2022 ACC Conference Preview and Over/Unders

·35 min read

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Atlantic Division

Boston College

HC - Jeff Hafley (3rd year)

OC - John McNulty (1st year)

DC - Tem Lukabu (3rd year)

2021 Record: 6-6 (2-6)

Second Order Win Total: 5.8 (-0.2)

Points/Yards Per Game: 24.7 points | 386 yards

Points/Yards Allowed: 22.3 points | 367 yards

2022 SP+ Overall: 65th

2022 SP+ Offense: 84th

2022 SP+ Defense: 65th

2021 SP+ Special Teams: 50th

Offensive Returning Production: 46% (120th)

Defensive Returning Production: 68% (45th)

247Sports Avg. Offensive Player Rating: .8685 (35th)

2022 Offensive Unit Strength: 26th | 5th in Pac-12

247Sports Avg. Defensive Player Rating: .8526 (50th)

2022 Defensive Unit Strength: 55th | 10th in ACC

2022 Schedule Strength: 53rd

Somehow Boston College managed to eek out bowl eligibility despite starting quarterback Phil Jurkovec sustaining a broken bone in his throwing hand Week 2 against UMass that kept him out for the majority of the season. Former OC Frank Cignetti had to retool an air-based offense threw for 284 YPG in 2020 behind run-oriented backup QB Dennis Grosel which resulted in an across the board dip in offensive production and a 2-6 record in ACC play. They will have trouble imposing their will on offense behind a neophyte offensive line that returns just one starter and could return to 2020's 3.1 yards per carry average. Defensively HC Jeff Hafley is an accomplished defensive mind who led the Eagles to a solid 22.2 points and 344 total yards per game last year. With eight returnees and 11 of the top 15 tacklers back BC should maintain their 2021 level of play despite their modest 50th average recruit ranking on D. I'm curious to see of their defense falls back to their 2020 production allowing 28.5 points and 417 yards per game if the Eagles choose to air-it-out again.

Over/Under 6.5 Wins (-140 Under)

This year BC plays the 53rd overall schedule with a non-conference slate against Rutgers, Maine, @UConn and @Notre Dame. They draw @Virginia Tech in Week 2 and Duke from the Coastal with both teams completely changing over their coaching staffs and quarterbacks. The Atlantic is a tough division as well with Clemson, Louisville, @NC State, @ Wake Forest, @ FSU on tap. I'm projecting BC as a favorite in five games and likely a 6-point + underdog in six of these games, with Virginia Tech being a toss-up. While I think BC goes Under 6.5 Wins, I don't like the -140 juice so I'm staying away.

Clemson

HC - Dabo Swinney (15th year here)

OC - Brandon Streeter (1st year)

DC - Wes Goodwin (1st year)

2021 Record: 10-3 (6-2 in ACC)

Second Order Win Total: 9.8 (-0.2)

Points/Yards Per Game: 26.3 points | 359 yards

Points/Yards Allowed: 14.8 yards | 305 yards

2022 SP+ Overall: 6th

2022 SP+ Offense: 39th

2022 SP+ Defense: 2th

2021 SP+ Special Teams: 10th

Offensive Returning Production: 46% (114th)

Defensive Returning Production: 68% (45th)

247Sports Avg. Offensive Player Rating: .9089 (11th)

2022 Offensive Unit Strength: 10th | 2nd in ACC

247Sports Avg. Defensive Player Rating: .9258 (4th)

2022 Defensive Unit Strength: 3rd | 1st in ACC

2022 Schedule Strength: 45th

It was a tale of 2 units for Clemson last season, as their offense plummeted to 71st nationally according to SP+ while the Tigers' defense ranked third overall, finishing top-10 in just about every metric in the known universe while allowing just 14.8 points and 305 yards per contest and racking up 42 sacks with a 9.1% sack rate (12th). The defensive line is probably the best in the country and returns havoc creating DE Myles Murphy alongside former number one overall recruit DT Bryan Bresee who missed last year with a torn ACL. The offense will rest on the arm of D.J. Uiagalelei who looked overwhelmed at times last year completing just 55% of his passes for a troubling 69.8 NFL passer rating. Number one rated 2022 QB Cade Klubnik looked arguably better than DJU in the spring game and has reportedly added weight to prepare for the rigors of the season. With a significant roster turnover from 2020 to 2021 (115th in experience LY, 35th this year) and a supremely talented roster that ranks 6th overall in average 247Sports player rating (.9168), it's reasonable to expect Clemson to improve on both sides of the ball.

Over/Under 10.5 Wins (Under -130)

Even though the Tigers have failed to clear 10.5 regular season wins just twice in the last 11 seasons, one of those times was last year when they went 9-3 following the departure of Trevor Lawrence and a slew of very talented players from their 2020 team. This year they are still expected to be almost perfect with the Tigers likely to be at least touchdown favorites in every game except for their November 5 showdown @Notre Dame, though I'm guessing they will still be giving a field goal when that game rolls around as well. Clemson draws a reborn Miami and Georgia Tech out of the Coastal while having to face @ND and a Spencer Rattler-led South Carolina in non-conference play. With so much uncertainty at quarterback, I cannot take the Over here and will lay the -130 despite a generational defensive front.

