Clemson and Florida State figure to represent the ACC Atlantic in the conference’s title game and potentially in the College Football Playoff depending on how the year goes. Other than that, Louisville could be a threat. The rest of the division is littered with mediocrity as NC State, Syracuse and Wake Forest all have their issues.
Related: ACC Football 2016 Predictions
When deciding which direction to go on a preseason win total, the schedule is broken down in terms of definite wins, definite losses and toss-ups. Most of the conference games are in the toss-up category, especially ones on the road. This preview will tell which teams have value and which ones you should probably stay away from altogether.
Note: Over/under odds courtesy of South Point Casino
(Over 6.5 wins -110...Under 6.5 wins -110)
Record Last Year: 3-9, 0-8
Returning Starters: 12 (6 on offense, 6 on defense)
Offense: BC averaged 17.2 points per game last year and struggled mightily all around. Quarterback Patrick Towles comes over from Kentucky and he brings some experience. Jon Hilliman and Myles Willis ran the ball well last year. The offensive line needs drastic improvement from last year.
Defense: The biggest loss is probably coordinator Don Brown, who led the school to a No. 1 national ranking in total defense. Jim Reid takes over and he’s a grizzly veteran. He’s got some talent to work with led by end Harold Landry and linebacker Matt Milano.
Schedule: The Eagles have a long road trip to Dublin, Ireland week one to play Georgia Tech. After that they play at UMass and Virginia Tech before four straight at home. Home games against Wagner, Buffalo and UConn complete the non-conference slate.
Selection: Somehow Boston College should go over the total. There is not a lot to like about the Eagles other than their schedule. They should pick up some wins outside the ACC and if they get enough momentum then it’ll carry over in conference play.
(Over 10.5 wins -110...Under 10.5 wins -110)
Record Last Year: 14-1, 8-0
Returning Starters: 12 (8 on offense, 4 on defense)
Offense: It all starts with Deshaun Watson, who took a nice step last year in his continued maturation. No. 1 running back Wayne Gallman and wide receiver Artavis Scott are back. The offensive line is almost intact as well. Once again this offense will be putting up close to 40 points per contest.
Defense: The Tigers will need to score as this side of the ball was ravaged by losses. Coordinator Brent Venables will have to rebuild almost from scratch. Luckily for them, cornerback Cordrea Tankersley is back for his senior season. There’s a lot of youth coming into play here.
Schedule: Clemson gets a road trip to Auburn before coming home to host Troy and South Carolina State. The Tigers’ final non-conference game is their usual capper at against South Carolina. There’s really no unfriendly stretches in the 2016 schedule.
Selection: I think this one goes under the total only because there are some slippery road games. Clemson plays at Auburn, Georgia Tech, Boston College and Florida State. There’s at least one loss in that group. The defense needs to grow up fast.
(Over 9.5 wins EVEN...Under 9.5 wins -120)
Record Last Year: 10-3, 6-2
Returning Starters: 15 (9 on offense, 6 on defense)
Offense: Dalvin Cook’s return makes life easier for Sean Maguire or Deondre Francois on offense. Whoever wins the quarterback job will be able to throw to Travis Rudolph and Jesus Wilson. The offensive line is pretty much intact so expect big things from this side of the ball.
Defense: Ends DeMarcus Walker and Josh Sweat will make life miserable for quarterbacks this year. They’ll need to get pressure because who knows how the linebacker corps will fare with pretty much a new group. Of note here, reliable kicker Roberto Aguayo is gone, but he’s been replaced by his younger brother Ricky.
Schedule: The Seminoles play Ole Miss in Orlando to start out 2016. Four of their first six games are away from Doak Campbell Stadium. Charleston Southern, at South Florida and the finale against Florida are the other non-conference opponents.
Selection: I think this one is a slight under. Back-to-back games at Louisville and South Florida could present two losses by themselves and that doesn’t even account for Clemson and at Miami. I like the Seminoles more than the Tigers, but they could trip up early.
