The ACC Coastal should provide the most intrigue with so many teams that could win the division. North Carolina should mount a stiff defense of its division title, Miami is on its way back and Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech could both enter the mix as well. Virginia won’t be an easy win anymore while Duke will have to adjust as the Blue Devils continue to lose talent.
For those unfamiliar with these articles, I like to break down each team and give at least a lean on how I feel about their win total. There’s a casino in Vegas that provided their totals for every team in FBS football. I mentally break down the schedules in terms of easy wins, easy losses and ones that are toss-ups.
Note: Over/under odds courtesy of South Point Casino
(Over 5.5 wins -110...Under 5.5 wins -110)
Record Last Year: 8-5, 4-4
Returning Starters: 10 (5 on offense, 5 on defense)
Offense: Thomas Sirk is back although he's dealing with an Achilles injury. The offense has Jela Duncan and Shaun Wilson in the backfield to rely on. The passing game could be an issue, but the offensive line is pretty strong. Right tackle Casey Blaser was All-ACC last year.
Defense: The secondary is where most of the returners are although ACC Defensive Player of the Year Jeremy Cash is gone. The front seven will be looking for playmakers early as they try to replace a lot of lost talent. Of note, the Blue Devils also have to replace a very good kicker and punter.
Schedule: The first thing that sticks out is that everything happens in pairs with back-to-back home then road games all year long. The non-conference slate is NC Central, at Northwestern, at Notre Dame and home against Army. Virginia Tech and North Carolina both come to Wallace Wade Stadium.
Selection: I think the number is pretty spot on. To me, if you are considering this total, you have to decide about the home games against the Hokies and the Tar Heels. If you see wins in even one of those matchups, then consider the over. If not, then the under is your play because the road is unkind.
(Over 6.5 wins EVEN...Under 6.5 wins -120)
Record Last Year: 3-9, 1-7
Returning Starters: 11 (6 on offense, 5 on defense)
Offense: Justin Thomas needs to get better in this offense if the team hopes to go anywhere. He’s got to find some new backs to rely on. The good thing is that the left side of this offensive line is back and they hope to make this group go.
Defense: Adam Gotsis is gone, and that’s not good for a defense that couldn’t stop the run with much regularity. The secondary is going to have to find new starters as well. There are plenty of question marks here.
Schedule: After a trip to Ireland in week one, the Yellow Jackets have four straight and six of their next seven at home. The problem is that they lost at Bobby Dodd Stadium four times in 2015 so it’s no guarantee. The Yellow Jackets’ non-conference slate consists of Mercer, Vanderbilt, Georgia Southern and a road game at Georgia.
Selection: Of note here is that five teams get extra time to prepare for the triple option and that usually results in trouble for GT. I think the under is the play with the defense being the reason. Sure, it’s a home-friendly slate, but if you aren’t good, it doesn’t matter where the game is.
(Over 6.5 wins -125...Under 6.5 wins +105)
Record Last Year: 8-5, 5-3
Returning Starters: 16 (9 on offense, 7 on defense)
Offense: Brad Kaaya has probably one more year to show off for NFL scouts. New head coach Mark Richt figures to inject life into the offense that returns running back tandem Joseph Yearby and Mark Walton along with top target Stacy Coley. The line returns four starters so I’m expecting big things from this side of the ball.
Defense: New coordinator Manny Diaz is going to be real aggressive with this group so Corn Elder and the secondary better be ready for single coverage. There are plenty of athletes here so I think they’ll improve on the 200.6 yards per game they allowed on the ground.
Schedule: Four of the first six are at home with Florida A&M and Florida Atlantic representing the first two games. The Hurricanes also get Florida State at home as well as North Carolina. The Sept. 17 game at Appalachian State could be an upset if they aren’t focused.
Selection: I really like this team, but I barely got over the total when running through the schedule. Playing FSU, UNC, Virginia Tech and Notre Dame in a four-game span in October will be a real test. Should Miami survive that then three winnable games await to close out the year.
(Over 8.5 wins -125...Under 8.5 wins +105)
Record Last Year: 11-3, 8-0
Returning Starters: 13 (7 on offense, 6 on defense)
Offense: Last year’s UNC offense averaged 40.7 points per game. If they hope to get that high again in 2016, then they need new QB Mitch Trubisky to step right in and make plays. The good news is he has Elijah Hood to hand off to and Mack Hollins, Bug Howard and Ryan Switzer to throw to.
