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2013 Outlook - ACC
AAC · ACC · Big Ten · Big 12 · SEC · Pac-12 · Mountain West
Skinny: has Florida State and Clemson listed as the +230 co-favorites to win the ACC. Both the Seminoles and Tigers share even-money odds to win the Atlantic Division.

Clemson compiled an 11-2 straight-up record to go with a 9-4 against-the-spread mark in 2012. Dabo Swinney’s squad captured a 25-24 comeback win over LSU at the Chick-fil-A Bowl in Atlanta.

Clemson returns six starters on each side of the ball, including a pair of All-American candidates in quarterback Tajh Boyd and wide receiver Sammy Watkins. Boyd is the school’s second all-time leading passer with 8,053 career passing yards. Barring injury, he is poised to surpass Charlie Whitehurst’s (9,665) record at some point in October.

In the last two seasons, Boyd has 69 touchdown passes compared to 25 interceptions. His favorite target will be Watkins, who was first-team All-American all-purpose player as a true freshman in 2011.

However, Watkins went through a painful sophomore slump. He missed the first two games due to a suspension, only started seven times and was injured on the first drive of the game against LSU. Watkins still managed to haul in 57 receptions for 708 yards, but he scored just three TDs compared to 13 the previous year.

With that said, there’s no reason to think Watkins won’t enjoy a spectacular bounce-back campaign.

5Dimes has Clemson’s season win total at 10.5 ‘under’ (-215, ‘over’ backers can net a +165 payout).

FSU returns 11 starters (seven offense, four defense) from last year’s ACC title team which finished 12-2 SU and 5-8 ATS. But should gamblers be impressed with Jimbo Fisher’s team winning 12 times in 2012?

FSU’s schedule was so weak that is was favored by 13.5 points or more in 13 of its 14 games. The ‘Noles faced only three ranked teams, beating Clemson (49-37) and Northern Illinois (31-10), but they lost at home to Florida (37-26).

Another concern for Fisher is zero career collegiate snaps at the QB position. E.J. Manuel was drafted in the first round by the Buffalo Bills, while former back-up Clint Trickett decided to transfer to West Virginia.

Jameis Winston, a redshirt freshman who was considered the nation’s No. 2 dual-threat QB coming out of high school by most recruitniks, assumes the starting role. He has one of the country’s best set of WRs, including Rashad Greene, Kenny Shaw and Kelvin Benjamin.

Manuel is third in FSU annals in career passing yards (7,736), but the reality is that the ‘Noles haven’t had an elite QB in more than a decade, dating back to Chris Weinke’s tenure from 1997-2000.

FSU’s defense lost coordinator Mark Stoops, who left to take the head-coaching job at Kentucky. Stoops took over a defense that gave up 30.0 points per game in 2009. On his watch, the ‘D’ surrendered just 19.6 PPG, 15.1 PPG and 14.7 PPG over three seasons. Former Alabama secondary coach Jeremy Pruitt has been named the new DC.

FSU’s season win tally is 10.5 ‘under’ (-150, ‘over’ +110).

The rest of the legit ACC contenders come from the Coastal Division. Before last year’s 7-6 campaign, Virginia Tech had won at least 10 games in eight consecutive seasons.

But things went south in Blacksburg in 2012. Va. Tech lost four road games in blowout fashion -- at Pitt (35-17), at North Carolina (48-34), at Clemson (38-17) and at Miami (30-12).

As a junior, QB Logan Thomas wasn’t nearly as effective as he’d been in 2011 when he completed 59.0 percent of his throws with a 19/10 touchdown-to-interception ratio. In 2012, Thomas connected only just 51.3 percent of his passes with 18 TD passes compared to 16 interceptions.

Thomas rushed for 524 yards and nine TDs. If he’s going to enjoy a bounce-back year, he’ll have to do so without his top three WRs from last season.

On the bright side, Frank Beamer’s team won three straight games to end the year, winning 30-23 at Boston College in overtime, 17-14 vs. Virginia and 13-10 vs. Rutgers in OT at the Russell Athletic Bowl.

Bud Foster’s defense, which gave up 22.8 PPG last year, has nine returning starters. The offense has six starters back. The Hokies have the second-shortest odds (+275) to win the Coastal Division, according to 5Dimes. They have +630 odds (risk $100 to win $630) to win the ACC.

Va. Tech’s season win total is 9.5 ‘under’ (-180, ‘over’ +140). The Hokies’ odds to win the BCS Championship are 225/1.

