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Will Clemson remain the class of ACC over Florida State? Here’s how to bet the conference

Read about how we're betting the ACC in the upcoming College Football season.

MIAMI GARDENS, FLORIDA - DECEMBER 30: Cade Klubnik #2 of the Clemson Tigers hands the ball off to Will Shipley #1 against the Tennessee Volunteers during the fourth quarter of the Capital One Orange Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium on December 30, 2022 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images)
MIAMI GARDENS, FLORIDA - DECEMBER 30: Cade Klubnik #2 of the Clemson Tigers hands the ball off to Will Shipley #1 against the Tennessee Volunteers during the fourth quarter of the Capital One Orange Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium on December 30, 2022 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images)Read moreEric Espada / Getty Images

I’m finishing my College Football 2023 predictions portfolio and dove deep into the ACC this past week.

Let me break down all my ACC betting predictions, including win totals for each team and other thoughts.

It’s worth noting the ACC officially ditched divisions, so there is no Atlantic or Coastal division for the upcoming season. Instead, the two teams with the best conference record will meet in the ACC Championship game.

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Florida State Seminoles

  1. Win Total: 9.5 wins

  2. Action Analytics Projection: 10.1 wins

No team in the country has more returning production than Florida State.

By ESPN’s SP+ numbers, the Seminoles return 80% of their offensive production (12th nationally) and 94% of their defensive production (second nationally) from last year’s 10-3 squad.

Florida State also brings back its head coach, both coordinators, quarterback (Jordan Travis) and 17 starters.

You’re going to want to watch out for this team.

Unfortunately, this team’s season comes down to massive coin-flip contests against LSU and Clemson. The projected spread for both games is under a field goal.

Instead of tying up money in Florida State futures, I’d look to bet on or against them in these contests.

I admit I have a play on one of those games.

The play: Pass

» READ MORE: An early look at some interesting Eagles prop bets ahead of the NFL regular season

Clemson Tigers

  1. Win Total: 9.5 wins

  2. Action Analytics Projection: 9.2 wins

Clemson is undervalued.

Dabo Swinney and the Tigers always piece together an elite defense. They were a top-10 defense in both the passing and rushing game by Expected Points Added (EPA) per play allowed last year.

They return eight starters and 75% of their production on that side of the ball. The defensive line should still be dominant.

The Tigers couldn’t pass the ball last year, relying on Will Shipley and a one-dimensional rushing game to create points.

So, the Tigers hired one of the best offensive coordinators in college football – Garrett Riley.

Riley transformed Max Duggan and TCU’s offense last year, and he could do the same to Cade Klubnik and this offense. Klubnik was a blue-chip recruit, so his ceiling is high.

However, Shipley and the rush offense will be the key for Clemson this year.

Florida State’s biggest weakness last season was rush defense. Given the Seminoles are bringing back almost every defensive piece, I expect them to still be weak in that area.

Given Clemson returns Shipley and four starters on the offensive line, the Tigers should still run the ball at an elite level. That’s likely the difference between these two highly competitive ACC foes.

Because of this specific advantage, I’ll bet on Clemson to win the ACC in the upcoming year.

The ACC is a two-horse race between the Tigers and Seminoles, and Shipley represents the trump card.

The play: 2023 ACC Winner – Clemson (+150) at FanDuel

North Carolina Tar Heels over/under 8.5 wins

  1. Win Total: 8.5 wins

  2. Action Analytics Projection: 9.6 wins

There are some question marks surrounding North Carolina.

I’m not sure if Chip Lindsey will be as good as Phil Longo in the offensive coordinator role, and the Tigers lost some production in the receiving core (top two) and offensive line.

Plus, the Tar Heels project as a bottom-10 defense again after last year’s disaster. Head coach Mack Brown and defensive coordinator Gene Chizik did nothing to improve that side of the ball.

But between the quarterback and the schedule, there’s enough here to warrant an investment.

Drake Maye returns for his third year in Chapel Hill after leading the nation in Pro Football Focus’s (PFF’s) passing grades and winning ACC Player of the Year. He’s a true Heisman candidate this year.

