While the strength of the ACC appears to reside in the Atlantic Division once again in 2015, that doesn’t mean the Coastal won’t lack for its own excitement and intrigue. Predicting which team will end up on top is one thing, while Las Vegas is more concerned about how many wins each will get.
To that end, projected win totals discussed here are broken down into three categories — definite wins, definite losses and toss-ups. Most of the conference games will in the toss-up category, especially ones on the road. This preview will offer thoughts on each team and if there’s any value either over or under.
With so little separation when it comes to the majority of the teams, the ACC Coastal figures to be a hotly contested division this season. There are several teams who could lay claim to first place including Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and North Carolina. Behind them, you've got Duke, Miami, Pittsburgh and Virginia.
Note: Over/under odds courtesy of 5Dimes Sportsbook
(Over 7 wins -150...Under 7 wins +110)
Record Last Year: 9-4, 5-3
Returning Starters: 12 (6 on offense, 6 on defense)
Offense: Anthony Boone is gone and so is the stability at quarterback. There are weapons in the unit with Shaq Powell at running back, Braxton Deaver at tight end and Max McCaffrey at wide receiver. The line will miss Laken Tomlinson, but three starters do return. We cannot count out any group coached by David Cutcliffe.
Defense: This is another team in the ACC with a strong secondary. Safety Jeremy Cash had 5.5 sacks to go along with fellow Safety DeVon Edwards’ 4.5. A healthy Kelby Brown at linebacker will help this unit out immensely. They were 92nd against the run last year, allowing almost 200 yards per game.
Schedule: Duke has four of its first five at home and go over a month between road games to start the year (Tulane) and Oct. 10 (Army). In between the Blue Devils host NC Central, Northwestern, Georgia Tech and Boston College. Duke closes with five of its last seven on the road, which will test this team.
Selection: The money movement is right here as this team will capitalize on the home friendly start to the year. Road games at Virginia Tech and North Carolina will be tough, but they close out with games at UVA and Wake Forest which are both winnable. The over is the play for this one.
(Over 7.5 wins -160...Under 7.5 wins +120)
Record Last Year: 11-3, 6-2
Returning Starters: 13 (6 on offense, 7 on defense)
Offense: Justin Thomas is back for his junior year after accounting for over 2,000 yards of offense and 26 total touchdowns in 2014. Of concern here are the losses of multiple running backs as well as leading receiver DeAndre Smelter from last year’s team. The line does return four starters, so whomever ends up running the ball should find room to operate.
Defense: Jamal Golden leads a secondary looking for improvement after last year's struggles. The Yellow Jackets were 13th in passing defense in the conference and won't be able to struggle against the talent in the ACC. Adam Gotsis leads the front line, which will be asked to get more pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
Schedule: Georgia Tech should start fast with home games against Alcorn State and Tulane before tough road games at Notre Dame and Duke. Keep in mind, the Irish have seen an option attack before with Navy a regular opponent. Atlanta will be rocking this year with Florida State, Virginia Tech and Georgia coming to town.
Selection: Have confidence in the over although you could make a case for value to the under. Only Virginia Tech has extra time to prepare for the option while Georgia has Georgia Southern the week before. If the Yellow Jackets defend their home field then this is one win total likely to go over. Think eight wins this fall.
(Over 5.5 wins -170...Under 5.5 wins +130)
Record Last Year: 6-7, 3-5
Returning Starters: 8 (3 on offense, 5 on defense)
Offense: Brad Kaaya is back and he is the stabilizing force around a lot of change. Philip Dorsett, Clive Walford and Duke Johnson are all gone for the Canes. Their running back position should be good though with Joe Yearby and Gus Edwards in the backfield. Stacy Coley, Herb Waters and Rashawn Scott are good weapons for Kaaya to have as well. The line is almost completely new so there might be early struggles.
Defense: More losses here as Denzel Perryman, Anthony Chickillo and Olsen Pierre are gone. Senior Deon Bush adds to a talented group of safeties in the Coastal. Miami will need its defense to play well early while the offense develops.
Schedule: The Canes are eased into the season with Bethune Cookman and Florida Atlantic before games against Nebraska and Cincinnati. The conference slate is hard with road games at Florida State, Duke and North Carolina.
Selection: The seat is getting mighty warm for Al Golden. The under has some incredible value for Miami. The Hurricanes have a sure win over Bethune Cookman with a probable win over Florida Atlantic as well. Other than that, it's one tough game after another. Even though they get both the Virginia schools at home, neither is a sure thing. The Wahoos have proven that games in Miami don't intimidate them. If the Canes lose early then Sun Life Stadium will be dead and games against UVA and Georgia Tech in November will seem like study hall.