Defense: Gene Chizik did some work with this side of the ball, shaving off almost 15 points per game allowed compared to 2014. This unit has a solid pair of cornerbacks in M.J. Stewart and Des Lawrence.
Schedule: The year starts out with Georgia down in Atlanta in another statement game. Last year’s statement against an SEC team was a poor one in a 17-13 opening loss to South Carolina in Charlotte. The rest of the non-conference slate is at Illinois and home dates with a pair of FCS teams in James Madison and The Citadel. The toughest stretch is three of four on the road to start out October.
Selection: I’m not quite as optimistic about the Tar Heels as others when it comes to this win total. They have some difficult road trips to go with some odd scheduling spots. Playing the rival Blue Devils just five days later after the triple option of Georgia Tech will be tough. I like the under here.
(Over 7 wins EVEN...Under 7 wins -120)
Record Last Year: 8-5, 6-2
Returning Starters: 16 (8 on offense, 8 on defense)
Offense: The best victory this team had was when running back James Conner beat cancer this offseason. His presence is sure to be motivation for an offense that should fire on all cylinders. Qadree Ollison is another threat in the backfield. Nate Peterman threw for 20 TDs last year.
Defense: This team got in the backfield last year, averaging nearly three sacks per game. That should continue with Jordan Whitehead leading the way at safety. Chris Blewitt is the team’s kicker so folks get one more year of “blew it” jokes.
Schedule: Another FCS opponent to start out the season with Villanova coming to Heinz Field before the Panthers take on Penn State and Oklahoma State. Marshall is the fourth non-conference opponent and that one starts out October. If the Panthers can get through road games at Miami and Clemson back-to-back then the payoff could come when they host Duke and Syracuse.
Selection: I think the number for this one is spot on. The road is tough, but this team has the potential to be a surprise in the ACC Coastal. I think there’s a better chance Pitt goes over then under, but that’s just a lean.
(Over 4.5 wins -130...Under 4.5 wins +110)
Record Last Year: 4-8, 3-5
Returning Starters: 10 (5 on offense, 5 on defense)
Offense: Matt Johns may get some competition for the starting quarterback job with the Cavaliers picking up Kurt Benkert, who figured to be the starter at East Carolina. Whoever is under center, they will get one last year of explosive running back Taquan Mizzell. The problem may come at WR where Mizzell also is the returning receiver.
Defense: Quin Blanding is a very good quarterback of the UVA defense. He’ll have to solidify things as the Cavs break in some new players up front. Lineman Andrew Brown was very highly touted coming in. I think new defensive coordinator Nick Howell will do some good things.
Schedule: For the first time in a few years, this school won’t be playing a tremendously tough out-of-conference slate. Virginia hosts Richmond before road games against Oregon and UConn to go with a home tilt against Central Michigan. The Cavaliers don’t leave Charlottesville for most of October either.
Selection: I like the over for the Hoos once again. Bronco Mendenhall comes over and he’s going to make these kids work hard. Bowl eligibility isn’t completely out of the question and how this team does when it hosts Pitt, UNC and Louisville on consecutive Saturdays in October will determine if you like the under or the over.
(Over 6.5 wins -130...Under 6.5 wins +110)
Record Last Year: 7-6, 4-4
Returning Starters: 14 (8 on offense, 6 on defense)
Offense: There will be plenty of transition here with Justin Fuente introducing his preferred offensive style, which is much faster compared to the system Frank Beamer employed. Jerod Evans or Brenden Motley will be at the helm. Running back Travon McMillian goes nicely with Isaiah Ford and Cam Phillips out wide. The offensive line returns pretty much intact. How fast will this team be able to change styles though?
Defense: Bud Foster is back at the helm once again. He’ll need some improvement after just 26 sacks and 10 interceptions last year. The secondary should still be stellar even with Kendall Fuller heading to the pros. Brandon Facyson could become the next Hokie to take his CB talents to the NFL.
Schedule: After a tune-up vs. Liberty, Virginia Tech heads to Bristol to play Tennessee. They also get East Carolina and Notre Dame outside the ACC. The Hokies have four of five ACC games on the road over a stretch that spans October and November.
Selection: Transition is the word that describes the situation in Blacksburg. It’ll be weird not seeing Beamer patrolling the sidelines. Fuente inherits a good roster and a modestly decent slate. I think the over is the lean here as it’s always tough to beat the Hokies in Lane Stadium.
— 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.