyion Evans transfers from Tennessee after registering 525 yards on a stellar 6.5 YPC clip.
The offensive line lost star center Cole Bentley but returns four starters, including First Team All-ACC guard Caleb Chandler, one of the best college football guards.

The Louisville defense had a rough season as it finished 96th in pass defense EPA and 95th in run defense EPA. However, this is a group ready to take a step forward. Transfer Jermayne Lole (Arizona State) is expected to be the centerpiece. He missed the 2021 season after a triceps injury, but he was PFF’s third-highest Power Five defensive lineman in 2020 as he registered 18 quarterback pressures and 17 defensive stops in just four games.

The front seven is anchored by edges YaYa Diaby, an incredibly stout run defender, and Yassir Abdullah, a second-team All-ACC player who led the team with ten sacks and 16.5 tackles for loss. C.J. Avery, the team’s three-year leading tackler, is gone, but Monty Montgomery and transfer Momo Sanogo (Ole Miss) are expected to mitigate that loss. Louisville also has an electric secondary featuring Kei’Trel Clark, an All-Second Team ACC cornerback who led the team with nine pass breakups and three interceptions in eight games.

Louisville finished 6-7 last year, but it could have easily been 8-5 or 9-4 – they went 2-4 in one-score games. I’m already willing to bet on positive regression to the mean in that respect as James Turner’s accuracy slipped from 87% to 64% on field goals. The schedule isn’t easy – there aren’t any gimme games against Duke or Georgia Tech – but there’s a strong chance the Cardinals are better on both sides of the ball. Don’t be surprised if Louisville has ACC Championship buzz and Malik Cunningham has Heisman hype heading into a buzzsaw final three-game stretch – at Clemson, home to NC State, at Kentucky.

Best Bet: over 6 wins, small sprinkle to win the ACC at +5000

Florida State Seminoles Odds

Odds to Win National Championship:
Odds to Win ACC:
Regular Season Win Total:

What to Know:

  • 2021 Record: 5-7
  • Head Coach: Mike Norvell
  • Key Players: QB Jordan Travis, WR Mycah Pittman, S Jammie Robinson, DE Jared Verse
  • Key Losses: RB Jashaun Corbin, WR Andrew Parchment, DE Jermaine Johnson II, DE Keir Thomas
  • Key Transfer: DE Jared Verse
  • Game to Circle: at Miami, November 5

Florida State is coming off its fourth-straight losing season, something it hasn’t done since 1973-76. The Seminoles were much more competitive last year, though, as four of their seven losses came in one-score games. This year, it’s bowl game or bust for Mike Novell after starting 8-13 in his first two seasons.

Jordan Travis emerged as a reliable quarterback presence last year, and his play elevated the team overall as he led them to a 5-2 record in his previous seven starts. Travis may not be the most accurate passer, but his mobility was necessary behind a poor offensive line, and he has over 1,100 rushing yards across his last 18 games. The offensive line will be bolstered by the transfer additions of Kayden Lyles (Wisconsin) and Bless Harris (Lamar). The former Notre Dame transfer Dillan Gibbans returns after an excellent season with no sacks allowed.

Travis will be working with a rejuvenated receiving corps that was boosted by the transfer portal. Oregon transfer Mycah Pittman had just 12 catches for 197 yards in 2021, but he flashed impressive downfield explosiveness in spring football and could emerge as the top receiving threat. Ja’Khi Douglas provides a downfield presence after averaging 18.2 yards per catch last year, and Camren McDonald is a reliable receiving tight end.

The offense will be built around the run game, even after losing leading rusher Jashaun Corbin (887 yards and seven touchdowns). Treshaun Ward returns ready to take on a more significant workload after averaging 6.4 yards per carry. His 2.24 rushing yards over expectation in 2021 would have led the country per PFF, as would his 23.5% explosive run rate. He’d be aided by an offensive line improvement after the Seminoles allowed a whopping 351 yards on tackles for a loss – only 11 teams in the FBS allowed more.

On defense, the Seminoles overcame a putrid 2020 and start to 2021 to finish sixth in the ACC in overall defense, thanks to a drastic improvement over the final two months. A young secondary, including freshmen Kevin Knowles and Omarion Cooper, who won starting jobs, keyed that improvement. They’re joined by Jammie Robinson, a First-Team All-ACC safety capable of playing all over the field.