(Over 9 wins +110...Under 9 wins -130)
Record Last Year: 8-5, 5-3
Returning Starters: 16 (8 on offense, 8 on defense)
Offense: The quarterback tandem of Lamar Jackson and Kyle Bolin are back. Jackson accounted for 23 touchdowns in 2015 and figures to lead the way. Brandon Radcliff leads a stacked backfield with James Quick opening things up out wide.
Defense: The secondary is going to be incredible with Josh Harvey-Clemons and Trumaine Washington. There were huge losses in the front seven, but you have to have faith in coordinator Todd Grantham to get his unit in order.
Schedule: The Cardinals play Charlotte, at Marshall, at Houston and Kentucky outside the ACC. They have two stretches of three road games out of five so they will have to be a tougher team away from Papa John’s Stadium.
Selection: Nine wins seems about right for Louisville. The defense is going to be ahead of Clemson and Florida State, but the Cardinals get one of them at home and one on the road. The back end of the slate is very friendly outside of a road matchup with Houston. It wouldn’t be awful if you want to take a long shot on this team to come out of the ACC Atlantic.
(Over 6 wins -110...Under 6 wins -110)
Record Last Year: 7-6, 3-5
Returning Starters: 14 (6 on offense, 8 on defense)
Offense: Jalen McClendon or Jakobi Meyers are expected to replace departed quarterback Jacoby Brissett but they will have Matt Dayes to rely on at running back. There are some decent WRs, but the offensive line will need to be rebuilt. The offense has some work to be done.
Defense: The front seven is pretty much back and this group was stout against the run last year. The secondary will need some work, but maybe the back end will have to cover less with the quarterback under pressure.
Schedule: The Wolfpack play William and Mary, at East Carolina, Old Dominion and Notre Dame out of conference. They get four of their first five at home before road games at Clemson and Louisville.
Selection: I came up with six wins on my first run through. I lean more to the under, but no official play here. The schedule is tough and there’s not a lot to love about this team. They are the picture of a .500 squad.
(Over 4 wins -110...Under 4 wins -110)
Record Last Year: 4-8, 2-6
Returning Starters: 15 (8 on offense, 7 on defense)
Offense: New head coach Dino Babers should do wonders to this side of the ball considering last year Syracuse finished near the bottom of FBS in total yards per game. Quarterback Eric Dungey got a lot of on-the-field training last year as a freshman. Wide receiver Steve Ishmael figures to be used a ton in the new up-tempo offense.
Defense: The secondary has to get better then it was last year. Teams moved up and down the field passing the ball on the Orange. Cornerbacks Corey Winfield and Cordell Hudson are back. Of note, punter Riley Dixon has graduated and he was a great weapon for flipping the field.
Schedule: The Orange are home for the first of three games before a stretch of three straight and five of six away from the Carrier Dome. This may be an improved team, but the schedule won’t allow the record to show it. They get Colgate, South Florida, UConn and Notre Dame out of the ACC.
Selection: Optimism is high in the Syracuse camp, but it’s not going to show on the field. I like the under as I just don’t think the Orange will match up with a lot of teams on the schedule. They will start out 1-0, but could just as easily fall to 1-3 or 1-4.
(Over 5.5 wins +110...Under 5.5 wins -135)
Record Last Year: 3-9, 1-7
Returning Starters: 15 (8 on offense, 7 on defense)
Offense: Head coach Dave Clawson was billed as an offensive guy, yet this team still hasn’t found its rhythm yet. Tight end Cam Serigne figures to be targeted early and often by John Wolford. The offensive line is pretty much intact. This is a classic case of a lot returning, but not a lot to be excited about outside of Serigne.
Defense: The defense played well despite being on the field a lot. The front four returns as well as cornerback Brad Watson, who led the conference in passes defended. The highlight last year was holding Florida State to 24 points.
Schedule: There are non-conference wins for the taking as the Deacs host Tulane, Delaware and Army to go with a road matchup against Indiana. Four of the final five games are at home.
Selection: I think five wins is about right. There are plenty of opportunities to make this go over the total, but it’s hard to think that the offense will improve a ton. Home tilts with Virginia and Boston College will decide whether Wake is an over or an under.
— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Josephs prefers non-Power 5 college football and may be the only one wagering on the Sun Belt.Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.