Georgia Tech will sting the ACC favorites

3:07 PM, Aug 15, 2013   |    comments
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Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - This upcoming season could be the best ever for the Atlantic Coast Conference. Not only is Florida State the seventh choice to win the BCS National Championship at 25-1, but Clemson also is in the top 10 (ninth) at 30-1.

Another club, Miami-Florida, is 13th at 45-1, but don't dismiss Georgia Tech, a team looking for back-to-back appearances in the ACC Championship Game. Throw in a few other squads (Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, Maryland and Boston College) that should rebound from disappointing seasons and the ACC certainly has a great chance to improve from its 18-23 straight up (SU) and 15-25-1 against the spread (ATS) non-conference records of a year ago.

Time now to take a deeper look into the league, along with predicted straight- up (overall and conference) records for those wagering on over/unders for total team victories. The over/under number posted is for the entire season, not conference totals. In addition, all statistics provided in the offensive and defensive sections are from conference-only play unless otherwise indicated (all odds to win the league title and totals courtesy of 5Dimes).

COASTAL DIVISION

7) PITTSBURGH (35-1) - The Panthers are 12-4-2 as road underdogs the last six years.

Offense - Trending down. The Panthers returned nine starters last year and even though they tied Ohio for the national lead in turnovers lost, they averaged fewer points and yards than they did in 2011. This season, only five starters return and the club must break in a new starting quarterback and running back.

Defense - Trending down. Last year's squad finished 17th nationally in total defense and 23rd in scoring. Nevertheless, those rankings came against offensively-challenged Big East opponents. Look for the defense to allow close to 10 more points per game (ppg) in the ACC.

Prediction - Pittsburgh has finished above .500 (ATS) each of the last six years. That streak will end this season. Over/under total - 5.5 (4-8, 2-6).

6) VIRGINIA (38-1) - The Cavaliers are 3-9 as home underdogs the last four years.

Offense - Trending down. Another year and another different starting quarterback. The Cavaliers turn to David Watford, who threw 74 passes in 2011 completing only 30, along with three interceptions. Given that, Virginia will put more emphasis on the run. However, every team in the division has a much- improved defensive line.

Defense - Trending up. It is interesting to note that the Cavaliers held the opposition to 17 fewer yards per game (ypg) than in 2011 but they allowed seven more ppg. With seven starters back, including the entire secondary, the defense will allow fewer points than last year's 30 ppg mark.

Prediction - Virginia has not had a winning ATS record since Mike London took over as head coach. Expect another below .500 mark in 2013. Over/under total - 4.5 (5-7, 3-5).

5) DUKE (125-1) - The Blue Devils have not been more than one game above or below .500 ATS in a season since 2005.

Offense - Trending down. The offense had its highest overall scoring output since 1994 last year at 31.5 ppg. Inside the ACC, the Blue Devils averaged 28 ppg, eight more than in 2011 even though their yards per play mark barely rose from 4.9 to 5.1. Look for a decline in scoring with the change to a ground- based attack after the team threw the ball over 55 percent last year.

Defense - Trending up. Injuries played a huge role in the increase in points allowed last year. With Pittsburgh and NC State (both teams with new starting quarterbacks) replacing Florida State and Clemson (104 points allowed) on the schedule, Duke will allow fewer ppg in 2013.

Prediction - The Blue Devils went under the total just twice last season. There will be many more unders this year. Over/under total - 5.5 (6-6, 3-5).

4) NORTH CAROLINA (8-1) - The Tar Heels are 5-10 as road favorites the last seven years.

Offense - Trending down. The offense exploded last year for 37 ppg, a nine- point increase from 2011. The key was an offensive line that allowed just 11 sacks the entire season. An improved ground game led by Giovani Bernard also helped. This season, the offense will not be as effective without Bernard and three NFL-drafted lineman.

Defense - Trending steady. On the surface, it appears the defense played well last year ranking fifth in the league in scoring at 26 ppg. However, that number rose to 33 (10th) versus other ACC squads. The Tar Heels also were 11th in pass defense and first downs allowed. The numbers won't improve much this season, especially with recent injuries in the secondary.