The defensive front lost leading pass-rushers Jermaine Johnson and Keir Thomas, who combined for 18.5 of the team’s 33 sacks, and University of Albany transfer Jared Verse has big shoes to fill after 14.5 sacks in 15 games at the FCS level. The defensive line rotation is excellent with Fabien Lovett, Robert Cooper, and Jarrett Jackson. Former UCF star linebacker Tatum Bethune transferred to FSU after registering 108 tackles in 2021.

Seminole fans should be very hopeful for the trajectory of this program, but the team’s improvement is met with a brutal schedule. Non-conference games against LSU, Louisiana, and Florida loom large, as do road games against Louisville, NC State, and Miami. Even with the demanding schedule, I see an 8-4 finish slightly more likely than 6-6. Therefore I’ll take the over, but seven feels like the correct number of wins for this program.

Best Bet: over 7 wins

North Carolina Tar Heels Odds

Odds to Win National Championship:
Odds to Win ACC:
Regular Season Win Total:

What to Know:

  • 2021 Record: 6-7
  • Head Coach: Mack Brown
  • Key Players: WR Josh Downs, RB British Brooks, DT Myles Murphy, LB Cedric Gray
  • Key Losses: QB Sam Howell, RB Ty Chandler, OG Joshua Ezeudu, LB Jeremiah Gemmel
  • Key Transfer:
  • Game to Circle: Virginia Tech, October 1

It’s too soon to say Mack Brown is on the hot seat, but this is a pivotal season for the Tar Heels. Brown is a tremendous recruiter, but despite the talent on the North Carolina roster, he has compiled just a 21-17 record in three seasons. The Tar Heels entered 2021 as the #10 team in the country, but they finished 6-7 and 0-6 on the road. The team was derailed by poor red-zone play, blown assignments, and far too many penalties – that’s far from the hallmark of a Hall of Fame head coach.

North Carolina’s offense was tremendous last year; they finished tenth in the country overall and scored 35 points per game. However, Sam Howell leaves as one of the best quarterbacks in program history. Jacolby Criswell and Drake Maye, a pair of former four-star recruits, will compete for the starting job, and it wouldn’t be shocking to see them both on the field this year with Brown’s history of using multiple quarterbacks when he doesn’t have a clear starter.

Whoever is under center will have the luxury of passing to All-America candidate Josh Downs, who is coming off a season where he broke program records for catches (101) and yards (1,335). He was targeted on 30.2% of his routes, and PFF tracked him with a 97th percentile separation rate. The rest of the receiving corps is relatively unproven, but Bryson Nesbit is a late bloomer as a former basketball player who combines a 6’6”, 245-lb frame with legitimate YAC ability.

UNC’s offensive line was one of the worst in the country in pass-blocking last year, although some of that falls on Sam Howell’s tendency to hold onto the ball and play hero ball – he took 49 sacks in 2021. Three starters will be replaced this year. The new offensive linemen will be blocking for senior British Brooks, the team’s new lead back, who averaged 9.5 yards per carry and had 285 yards in his final three games last year.

The Tar Heels were far too reliant on their offense with an underwhelming defense as they were 0-7 against FBS teams when they scored 34 or fewer points. The defense allowed 418 yards and 32.1 points per game, and Gene Chizik was brought in to fix the unit. It starts with creating more turnovers, and the onus will fall on a highly talented secondary hoping for a clean bill of health. Storm Duck and Tony Grimes, a former five-star recruit, have immense upside alongside safety Ja’Qurious Conley, who is recovering from a torn ACL and MCL.

The front seven returns linebacker Cedric Gray after he led the team with 100 tackles alongside Power Echols and Rara Dillworth, who had solid freshmen seasons. High-level run-defending tackles Myles Murphy and Ray Vohasek return, but the ineligibility of Tomari Fox is a hit to the edge-rushing group. Virginia transfer edge rusher Noah Taylor will headline the group, and Brown will be hoping for more production for former five-star recruit junior Desmond Evans.

