The ACC Atlantic was Florida State's playground last year, as the Seminoles dominated their way to an ACC title and a College Football Playoff berth. So which team is Florida State’s biggest threat this season? If you look at the Las Vegas win totals, then you'll see several contenders to the throne.
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.
There is a distinct defensive feel to the teams on this side of the ACC with several offenses that may struggle to score much at all. Wake Forest and Syracuse will pretty much be relegated to the spoiler role.
Note: Over/under odds courtesy of 5Dimes Sportsbook
Boston College Eagles
(Over 5.5 wins -135...Under 5.5 wins -105)
Record Last Year: 7-6, 4-4
Returning Starters: 9 (3 on offense, 6 on defense)
Offense: Run, run and run the ball some more. Tyler Murphy is gone and so is the biggest threat outside of Jon Hilliman. The running back had 13 touchdowns last year. The main problem for this unit is that the whole offensive line needs to be replaced. This team averaged 129.3 yards per game passing last year. It won't get much better this year.
Defense: The front line returns three starters on a defense that allowed just 94.5 yards per game on the ground. The secondary could be a bit of an issue with just Justin Simmons returning. The senior did have 76 tackles and two INTs last year.
Schedule: Fenway Park will be the venue for a tilt against Notre Dame in November. Before then the Eagles host Maine, Howard and Northern Illinois out of conference. Five of the first six are at home with four of their last six outside of Chestnut Hill.
Selection: This one's real tough for me. I've done several run-throughs of the Eagles’ schedule and have come up with five and six-win seasons. They could easily lose to Northern Illinois on Sept. 26, but could also get the win against NC State or Florida State in Chestnut Hill. Boston College also could spell trouble for visiting Virginia Tech on Halloween. Stay away from either side for this one.
(Over 8.5 wins -180...Under 8.5 wins +140)
Record Last Year: 10-3, 6-2
Returning Starters: 6 (4 on offense, 2 on defense)
Offense: Deshaun Watson needs to stay healthy for this group to go anywhere. He's such a dynamic quarterback who will have weapons in Mike Williams and Artavis Scott on the outside. Wayne Gallman is solid in the backfield although the line will need some time to gel. Watson may be on the move early this season until the front five comes together.
Defense: Stephone Anthony and Vic Beasley are gone from last year's third-ranked defense. The only two returnees are in the secondary with Mackensie Alexander and Jayron Kearse. A lot of new names are going to be asked to make a lot of plays.
Schedule: Clemson should start fast with home games against Wofford and Appalachian State. The Tigers play five of their first six in Death Valley including hosting Notre Dame. Clemson closes out the season by hosting in-state rival South Carolina, which has gotten the better of the Tigers during Dabo Swinney’s tenure.
Selection: This one goes over the win total, but it's because of the way the schedule breaks for the Tigers. The home-friendly start allows them to fill the holes before some road games late. I think they trip up at Louisville on a short week, at NC State and either against South Carolina or Miami potentially. I was trying to get to eight wins, but couldn't do it.
(Over 9.5 wins -120...Under 9.5 wins -120)
Record Last Year: 13-1, 8-0
Returning Starters: 10 (3 on offense, 7 on defense)
Offense: Everett Golson comes to save the day as the Seminoles try to fill Jameis Winston's shoes. Dalvin Cook is a good place to start in the run game after rushing for more than 1,000 yards as a freshman. The pass catchers are all athletic although none are proven commodities like the departed Rashad Greene or Nick O'Leary. The line has just one returnee, but there are some solid JUCOs there.
Defense: Jalen Ramsey was an All-American and he leads a real good secondary. If Reggie Northrup can stay healthy then the linebackers will be fine with Terrance Smith there as well. And don’t forget about kicker Roberto Aguayo, who is a game-changer.
Schedule: The non-conference schedule features Texas State, South Florida, Chattanooga and a road game at Florida. The Seminoles have ACC road games at Boston College, Wake Forest, Clemson and Georgia Tech.
Selection: The over is the play here. Despite the many losses on this team, the schedule is too easy. There just aren't too many places where this team could slip up. These Seminoles aren't as good as last year's squad, but they'll take care of business with most of the teams on this slate.