Florida State

HC - Mike Norvell (3rd)

OC - Alex Atkins (1st) (OL coach L2Y)

DC - Adam Fuller (3rd)

2021 Record: 5-7 (4-4)

Second Order Win Total: 6.5 (1.5)

Points/Yards Per Game: 27.6 points | 379 yards

Points/Yards Allowed: 26.5 points | 378 yards

2022 SP+ Overall: 28th

2022 SP+ Offense: 45th

2022 SP+ Defense: 15th

2021 SP+ Special Teams: 35th

Offensive Returning Production: 72% (39th)

Defensive Returning Production: 80% (13th)

247Sports Avg. Offensive Player Rating: .8734 (24th)

2022 Offensive Unit Strength: 56th | 10th in ACC

247Sports Avg. Defensive Player Rating: .8895 (17th)

2022 Defensive Unit Strength: 17th | 7th in ACC

2022 Schedule Strength: 18th

HC Mike Norvell enters his magic third season where coaches are expected to at least achieve bowl eligibility or show noticeable improvement. He's got 16 starters back, which is tied for tops in the ACC, and a quality enough talent pool (.8804 team average player rating, 19th overall) to hopefully sustain their strong 5-3 finish to the 2021 campaign. Attrition impaired the offensive line which allowed a brutal 9.9% sack rate (118th) and was a big reason why their rushing output dropped from 200 YPG/5.1 YPC in 2020 to 178 YPG/4.8 YPC last year. QB Jordan Travis showed promise (63% comp rate/15-to-6 ratio) while their offense created an explosive play at a 14.6% rate (18th overall) and could be a potent unit if FSU can string drives together (31 yards per drive = 80th) and lower their 35% 3-and-out percentage (110th). DC Adam Fuller drastically improved a Seminoles defense that allowed 36 points and 456 yards per game in 2020, and brought those numbers down to 26.5 PPG and 378 YPG while cutting their rushing yards allowed from 199 YPG down to 145 YPG. They have eight starters back and boast an average 247Sports defensive player rating of .8895 (17th nationally), so the talent pool has been replenished and the Florida State faithful are expecting results in 2022.

Over/Under 6.5 Wins (Over -135)

The Noles' had a second-order win total of 6.5 despite their disappointing 5-7 finish. The Over's chances are not helped by their non-conference schedule that always includes Florida and this year plays LSU for a “neutral site” tilt in New Orleans Week 2. They get the pleasure of hosting Georgia Tech from the Coastal, but also draw @Miami so that part of the schedule balances out. Realistically, I see FSU splitting their non-conference and Coastal opponents at 3-3. Can they go 4-2 against their division is the question for me. They will be favored against Boston College with relative toss ups against Wake Forest and @Syracuse. However I see them as being comfortable dogs against @Louisville, @ NC State and Clemson. Despite HC Norvell having his best squad of his FSU tenure, I thing this is a 6-win team but anything can happen in the wide-open ACC.

Louisville

HC - Scott Satterfield (4th year)

OC - Lance Taylor (1st) (ND RB coach 2019-21)

DC - BRyan Brown (4th)

CO-DC - Wesley McGriff (4th)

2021 Record: 6-7 (4-4 in ACC)

Second Order Win Total: 7.2 (1.2)

Points/Yards Per Game: 31.6 points | 446 yards

Points/Yards Allowed: 27.3 points | 403 yards

2022 SP+ Overall: 30th

2022 SP+ Offense: 14th

2022 SP+ Defense: 56th

2021 SP+ Special Teams: 79th

Offensive Returning Production: 77% (24th)

Defensive Returning Production: 69% (39th)

247Sports Avg. Offensive Player Rating: .8559 (49th)

2022 Offensive Unit Strength: 16th | 3rd in ACC

247Sports Avg. Defensive Player Rating: .8510 (54th)

2022 Defensive Unit Strength: 46th | 9th in ACC

2022 Schedule Strength: 9th

Despite achieving bowl eligibility after a disappointing 4-7 2020 campaign, Louisville lost three where contests where they had a post-game win expectancy of 55% or greater. QB Malik Cunningham helped steer the Cardinals to an eighth overall finish in rushing explosiveness with a 15.5% big play rate thanks to his ability to create outside of structure. He has the benefit returning four starters (116 career starts) from one of the top offensive lines in the ACC who allowed a 12.8% havoc rate (28th) and a 24% pressure rate (21st). There is enough skill talent on the roster for me to believe Louisville will clear the 35 PPG threshold and be one of the more potent offenses in the country. HC Scott Satterfield has the good fortune of returning seven players on defense, with All-ACC Edge Yasir Abdullah (10 sacks LY) and CB Kei-Trel Clark. They also bring in eight transfers including six defensive backs in addition to ASU three-tech DL Jermayne Lole, who has 11 starts under his belt and should start right away, and Ole Miss starting WLB Momo Sanogo. Their secondary will be the backbone of this unit, as their 7.6% havoc rate (17th) and three returning starters will attest. The question will be if their defensive line can generate enough pressure (4% havoc rate = 100th) to disrupt opposing game plans. Louisville will be better than their 2021 iteration on defense, and it doesn't have to be elite considering how potent UL's offense will be, but will it be good enough to give them a shot at an ACC title game appearance?