Miami is the ‘chalk’ to win the ACC Coastal with +250 odds. The Hurricanes went 7-5 last season and didn’t accept a bowl bid for the second straight year in order to hopefully satisfy postseason penalties that could be looming from the NCAA investigation based upon the action of rogue booster Nevin Shapiro.

Al Golden’s team has 10 starters back on offense and eight starters returning on defense. Most of UM’s skill players are back, including senior QB Stephen Morris, who threw for 3,345 yards with a 21/7 TD-INT ratio last year.

Duke Johnson, a sophomore RB and special-teams playmaker, rushed for 947 yards and 10 TDs as a true freshman. Johnson averaged 6.8 yards per carry and scored three other TDs (two on kick returns, one receiving TD).

If Morris and Johnson remain healthy, Miami should have one of the ACC’s most prolific offenses. However, last season’s defense surrendered 30.5 PPG. Obviously, this unit has to play better.

North Carolina won seven of its last nine games in 2012 to finish 8-4, but it didn’t go bowling due to a self-imposed ban stemming from NCAA violations committed by Butch Davis’s staff. The Tar Heels return six starters on offense and seven on defense.

The most valuable of those returning players is senior QB Bryn Renner, who is the school’s third all-time leading passer with 6,456 career yards. If Renner can duplicate his numbers from last season (3,356 yards), he’ll pass T.J. Yates in November to become UNC’s all-time leading passer.

Renner completed 65.4 percent of his throws last season for 28 TDs compared to only seven interceptions. He has his best WR (Quinshad Davis, 61 receptions) and TE (Eric Ebron, 40 catches) back in the mix, but All-ACC RB Giovani Bernard (1,228 rushing yards, 12 TDs) has moved on to the NFL.

UNC head coach Larry Fedora is an offensive wiz and I fully expect UNC to put up similar numbers after averaging 40.6 PPG last year. The Heels have +330 and +785 odds to win the Coastal Division and the ACC, respectively. Their season win total is 9.5 ‘under’ (-230, ‘over’ +170).

Are there any legit ACC contenders remaining among Maryland, Ga. Tech, Wake Forest, North Carolina St., Boston College, Syracuse, Virginia, Duke and Pitt? Not really.

If there’s a sleeper squad, I think it could be Paul Johnson’s team. In short, I just trust Johnson to put a quality product on the field. Johnson has won 41 games and taken the Yellow Jackets to five consecutive bowls during his tenure that’s entering its sixth season.

Georgia Tech won three of its last four regular-season games before dropping a 21-15 decision to FSU at the ACC Championship Game. The Yellow Jackets took the cash as 14-point underdogs vs. the ‘Noles. Then they won their first bowl game on Johnson’s watch by spanking Southern Cal by a 21-7 count at the Sun Bowl.

Ga. Tech returns seven starters on offense and eight on defense. Sophomore QB Vad Lee takes over for Tevin Washington. Lee played well as a freshman, rushing for 544 yards and nine TDs, while throwing for four TDs compared to three interceptions.

Duke went to its first bowl game since 1994 and the first during David Cutcliffe’s tenure in 2012. The Blue Devils bring back 14 starters (seven on each side), but they must find a replacement for QB Sean Renfree, who finished third on the school’s all-time list for career passing yards (9,465). Junior Anthony Boone was the No. 1 QB coming out of spring practice.

Games to Watch:

1-Florida St. at Clemson (Oct. 19) – 5Dimes has Clemson installed as a 2.5-point home favorite. FSU has lost five in a row at Clemson and hasn’t tasted a victory in Death Valley since 2001.

2-Florida St. at Florida (Nov. 30) – 5Dimes has the Gators favored by 2.5 with an ‘over/under’ total of 44. If either team is in the national-championship hunt, the stakes will be incredibly high for this regular-season finale for both schools at The Swamp.

3-Virginia Tech at Miami (Nov. 9) – 5Dimes has Miami as a four-point home favorite. The ‘Canes will take on Va. Tech the week after it travels to Tallahassee for a crucial showdown against the ‘Noles. The Hokies will be playing on the road for the second time in two weeks following a game at Boston College.

4-Clemson at South Carolina (Nov. 30) – 5Dimes has South Carolina listed as a 4.5-point home favorite. The Gamecocks have won four straight over the Tigers by an average margin of 17.5 PPG. Both teams might be in the hunt to get to the BCS Championship Game. Clemson has never lost five in a row to South Carolina.

