Best Bets – ACC Futures

After going through the Big 12 futures earlier in the week here, it's time to shift over to some of the other Power 5 conferences that do things a bit differently with two divisions in their respective league and let the division winners battle one another in the Conference Championship. The two division format comes with it's skeptics (and rightfully so), as sometimes it's just the luck of the draw in the schedule of who a certain program may avoid in a given season, and that's always something to consider when looking at conference futures outside of the Big 12.

Today, it's over to the ACC where the defending National Champion Clemson Tigers reside, and it is projecting like another cakewalk of a year in the ACC for the Tigers in 2019. With a posted win total of 11.5 wins (slightly juiced to the 'under') and a conference schedule that at least on paper shouldn't pose too much of a threat, the 2019 season for Clemson could be whether or not they end up beating themselves and/or not being able to overcome sloppy/slow starts as has been the case in at least one game the past few years.

During the CFB Playoff era, defending National Champions do own a 30-20-1 ATS record in the following regular season (60%) - 2-4 ATS in Bowl/playoff games – so keep that in mind when you are looking at lofty spreads attached to Clemson all year, as the -300 price tag they've got to win the ACC conference once again is extremely hard to go against.

So don't expect too much losing coming out of “Death Valley” again this year, especially if the Tigers can remain healthy for the bulk of the campaign. They've really become like Alabama in the sense that they can lose some tremendous talents to the NFL Draft each year and simply 'reload' , and the benefit of doing that in the ACC is that the depth of talent in their competition isn't nearly what it is for 'Bama in the SEC.

That being said, there are plenty of betting options in the peripherals in the ACC this year in terms of futures, as there are plenty of programs – including some storied ones – expecting to be much improved in 2019. So here are two future plays that should be considered in the ACC, as it's basically a battle for 2nd place behind Clemson once again.

Best Season Win Total Over Bet:

Pittsburgh Panthers Over 6 wins (-110)

Pitt ended up claiming the Coastal Division last year with a 6-2 SU record in conference play, earning the right to be the tune-up team for Clemson en route to the playoffs and an eventual National Championship. But an experience like that can always be taking as quite a learning one, and since the ACC adopted the conference championship game format back in 2005, the loser in that game has gone on to average 7.46 wins the following year. Now every program is differently obviously, but only once in that 13 span did said team finish with fewer than six wins the following year (2015 Georgia Tech), making this number a touch too low on the Panthers in 2019.

Furthermore, HC Pat Narduzzi's ability to make sure his teams can come out on top in conference play (20-12 SU) suggest that he's great at preparing and scouting familiar opponents, and that carries over from year to year. QB Kenny Pickett should be much more effective this year with another year under his belt, and he'll need to be with the running game looking to new faces. But when Pickett was on last eyar, the Pantehrs had no problem putting up a boatload of points, and with a defense that should be one of the better units within the conference, that winning formula still remains at the program.

In terms of scheduling, the Panthers do get to avoid Clemson, Florida State and NC State from the Atlantic Division - three teams with the highest win totals in that division at 11.5 and 7.5 respectively – with the other 7.5 win total team being Syracuse as a road date for Pitt in mid-October. The three teams with the highest win totals in the Coastal Division are Miami (8.5), Virginia Tech (8), and Virginia (7.5) – they are the only teams ahead of Pitt in the division – and the games against Miami and Virginia are both at home for the Panthers. Grabbing two of those three will have them well on their way to eclipsing this total.

Finally, there are tough non-conference games against Penn State and UCF again this year, which could possibly be split, and the rest of the divisional play should see Pitt laying chalk in most of the games. That's not a bad thing to finish the year with a winning record once again, although another appearance in the ACC Championship game may not be in the cards. But if you were to pencil in wins against Delaware, Duke, Georgia Tech, and North Carolina – all five teams are projected to be worse – all it takes is two wins in the Panthers remaining seven games to get 'over' this number, and at least three or four of those games will likely have spreads within a single score.

With Narduzzi's ability to have his team overly prepared for those tight contests, asking the Panthers to go 2-5 or better in those other seven games is not a big ask at all, especially when one of those teams ends up being discussed now.

Best Season Win Total Under Bet:

Virginia Under 7.5 wins (-125)

The Cavaliers finished with a 8-5 SU record in 2018 thanks to a 28-0 win over South Carolina in the Belk Bowl, but for win total purposes that would have still stayed 'under' as Bowl games don't count. A 7-5 SU regular season was enough to earn Virginia that bowl invite, but asking them to improve on last year's mark is a bit much for a variety of reasons.

One, they start the year off on the road against that Pitt Panthers team and it could easily be 0-1 SU out of the gate for them. Yes, the Cavaliers have opened as -3 road favorites for that game, but opening week lines are nowhere near their true value in terms of how a team finishes out the year. In a 12 game regular season (and potentially a Conference Championship game counting towards this total) there isn't a lot of margin for error for the Cavaliers to get past this number, even with a softer schedule down the stretch (Louisville, UNC, Georgia Tech, Liberty, V Tech to finish the year.

It will be the early part of the year where Virginia stumbles though and hopefully cashes this bet early, as after Pittsburgh they do have two of their next five games that should be able to be pencilled in as wins against William & Mary and Old Dominion, but the rest is where it really gets tough. An opening week loss to Pitt would really put the Cavaliers behind the eight-ball as they've got games against heavily improved Florida State and Miami on tap, along with a trip to South Bend to face Notre Dame.

After those first six games we could have Virginia already sitting with four losses, meaning they'd have to run the table the rest of the way, and that's never a position you want your futures tickets to be in during mid-October. The rivalry game against Virginia Tech to close out the year could be the final nail in the coffin, but Louisville and UNC will be much improved this year as well, and Virginia has to visit both of those programs in back-to-back weeks.

A seven-win campaign is probably where the 2019 Cavaliers top out.