Over/Under 6.5 Wins (Under -125)

I've got Louisville favored in eight of their 12 regular season contests with toss ups against @UCF and NC State. They take on USF, James Madison, @Kentucky and @UCF in non-conference play, while facing four of their first six opponents on the road before a bye in Week 7, then the schedule turns with UL only leaving the state of Kentucky once during the back half of the schedule (@Clemson). Louisville gets tough ACC opponents Wake Forest, Pitt, NC State and Florida State at home while playing beatable opponents @Syracuse, @BC and @Virginia on the road. With the Cardinals bolstering their defense through the portal and still returning an experienced unit from 2021, I expect Louisville to pitch a good enough D to make the Over 6.5 Wins a no-brainer at plus money. I think Vegas screwed up this line TBH.

NC State

HC - Dave Doeren (16th year)

OC - Tim Beck (3rd)

DC - Tony Gibson (4th)

2021 Record: 9-3 (6-2 in ACC)

Second Order Win Total: 8.9 (-0.1)

Points/Yards Per Game: 33.1 points | 414 yards

Points/Yards Allowed: 19.7 points | 332 yards

2022 SP+ Overall: 18th

2022 SP+ Offense: 42nd

2022 SP+ Defense: 10th

2021 SP+ Special Teams: 41st

Offensive Returning Production: 73% (34th)

Defensive Returning Production: 85% (8th)

247Sports Avg. Offensive Player Rating: .8582 (46th)

2022 Offensive Unit Strength: 68th | 12th

247Sports Avg. Defensive Player Rating: .8787 (21st)

2022 Defensive Unit Strength: 9th | 3rd in ACC

2022 Schedule Strength: 61st

NC State posted their fourth 8-win campaign in the last five seasons under ninth year HC Dave Doeren. Besides a stinker against Mississippi State in Week 2, NC State was on the precipice of winning their two ACC defeats against Wake Forest and Miami, whom they lost to by a combined four points. Billy Connelly's SP+ projection model has NC State climbing from 54th overall last year to 18th in 2022, with their defense specifically jumping from 51st to 10th since the D returns 85% of their production while boasting three All-ACC caliber linebackers thanks to the healthy return of both SLB Payton Wilson and MLB Isaiah Moore, as well as NT CJ Clark who was hurt last season. An underrated unit last season, NC State allowed just 5.0 Yards per play (16th), 6.1 yards per pass (7th) and a ridiculous 34% success rate (3rd). Though NC State has one of the top defenses in the country, their offense is led by a top-notch quarterback in Devin Leary who completed 66% of his passes with a sparkling 35-5 TD/INT ratio and 31-to-9 Big Time Throw-to-Turnover Worthy Play ratio last season. Though star LT Ikem Ekwonu departs, four OL starters who boast 95 career starts are back from a line allowed a 5.4% sack rate (37th) for an offense that produced 288 passing yards per game in 2022. WR Devin Carter will work the sidelines in Emeka Emezie's vacated role and Thayer Thomas is a dependable slot receiver who posted an exceptional 81% catch rate with just one drop all season. They could very well eclipse last year's strong 33 PPG average and outscore opponents by even more than their 14 point victory margin in 2021.

Over/Under 8.5 Wins (Over -150)

The Wolfpack could very well sweep their off-conference slate against @ECU, Charleston Southern, Texas Tech and UConn, with the Red Raiders being the only real threat despite NC State being projected 9-point favorites according to CFB Winning Edge. They pull Virginia Tech and, of course, in-state rival UNC from the Coastal while playing @Clemson, @ Syracuse and @Louisville away in their divisional slate. Also of note with so much turnover in the ACC coaching ranks is that NC State returns their entire coaching staff, giving them a continuity advantage. NC State should be favored in 9-of-12 games by at least five points with toss-ups against Louisville and UNC on the road. I'm extremely bullish on NC State's ability to clear the 8.5 win mark and possibly pull off double-digit wins.

