Each college football conference (ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, PAC-12, SEC) seems to always have one or two favorites lined up this year.
Alabama (SEC), Ohio State (Big 10), Washington (Pac-12), Oklahoma (Big 12), and the reigning national champs Clemson (ACC) were all favored to win their leagues at the start of the season.
In the ACC, it seems apparent that Clemson will still come out on top. However are there windows for other teams to sneak through?
There are some talented teams in the ACC that is bound to break the mold in the conference come next season. Let’s take a deeper look into the who’s the dark horse of the ACC, as well as team expectations and odds (courtesy of MyBookie).
Virginia Cavaliers: +2500
It’s rare to see a team this high above the rest of their respective conference besides the Clemson Tigers.
Virginia is a team that has drastically improved last season and boasts likely the best quarterback in the conference, Bryce Perkins, whose dual-threat capabilities can be put to brilliant use throughout the season.
Still, his receiving unit is questionable; there’s a lot to prove for the running back group he shares the backfield with.
At +2500, their odds of winning the conference are at a much better value than most teams. If they play well against their conference rivals, they have a great chance of winning their division and could potentially land a nice spot in the playoffs.
Miami Hurricanes +800
The Hurricanes have the highest ceiling out of all the Coastal Division teams.
Their defense is not in question. Michael Pinckney and Shaquille Quarterman will likely be all-ACC if not on one of the All-American teams at linebacker. Trajan Bandy can get plenty of accolades at the corner too.
The offense is where the real problems lie, especially at the quarterback position. Even with the Tate Martell’s transfer from Ohio State, it’s not a sure-thing the QB competition will yield a star. The offensive line’s protection of the quarterback might be an even bigger problem. But Miami at least isn’t short on athletic pieces at the offensive skill positions.
Virginia Tech +2000
Another team fighting in the Coastal will be Virginia Tech, even after the disastrous 2018 season they had. Their defense took a major step back but there’s still a lot of hope on D.
They should be fine as well for this defense, but they’re going to have to deal with the loss of Josh Jackson due to his transfer to Maryland. Ryan Willis showed signs of being a difference-maker at the position after Jackson broke his leg last season. But he’s going to need help from one of the better receiving units in the league.
Virginia Tech has a chance to take a big jump, but having to through Miami and Virginia this year is going to make it tough for them to make it out of the ACC.
Syracuse Orange +1600
The Syracuse Orange are losing star QB Eric Dungey but gaining another potential stud in Tommy DeVito. He has a cannon of an arm even if he’s not quite as mobile as the former QB.
Coach Dino Babers has created a well-oiled machine on offense that can surround DeVito. Thus, they should still finish in the top-20 when all is said and done.
But the real test will be on defense, where teams can potentially feast. Syracuse has equipped their secondary quite well, and their D-line has filled some gaps. They’ll get the job done on most occasions.
Florida State Seminoles +1400
FSU is a very high risk-high reward kind of team given their track record. Willie Taggart saw his first season implode dramatically and now he’s without former starting QB Deondre Francois, who was kicked off the team.
With that being said, this team is way better than the 5-7 record they posted last season. Cam Akers has all kinds of potential out of the backfield and the receiving group has some good hands to help QB James Blackmon. But the same problem for FSU will likely persist this year.
That thorn in the side is the offensive line. The Seminoles might have had the worst one in the entire conference last season and its protection—or lack there off—was the biggest flaw. If Akers got to the second level, he could do some serious damage and break into the secondary, often with ease.
Looking at the teams in the ACC, Miami has the most upside of any of these teams. They much more defined on defense in their conference and have enough time to progress offensively.
All they have to do is get past the national champions and beat their conference rivals to make it out well in the ACC.
Prediction: Miami Hurricanes +800