ACC Coastal Division
When the sportsbook posts regular-season win totals for college football teams, you know the season is just around the corner. We dive into the numbers and analyze each team’s chances to excel or disappoint. This time around, it’s the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC)’s Coastal Division.
Duke Blue Devils
Expected wins: 4 [Over -120, Under -110]
After finishing with just one win in 10 conference games last season, the Blue Devils are expected to once again finish last in the Coastal. The college football betting lines opened Duke with just 3½ wins but that has since been bet up to four by the public.
Duke finished with an 8-5 record in 2018 and won the Independence Bowl but has accumulated just seven wins in the previous two seasons. David Cutcliffe has a 74-88 record with Duke and has taken the school to six bowl games, winning three.
The Blue Devils remain an impoverished team on offense and even lost quarterback Chase Brice, who transferred to Appalachian State. However, some help is coming to the offensive line. Carson Van Lynn comes in from Pittsburgh among two others.
The concerns don’t stop here. Duke was also one of the worst defensive teams in the nation last year, allowing 38.1 points a game and 6.3 yards a snap. To exacerbate the situation, several of its best players have left the program. A few transfers will help patch things up but it may not be enough.
Duke may definitely be a better team than what it looks on paper. But there are so many unknowns here that the Blue Devils may not even beat the smaller schools it’s going, against let alone the other teams in their division save for Syracuse.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Expected wins: 4½ [Over -140, Under +110]
Unlike Duke, Georgia Tech’s win totals got bet online down by the public likely due to a much harder inter-conference schedule. A pair of games against top independent Notre Dame and Georgia to close out the season could already be ruled as losses while Northern Illinois in the opener will be another tough one.
Georgia Tech has won just three games in each of its last two seasons under coach Geoff Collins. But the team is progressing slowly and should make strides this season. It’s just a shame about its tough schedule as the win-loss record may not reflect how much this team improves.
The offense in particular could surprise. Quarterback Jeff Sims could have a better year with an improved offensive line and a pair of solid running backs in Jordan Mason and Jahmyr Gibbs. This team did have a 5.64 yard-per-play average in 2020 despite finishing 14th in the conference in points.
The defense gets six starters back plus gets reinforcements via the transfer window. Linebacker Ayinde Eley comes over from Maryland having earned an honorable-mention All-Big Ten while defensive lineman Keion White was a Second-Team All-Conference USA in 2019 as a sophomore.
Getting to five wins is a realistic goal here as the Yellow Jackets should handle the weakest teams on its schedule and surprise a few more as an underdog.
Expected wins: 6½ [Over -115, Under -115]
The Cavaliers went 5-5 last season and were a shell of the team that went 9-5 (6-2 ACC) and won the division in 2019. Injuries and personnel turnover are a big reason why, but this season will prove no easier with improvements to their rivals and some tough non-conference games.
Virginia needs to dramatically improve its defense. The Cavaliers gave up the most passing yards in the conference last season. With better health and a few cornerbacks bolstering the ranks via transfer, Virginia should be theoretically better.
QB Brennan Armstrong also needs to be better. He was too turnover-prone last season, leading to the already thin defense having to overextend itself. Elsewhere on offense, Running back Amaad Foston could breathe some life into a pedestrian rushing attack.
I am proud to announce that I am Committed to the University of Virginia!!
Please respect my decision@UVACoachBronco@UVACoachAtuaia@UVAFootball pic.twitter.com/IlvJa3dtoH
— amaadF20 (@AmaadFoston) January 20, 2020
It was a nightmare scenario for the Cavaliers in 2020. The college football odds have them in the bottom half of the division, which seems about right. Virginia will be better on both sides of the ball, but it will also need for the likes of Virginia Tech, Pittsburgh, and Georgia Tech to underperform a bit.
Still, folks are optimistic with the Cavaliers as they should resemble their 2019 version more closely. Virginia opened with a flat six-win total that has since been bet up to 6½ by the public. Bronco Mendenhall enters his sixth season and will get the team back on track.
Virginia Tech Hokies
Expected wins: 7½ [Over +115, Under -145]
The Hokies are also trending up as a popular college football pick judging by the increased win totals (up from seven). This is a program that has averaged eight wins in a 13-game format under coach Justin Fuente.
Virginia went 5-6 in 2020 due to a four-game losing skid from November to early December. The team rebounded to beat Virginia in the Commonwealth Cup but, overall, it was a disappointing season for the Hokies.
Fortunately for the team, there will be plenty of continuity here. QB Braxton Burmeister gets a chance to have a stronger year with receivers and three members of the offensive line return. Wide receiver Jaden Payoute is also a talented freshman who could make an impact while Johnny Jordan transfers from Maryland to further solidify the offensive line.