Syracuse

HC - Dino Babers (7th year)

OC - Robert Anae (1st)

DC - Tony White (2nd)

2021 Record: 5-7 (2-6 in ACC)

Second Order Win Total: 5.5 (0.5)

Points/Yards Per Game: 24.9 points | 367 yards

Points/Yards Allowed: 26.3 points | 330 yards

2022 SP+ Overall: 57th

2022 SP+ Offense: 70th

2022 SP+ Defense: 45th

2021 SP+ Special Teams: 122nd

Offensive Returning Production: 81% (16th)

Defensive Returning Production: 76% (18th)

247Sports Avg. Offensive Player Rating: .8369 (70th)

2022 Offensive Unit Strength: 34th | 6th in ACC

247Sports Avg. Defensive Player Rating: .8469 (58th)

2022 Defensive Unit Strength: 57th | 11th in ACC

2022 Schedule Strength: 12th

Clearly something had to change offensively with the Orange, as their formerly-potent offense averaged just under 25 points per game last season while checking in at just 81st in overall SP+ offense. In response, HC Dino Babers brought in former UVA OC Robert Anae to help boost their productivity. He brings one of the most pass-happy schemes in the country, with Virginia QBs ranking top-10 nationally in pass attempts in each of the past three seasons and running just 35% of the time on standard downs which was the second lowest run-rate in the country last year. OC Anae's aerial approach would seem to be in conflict with run-first QB Garrett Schroeder and his 52.6% competition rate despite a cadre of loaded boxes geared to stop star RB Sean Tucker, who will be hard pressed to receive another 246 carries this year. Regardless of how the current roster fits the new scheme, it's almost a certainty that the offense will get at least incrementally better, though their breakout might come in 2023. Defensively Syracuse excelled in limiting chunk plays, posting a 9.4% explosive play rate (8th overall) and disrupting the passing game with an 8.9% sack rate (15th), which was the byproduct of DC Tony White blitzing 40% of the time, which was the ninth most in the nation. Still, the Orange allowed 31 or more points in four of their last five games and lose all three starters from their dominant defensive line that was a vital part of the defense's success. Fortunately all eight starters from the linebacker and secondary groups return which will help them transition from a ball control approach to an aerial assault from the new OC which will put more pressure on the defense.

Over/Under 4.5 Wins (Over & Under -111)

Syracuse has the misfortune of playing the 12th toughest schedule in the country in their quest to reach five wins and clear this Over. They open with Louisville in the Carrier Dome before a comfy trip down Rt. 95 to UConn and a ridiculous four-straight home games against Purdue, Virginia, Wagner and NC State. Their schedule then gets brutal - @Clemson, Notre Dame, @Pitt, FSU, @Wake Forest, @BC. They can conceivably be 3-2 heading into the by Week 6, then take out FSU and @BC to hit the 5-wins mark. However I think that nightmare back stretch wears them down and Syracuse goes Under 4.5 wins.

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Wake Forest

HC - Dave Clawson (9th)

OC - Warren Ruggiero (9th)

DC - Brad Lambert (1st) (Purdue DC 2021)

2021 Record: 11-3 (7-1)

Second Order Win Total: 8.3 (-2.7)

Points/Yards Per Game: 41.0 points | 468 yards

Points/Yards Allowed: 28.9 points | 413 yards

2022 SP+ Overall: 49th

2022 SP+ Offense: 9th

2022 SP+ Defense: 97th

2021 SP+ Special Teams: 21st

Offensive Returning Production: 79% (20th)

Defensive Returning Production: 64% (58th)

247Sports Avg. Offensive Player Rating: .8474 (61st)

2022 Offensive Unit Strength: 25th | 4th in ACC

247Sports Avg. Defensive Player Rating: .8330 (70th)

2022 Defensive Unit Strength: 67th | 12th

2022 Schedule Strength: 60th

Wake Forest lived on the edge last year, winning three games where they had a 35% or lower post game win expectancy (Syracuse, Louisville, NC State), which fueled their 8.3 second-order win total mark. Their offensive output was the best of HC Dave Clawson's nine-year tenure, averaging 41 points per game while ranking 10th overall in offensive SP+. With seven returning starters from a team that won the Atlantic Division, including Second-Team ALL-ACC QB Sam Hartman and an established receiving corps led by First-Team All-ACC WR AT Perry, Wake Forest should challenge the 40 PPG barrier again in 2022. Defensively is another matter with HC Clawson bringing in Purdue DC Brad Lambert to shore up a soft unit that allowed 29 points per game while allowing a 15.5% explosive play rate (121st) and a 46% success rate (107th).The run defense was hapless, ranking in the bottom-10 in rushing success rate, efficiency and opportunity rate. There is some good news as three players from their line that posted a 7.8% havoc rate (23rd) return, along with two all conference linebackers and eight-of-11 defensive backs who started a game last year due to a brutal injury streak. DC Lambert has his work cut out for him, but there is reason for optimism here.

Under/Over 8.5 Wins (Under -130)

Wake starts off their 60th ranked schedule against VMI before heading to Vandy, then returning home to face a depleted Liberty team. They should be 3-0 heading into Clemson, who just clubbed the Demon Deacons 48-27 in a down year for the program. If Wake can beat @FSU and a surefire rock-fight against Army, they'd be in good shape heading into their bye at 5-1. Wake then needs to go 4-2 against a stretch run versus - BC, @Louisville, @NC State, UNC, Syracuse, @ Duke. I feel confident that they can handle BC, Cuse and Duke, but they have to win 2-of-4 tough games against @FSU, @Louisville, @NC State, or UNC. I think this is an eight-win team so I'm laying the -130 and taking the Demon Deacons Under.

