Ben Burns CFB Picks – ACC Predictions / Preview
Each week Ben Burns prepares college football bettors for the upcoming ncaa football gambling season. This week it’s the ACC. Ben highlights several items to keep in mind when September college football betting season rolls around.
Home-field advantage in the ACC isn’t worth a poop. Over the last three seasons, only three of the conference’s 12 teams posted a winning ATS record at home.
Boston College is the best of the bunch at home. Thriving in the vaunted atmosphere of (let me look it up) Alumni Stadium, the Eagles are 12-6 ATS at home since 2007.
Georgia Tech has been by far the best ACC team to bet on the road, especially the past two seasons under Paul Johnson. Since ’07, the Jackets are 12-4 ATS away, and 9-2 ATS on the road under Johnson.
Why can’t the ACC cover the spread at home? Well, first, we’re not exactly talking about the most raucous venues in the nation. Off the top of your head, how many can you name? Over/ under is five. Another reason could be what some pundits call balance and competitiveness. No matter the home-field atmosphere, if your players aren’t significantly better than your opponent’s, it’s hard to cover even a 3.5-point spread.
But don’t mistake balance and competitiveness for quality. The fact is the ACC is a second-tier conference. It lacks a legitimate national championship contender (No, Virginia Tech and Miami don’t count) and is full of teams that consistently fail to meet oddsmakers’ expectations at home, a bunch of teams that fail to protect their house with authority.
On the positive side, eight teams return their starting quarterback this season. Va. Tech, Florida State and Miami have game-changers in Tyrod Taylor, Christian Ponder and Jacory Harris respectively. Georgia Tech’s option is in good hands with Joshua Nesbitt, and North Carolina State expects a bounce-back year from junior Russell Wilson, the 2008 ACC Freshman of the Year.
However, most of the conference’s elite talent is on defense, including North Carolina’s threesome of future NFL first-rounders in tackle Marvin Austin and linebackers Quin Sturdivant and Bruce Carter.
Despite past disappointments, expectations are high in the ACC this year. Many of the preseason rankings have four teams in the top 25, with both Miami and Virginia Tech in the top 10. But, if the past few seasons have taught us anything, it’s don’t invest in the hype. This is still a second-tier conference, with a handful of potentially really bad teams. In Sporting News’ Top 100 rankings, Maryland and Wake Forest are ranked behind Army. That’s a stretch, but you get the idea.
ACC Odds and Ends
(ATS records are from last three years).
ATS: 15-21 (Home: 6-11. Away: 8-9)
Thing to remember: The Hurricanes haven’t posted a winning ATS record since 2004. They’re a public favorite, which generally means line inflation. Adding to that inflation, most people believe this is Randy Shannon’s best team. We’ll find out early how good they are at Ohio State on Sept. 11
ATS: 20-17-2 (Home: 7-8-1. Away: 9-5-1)
Thing to remember: We’ll find out quickly if the Hokies’ inexperienced defense that returns just four starters is ready. Virginia Tech opens against Boise State and its 10 returning offensive starters on Sept. 6.
ATS: 18-16 (Home: 6-7. Away: 7-8)
Thing to remember: Butch Davis heads into his fourth year at North Carolina and has had plenty of time to stock the cabinet. In his fourth year at Miami, the ‘Canes went 8-3 SU and 7-3 ATS. The Tar Heels boast a conference-high 19 returning starters.
ATS: 20-15-1 (Home: 7-9-1. Away: 12-4)
Thing to remember: Coach Paul Johnson has a knack for motivating his troops after a loss. At Navy, the Midshipmen went 16-10-1 ATS off a straight up loss under Johnson. Georgia Tech is 5-0 ATS after a straight-up loss under Johnson.
ATS: 17-15-1 (Home: 5-9-1. Away: 11-6)
Thing to remember: Coach David Cutcliffe never recovered from losing Eli Manning at Old Miss. The Rebels went 4-7 SU after Manning left for the NFL and Cutcliffe would get the ax. Heading into his third year at Duke, Cutcliffe again must replace a star quarterback in Thaddeus Lewis. Incumbent Sean Refree saw some action last year, but tore his ACL late in the year against Georgia Tech. He was not at full strength during spring practice, but is expected to ready to start the season. His back-ups are both freshmen.
ATS: 18-17 (Home: 8-10. Away: 9-7)
Thing to remember: A new era begins with coach Mike London making the jump from FCS Richmond to the BCS at Virginia. The Cavaliers return just 12 starters, tied with Virginia Tech and North Carolina State for the fewest in the conference.
ATS: 16-20 (Home: 4-11. Away: 7-9)
Thing to remember: The ‘Noles, under first-year head coach Jimbo Fisher, are going to score some points. They return all five starters on the offensive line to protect Ponder. But there are some major question marks on a defense that surrendered 30 points a game last year. The Seminoles should produce some good over possibilities.
ATS: 19-19 (Home: 12-6. Away: 6-8)
Thing to remember: Keep your ears open for linebacker Mark Herzlich’s return. The 2008 ACC Defensive Player of the Year missed all of last year battling a rare form of cancer, but is expected to get back on the field this year. His return will be a gigantic emotional lift for the Eagles, one probably worth at least a field goal to the line.
ATS: 18-18 (Home: 9-8. Away: 8-6)
Thing to remember: Keep an eye on the quarterback situation. Last year’s starter Kyle Parker was drafted by the Rockies in the first round. Heading into July, Parker seemed to be leaning toward focusing solely on baseball. If he leaves, Clemson is hurting, with either unproven senior. Michael Wade or redshirt freshman Tajh Boyd becoming the starter.
ATS: 14-20-1 (Home: 8-9. Away: 5-10-1)
Thing to remember: The Terps are getting bashed after last year’s 2-10 campaign, and rightfully so. Maryland finished 110th nationally in sacks allowed and 105th in rushing. The offensive line stunk. Three of those stinkers return, though, along with a healthy stable of running backs and nine their top 10 receivers from last year.
With everyone piling on coach Ralph Friedgen, bettors could find some value with the Terps, especially in conference play. Maryland is 44-35-1 ATS against ACC competition in Friedgen’s nine seasons.
ATS: 19-18 (Home: 11-8. Away: 6-10)
Thing to remember: With the departure of four-year starter Riley Skinner, the Deacons have major question marks at quarterback. Head coach Jim Grobe left spring practice needing to see how an incoming freshman quarterback looked before naming a starter. Whoever wins the job will be playing behind an offensive line that returns just two starters
North Carolina State
ATS: 19-14 (Home: 8-8. Away: 8-6)
Thing to remember: Coach Tom O’Brien has always fared well in conference play. His last six teams at Boston College went 25-17 ATS in conference play. The Wolfpack is 15-9 ATS against the ACC in O’Brien’s three seasons.
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