College Football: ACC Betting Preview
Last season, Clemson won the ACC championship by crushing Pittsburgh, 42-10, in the title game, beginning their dominant postseason run. The Tigers preceded to storm through the College Football Playoff to win their second championship in three seasons and assert themselves as the prohibitive 2019 season favorite.
Dabo Swinney’s squad is back for another run this season, bringing back eight returning starters on offense, a number that doesn’t include receiver Justyn Ross, who had over 140 receiving yards in both playoff games. The ACC has some talented teams, but there’s a reason Clemson has such a steep price to win the conference.
Here’s a look at the conference title odds, according to FanDuel Sportsbook, for the ACC, along with which teams have the most betting value. All advanced statistics, except where noted, are courtesy of the S&P+ individual team statistical profiles .
Even at such expensive odds, Clemson has the best betting value of any team in the conference. It’s a boring pick, but they have a loaded roster talent-wise. Trevor Lawrence is the best quarterback in the nation going into this season, which is reflected in the Heisman betting odds. It doesn’t stop there for the Tigers’ passing offense, though. Lawrence will be targeting two of the best receivers in the conference, as well, Ross and Tee Higgins, who averaged 13.9 and 10.0 yards per target last season, respectively.
While Clemson’s offensive projects to be explosive through the air, they also return running back Travis Etienne, a member of multiple media outlets’ preseason All-American teams. Etienne averaged an absurd 8.1 yards per carry behind an offensive line that only created opportunities on 50% of rush attempts. Between Etienne, Lawrence, and the other offensive weapons the Tigers employ, Clemson’s offense will be extremely difficult to stop.
Clemson had a phenomenal defensive line last season that was sixth in the nation in both sack rate and stuff rate. They lost all four starters to the NFL draft, but they’ll have the highly touted sophomore Xavier Thomas coming off the edge as their primary backfield menace. As a backup last year, Thomas amassed 3.5 sacks and 12.5 run stuffs. The Tigers also return their top tackler from last season, linebacker Isaiah Simmons, and three starters from their secondary. Even after losing three defensive linemen in the first 17 picks of the NFL draft, Clemson’s defense is poised to remain among the nation’s elite.
In terms of schedule, the Tigers will hardly be challenged. Their toughest opponent will most certainly be Texas A&M, who they play in the second week of the year. They have to travel to South Carolina to play the Gamecocks for the last week of the season, but they don’t have to play the next three ACC betting favorites until the conference championship game.
Clemson is a wise choice for betting the conference title odds, even if the return will be small. However, for a long shot play, look no further than Florida State, a team that went just 5-7 last season but returns eight starters on both sides of the ball. Part of their woes in 2018 can be attributed to lousy turnover luck as they lost an estimated 5.5 points per game, based on their difference in expected (2.2) and actual (-11) turnover margins. That type of difference is unsustainable, so expect the Seminoles to improve this season and return to one of the best teams in the conference.
The 'Noles don’t have the type of explosiveness the Tigers do on offense; instead, they’ll rely on their defense for success. Sophomore Marvin Wilson showed flashes of greatness on the defensive line last year with 3.5 sacks and 9 run stuffs and was selected to the preseason all-ACC team for 2019. Along with Wilson, Florida State returns all four members of their secondary, a unit that held opposing quarterbacks to a mere 54.6% completion rate.
By no means is Florida State on the same level as Clemson in terms of talent, but the Seminoles do play rival Miami at home and if they can upset Clemson on the road, then they’ll likely have a manageable opponent in the ACC title game. At 30-1 odds, Florida State is at least worth a second look.