It’s Week 12 of the college football season, and the ACC is primarily a race involving Notre Dame, Clemson and Miami for the two spots in the ACC Championship Game. Miami’s game this week with the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets has been postponed due to COVID-19. The other ACC games are still on track to be played. Let’s look at the schedule and the online betting odds, beginning with a Friday night special in Louisville.
Syracuse Orange vs Louisville Cardinals
College Football Odds: Louisville -18
This is a Friday night game. The Louisville Cardinals are 2-6, so how can they be favored by such a large margin over anyone? Simple: Syracuse is 1-7. The Orange lost by two touchdowns at home to Duke, one of the other especially bad teams in the ACC this season. Nothing has gone right for Syracuse, which won 10 games in 2018 but has not been able to do anything since. Coach Dino Babers hoped to have a high-octane passing attack that could change the power equation for Syracuse in the ACC. In 2018, he had that, but he hasn’t been able to get it back, and his defense has not been sturdy enough to give this team other ways of winning.
Louisville has suffered through a miserable season, but compared to Syracuse, the Cardinals are far more talented with a lot more speed from their skill-position players. Louisville isn’t an especially good team, but it is considerably better than Syracuse. They’re the better choice in the sportsbook.
Clemson Tigers vs Florida State Seminoles
College Football Odds: Clemson -35
Clemson and Florida State, from 2011-16, had one of the most significant and eagerly anticipated rivalries. Florida State won the Orange Bowl in the 2012 season. Clemson won the Orange Bowl one season later. Florida State won the national championship in 2013 and made the College Football Playoff in 2014. Clemson then took over the rivalry in 2015, making the College Football playoff in each of the next five seasons. Florida State won the Orange Bowl in the 2016 season but then nose-dived in 2017. The Seminoles have not rebounded since. In 2020, this game is expected to be a blowout, as has been the case the past two years. Florida State is in full rebuilding mode under coach Mike Norvell. Clemson is pursuing a third consecutive appearance in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game. These programs have simply gone in different directions the past four years.
Wake Forest Demon Deacons vs Duke Blue Devils
College Football Odds: Wake Forest -5
This is a game in which one team overachieves relative to its talent, and the other team has failed to overachieve with limited talent. Duke used to be the overachiever of the ACC, punching above its weight and finding ways to win close games, but the Blue Devils have passed that baton to Wake Forest. They have won a number of impressive games, specifically against Virginia and Virginia Tech. Wake Forest is, however, coming off a stinging loss. The Demon Deacons were up 45-24 over North Carolina this past Saturday but then allowed 35 straight points and lost 59-53. Wake’s defense is weak, but Duke has not had one of the ACC’s better offenses. Duke will need to find ways to finish drives in this game.
Abilene Christian Wildcats vs Virginia Cavaliers
This is a game between an FCS cupcake school and an ACC team. This game isn’t expected to be close; it is being created in response to COVID-19 schedule complications. Virginia should be able to cruise here without any problems at all.
Virginia Tech Hokies vs Pittsburgh Panthers
College Football Odds: Virginia Tech -3.5
The Virginia Tech Hokies have been one of the ACC’s bigger disappointments. They were playing a Miami team this past Saturday that was unable to dress 13 players – some starters – due to COVID-19. Virginia Tech might not have been able to beat a full-strength Miami side, but it should have been able to take care of the Hurricanes given UM’s roster limitations. Yet, Virginia Tech quarterback Hendon Hooker struggled. Virginia Tech’s defense limited Miami’s potent offense to 25 points. However, the Hokies scored just 24 points and were held scoreless on their last five possessions. They couldn’t get anything going, and they weren’t even able to attempt a go-ahead field goal.
Pittsburgh has had an up-and-down season as well, and Paris Ford – the best player in the Panthers’ secondary – has opted out of the season due to COVID-19. This game feels like a toss-up since it’s hard to gauge these two teams from week to week, but Virginia Tech has underachieved more than Pittsburgh and should therefore not receive the benefit of the doubt.
Liberty Flames vs North Carolina State Wolfpack
College Football Odds: North Carolina State -3.5
The Liberty Flames, coached by former Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze, are 8-0. They are ranked in the Top 25 and have a real chance to go unbeaten if they win this game. North Carolina State feared that it would struggle on offense without quarterback Devin Leary, who was injured weeks ago. However, Bailey Hockman has proved to be a solid backup for coach Dave Doeren and offensive coordinator Tim Beck. North Carolina State’s offense has to avoid the big mistake. If it does, the Wolfpack can give Liberty its first loss.
Freeze is known for having an innovative and relentlessly aggressive offense. Freeze has done such a good job with Liberty that he has put himself in the running for the currently open head coaching job at South Carolina. A lot of people across the nation are going to wonder if Freeze can complete the unbeaten season at Liberty. If he does, that could influence South Carolina’s thinking, so there is importance in this game for reasons which go beyond the immediate matchup with North Carolina State.