College Football Handicapping: Odds and Picks to Win ACC

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College Football Handicapping: Odds and Picks to Win ACC
David J. Phillip/Associated Press

With fewer than six weeks before the start of another season of college football, Division IA teams all over the nation are busy preparing for what could be an historic run towards a berth in the first ever four-team playoff format for this year’s National Championship.

It is obvious that certain teams, such as the defending champion Florida State Seminoles, have much better odds to make it into that field of four. However, most likely, the top contenders will first have to successfully win their respective conference title to be considered for a bid.

Doc’s Sports has recently updated its NCAA football futures odds for all five of the major conferences in Division IA, and at the top of that list are the betting odds to win the ACC. Florida State ran through the ACC last season with a perfect 8-0 record in conference play and a lopsided 45-7 victory over Duke in the title game as a 30-point favorite. This was all part of an overall record of 14-0 that culminated with a stirring 34-31 victory over Auburn as a 10.5-point favorite to win the final BCS title game.

This was the Seminoles second straight ACC title, so it should come as no surprise that they have been listed as prohibitive 4-11 favorites to make it three in a row. Head coach Jimbo Fisher is well known for his ability to attract some of the best high school talent in the nation to his football program, but he struck gold when quarterback Jameis Winston came to Tallahassee.

Last year in his first season as a starter, Winston took college football by storm, becoming the second straight redshirt freshman to win the sport’s most prestigious award: the Heisman Trophy (Winston is the favorite to win this season’s Heisman as well). The year before, former Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel became the first-ever freshman to win the Heisman as college football’s most outstanding player, and Winston wasted little time continuing this trend by winning it last year.

Last year’s Heisman Trophy winner threw for 4,057 yards and 40 touchdowns while completing 66.9 percent of his 384 attempts. While he rushed for only 219 yards on 88 carries, he still proved to be a dual threat whenever the ball was in his hands.

Along with Winston, Florida State remains stacked on both sides of the ball with an offense that was ranked second in the nation in scoring in 2013 with 51.6 points a game complementing a defense that was first in the nation in points allowed (12.1). 

The big question sports bettors have when it comes to the 2014 ACC title is if there is any other team that has a legitimate shot at derailing this Florida State machine.

The closest team when it comes to futures odds is Clemson as a 10-1 second favorite. Both teams play in the ACC’s Atlantic Division, so that means the Tigers will most likely have to beat the Seminoles in a head-to-head matchup on Saturday, Sept. 20 in Tallahassee. Last season in Clemson, the Tigers were 4.5-point underdogs at home in a 51-14 beatdown that ended their run at earning a spot in December’s conference title game. Clemson is expected to take a step backwards this season after losing its dynamic quarterback Tajh Boyd to the NFL.

The next two favorites on the ACC futures odds list are Miami and Virginia Tech at 12-1. Of the two teams, the best value in these odds is probably with the Hokies for the simple reason that they do not have to face Florida State in the regular season. If they can get past Miami at home on Thursday, Oct. 23, this could set up a meeting with the Seminoles in the ACC title game as Coastal Division champs. In a winner-take-all format such as a conference title game, anything can happen, but it will be a stretch at best considering that Virginia Tech has gone 9-7 in the ACC the past two seasons.

The Hurricanes will get a shot at taking down their bitter in-state rivals on Saturday, Nov. 15 in the friendly confines of Sun Life Stadium. Last season they lost to Florida State 41-14 as 21.5-point road underdogs.

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