The schedule breaks nicely for the Tar Heels with no Clemson on the slate and the more challenging games against Notre Dame and NC State coming in Chapel Hill. The game against Pitt also comes after a week off. However, this team lost by double digits to bad Florida State and Georgia Tech teams last year – it’s challenging to have overwhelming confidence in them against any opponent. The under is the play until we see more consistency from this team.

Best Bet: under 7.5 wins

Boston College Eagles Odds

Odds to Win National Championship:
Odds to Win ACC:
Regular Season Win Total:

What to Know:

  • 2021 Record: 6-6
  • Head Coach: Jeff Hafley
  • Key Players: QB Phil Jurkovec, WR Zay Flowers, DE Marcus Valdez, S Jaden Woodbey
  • Key Losses: OG Zion Johnson, OT Ben Petrula, C Alex Lindstrom, OT Tyler Vrabel
  • Key Transfer: TE George Takacs
  • Game to Circle: at Florida State, September 24

The Eagles won their first four games of the 2021 season and dropped six of their final eight after ACC play started. It didn’t help that star quarterback and NFL prospect Phil Jurkovec injured his hand and missed six games. He returned late in the year but wasn’t the same when he came back. The Boston College offense scored 24.7 points per game, making it the worst in the ACC and ranked 93rd in the country.

This season, Jurkovec will hope to display improved mechanics and accuracy under new offensive coordinator John McNulty, who is expected to introduce more quick passing concepts, RPOs, and motion offense. Jurkovec’s stoic play under pressure and the diversified offensive approach will be necessary as the offensive line lost four starters to the NFL. The lone returning starter and second-team All-ACC guard, Christian Mahogany, tore his ACL in the offseason and will miss the season.

Boston College returns plenty of offensive skill talent to support Jurkovec. Zay Flowers is one of the best returning receivers in the ACC – he had 44 catches for 746 yards and five touchdowns last season despite the deflated offense. Keep an eye on Notre Dame transfer George Takacs at tight end – he’s an excellent run-blocker and has the catch radius to take on a much more significant role in the receiving game this season. Pat Garwo III also returns after over 1,000 rushing yards and seven touchdowns, but the weakened offensive line won’t help his rushing productivity.

The Boston College defense had an excellent season as they allowed just 22.2 points per game, the 31st-fewest in the country. They were incredibly stout against the pass with one of the best secondaries in the country – they ranked third in the country as they allowed just 173.5 passing yards per game. In 2019, the defense ranked 122nd in that respect, so the improvement has been immense. The run defense is the next piece to improve after ranking 92nd last year, but with seven returning starters and the coaching staff still in place, the defense should remain stout.

While the Eagles’ defense isn’t necessarily designed for high-level sack production, they return leading sacker Marcus Valdez (five sacks, seven tackles for loss). They also return some of the best secondary talents in the country. Josh DeBerry, the star nickel corner, was PFF’s most valuable defensive player in the ACC regardless of position. Elijah Jones was tied for third among ACC outside cornerbacks in PFF’s coverage grades. Leading tackler Kam Arnold (61 tackles, 3.5 for a loss) also returns to shore up the linebacker corps.

It’s difficult to envision Boston College getting off to a 4-0 start again this year with tough road games against Virginia Tech and Florida State early in the season. Road games against Wake Forest, NC State, and Notre Dame will also present significant challenges later in the year. The Eagles’ weak offensive line is a massive concern for me, and the schedule presents enough challenges that I’ll take the under here.

Best Bet: under 6.5 wins

Virginia Cavaliers Odds

Odds to Win National Championship:
Odds to Win ACC:
Regular Season Win Total:

What to Know:

  • 2021 Record: 6-6
  • Head Coach: Tony Elliott
  • Key Players: QB Brennan Armstrong, WR Dontayvion Wicks, WR Keytaon Thompson, LB Nick Jackson
  • Key Losses: C Olusegun Oluwatimi, OT Bobby Haskins, LB Noah Taylor, S Joey Blount
  • Key Transfer: DE Kam Butler
  • Game to Circle: at Virginia Tech, November 26

After a breakthrough 2019 season that featured an ACC Championship appearance, Virginia has gone just 11-11 over the last two years despite having its best offense in team history in 2021. For several years, Tony Elliott, a former assistant coach at Clemson, gets the head coaching gig and replaces Bronco Mendenhall.