Prediction - The Tar Heels have finished over .500 in conference play just once (last year) since 2004. They will fail to do so again. Over/under total - 9.5 (6-6, 3-5). Take under 9.5 wins at -230.

3) VIRGINIA TECH (7-1) - The Hokies are 2-7 as home favorites the last two years.

Offense - Trending up. The Hokies overall scoring average has dropped 10 straight times when the club has returned fewer starters than the year before. On the other side of the spectrum, the scoring average has increased eight of the last 10 times the Hokies have brought back more starters than the year before. Look for the average to rise since the latter is the case in 2013.

Defense - Trending up. Not only did last year's defense allow 10 fewer ypg than in 2011 but it also gave up a half-yard fewer per play. Given those two statistics, it was shocking to see the Hokies allow nine more ppg. This year's defense could easily lead the league in scoring, especially since Antone Exum should be back by the start of conference play.

Prediction - The Hokies are 7-18-1 ATS in their last 26 games (29 percent). Expect that percentage to improve this season. Over/under total - 9.5 (8-4, 5-3).

2) MIAMI-FLORIDA (5-1) - The Hurricanes are 12-19 as home favorites the last six years.

Offense - Trending up. With just four returning starters, the Hurricanes exploded for 35 ppg and 470 ypg, up from 27 and 389, respectively in 2011. Imagine how much those numbers will grow with 10 returning starters!

Defense - Trending up. The defense was on the field for a conference worst 656 plays last year. Miami-Florida finished last against the pass and next-to-last versus the run. However, this is a new season and the malcontents have been dismissed from the program. Look for the defense to knock off about a touchdown per game from last year's average.

Prediction - The Hurricanes are 15-6-1 ATS under Al Golden after six straight years of below .500 records. They might not hit at a 70 percent clip this season but they will have their best SU mark in 10 years. Over/under total - 9.5 (10-2, 6-2).

1) GEORGIA TECH (10-1) - The Yellow Jackets are 33-26-2 ATS under Paul Johnson.

Offense - Trending down. With all the explosive offenses in the ACC, it was shocking to see the Yellow Jackets finish second in scoring, This is still a potent offense but look for a slight drop in production from last year's 40- point mark since the line is not 100 percent healthy going into the season.

Defense - Trending up. New coordinator Ted Roof brings the 4-3 defense to Atlanta. The Yellow Jackets lose just three starters and should show vast improvement from last year's fifth-place finish in scoring and total defense.

Prediction - Georgia Tech has a realistic chance of repeating its 2009 regular season 10-2 record. Over/under total - 8.5 (10-2, 7-1). At 10-1, the Yellow Jackets are the choice to win the ACC.

ATLANTIC DIVISION

7) NC STATE (70-1) - The Wolfpack are an unbelievable 0-12-1 as road favorites the last 10 years.

Offense - Trending steady. The Wolfpack gained 96 more ypg than they did in 2011, but averaged only two more points per game. Usually when that type of scenario takes place, there is a rise in scoring the following season. However, new schemes are in place this year so the rise won't exist.

Defense - Trending down. NC State was second nationally in third down efficiency last year but still allowed 142 more ypg compared to 2011. This year, the Wolfpack lose their top four tacklers, as well as David Amerson, who posted 18 interceptions the last two years.

Prediction - It will take a few games for this offense to get in gear, so bet against NC State early and often. Over/under total - 6.5 (6-6, 2-6).

6) SYRACUSE (65-1) - The Orange are 7-13 as home underdogs the last six years.

Offense - Trending down. Syracuse's 4.4 ypc Big East average was almost a full yard higher than its regular season FBS ypc average of 3.5. With the move to the ACC, along with the loss of Ryan Nassib and the top two receivers, look for the scoring average to drop by a touchdown.

Defense - Trending down. Syracuse finished 6th nationally in tackles for loss last year but the defense loses four of its top six leaders in that category. Moreover, the Orange ranked last in the Big East the last two years in quarterback completion percentage, so one can only imagine how badly they will be picked apart in the ACC.