(Over 7.5 wins -145...Under 7.5 wins +105)
Record Last Year: 9-4, 5-3
Returning Starters: 7 (3 on offense, 4 on defense)
Offense: Plenty of losses on this side of the ball with the three top wideouts and three offensive linemen all gone. There are a lot of question marks here that the team will have to answer. Arguably four candidates are vying for the quarterback position with each having their own strengths. This will be one to watch during training camp.
Defense: This was the sixth-ranked defense overall last year. They have to replace everyone in the secondary although two of the players that are likely to start are transfers who started at Georgia. Sheldon Rankins had eight sacks last year and will be depended upon again this year.
Schedule: The season opens with a game against Auburn in Atlanta in which Louisville will be the underdog. Add in home contests against Houston and Samford as well as a road tilt at Kentucky and you've got an intriguing non-conference slate. The Cardinals have a pair of two-game road trips.
Selection: The thinking here is there's real good value with the under. One of the reasons is because of the uncertainty at QB. Whomever they decide on is going to have some issues. All of the games away from Papa John's Stadium are going to be tough and I think the rough October slate takes a toll on the Cardinals.
(Over 7.5 wins -105...Under 7.5 wins -135)
Record Last Year: 8-5, 3-5
Returning Starters: 14 (7 on offense, 7 on defense)
Offense: Jacoby Brissett is back and he put up 26 total touchdowns while throwing just five interceptions last year. He's going to have an array of running backs led by Shadrach Thornton and Matt Dayes. David Grinnage will be a nice piece at TE to throw to especially until the Wolfpack develop some other weapons.
Defense: The secondary will be led by Hakim Jones. The defensive backs may need to cover their receivers a little more as the front line develops. Mike Rose (5 sacks) is the only key contributor back up front.
Schedule: The Wolfpack have home games against Troy and Eastern Kentucky before road tilts at Old Dominion and South Alabama. None of those should provide any trouble before the grind of conference play. NC State gets road games at Virginia Tech and Florida State.
Selection: The over is a pretty good wager here. With a weak non-conference slate and games at home against Louisville, archrival North Carolina and Clemson, NC State should be able to pick up enough wins to go over this total. You could wait a little bit and hope more money comes in on the under and you get the over at EVEN money.
(Over 4.5 wins -125...Under 4.5 wins -115)
Record Last Year: 3-9, 1-7
Returning Starters: 7 (4 on offense, 3 on defense)
Offense: Terrel Hunt is back and he figures to be asked to do a lot with a lack of talent around him. Hunt is not only the leading returning passer, but also the leading returning rusher. The line returns three starters. There are intriguing weapons in Brisly Estime and Ashton Broyld.
Defense: There's a lot that needs to be replaced from a respectable defense last year. Marquez Hodge and Ron Thompson had two sacks each last season while Julian Whigham and Antwan Cordy each picked off a single pass in 2014.
Schedule: Syracuse opens the season with four in a row at home. The Orange take on Rhode Island, Central Michigan and LSU in the Carrier Dome while traveling to South Florida in early October. Conference play has them taking on Florida State, Louisville, Clemson and NC State over a four-week span.
Selection: Syracuse should start 3-0 before the season takes a plunge. There are winnable games at South Florida and Virginia as well as the season-ender against Boston College at home. Small lean to the over although I wouldn't feel comfortable with either side.
(Over 3.5 wins -125...Under 3.5 wins -115)
Record Last Year: 3-9, 1-7
Returning Starters: 13 (6 on offense, 7 on defense)
Offense: This unit scored in the single digits three times last year. They have a lot back, but will it matter? Tight end Cam Serigne is a solid receiving option for John Wolford. Head coach Dave Clawson is very good with offenses so this group should be better than last year.
Defense: Kevin Johnson is gone and that's a big hole as Wake Forest finished 12th in the nation in passing defense in 2014. Still, the majority of the front seven are back from a team that held four teams to 20 points or less last year.
Schedule: The non-conference slate features Elon, Army, Indiana and Notre Dame. Three times the Demon Deacons have two straight road games. They also have a late bye, which could help them get some focus for the finishing stretch in November.
Selection: Ever-so slight lean to the over although Wake Forest needs to get all the wins it can in September. Army is always a tough trip, but the Black Knights aren't returning too many players. Indiana at home could be a win as well, as the Hoosiers have their own weaknesses. The Demon Deacons get some tough teams at home in conference and I think they pick someone off before all is said and done.
— 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.