Elliott’s offensive background will help the Cavaliers not skip a beat on that side of the ball after they ranked 21st in the country with 34.6 points per game. They had the second-best passing game in the country with almost 400 yards per game. Brennan Armstrong had a tremendous season with nearly 4,500 yards and 31 touchdowns. His improving accuracy and positive regression in the drops department could have his stats looking even better this year.

Armstrong is supported by a fantastic wide receiver room, one of the best in the country. Dontayvion Wicks is a big-play threat who averaged 21.1 yards per reception and turned 40.8% of his targets into gains of 15+ yards on his way to a 57-1203-9 line. Former Mississippi State quarterback Keytaon Thompson was electric in his first year as a receiver, with a team-leading 78 catches for 990 yards. Lavel Davis Jr. is a clear breakout candidate as he returns from a torn ACL, and Billy Kemp will continue to serve as a reliable underneath receiver.

Elliott and new offensive coordinator Des Kitchings, the former running backs coach for the Atlanta Falcons, will hope to make the offense much more balanced. That effort won’t be helped by the fact that the offensive line is essentially starting over after losing four starters to the transfer portal in Olusegun Oluwatimi (Michigan), Bobby Haskins (USC), Ryan Swodoba (UCF), and Logan Taylor (SMU). The backfield lacks a clear starter to build around on the ground.

New Virginia defensive coordinator John Rudzinski has a lot of work to do to fix the 121st-ranked defense in the country. Leading tackler Nick Jackson returns as a hounding run stopper – he had 117 tackles, six for a loss. Kam Butler also transfers from Miami University after an eight-sack season – he’ll help replace the 12 of 19 sacks that came from players no longer on the team.

The secondary is headlined by senior cornerbacks Darrius Bratton and Anthony Johnson, who transferred from Louisville in 2021 and had PFF’s eighth-highest coverage grade in the ACC. Rudzinski coached a top-ten Group of Five defense in pass rush and tackling, so there should be more hope for a significant step forward for the front seven than the secondary right away.

The Cavaliers have the luxury of no Clemson on the schedule while some of their most challenging games against Lousiville, Miami, North Carolina, and Pitt come at home. Still, with brand new coaching staff, wholesale change on the offensive line, and a defense that was a long way from being a positive last year, it’s challenging to have much confidence in Virginia. I’ll take the under on seven wins.

Best Bet: under 7 wins

Virginia Tech Hokies Odds

Odds to Win National Championship:
Odds to Win ACC:
Regular Season Win Total:
What to Know:

  • 2021 Record: 6-7
  • Head Coach: Brent Pry
  • Key Players: QB Grant Wells, RB Malachi Thomas, LB Dax Hollifield, CB Chamarri Conner
  • Key Losses: QB Braxton Burmeister, RB Raheem Blackshear, WR Tre Turner, DE Amare Barno
  • Key Transfer: QB Grant Wells
  • Game to Circle: Virginia, November 26

Virginia Tech enters a new era of football this year with Brent Pry, a longtime career assistant, as its head coach. The Hokies had eight straight ten-win seasons from 2004 to 2011, but Justin Fuente struggled to achieve that level of consistency, particularly against the middle of the conference – his team was 3-5 against teams with 5-7 wins last year.

The Hokies offense was miserable for most of last season. New offensive coordinator Tyler Bowen will be tasked with integrating new players into a unit that ranked 97th in the country with 23.7 points per game. Grant Wells transferred from Marshall and has solid mechanics and timing, but his accuracy lets him down too often. He will battle with South Carolina transfer Jason Brown for the starting role.

Wells will rely on an unproven receiving corps after the losses of Tre Turner and Tayvion Robinson, who combined for over 1,200 yards and eight touchdowns. However, there are pieces to be excited about. Jadan Blue is a Temple transfer who had over 1,000 yards in 2019, and Da’Wain Lofton is a breakout candidate as a true sophomore. The running back room lost leading rusher Raheem Blackshear, but Malachi Thomas is ready for a more significant role in his sophomore season.