Prediction - Syracuse will see its SU conference record fall from 5-2 to 2-6. Over/under total - 4.5 (5-7, 2-6).

5) BOSTON COLLEGE (85-1) - The Eagles are 5-15 as road favorites the last nine years.

Offense - Trending up. Boston College averaged over 50 more ypg than it did in 2011 but managed just two more ppg. Not only do eight starters return, but tackle Matt Patchan comes in from Florida to help an offensive line that allowed 36 sacks in 12 games.

Defense - Trending up. Injuries destroyed this side of the ball last year as 11 different linemen started games. In fact, the defense did not have the same starting lineup in back-to-back weeks all season long. If the Eagles can get through the season without any major health issues, look for the scoring average to improve.

Prediction - Boston College covered just three games last season. That number should at least double in 2013. Over/under total - 4.5 (6-6, 3-5). Take over 4.5 wins at +140.

4) MARYLAND (67-1) - The Terrapins are 4-12 ATS off a SU loss the last two years.

Offense - Trending up. Not many teams were so banged up at the quarterback spot that they have to rely on the fifth-stringer to start a third of the season. That's what took place at Maryland in 2012. Needless to say, the scoring output will increase with the return of C.J. Brown at quarterback and the addition of Deon Long at wide receiver.

Defense - Trending down. Luckily for the Terrapins, the defense bailed them out on multiple occasions last season. However, just four of the top 10 tacklers return this year after eight of the top 10 came back in 2012.

Prediction - Maryland actually went over the total six times last season. Look for many more this year. Over/under total - 6.5 (5-7, 3-5).

3) WAKE FOREST (150-1) - The Demon Deacons are 7-15 ATS as road underdogs the last six years.

Offense - Trending up. The Demon Deacons went into 2012 without four starting linemen as well as their leading rusher and receiver. That would account for the 11-point dip in scoring. However, last year's failures will turn into this year's successes with the return of seven starters. Look for a seven-point improvement.

Defense - Trending up. The defense was stout against the run holding the opposition to 3.3 ypc. The key spot that needs work is a secondary that allowed opposing quarterbacks to hit on 63 percent of their passes. That last number will decrease in 2013 giving Wake Forest its best defense in five years.

Prediction - The Demon Deacons are 13-2 to the under in their final five games over the last three years. That trend should continue in 2013. Over/under total - 5.5 (6-6, 4-4).

2) FLORIDA STATE (2-1) - The Seminoles are 18-18 ATS the last three years.

Offense - Trending steady. The Seminoles averaged between 30 and 31 ppg (overall) between 2009 and 2011. That all changed last season when they hit for 39 ppg. The big turnaround was a ground game that topped the 200 ypg average for the first time since 1995. Florida State ran the ball 55 percent of the time last year and that number could rise in 2013 with a new quarterback.

Defense - Trending down. The Seminoles finished 2nd nationally in total defense with eight returning starters. However, only four starters come back this year. The biggest issue is on the line where the club brings back players that compiled 21 percent of the team's sacks. Last year, the club returned 93 percent of its sacks.

Prediction - The Seminoles have to go to Clemson this season where they haven't won since 2001. Bet against them in that contest as well as the game versus NC State, which is sandwiched between Clemson and Miami-Florida. Over/under total - 10.5 (10-2, 6-2).

1) CLEMSON (2-1) - The Tigers are 11-4 as road underdogs the last eight years,

Offense - Trending down. The Tigers have a history of improving their point totals when four or more starting linemen return. It might be difficult to top last season's 47-point mark so look for a small decrease in points, especially since it's doubtful they will tie for the top spot nationally in red zone efficiency for a second straight season.

Defense - Trending steady. Last year's front seven was filled with underclassmen, but the Tigers still improved their rush defense. This year, the front seven is the strength of the defense as the secondary loses plenty of experienced seniors.

Prediction - Clemson is a team with very few weaknesses. Still, it will be tough to go undefeated with games against Georgia, Florida State, Georgia Tech and South Carolina. Look for the Tigers to win two of those contests - Florida State and Georgia. Over/under total - 10.5 (10-2, 7-1).

 

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