Coastal Division

Duke

HC - Mike Elko (1st) (Texas A&M DC from 2018-21)

OC - Kevin Johns (Memphis OC 2019-21)

DC - Robb Smith (Rutgers DC 2019-21)

2021 Record: 3-9 (0-8 in ACC)

Second Order Win Total: 3.9 (0.9)

Points/Yards Per Game: 22.8 points | 418 yards

Points/Yards Allowed: 39.6 points | 517 yards

2022 SP+ Overall: 119th

2022 SP+ Offense: 99th

2022 SP+ Defense: 119th

2021 SP+ Special Teams: 85th

Offensive Returning Production: 48% (115th)

Defensive Returning Production: 55% (97th)

247Sports Avg. Offensive Player Rating: .8447 (57th)

2022 Offensive Unit Strength: 94th | 14th in ACC

247Sports Avg. Defensive Player Rating: .8448 (51st)

2022 Defensive Unit Strength: 79th | 14th

2022 Schedule Strength: 82nd

Former Texas A&M DC Mike Elko takes over a Duke program that has plummeted to 5-18 over the past two years. He's taking over a team that averaged 22.8 points scored last year, their lowest scoring total since 2014, and allowed 39.8 PPG which was the fourth most points allowed in the country. The offense loses their top producers at QB, RB and WR, so new OC Kevin Johns will have his work cut out for him as he tries to rebuild this unit. At least the OLine will be a strength, with the Blue Devils returning 124 line starts and bring in two impact transfers from the lower divisions. Defensively former Rutgers DC Robb Smith is taking this beleaguered defense down to the studs, as the Dukies lose eight of their top-13 tacklers from a unit that allowed 517 yards per game and gave up explosive plays at a 16% clip, third-worst in the nation. Despite inheriting a unit that is projected to start nine underclassmen, HC Elko is a top-notch in-game defensive coach and should get the most he can out of this Year Zero rebuild.

Over/Under 3.5 Wins (-182 Under)

Duke is obviously down, but their 82nd ranked schedule is boosted by a very manageable non-conference road against Temple, @Northwestern, North Carolina A&T and @Kansas. Despite dodging Clemson, NC State and Louisville from the Atlantic, the Blue Devils are still projected to be touchdown underdogs in every one of their conference games, and will likely be 4-6 point dogs against @Northwestern and @Kansas. The Under is juiced to -182 for a reason, as I cannot in good conscience take Duke to finish with four wins.

Georgia Tech

HC - Geoff Collins (4th)

OC - Chip Long (1st)

DC - Andrew Thacker (4th)

2021 Record: 3-9 (2-6)

Second Order Win Total: 3.8 (0.8)

Points/Yards Per Game: 24.0 points | 367 yards

Points/Yards Allowed: 33.5 points | 455 yards

2022 SP+ Overall: 90th

2022 SP+ Offense: 64th

2022 SP+ Defense: 111th

2021 SP+ Special Teams: 108th

Offensive Returning Production: 51% (103rd)

Defensive Returning Production: 44% (118th)

247Sports Avg. Offensive Player Rating: .8635 (45th)

2022 Offensive Unit Strength: 58th | 14th

247Sports Avg. Defensive Player Rating: .8723 (26th)

2022 Defensive Unit Strength: 30th | 8th

2022 Schedule Strength: 3rd

What if Georgia Tech kept running the triple-option and flirted with bowl eligibility every year instead of winning exactly three games in each of their three seasons under HC Geoff Collins? We may be looking at a ½ decade of futility before GT even gets their feet underneath them at this rate, as the new transfer portal saw six players who logged at least 400 snaps last year leave for another program. The Yellow Jackets bring back just eight players, five on offense and three on D. Though Georgia Tech averaged just 24 PPG in 2021, they scored at least 31 points in five of their ACC contests before getting shut out in their last two games by powerhouses Notre Dame and Georgia. Unfortunately with so little continuity among the players, and new OC Chip Long fresh of an uninspiring showing at Tulane that had HC Willie Fritz taking shots at him out the door shaking things up with a new system, it's difficult to project much growth. The defense ranked 103rd nationally in SP+ despite returning 10 starters, which doesn't bode well for DC Andrew Thacker's prospect for 2022 improvement since they have just three starters returning from a unit that got annihilated over the last half of the season allowing 42 points per game.

Over/Under 3.5 Wins (-110 Over & Under)

You have to feel for GT pulling in-state rival Georgia every year in out of conference play. As if that isn't bad enough, they also take on Mississippi and @UCF to go with FCS Western Carolina as their lone creampuff. You can also toss in Atlantic Division matchups against Clemson and @Florida State and you've got a Georgia Tech schedule that serves as nightmare fuel for HC Collins. They will likely be favored in two games - WCU (28 pts) and Duke (7 pts) but a touchdown+ dog in every other game except Virginia where they could be within a field goal if they beat Duke the week prior. The question is if the Jackets can pull a similar upset to their 45-22 shellacking of UNC last year to get that fourth potential win. Too many things have to happen for the most inexperienced team in the ACC to hit 4 Wins, especially considering they had 17 returnees last year and still couldn't hit four wins. I'm taking the Under 3.5 Wins.