The strength of the offense for the Hokies is an offensive line that profiles as one of the best in the ACC. Johnny Jordan will likely be a seamless replacement for starting center Brock Hoffman given his extensive experience, while Parker Clements and Silas Dzansi are ascending talents. Right guard Kaden Moore also returns after a solid season.

The Virginia Tech defense returns its top four tacklers, including leader Dax Hollifield who had 92 tackles, nine tackles for loss, and 4.5 sacks last season. Alan Tisdale joins him at linebacker after 7.5 tackles for a loss of his own. The defensive line is the more significant issue as it doesn’t return a single player who had over 3.5 sacks last year. Pheldarius Payne transfers to help fill the gap, but Virginia Tech will need some of its young defensive linemen to take a step forward.

The secondary also profiles to be quite good despite the loss of interception leader Jermaine Waller. Safeties Nasir Peoples and Chamarri Conner combined for over 170 tackles, and Amari Chatman led the team with seven pass breakups. Dorian Strong is also coming off a stellar season as a former three-star recruit who ranks third in the ACC in total outside coverage snaps over the past two years with the lowest first-down rate (4%) among that group, per PFF.

Virginia Tech has work to do to get back on track, particularly in the trenches, but the schedule breaks very nicely for them this season. The Hokies play the second-easiest schedule of defenses this season, per SP+, and they don’t face Clemson, Florida State, or Louisville on this year’s program. The final stretch to the season of Georgia Tech, Duke, Liberty, and Virginia could give this team the boost they need on their way to seven wins.

Best Bet: over 6 wins

Syracuse Orange Odds

Odds to Win National Championship:
Odds to Win ACC:
Regular Season Win Total:

What to Know:

  • 2021 Record: 5-7
  • Head Coach: Dino Babers
  • Key Players: RB Sean Tucker, QB Garrett Shader, LB Mikel Jones, DT Terry Lockett
  • Key Losses: DT Cody Roscoe, DT Josh Black, DT Kingsley Jonathan, DT McKinley Williams
  • Key Transfer: RB Juwaun Price
  • Game to Circle: at Pittsburgh, November 5

Dino Barber’s seat is getting pretty warm. The 2018 Syracuse team was magical – they went 10-3 in their first double-digit win since 2001 – but Barber is only 19-40 outside that season. It’s put up or shut up time in Syracuse, and Barber will be hoping the offense can find more balance under new offensive coordinator Robert Anae.

Last year, Syracuse had the best-run game in the ACC, but its passing game was putrid, and the team scored just 24.9 points per game, which ranked 92nd in the country. The third-down offense was miserable with a 33% conversion rate – only three Power Five teams were worse. Garrett Shrader is a powerful runner with 781 yards and 14 touchdowns, but he led Syracuse to just 158.2 passing yards per game, ranking 121st in the FBS.

It’s difficult to imagine the passing game improving, given the departure of a handful of receivers who left due to the lack of opportunity. No player at Syracuse has over 600 yards to their resume. Damien Alford is a breakout candidate who averaged 19 yards per catch and has a massive frame at 6’6”, 211 lbs. The offensive line also limits the team’s overall passing efficiency due to porous pass-blocking that has plagued the team recently.

Sean Tucker was the heartbeat of the offense, and the former three-star recruit has far outproduced expectations as one of the best running backs in college football. He ran for under 1,500 yards and 12 touchdowns with a 6.1 YPC average that ranked fifth among Power 5 runners with 200+ carries. He’s still developing as a blocker and receiver, but he’s clearly on the NFL radar after that season.

Syracuse’s defense helped the team stay afloat despite its putrid offense as it finished second in the ACC behind only Clemson in overall defense. However, the Orange only forced seven turnovers annually and has significant players to replace. The defensive line lost all five top contributors from last year and has just three scholarship returnees. That includes Cody Roscoe, the team’s leader with 8.5 sacks and a First Team All-ACC lineman.

Leading tackler Mikel Jones returns after an impressive season as PFF’s second-highest-graded linebacker in the ACC – he had 109 tackles and three sacks. Syracuse also returns Stefon Thompson, a hybrid linebacker who is a stout run defender and electric pas-rusher. The Orange also have a standout cornerback duo in Garrett Williams and Darian “Duce” Chestnut. Those two players combined for 17 pass breakups.