On defense, the Hokies look to rectify the problems from 2020. The team gave up 32.1 points per game, which was the third-worst in the division. The return of studs like edge rusher Amare Barno and cornerback Jermaine Waller will help.
A handful of transfers should also help, especially with defensive lineman Jordan Williams coming over from Clemson. He’ll beef up the middle, which will greatly help the team manage rushing attacks.
It’s not crazy to think that Virginia Tech is going to finish near the bottom of the division if the defense continues to slip. A total of 7½ wins is a steep number and the team will struggle relative to its betting scores and odds. But if this team can get going early, it can manage expectations.
Expected wins: 7½ [Over Ev, Under -130]
It’s interesting to see the Panthers’ win totals bump up to 7½ from seven when there are plenty of holes in this squad. The team has been a bit of an overachiever in its last few seasons and this could be the year it finally regresses. However, a soft first half of the season and an overall easy schedule should mean a winning record at the least.
Pitt finished with a 6-5 record last season and it has had a winning record save for one season under Pat Narduzzi. The team was sustained by its staunch defense, which led the ACC in limiting opponents’ yards per play (4.88). The Panthers also had a conference-leading 46 sacks.
But that’s all in the past as the defense takes a big hit with leading edge rusher Patrick Jones II departing among a slew of starters. Even with the toughest front seven in the conference, Pittsburgh’s defense could drop off a little.
That’s where fifth-year starter Kenny Pickett and the offense will need to pick things up. There is a bit more continuity here as three starters return from the offensive line. Still, this was one of the least prolific groups last season, ranking in bottom three in both points and yards per play.
If the offense can improve and the defense stays solid, Pittsburgh may even start the season 5-1. The Panthers will need every win in their first six games as they will face Clemson, Miami (Fla.) and North Carolina in three of the next four weeks. Otherwise, the schedule is not that demanding.
Expected wins: 9 [Over Ev, Under -130]
“The U” came back with a vengeance in head coach Manny Diaz’s second season. The team finished with an 8-3 record and were ranked 22nd overall in the AP Top 25. But with success comes plenty of expectations and pressure.
The Hurricanes are now tasked with winning nine games, per the college football betting lines. This was actually faded by the public as it initially was 9.5.
Miami has a legitimate shot at capturing the division from North Carolina, especially if star quarterback D’Eriq King is fully recovered from his ACL tear. He has looked great in practice and OTAs so far, but looking good in a game is another story.
Cool video put out by @CanesFootball tracking D’Eriq King through his first practice back pic.twitter.com/mtQ8MaAugK
— Manny Navarro (@Manny_Navarro) August 11, 2021
The Hurricanes are also a victim of their own success as they open with the toughest schedule in the conference. The Hurricanes open against top-ranked Alabama followed by Appalachian State, Michigan State and Central Connecticut.
After their non-conference games, Miami gets an ESPN game against Virginia before traveling to Chapel Hill to face the Tar Heels. The schedule slows down from there.
King and the offense will need to get going right away. The offensive line needs to be better and allowing their recovering quarterback to get sacked 30 times again is a recipe for disaster. The ground game will also need to be better to alleviate pressure.
Defensively, Miami also has a lot to improve upon. This unit gave up almost 175 rushing yards per game last season and it was near the bottom in turnovers forced. Some transfers will bolster the team. But given its top-heavy schedule, Miami is in danger of having a disappointing season.
North Carolina Tar Heels
Expected wins: 9½ [Over -115, Under -115]
The Tar Heels are set to capture their first Coastal Division title since 2015. Under the guidance of Mack Brown, North Carolina has gradually improved. The team finished 8-4 last season, losing in the Orange Bowl against Texas A&M.
UNC is taking a step forward and is already ranked ninth in the coaches’ poll. Leading the team will be quarterback Sam Howell, who should be on the short list of contenders to capture the ACC Player of the Year.
Joining Howell and further taking the offense to a new level will be transfer running back Ty Chandler from Tennessee. He racked up 13 touchdowns with the Volunteers and will be running behind a prolific offensive line. Gavin Blackwell will also lead a young crop of receivers.
UNC meet your new RB1
Ty Chandler + Sam Howell in the backfield this season 🔥
— PFF College (@PFF_College) August 6, 2021
The Tar Heels finished just behind Clemson in points scored in the conference at 41.7 a game and it will get a chance to test itself in the ACC Championship Game against the Tigers if the chalk holds up.
The defense could be an area of concern for the Tar Heels. This unit was subpar compared to the offense, giving up 29.4 points a game. It also loses linebacker Chazz Surratt, a two-time first-team All-ACC pick who was drafted by the Vikings in the third round.
However, North Carolina does have an easy schedule, especially compared to Miami, its main rival in the division. The Tar Heels have a three-game stretch where they face Miami, visit Notre Dame, and play host to Wake Forest in a rivalry game. Other than that, it’s smooth sailing.