Miami

HC - Mario Cristobal (1st)

OC - Josh Gattis (Michigan OC 2019-21)

DC - Kevin Steele (Auburn DC 2016-20)

2021 Record: 7-5 (5-3 in ACC)

Second Order Win Total: 6.7 (-0.3)

Points/Yards Per Game: 34.1 points | 449 yards

Points/Yards Allowed: 28.4 | 390 yards

2022 SP+ Overall: 14th

2022 SP+ Offense: 21st

2022 SP+ Defense: 23rd

2021 SP+ Special Teams: 27th

Offensive Returning Production: 51% (103rd)

Defensive Returning Production: 44% (118th)

247Sports Avg. Offensive Player Rating: .9108 (10th)

2022 Offensive Unit Strength: 9th | 1st in ACC

247Sports Avg. Defensive Player Rating: .8892 (18th)

2022 Defensive Unit Strength: 15th | 5th

2022 Schedule Strength: 65th

South Florida native HC Mario Cristobal makes his prodigal return to his homeland after leading the Oregon Ducks for the past four seasons. He employed a methodical offense with the Ducks that possessed the ball for just 11 drives per game (123rd) but converted those drives at a very efficient rate, averaging 38.4 yards (16th) and 2.80 points per drive (17th). He leads a supremely talented Miami offense whose .9108 247Sports player rating ranks 10th best in the country, and with QB Tyler Van Dyke under center it could be the best unit in the conference after all is said and done. Seven starters return overall including 137 starts from the offensive line, but they will need to find a reliable receiver for him to throw to after Charleston Rambo left for the NFL and the spring game was plagued by drops. The defense will be led by veteran DC Kevin Steele who will look to turn around Miami's terrible tackling acumen, as the Canes ranked 8th worst in the country with an 83% tackle success rate. The defensive line only has one returnee, but five transfers join the mix to bolster a unit that helped Miami post a solid 33.5% pressure rate (31st). Their linebackers on the other hand struggled to make plays, as their 1.6% havoc rate ranked fourth-worst in FBS. Fortunately their entire secondary returns from a unit that allowed a 37% passing success rate (25th). With the influx of talent and renewed vigor all around the program now that HC Cristobal is in charge, Miami is a legitimate contender in the Coastal.

Over/Under 8.5 Wins (Over -135)

Miami has three non-conference games they should cruise through against Bethune-Cookman, Southern Miss and Middle Tennessee, however they have a big showdown with @Texas A&M on 9/17 that is one of just two games they will be underdogs in, with Clemson being the other. Their toughest division games are at home against UNC, and Pitt while they face very winnable games against @Virginia Tech, @UVA, @Georgia Tech on the road. I think this Over and the Coastal Division title comes down to Week 12 against Pitt, with Miami winning and going 9-3 to cash this Over ticket.

North Carolina

HC - Mack Brown (4th)

OC - Phil Longo (4th)

Co-DC - Charlton Warren (1st)

Co-DC - Tommy Thigpen

2021 Record: 6-7 (3-5 in ACC)

Second Order Win Total: 6.5 (0.5)

Points/Yards Per Game: 35.2 points | 418 yards

Points/Yards Allowed: 32.1 points | 418 yards

2022 SP+ Overall: 34th

2022 SP+ Offense: 11th

2022 SP+ Defense: 70th

2021 SP+ Special Teams: 55th

Offensive Returning Production: 48% (108th)

Defensive Returning Production: 76% (22nd)

247Sports Avg. Offensive Player Rating: .8899 (26th)

2022 Offensive Unit Strength: 29th |12th

247Sports Avg. Defensive Player Rating: .9049 (11th)

2022 Defensive Unit Strength: 14th | 2nd

2022 Schedule Strength: 32nd

Much was expected from UNC in year three of HC Mack Brown last season with 17 starters returning and QB Sam Howell running the show. However the losses were major as their top four skill players and All-American LB Chazz Surratt left for the NFL. Their offensive productivity dropped by 69 yards and a touchdown per game (42-to-35 PPG) but was still very good, averaging 6.7 yards per play (6th), 2.8 points per drive (17th) and an explosive play rate of 17% (3rd overall). QBs Drake Maye and Jacolby Criswell are in a dead-heat to be the next signal caller and HC Brown brings in a superb recruiting class with two high four-star RBs and WR Andre Greene who might start as a freshman. The line could actually improve thanks to an influx of transfers despite just two starters returning from a unit that allowed an intolerable 11.4% sack rate which was fifth worst in the country. Josh Downs is a top-flight slot receiver who will ease the transition of whichever QB wins the job, but they won't be scoring over 35 PPG again. It is almost unbelievable how UNC allowed 32 PPG last year with all the premium talent HC Brown has assembled on the defensive side of the ball. This year the Tarheels mercifully bring in a new DC, Charlton Warren (Indiana DC), and also will have Gene Chizik serving as assistant head coach of the defense. They commandeer a defense that brandishes a blue-blood level .9049 average defensive player rating (11th) and returns eight starters. It's almost inconceivable that UNC won't improve upon their pathetic run defense that ranked in the bottom-20 nationally in just about every metric available and a pass defense that posted a pedestrian 27-to-11 TD/INT ratio.