While the Tar Heels are missing some production, they picked up important pass-catching and O-line transfers – there are 137 career FBS starts on the offensive line.

Regarding the schedule, the Tar Heels avoid Florida State and have only four true road games. They’re projected as favorites in 11 games and double-digit favorites in eight.

The play: Over 8.5 wins (+122) at FanDuel

Louisville Cardinals

  1. Win Total: 8 wins

  2. Action Analytics Projection: 10.1 wins

Speaking of scheduling – The Cardinals won the schedule lottery.

Louisville avoids Clemson, North Carolina and Florida State in ACC play, and the Cardinals only have three true road games.

Because of this gift, the Cardinals are projected as favorites in every game this season. They’re projected as double-digit favorites in eight games.

Almost nothing else matters. First-year head coach Jeff Brohm should exceed expectations because of the Charmin soft schedule.

The play: Over 8 wins (-110) at DraftKings

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Miami Hurricanes

  1. Win Total: 7.5 wins

  2. Action Analytics Projection: 6.6 wins

There’s the good and the bad with Miami this year.

The good is 19 returning starters, including quarterback Tyler Van Dyke and the most experienced defense in the conference.

The bad is a tough schedule that involves road tilts with Florida State, NC State and North Carolina, alongside a home game against Clemson.

While head coach Mario Cristobal is back for his second season in Coral Gables, the rest of his staff isn’t. Miami replaced seven assistant coaches in the off-season, including both coordinators.

While there’s no way the Hurricanes repeat last year’s 5-7 (2-10 against the spread!!) debacle, I think the schedule and the coaching shakeup sink the Hurricanes in 2023.

Projections show some slight value on the Win Total Under.

The play: Under 7.5 (-125) at Caesars

North Carolina State Wolfpack

  1. Win Total: 6.5 wins

  2. Action Analytics Projection: 6.1 wins

I want to back the Wolfpack.

Quarterback Brennan Armstrong and offensive coordinator Robert Anae transferred to NC State together after years of ripping up defenses at Virginia. I trust that combination.

But I don’t trust the rest of the roster.

Only five starters return on defense, comprising 41% of last year’s defensive production. Only one of the top six tacklers from last season returned for this year.

Three of last season’s top four pass catchers are gone, so the offense will rely heavily upon running back Jordan Houston. Unfortunately, that doesn’t bode well, considering there are only 63 career FBS starts on the offensive line.

There are a ton of coin flips on the schedule, but projects ultimately settle well under the win total, and I hate this roster outside Anae/Armstrong.

The play: Under 7 wins (-130) at Caesars

Syracuse Orange

  1. Win Total: 6.5 wins

  2. Action Analytics Projection: 8.2 wins

I’m betting the Orange will overachieve in 2023.

While the Orange aren’t a returning production wagon, they rank top-25 nationally in SP+ returning production, bringing back solid pieces on both sides of the ball.

Most importantly, quarterback Garrett Shrader is back after finishing top-25 in PFF’s passing grades last season.

Tight end Oronde Gadsden returns after compiling almost 1,000 yards last year as Shrader’s top option.

This schedule has some brutal spots, including back-to-back road trips against North Carolina and Florida State.

However, Syracuse also projects as double-digit favorites in eight other games, and they could beat Purdue on the road in Week 3, considering the Boilermakers’ off-season coaching and scheme changes.

The play: Over 6.5 (+135) Wins at Caesars

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Duke Blue Devils

  1. Win Total: 6.5 Wins

  2. Action Analytics Projection: 6.5 Wins

I’m unsure how Duke won nine games last season.

Wait, I know why – they were +16 in turnover differential.

There is a lot of returning experience on this team, and the Blue Devils could improve in Mike Elko’s second year as head coach.

But that conflicts with a brutal schedule and impending negative regression.

Ultimately, the projections show no value.

The play: Pass

Pittsburgh Panthers

  1. Win Total: 7 wins

  2. Action Analytics Projection: 4.2 wins

Say hello to the most overvalued team in the ACC.

