The ACC had a dismal opening weekend, with Miami barely competitive against Alabama and Louisville getting rolled by Ole Miss, both on national television. It remains to be seen if the conference can rebound with two more head-to-head matchups against the SEC and another pair against the Big Ten.
If the conference is to be relevant nationally for the rest of the season, its teams in action this week need to find a way to come out on top, even those victorious in the opening weekend. Among the 14 games that involve ACC teams, at least six are of particular interest when evaluating the college football odds for each matchup.
Illinois Illini at Virginia Cavaliers
Odds: Virginia -10
Virginia took care of business against in-state FCS for William and Mary in a 43 – 0 victory, with starting quarterback Brennan Armstrong throwing for 339 yards and two touchdowns. The Cavaliers are the defending ACC Coastal champions from 2019 and will face an Illinois team that was knocked off by UTSA (that’s the University of Texas-San Antonio for those that don’t follow Conference USA) by the score of 37 – 30 after defeating Nebraska in week 0.
The advantage for Illinois is that they’re coached by veteran Bret Bielema, and they have a pair of games against FBS opponents under their belt. Virginia has a win against an overmatched FCS team that is in rebuilding mode, which makes this a compelling matchup of Power Five programs, neither of which has been particularly successful in their histories.
BetUS has Virginia as a 10 point favorite, but Illinois has enough on offense to keep the game close, even if they don’t win outright. Take the points and go with Illinois to at least cover the spread, if not defeat the Cavaliers outright with the sportsbook moneyline at +320 for the Illini.
Pittsburgh Panthers at Tennessee Volunteers
Odds: Pittsburgh -3
In week one, Pittsburgh took advantage of being able to defeat a school impersonating an FBS team, with UMass really belonging in the FCS, where they still wouldn’t be competitive. The Panthers were able to dispose of the Minutemen, which is about as long as they can stay in the game, by the score of 51 -7, but it still didn’t say much about how good Pittsburgh can be in 2021.
Pittsburgh racked up just short of 600 yards, with 223 of it coming on the ground, against a team that didn’t play a game in 2020. The positive for the Panthers is that they didn’t lose, but other than that, they get to count it as a victory as they head to Knoxville to play what is a real college football team.
Meanwhile, new Tennessee coach Josh Heupel took on Bowling Green, who had lost eight games in a row and took care of business 38 – 6 in his debut in Knoxville. The offense got off to a slow start but eventually put up big numbers on the ground, rushing for 326 yards and four touchdowns.
The Panthers led the ACC and were third in the nation in run defense in 2020 when they gave up just under 94 yards a game, so this could be a tough matchup for Tennessee, who struggled to develop a passing game against Bowling Green. Tennessee is improved, but Pittsburgh will make it tough on them, so give the points and take the Panthers to cover.
Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders at Virginia Tech Hokies
Odds: Virginia Tech -20.5
Ordinarily, this game wouldn’t make this preview piece with the Hokies clear favorites to defeat a middle-of-the-pack Conference USA team, but the Hokies surprised the 10th ranked UNC Tar Heels 17 – 10 last week to leap into the 19th spot in the rankings. It’s important for Virginia Tech to consolidate their week one upset win to maintain momentum to make a run to the ACC Coastal title for which they are currently in the driver’s seat.
While the Hokie pass defense was stout against the Tar Heels, the offense still struggled, so this game is important for Virginia Tech to demonstrate that they have a complete team that can compete for a division crown. The Hokies have been the victim of some high-profile upsets in recent years, and they need to make sure to take care of business after a great opening week victory.
Historically, Virginia Tech doesn’t cover big spreads, so I would take points and go with Middle Tennessee against the spread.
Appalachian State Mountaineers at Miami Hurricanes
Odds: Miami -9
This is a dangerous game for Miami after they were steamrolled by Alabama in their season opener and now have to regroup to face a very dangerous Group of Five member of the Sun Belt Conference. Appalachian State defeated East Carolina 33 – 19 last week and will pose a difficult test for the Hurricanes, who were expected to contend with North Carolina for the ACC Coastal crown.
Former Duke and Clemson quarterback Chase Brice fulfilled expectations for the Mountaineers, passing for 259 yards and two touchdowns while completing almost 75% of his passes. Appalachian State added 226 yards on the ground, averaging 6.3 yards per carry.
It’s difficult to assess Miami based on their game with Alabama, given the strength of the Crimson Tide, but it’s likely the Hurricanes haven’t made much progress from the 2020 season where they couldn’t stay with the best teams on their schedule. This game against a team that has won bowl games in their last six seasons will either bolster Miami’s confidence or sink their season and make it difficult for the Hurricanes to claw their way back to national relevance.
Based on what I saw last weekend, I don’t think Miami has the talent to cover the nine-point spread, so take the points and go with Appalachian State to at least cover, if not win outright.
NC State Wolfpack at Mississippi State Bulldogs
Odds: N.C. State -2.5
The Wolfpack were one of the bright spots for the conference in week one, dominating South Florida 45 – 0 to establish themselves as the most likely candidate to unseat Clemson from their six-year perch on top of the ACC Atlantic division. N.C. State had great production on the ground, with Zonovan Knight rambling for 163 yards and a touchdown on just 16 carries and Ricky Person Jr. adding 105 yards and two scores on the same number of attempts.
Defensively, they were stout, holding South Florida to 271 total yards on 65 plays and intercepted the Bulls three times, showing vast improvement over 2020 when they allowed an average of 415 yards a game.
For Mississippi State, it took a 21 point fourth quarter to overcome a tough Louisiana Tech team from Conference USA, where they are expected to finish in the middle of the pack. The biggest concern for the Bulldogs was their inability to generate a ground game, rushing for just 65 yards on 19 carries.
Quarterback Will Rogers was very effective, which is to be expected from a Mike Leach offense, going 39 of 47 for 370 yards. He had trouble getting completions downfield, however, averaging less than eight yards an attempt.
N.C. State is better defensively than the Bulldogs, and their running game is really strong, so take the Wolfpack and give the points.
Around the ACC
Those four games are the most compelling after you break down the college football spreads for each matchup, but there are a number of other matchups involving teams from the ACC. Here is the rest of the action taking place in the conference that anyone betting online should consider taking a look at.
- Rutgers (-2.5) at Syracuse
- Georgia State at North Carolina (-26)
- North Carolina A&T at Duke (NL)
- Kennesaw State at Georgia Tech (NL)
- Norfolk State at Wake Forest (NL)
- Boston College (-37.5) at UMass
- South Carolina State at Clemson (NL)
- Eastern Kentucky at Louisville (NL)
- Jacksonville State at Florida State (NL)