I want to bet on Dino Barbers and Sean Tucker getting this team back to bowl eligibility, but it’s difficult to trust the passing game or the trench play on either side of the ball. A post-bye week stretch against NC State, at Clemson, Notre Dame, and at Pitt will likely generate an 0-4 record, and the toss-up games against Florida State, Wake Forest, and Boston College will be more brutal to win without momentum. Syracuse could get off to a strong start, but it’s difficult to find five wins with the way the conference schedule breaks down.

Best Bet: under 4.5 wins

Duke Blue Devils Odds

Odds to Win National Championship:
Odds to Win ACC:
Regular Season Win Total:

What to Know:

  • 2021 Record: 3-9
  • Head Coach: Mike Elko
  • Key Players: QB Riley Leonard, RB Jordan Waters, DE DeWayne Carter, S Jordan Morant
  • Key Losses: QB Gunnar Holmberg, WR Jake Bobo, RB Mataeo Durant, DT Gary Smith
  • Key Transfer: S Jordan Morant
  • Game to Circle: at Northwestern, September 10

Duke had finally arrived as a football program in the early 2010s with five winning seasons out of six from 2013 to 2018, but things have fallen apart as of late with a 6-21 record over the last 27 games. The Blue Devils ranked last in the ACC in scoring offense and scoring defense in 2021, and it was the team’s first winless season in the conference since 2007. Former Texas A&M and Notre Dame defensive coordinator Mike Elko will look to instill more physicality, but it will take time.

The strength of the offense is a highly serviceable offensive line with four returning starters and solid transfer talent coming in. Graham Barton returns as an excellent run-blocker at one tackle spot. At the same time, John Gelotte anchors the line across from him. Duke also added Andre Harris (Arkansas State), Chance Lytle (Colorado), and Jack Burns (Cornell).

That solid offensive line will help, but it’s unclear who they will be blocking for. Mataeo Durant is gone after a 1,244-yard rushing season, and there isn’t a clear player to take over – Jordan Waters and Jaylen Coleman will compete in the backfield. Riley Leonard and Jordan Moore will compete for the starting quarterback spot as former three-star recruits.

Meanwhile, leading receiver Jake Bobo has transferred to UCLA, and Jalon Calhoun will be leaned on heavily this year. Calhoun has the third-most underneath receptions in the Power Five since 2019 with plenty of forced production, but he hasn’t done much with those looks – he has just 3.9 yards per underneath target, the second-worst rate in the Power Five per PFF.

The defense was awful last year as it ranked last in the country in total defense and last in the ACC in EPA per play, allowing 518 yards and 40 points per game. Undersized linebackers Shaka Heyward and Dorian Mausi are a strength after combining for 157 tackles. DeWayne Carter also returns as a solid veteran who ranked 11th among defensive tackles with an 11.1% pressure rate last season.

It will be a long season for Duke with no real “locks” on the schedule. Non-conference road games against Northwestern and Kansas present significant challenges, as both programs are likely to be better than last year. For a team that went winless in the ACC last year, those non-conference games are crucial. I’ll give Duke wins against Temple and North Carolina A&T, but that’s it. The under is the clear play here.

Best Bet: under 3.5 wins

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets Odds

Odds to Win National Championship:
Odds to Win ACC:
Regular Season Win Total:

What to Know:

  • 2021 Record: 3-9
  • Head Coach: Geoff Collins
  • Key Players: QB Jeff Sims, RB Dontae Smith, WR Malachi Carter, LB Charlie Thomas
  • Key Losses: RB Jahmyr Gibbs, WR Kyric McGowan, S Juaunyeh Thomas, OT Devin Cochran
  • Key Transfer: OT Pierce Quick
  • Game to Circle: at UCF, September 24

The clock is running out for head coach Geoff Collins at Georgia Tech after three straight three-win seasons. A once proud program that made a bowl game in every season from 1997 to 2014 has made just two appearances since, and it feels like ages ago that they appeared in the ACC Championship in 2012 and 2014. The Yellow Jackets have lost 22 of their last 29 games by double digits and lost to Notre Dame and Georgia by a combined 100-0 score.