Over/Under 7.5 Wins (Under -125)

UNC plays the 32nd ranked schedule and opens with Florida A&M Week Zero before a tough road game @Appalachian State and another road SBC tilt @Georgia State before taking the first of their two byes in Week 4. If UNC can emerge 3-0 from this pesky early season run then I feel like this bet is a lock, as they should beat Virginia Tech, @Duke, @Virginia and Georgia Tech which gives them seven wins. The Tarheels then need to take one game against Notre Dame, @Miami, Pitt, @Wake Forest, NC State, which I think is an entirely reasonable ask. 2-3 is very reasonable down that stretch, giving them a little leeway to even dump a game to one of their lighter opponents. I'm backing UNC to go Over 7.5 Wins.

Pitt

HC - Pat Narduzzi (8th year)

OC - Frank Cignetti (1st year)

DC - Randy Bates (5th year)

2021 Record: 11-3 (7-1 in ACC)

Second Order Win Total:

Points/Yards Per Game: 41.4 points | 487 yards

Points/Yards Allowed: 23.6 points | 354 yards

2022 SP+ Overall: 19th

2022 SP+ Offense: 20th

2022 SP+ Defense: 30th

2021 SP+ Special Teams: 37th

Offensive Returning Production: 56% (87th)

Defensive Returning Production: 70% (34th)

247Sports Avg. Offensive Player Rating: .8473 (37th)

2022 Offensive Unit Strength: 42nd | 9th in ACC

247Sports Avg. Defensive Player Rating: .8606 (40th)

2022 Defensive Unit Strength: 13th | 4th in ACC

2022 Schedule Strength: 79th

It will be interesting to see how Pitt transitions from former OC Mark Whipple's pass-heavy attack that ranked 118th in standard downs run rate and posted the third highest points per game average in the country with 41.4 PPG. New OC Frank Cignetti Jr. comes over after two years at BC where the Eagles threw for 284 YPG and 195 YPG last year due to Jurkovec's injury. With QB Kedon Slovis replacing 20th overall NFL Draft pick Kenny Pickett, I would expect OC Cignetti Jr. to lean on the run game more than Whipple despite Slovis running an air-raid adjacent system employed by former USC OC Graham Harrell. Wideouts Konata Mumpfield and Jared Wayne will be the primary targets along with talented sophomore TE Gavin Bartholemew. Entrenched starter Israel Abanikanda has the honor of running behind a Pitt OL that returns five starters and 145 combined starts. Defensively HC Pat Narduzzi always pitches a rugged unit, with the Panthers unleashing a hellacious pass rush that racked up 54 sacks and a 10.2% sack rate (7th nationally), while also posting an impressive 2.01 line yards per carry (3rd) and a 39% 3-and-out percentage (9th). They return five defensive linemen who contributed last season and three all-conference caliber linebackers, which means Pitt will continue to snuff out the fun and bring heat. The question with Pitt is if their secondary can hold up better than last year and with three starters back, including First-Team All-ACC S BranDon Hill, it's reasonable to assume that happens.

Over/Under 8.5 Wins (Under -120)

Pitt takes on the 79th overall schedule, starting out with West Virginia and Tennessee at home before traveling to play Western Michigan and wrapping up their non-conference slate with Rhode Island. Toss in ACC conference home games against Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech and Pitt hits their Week 6 bye having played five home games in their first six contests. The schedule stiffens up with road showdowns @Louisville, @UNC and @Miami in addition to likely wins against Syracuse, @Virginia and Duke. I'm banking on Pitt to reach the Over 8.5 Wins mark on the strength of their complete schedule.

Virginia

HC - Tony Elliot (1st year - Clemson OC 2016-21))

OC - Des Kitchings (1st year)

DC - John Rudzinski (1st year - Air Force DC 2018-21)

2021 Record: 6-6 (4-4)

Second Order Win Total: 6.7 wins (0.7)

Points/Yards Per Game: 34.6 yards | 514 yards

Points/Yards Allowed: 31.8 yards | 466 yards

2022 SP+ Overall: 55th

2022 SP+ Offense: 7th

2022 SP+ Defense: 112th

2021 SP+ Special Teams: 81st

Offensive Returning Production: 60% (75th)

Defensive Returning Production: 55% (99th)

247Sports Avg. Offensive Player Rating: .8551 (60th)

2022 Offensive Unit Strength: 38th | 8th in ACC

247Sports Avg. Defensive Player Rating: .8544 (48th)