(Over 8 wins -115...Under 8 wins -125)
Record Last Year: 6-7, 4-4
Returning Starters: 16 (10 on offense, 6 on defense)
Offense: Marquise Williams has almost all of his weapons back from an offense that put up 33.2 points per game last year. The wide receiving corps features Quinshad Davis, Ryan Switzer and Mack Hollins. This is a unit that scored 40 or more points in six contests. There's no worry on this side of the ball.
Defense: Gene Chizik has been hired to fix a unit that allowed 39 points per game last year. There's not a lot to like on this side. Jessie Rogers had 5.5 sacks and will be counted on again this year.
Schedule: South Carolina kicks things off for the Tar Heels, who will be breaking in several new starters. After that are home games against NC A&T, Illinois and Delaware. There are just four true road games on the slate with each of them presenting their own challenges.
Selection: If the defense gets fixed then UNC becomes a real threat in the ACC. I've pegged the Heels for eight wins, as they have a schedule that breaks right for them. They will start fast and close with two losses at Virginia Tech and NC State.
(Over 6 wins -125...Under 6 wins -115)
Record Last Year: 6-7, 4-4
Returning Starters: 15 (8 on offense, 7 on defense)
Offense: Plain and simple, it's all about the big three of Chad Voytik, James Conner and Tyler Boyd. Conner and Boyd form one of the best RB/WR duos in the league. J.P. Holtz is a solid option at tight end as well. If Voytik continues his solid close to last year, then this unit will click early and often.
Defense: Pat Narduzzi did wonders for Michigan State. He installed Josh Conklin from Florida International as the Panthers’ defensive coordinator and he'll have a lot to work with. The Panthers were stout last year against the pass, allowing 198.9 yards per game.
Schedule: Pittsburgh has home games against Youngstown State and Notre Dame to go along with road games at Akron and Iowa. Last year the Panthers lost at home to both of those teams with the Akron one being a big surprise as they managed only 10 points. They play five of their first seven on the road before closing out with four of their last five at home.
Selection: No lean to either direction in this one. They should go 2-2 out of conference. This total depends upon how you feel about Miami and Louisville in November and whether or not the Carrier Dome will be empty for the Oct. 24 game against Syracuse.
(Over 4.5 wins +105...Under 4.5 wins -145)
Record Last Year: 5-7, 3-5
Returning Starters: 9 (5 on offense, 4 on defense)
Offense: Matt Johns has no competition at starting quarterback following Greyson Lambert's decision to transfer. Johns provided some solid work at times while struggling in others. Taquan Mizzell is speed out of the backfield and North Carolina transfer T.J. Thorpe will help out at WR. The offensive line has three returning starters with the other two most likely starters having seen time last year.
Defense: The worry here is trying to replace Eli Harold and Max Valles, both of whom left early for the NFL. Quin Blanding, Demetrious Nicholson and Maurice Canady help form a very good secondary. Blanding is going to be an absolute stud after a very good freshman year.
Schedule: This is as tough an out-of-conference schedule as you can get. Virginia has a road game at UCLA before home contests against Notre Dame, William & Mary and Boise State. The Broncos game is on a Friday night so the travel and earlier start time could be a factor. Seven home games on the Cavaliers’ schedule help out a desperate team.
Selection: I like the over for the Hoos. Mike London's seat is almost as hot as Al Golden's so a bowl would be nice for this team. While a postseason appearance doesn’t seem likely for UVA this season, here’s saying the Cavaliers will take care of Boise State at home on Sept. 25. A forecast of three or four wins in conference play and Virginia clears its low win total fairly easily.
(Over 8 wins -115...Under 8 wins -125)
Record Last Year: 7-6, 3-5
Returning Starters: 16 (8 on offense, 8 on defense)
Offense: The good news is that eight starters are back, but the bad news is that this was the 96th-ranked offense in terms of total yards. Michael Brewer threw 18 touchdowns and 15 interceptions last year so he will have to take better care of the ball. Hopefully injuries won't be as much of an issue at running back as the talent is there with several options.
Defense: Bud Foster's unit is always a strength and this year should be no different. Kendall Fuller is one of the best CBs in the ACC. He gets a lot of help from a stout defensive line led by Dadi Nicholas, Corey Marshall and Ken Ekanem. These guys will be in the top 20 after finishing 21st last year.
Schedule: 2015 will start with a bang as Ohio State comes to Blacksburg. The Hokies also take on Furman, Purdue and East Carolina with their last two games on the road. The Pirates won in Blacksbrug last year, but that was with Shane Carden at quarterback. Three of the last four games are on the road in conference.
Selection: The lean here is to the over as I have the Hokies projected for nine wins. They will push Ohio State but fall short on Sept. 7. The defense is too good to not keep Virginia Tech in every game. If you want to pinpoint one game that could determine how close to the projected win total it's the Halloween game at Boston College, which can be a nightmarish assignment for visiting teams.
— 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.