5-North Carolina at Va. Tech (Oct .5) – 5Dimes has the Hokies favored by 5.5. Va. Tech will have a few extra days of rest since it plays at Ga. Tech the previous Thursday. This game will go a long way toward deciding the ACC Coastal.

6-Georgia at Clemson (Aug. 31) – 5Dimes has Clemson as a 1.5-point home ‘chalk.’ The Tigers ended last year with a win over LSU from out of the SEC. If they entertain any national-title hopes, they’ll need to knock off UGA in the opener at home.

Fearless Predictions
(Championship Game - Clemson over Miami, Fl.)

2013 Win-Loss Projections
School Record Win Total (5Dimes) Bowl Projection
Atlantic Division
Clemson 10-2 10 ½ Orange vs. Louisville (AAC #1)
Florida State 10-2 10 ½ Chick-fil-A vs. Georgia
North Carolina State 7-5 6 ½ Independence vs. Missouri
Maryland 6-6 6 ½ Military vs. Army or C-USA #6
Wake Forest 5-7 5 ½ -
Syracuse 5-7 4 ½ -
Boston College 3-9 4 ½ -
Coastal Division
Miami, Fl. 9-3 9 ½ Russell Athletic vs. Cincinnati
Virginia Tech 9-3 9 ½ Sun vs. Oregon State
North Carolina 9-3 9 ½ Belk vs. Rutgers
Georgia Tech 7-5 8 ½  Music City vs. Ole Miss
Duke 6-6 5 ½ Poinsettia
Pittsburgh 4-8 5 ½ -
Virginia 3-9 4 ½ -

Week 1 Best Bet(s): Play Penn State -5 vs. Syracuse (East Rutherford, N.J.): Syracuse lost its head coach, its all-time leading passer, its two best WRs and its two best players on defense. Penn St. has 14 starters returning from a team that finished 8-4 but should have gone 10-2 if not for place-kicking woes at Virginia and a horrible call negating a TD at Nebraska. I give PSU the head-coaching advantage with Bill O’Brien, who I expect to have a freshman QB Christian Hackenberg ready to perform immediately.

Players to Watch:

1- Sammy Watkins (WR, Clemson) – As a true freshman, Watkins was one of the nation’s premier players. Injuries and a two-game suspension prevented him from matching his 2011 production last season. Watkins is the ACC’s most talented player and needs a huge season to ensure his status as a first-round pick if he declares for the NFL Draft following his junior campaign.

2- Tajh Boyd (QB, Clemson) – Boyd is the only ACC player on the board for odds to win the Heisman Trophy at Boyd shares the seventh-shortest odds (12/1) with several other players. He will miss RB Andre Ellington and WR DeAndre Hopkins but as long as Watkins returns to 2011 form, Boyd should enjoy another monster season.

3- Jameis Winston (QB, FSU) – The redshirt freshman has never taken a collegiate snap. Nevertheless, he is dealing with expectations galore and has as much pressure on his shoulders as any other player in America. In short, he has to be really good if the ‘Noles want to win the ACC and have any shot at getting to the BCS Championship Game.

4- Bryn Renner (QB, UNC) – He has 54 TD passes the last two seasons. If Renner can play at an elite level, Larry Fedora’s squad will have an outstanding chance of winning the ACC Coastal.

5- Logan Thomas (QB, Va. Tech) – Like Clemson’s Watkins, Thomas is looking for a bounce-back season. His completion percentage dropped from 59.0% in 2011 to 51.3% last year. Thomas had a 19/10 TD-INT ratio as a sophomore, but those numbers were 18/16 last season.

6- Duke Johnson (RB, Miami) – After garnering second-team All-American honors as a true freshman, Johnson appears poised for a monster season. His blazing speed compensates for his lack of size. Johnson reminds me a little bit of Warrick Dunn.

Two Coaches on the Hot Seat:

1-Mike London (Virginia) – His second year was successful but that season was sandwiched between a pair of 4-8 campaigns. Things could get ugly in Charlottesville in 2012.

2-Randy Edsall (Maryland) – Big year for Edsall with the Terps, who almost certainly need to go bowling to keep their head coach around.

· Edwards: 2018 Quarterback Rankings
· BetDSI: Handicapping Vanderbilt (5)
· Edwards: Changes in Gainesville
· BetDSI: Handicapping Tennessee (5.5)
· Lawrence: 2018 ACC Preview
· BetDSI: Handicapping Arkansas (5.5)
· Lawrence: 2018 AAC Preview
· Edwards: Backing the Gamecocks
· BetDSI: Handicapping Kentucky (6)
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