After the offense scored just 24 points per game, the 95th-most in the country, Chip Long was introduced as the new offensive coordinator. He doesn’t have much to work with, though. Jeff Sims is a dynamic runner, but he hasn’t figured it out as a passer – his career 57% completion rate and 20 interceptions in two seasons just doesn’t cut it. Akron transfer Zach Gibson will push for playing time early on.

Georgia Tech lost its most productive offensive player, Jahmyr Gibbs, to Alabama after his 1,211 yards from scrimmage, and second-leading rusher Jordan Mason left for the NFL. Still, Dontae Smith averaged 5.6 YPC last season and led a deep backfield that added Hassan Hall (Louisville) and Dylan McDuffie (Buffalo) in the transfer portal. The run game should be fine, with Jeff Sims constantly threatening his legs. The receiving corps lost Kyric McGowan and his 467 yards and seven touchdowns, but Malachi Carter is an NFL prospect who had 37 catches for 489 yards and two touchdowns last year.

However, the offensive line lost three starters and will rely on a step forward from the rising Jordan Williams, a behemoth at 6’6”, 333 lbs. Transfers Pierce Quick (Alabama), Paul Tchio (Clemson), RJ Adams (Kentucky), and Corey Robinson (Kansas) are potential starters. Keep an eye on Quick, in particular, as he was a top-50 recruit in 2019 who struggled to find playing time at Alabama.

The defense was even worse than the offense last year as it ranked second-worst in the country in EPA per play allowed in 2021. While eight of the top 11 tacklers are gone, the injection of youth might be a good thing given the unit’s putrid play last year. The linebackers are likely the strength of the defense in the 4-2-5 formation. Charlie Thomas earned a top-10 coverage grade among returning FBS linebackers per PFF, Ayinde Eley led the team with 90 tackles, and Keion White is a breakout candidate if he can stay healthy.

Georgia Tech has PFF’s fifth-toughest strength of schedule this season, and it’s full of pitfalls. After opening the season against Clemson, the Yellow Jackets shift to a non-conference schedule that includes Ole Miss and UCF. The final six games of the season are as follows: at Florida State, at Virginia Tech, Miami, at North Carolina, at Georgia. This team may not even be favored in midseason home games against Duke and Virginia. I’m surprised this total is set at 3.5, and the under is the easiest bet here – perhaps my favorite in the ACC.

Best Bet: under 3.5 wins

ACC 2022 Predictions

This is set up to be an exciting season for ACC football, and the betting market presents plenty of value opportunities. My preseason picks to win the conference will be Clemson because of their dominant defense and the presence of Dabo Swinney, one of the best coaches in the country. However, the offense was putrid last year, and it’s far from a guarantee that D.J. Uiagalelei will progress significantly this year. If things don’t improve on that end, and the defense takes a step back without Brent Venables, the values on the longer-odds teams become very interesting.

I have Miami representing the Coastal division in the ACC Championship, but it wouldn’t shock me to see Pittsburgh in that position. The losses of Kenny Pickett and Jordan Addison are significant, but the defense is stout, and the transfers of Kedon Slovis and Konata Mumpfield should help keep the offense afloat. I love NC State this season with the returning Devin Leary and tons of talent on both sides of the ball – I have them ranked higher than Miami here, but unfortunately, they play in the same division as Clemson.

Louisville is one of my favorite sleeper teams in the conference, with Malik Cunningham returning as one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the country. The Cardinals should also expect significant defensive improvements thanks to key transfers and young, improving talents. I’m fading North Carolina this year after the loss of Sam Howell, as it’s tough to see the team’s win total improving by two after losing one of the best passers in program history.

Championship Prediction: Clemson over Miami

Favorite Over: NC State over 8.5

Favorite Under: Georgia Tech under 3.5

Biggest Sleeper Team: Louisville Cardinals

Due for Regression: UNC Tar Heels

I've been writing about sports for Lineups since the beginning of 2020 and on my own website since 2018. In May 2021, I graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in sport management. With my educational background in the sports business and a strong knowledge of the inner workings of professional and collegiate sports, I hope to tell enthralling stories about the world of sports as it unfolds around me.

Hot College Football Stories