Only eight more days until the college football season kicks off. It’s not the sexiest of slates, but hey, it’s been six months of no college football, so I’ll take it. I think predicting futures in college football is a lot more volatile compared to the NFL, which is why I like to instead look at trends that could carry over into the new season. What information can I gather now that can help me later?
Here’s what I’m keeping my eye on for the ACC conference:
Backing both Clemson and N.C. State to win at home
The Tigers are an incredible 33-0 at home since 2017. That’s the best home record in the FBS, with Alabama right behind at 33-1. Despite Clemson's offensive troubles last season, coach Dabo Swinney managed to extend that mark by going 6-0 with close wins over Georgia Tech and Boston College.
During that same span, however, the Tigers are 16-16-1 ATS, including 2-4 ATS at home last year. The defense looks to be the strength of this team again, while an offense that was ranked 98th last year could still very much be in rebuild mode. That record could be tested this year with home games against N.C. State and Miami. Look for the Tigers to win at home but consider fading them ATS.
The Wolfpack went 7-0 last season at home and is a combined 27-6 since 2017, the second-best home record in the ACC during that span behind Clemson. N.C. State does have a better ATS record at 18-14-1, including last year’s 5-2 mark. I’m high on the Wolfpack this year as the defense should continue to be stout and the offense should feature a high-powered passing attack. With a friendly home schedule that includes four teams that were at or below .500 last season, I’ll be looking to N.C. State to win and cover spreads at home.
Fade Florida State and North Carolina on the road
New year, same strategy: Fade the Florida State Seminoles, especially on the road. FSU has had four straight losing seasons, finishing 19-27 SU during that time. On the road during that same span, Florida State is 4-15 SU and 6-12-1 ATS. This is a team that has ranked outside the top 50 both on offense and defense for the last four years. With no quarterback protection (119th in QB sacks last year) and without their leading running back, this could be another losing year for the Seminoles. On the road, FSU will face (a rebuilding) Louisville, N.C. State, Miami, and Syracuse, a team with a top-30 defense last year. I can’t wait to fade Florida State (again).
Under head coach Mack Brown, UNC is 5-10 SU in road games since 2019 and 2-3 SU at a neutral site. The Tar Heels finished the 2021 season 0-6 outside their home stadium. One of those losses was a 45-22 stinger against Georgia Tech as 13-point favorites. Now, North Carolina will see what life is like without QB Sam Howell. Regardless of who is behind center, this team needs to see major improvements with the offensive line. This unit was third worst in the country at quarterback protection, behind only Akron and Liberty, which was a downgrade from the previous year, when it ranked 104th in the FBS. Aside from the OL, UNC was bottom 35 in total defense and bottom 30 in opponent yards per play. A team with no defense, a highly vulnerable offensive line, a new quarterback, and a road schedule featuring games at App State, Georgia State, Miami, Virginia, and Wake Forest all translates to a road fade.
Back Syracuse unders in game totals
If I am looking to bet an over, then I need two offenses that can put up points with vulnerable defenses. If I am looking to bet the under, especially in college football, then I am looking for two strong defenses that can stop anything, or offenses that can’t put up points no matter how hard they try. Syracuse is a mix of both.
Last year, 'Cuse went 5-7 but showed some positive glimpses. The offense was yuck — bottom 25 in quarterback sacks with 33 total. The Orange had three quarterbacks accumulate less than 2,000 yards passing with a combined 10 touchdowns and six interceptions. The lack of offense led to the team being bottom 10 in both red-zone attempts and scores.
The defense, however, was strong — top 30 in total defense. It is returning its top three linebackers and top four defensive backs, but loses its top two defensive linemen, who accounted for a third of the total sacks. The 2022 season looks to be much of the same: strong defense and an inefficient offense. The run game could be strong with sophomore Sean Tucker remaining in the lineup. He accounted for 1,496 of Syracuse's 2,562 total rushing yards. A team with a strong defense that lacks a passing attack but has a good run game sounds like a game-total under team to me. And history reflects that.
Under head coach Dino Babers, Syracuse is 29-42-1 (59 percent) to the under and 15-22 to the undeer at home. Last season, 'Cuse finished 5-7. If you consider that the Orange will be run-heavy, then it’s important to note that this season, it will have a brutal stretch of games starting mid-October that includes N.C. State, Clemson, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and Florida State. Oh, and that's in order. Syracuse will face five defenses in the top 50 in opponent yards per carry and opponent rushing yards, while facing seven teams in the top 45 in sacks. Syracuse's defense might keep this team competitive, while the offensive inefficiencies will keep games low scoring.