College football conference odds: Can Florida State challenge Clemson in the ACC?

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At right, Florida State quarterback Jordan Travis (13) attempts to stiff arm Clemson linebacker LaVonta Bentley (42) in the fourth quarter of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022, in Tallahassee, Fla. Clemson won 34-28. (AP Photo/Phil Sears)

We’ll preview every major conference in the Football Bowl Subdivision between now and the start of college football season on Aug. 26 through the lens of sports bettors. Each preview will include a shallow dive into the favorites, long shots and our favorite pick(s).

We will provide the full list of odds for the conference, as well as links to other conferences, toward the end.

We’ll start with the non-power five conferences and work our way toward the big fish in the pond, finishing with the Southeastern Conference. When the season begins, you’ll have a comprehensive look at the top divisions in the sport.

We’ll continue today with the ACC.

Last season

Let’s get one thing straight before diving into the recap of last season: the Atlantic Coast Conference has run through Clemson for a better part of the last decade. While some of the heavy hitters in the ACC (namely Florida State and Miami) declined in the late 2010s, the Tigers took advantage and enjoyed a ton of success at the conference and national championship levels.

Clemson won its seventh conference championship in eight years last season when it crushed the neighboring North Carolina 39-10. Last year was considered a “down year” for Dabo Swinney and Co., yet, the Tigers finished with an 11-3 record. Their only real competition was the aforementioned Seminoles.

Florida State’s six-point loss to Clemson in October all but ensured that the Tigers would play to get the ACC title back in 2022. Nevertheless, the Seminoles were the conference’s second-best team with a 10-3 record.

The ACC was noticeably stronger in 2022 than in years past — so much so that Wake Forest (8-5) finished sixth in the Atlantic Division. Other notable records included North Carolina (9-5), Duke (9-4), Pittsburgh (9-4), Louisville (8-5) and Syracuse (7-6).

Favorites

Even though more than half of the ACC (eight of 14) finished above .500 last season, the conference is a two-horse race, according to oddsmakers at Caesars Sportsbook. Clemson (+130) is favored to win its eighth ACC football championship in nine years, but just slightly. The Tigers showed some weaknesses last season, and they have shown over the last two that they are beatable.

The addition of Garrett Riley, the former TCU Offensive Coordinator, has flown under the radar this offseason. Riley will work with young phenom Cade Klubnik as they look to get the Clemson passing game back up to past standards. The Tigers don’t need to worry about their running game or defense heading into the year, so they can focus all of their energy on improving through the air.

Whereas Klubnik can develop into one of the nation’s top signal callers, Florida State (+140) has an elite playmaker under center already in its program. Jordan Travis returns on the back of a season that saw him set career highs in passing yards, touchdowns, completion percentage and passer rating.

Travis brings a lot of experience to the table and he’s got the Seminoles knocking on the door of college football’s elite. Mike Norvell has transformed the Florida State program since coming over from Memphis and the expectations for 2023 are sky high. If problems will arise from anywhere within the Seminoles’ ranks, it’s on the defensive side of the ball.

The long-awaited contest between these two colossal programs on September 23 could decide the fate of the conference, so mark your calendars accordingly.

Longer shots

When you’ve got just two teams with shorter than 10/1 odds in a 14-team conference, almost every team will be made to look like a long shot. North Carolina (+1200) is seemingly the so-called ‘best of the rest’ and that’s large in part due to the Drake Maye factor. Maye brings a calming presence over an offense that will go through a lot of change in 2023.

Mack Brown has a lot of work left to do to get the Tar Heels back to where they were last year, but having one of the nation’s top quarterbacks will always make that easier. North Carolina returns most of what was the conference’s worst defense in 2022, so the hope is that the unit can continue to grow in its second season together as a core.

Louisville (+1200) at 12/1 is rather surprising considering the changes that the Cardinals are going through in 2023. However, these relatively short odds speak volumes about the respect books have for Jeff Brohm’s coaching ability. Nevertheless, he and his staff are inheriting a largely new offense and one of the ACC’s worst defenses. Louisville’s schedule is a huge positive in the grand scheme of things, though, as it avoids the Tigers, Seminoles and Tar Heels.

Miami (+1600) is the most interesting case study in the conference heading into this season. The Hurricanes wildly underperformed last year, which led to head coach Mario Cristobal making changes to his coaching staff.

‘The U’ hit the transfer portal hard and it’s clear that oddsmakers are banking on these additions helping out. Tyler Van Dyke and Miami both need to show drastic improvements from a disappointing year in 2022. There’s only one way to go for the defense too, and that way is up.

Value picks

Clemson (+130) is my personal pick to win the conference again in 2023. I believe there is a bit too much hype surrounding a Seminoles team that hasn’t had expectations like these put on them before. Furthermore, the Tigers get to host Florida State and, for the most part, the biggest hitters on their schedule have to come to Clemson to play.

The Tigers will improve on offense and that should be a scary thought for the rest of the conference. Dabo Swinney’s group has shown time and time again that it rules the ACC, so the fact that Clemson has a plus sign next to its name is a bit surprising. Take these odds while you can.

Despite all of that gushing over the Tigers, I believe there is some value in picking North Carolina (+1200) to win the conference title. As long as Drake Maye plays to his potential, the Tar Heels have a distinct advantage over their division foes. They also added some key replacement pieces in the portal to complement May and the established running game.

As far as longshots go, you’d be hard-pressed to find one with better value than Duke (+3000). Mike Elko saw his team improve leaps and bounds during his debut season in Durham as they knocked on the door of 10 wins. The Blue Devils return 17 starters — including quarterback Riley Leonard and most of his offensive line. The only downside is that Duke has a hard overall schedule.

Full ACC odds and win totals

(Odds courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook, as of Tuesday, August 15)

 Team  Title odds   Win total
 Clemson  +130  10 (o-125)
 Florida State  +140  9.5 (o-140)
 Louisville  +1200  8 (u-135)
 North Carolina  +1200  8.5 (u-155)
 Miami (FL)  +1600  7.5 (u-125)
 North Carolina State  +1800  7 (u-130)
 Pittsburgh  +2000  7
 Duke  +3000  6 (o-155)
 Wake Forest  +5000  6.5 (u-140)
 Syracuse  +8000  6.5 (u-165)
 Virginia Tech  +8000  5.5 (u-180)
 Georgia Tech  +10000  4.5 (u-130)
 Boston College  +15000   5.5 (o-130)
 Virginia  +15000  3.5 (u-160)

College football conference pieces

July 12: MAC

July 13: Conference USA

July 19: Mountain West

July 26: Sun Belt

Aug. 2: American Athletic

Aug. 9: Pac-12

Aug. 15: Big 12

Aug. 16: ACC

Aug. 22: Big Ten

Aug. 23: SEC

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