The Panthers are getting respect after two years of domination under Kenny Pickett and Kedon Slovis.

Desperate for another superstar quarterback, offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti hit the transfer portal and pulled out Boston College quarterback Phil Jurkovec.

Jurkovec has NFL upside, but he struggled mightily behind a brutal BC offensive line last year (eight Big Time Throws, 13 Turnover Worthy Plays).

Unfortunately, the Panthers return only 40% of their offensive line starts. This is a very inexperienced unit.

The offense will struggle unless they can protect Jurkovec (doubtful). Pitt will try to lean on Pat Narduzzi’s usually-elite defense, but they lost their top four tacklers in the offseason.

The Panthers are projected as favorites in only four games next year.

The play: Under 7 Wins (+100) at DraftKings

Wake Forest Demon Deacons

  1. Win Total: 6.5 wins

  2. Action Analytics Projection: 5.9 wins

Here’s another team that lost its quarterback and a ton of offensive line production.

Sam Hartman transferred to Notre Dame, a huge loss for the pass-heavy Demon Deacons.

Meanwhile, only 62 career starts are on the offensive line.

The defense returns only six starters, meaning Wake Forest finishes outside the top 110 teams in SP+ returning production.

Unfortunately, there aren’t any big recruits or transfers that will save the Deacons this year.

The play: Under 6.5 wins (-125) at BetMGM

» READ MORE: Is Temple a sleeper worth backing in the American Athletic Conference futures market?

Boston College Eagles

  1. Win Total: 5.5 wins

  2. Action Analytics Projection: 4.0 wins

I think the Eagles could quietly exceed expectations this season.

Nine starters return on offense, but head coach Jeff Hafley retooled the unit. He moves on from Jurkovec, and Emmett Morehead will take the starting job after flashing potential last year. They also added two transfers on the offensive line.

Four of the top five tacklers return on defense, and the Eagles rank top-15 nationally in SP+ returning defensive production.

The Eagles are due for positive regression after finishing -12 in net turnovers last year, and they’ll face a more manageable schedule, avoiding Clemson and North Carolina in ACC play.

Although it goes against the projections, I’m buying Boston College in 2023. I think the team makes meaningful improvements.

The play: Over 5.5 wins (-115) at BetMGM

Virginia Tech Hokies

  1. Win Total: 5 wins

  2. Action Analytics Projection: 3.9 wins

I don’t see it for Virginia Tech.

The Hokies couldn’t score last year and likely won’t score this year with Grant Wells back under center.

The defense did a lot well last season, especially in the passing game, but will it be enough to overcome their dreadful offense?

The whole roster figures to improve in Brent Pry’s second season, but I don’t know if it’ll be enough to overcome the schedule.

The Hokies are projected as favorites in only one game this year – Week 1 against Old Dominion.

Projections are much lower on Virginia Tech than the market is, and so am I.

The play: Under 5.5 wins (-152) at FanDuel

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

  1. Win Total: 4.5 wins

  2. Action Analytics Projection: 2.8 wins

The Yellow Jackets won four conference games last year but were -62 net yards per game in conference play. They benefited from being +11 in net turnover differential, helping them win one-possession games against Pitt, Duke and Virginia Tech.

Negative regression is coming.

However, some interesting transfers include Texas A&M quarterback Haynes King and Louisville transfer Trey Cooley. Plus, the whole roster should improve in Brent Key’s second year as head coach – Key is a master motivator.

The projections are low on Georgia Tech, but I’m ultimately passing on them – Key is a coach that could consistently overachieve.

The play: Pass

» READ MORE: Why Penn State’s Drew Allar is worth a flier in the Heisman Trophy odds market

Virginia Cavaliers

  1. Win Total: 3.5 wins

  2. Action Analytics Projection: 6.0 wins

Virginia is due for positive regression after going -9 in net turnovers and losing three games by a combined seven points.

But we can’t accurately project Virginia with Anae and Armstrong gone. The Cavaliers are going through a huge identity change, even with Tony Elliott entering his second year as head coach.

I’m passing.

The play: Pass

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