2022 Defensive Unit Strength: 68th | 13th

2022 Schedule Strength: 70th

New HC Tony Elliot served as Clemson's OC for the last six seasons and takes over a team that former HC Bronco Mendenhall has achieved bowl eligibility with in each of the past five campaigns. HC Elliot and OC Des Kitchings have constantly reiterated their desire to balance out the offense and move away from the uber-pass oriented approach of the previous regime that had the second lowest standard downs run rate in the country (35%) last year. That could be a challenge behind UVA's 100% rebuilt offensive line that returns zero starters and got destroyed in the spring game thanks to injury issues. Luckily Virginia brings back starting QB Brennan Armstrong and a full compliment of wide receivers, including getting back Lavel Davis who started seven games in 2020 before going down with a season ending injury prior to 2021. Though UVA won't repeat their 35 PPG output that was the highest point total scored by a Virginia team in over a decade, they could still clear the 30 PPG plateau for the fourth straight season. The reason for HC Elliot's desire to run the ball more is to try and take some of the pressure off a shellshocked defense that got overwhelmed in the trenches, averaging the second-lowest DL havoc rate (2.3%) and 12th-worst pressure rate (24%) in the country despite blitzing 39% of the time. Second-Team All-ACC MLB Nick Jackson is the heart and soul of this defense while the secondary returns six of their top eight. Former Air Force DC John Rudzinski is almost guaranteed to post a better showing than the 32 points and 466 total yards allowed by UVA in 2021.

Over/Under 7.5 Wins (Under -155)

The Cavaliers play the 70th overall schedule and kickoff their 2022 campaign versus Richmond, @Illinois and Old Dominion before hitting the road to face @Syracuse and @Duke, then closing out their first half versus Louisville before a Week 7 bye. UVA kicks off the stretch run @Georgia Tech before four straight home games against Miami, UNC, Pitt and a rebuilding Coastal Carolina before traveling to Blacksburg to play @Virginia Tech. There is a reason the Under is listed at -155, and it's because there are too many obstacles for this team to overcome in order to post an eight-win season. I'm backing the Under despite the -155 juice.

Virginia Tech

HC - Brent Pry (1st)

OC - Tyler Bowen

DC - Chris Marve

2021 Record: 6-7

Second Order Win Total: 5.9 (-0.1)

Points/Yards Per Game: 23.7 points | 361 yards

Points/Yards Allowed: 25.3 points | 392 yards

2022 SP+ Overall: 61st

2022 SP+ Offense: 81st

2022 SP+ Defense: 37th

2021 SP+ Special Teams: 31st

Offensive Returning Production: 50% (106th)

Defensive Returning Production: 75% (24th)

247Sports Avg. Offensive Player Rating: .8422 (66th)

2022 Offensive Unit Strength: 85th | 13th in ACC

247Sports Avg. Defensive Player Rating: .8598 (34th)

2022 Defensive Unit Strength: 16th | 6th in ACC

2022 Schedule Strength: 67th

New HC Brent Pry ran the Penn State defense for the last six years under James Franklin and takes on a Hokies roster that ranked 70th in SP+ last year and returns just four starters from an offense that averaged a paltry 23.7 points per game last year and loses their top three playmakers RB Raheem Blackshear, WR Tre Turner and WR Tayvion Robinson who projects as the WR1 at Kentucky. The OL loses two NFL draft choices but should still be decent under the tutelage of former Wisconsin OL coach Joe Rudolph. Former Marshall QB Grant Wells will handle quarterback duties after starting 23 games over the last two seasons while posting 3,515 passing yards with 7.9 YPA and a 16-to-13 ratio in 2021. There will be major growing pains this season for new OC Tyler Bowen. Defensively, HC Pry will be the architect and has a pretty talented group to work with (.8598 avg. player rating), as SP+ projects Tech to pitch the 37th best defense in the country, which would be a notable improvement over their 55th place finish last year. They return seven starters from a unit that got beat up in the trenches and allowed too may big plays through the air (111th in marginal explosiveness), which is troubling since they lose standout linemen Jordan Williams and Amare Barno. The back-seven should be pretty solid behind All-ACC performers MLB Dax Hollifield and FS Chamarri Conner still in the lineup. HC Pry should be able to coax a good year out of the defense.

Over/Under 5.5 Wins (Over -165)

The Hokies face @ODU, Wofford, West Virginia and @Liberty in a very manageable non-conference schedule where they should at least go 3-1. The Coastal is a yearly carousel, but VT has the good fortune of playing most of their winnable games at home against Boston College, Virginia and Georgia Tech in addition to an appealing road matchup against Duke where they should be a touchdown favorite. If they beat West Virginia in Week 4 then this Over is happening, as they just need to go 2-2 in their winnable ACC showdowns. VT's 67th ranked schedule is pretty favorable despite the massive turnover, but I can't in good conscience lay -165 to play the Over 5.5 games on such an unknown commodity. This is a non-play with that juice, why tie up the capital for such a poor return?