Three late games against SEC teams could decide the fate of the ACC this year. The college football futures odds are out, and we're making our projections for a league championship.
If the NCAA football futures odds are any indication, the Atlantic Coast Conference is a 4-team race with the winner of the Atlantic Division headed to the College Football Playoff. This far in advance of the prom, it's very hard to tell who shows up wearing the prettiest dress, and the ACC might be the most difficult of all conferences to pick a winner.
Let's start with conflicting numbers at one sports book and see if we can make sense of the conference that most believe will be left out of the CFP. Clemson (+225) is the overall favorite to win the ACC, Florida State (+250) just behind the Tigers with Georgia Tech (+350) trailed by Louisville (+800) in a rather distant fourth on the college football futures.
That same offshore shop, however, lists the Seminoles at the top to win the Atlantic Division, a +125 payout with Clemson's +150 just behind them. Those numbers usually indicate a couple of top-10 caliber teams, but that's not the case according to ESPN's early power rankings which didn't find a spot for an ACC team until No. 19 Clemson, the Seminoles and Yellow Jackets nearby in Nos. 21 and 23, respectively.
Fisher & 'Noles Land Another Big Recruiting Class
Looking at the schedules and keeping up with summer position battles not to mention those pesky injuries is what I'd like to discuss. Since we don't have anything on the latter two yet, the slates are what's left.
Florida State (+125 to win Atlantic Division) landed another huge class of high school talent, and I believe they are a bit underrated on defense in early projections. Jimbo Fisher's guys can't win as many games late again and the Seminoles have tough home/road conference splits with both Georgia Tech and Clemson in hostile territory. FSU finishes its league fixture the second Saturday in November before closing out of ACC play with two games, including a trip to rival Florida to end it all.
Clemson (+150) has to get past a tough early slate to even make the matchup with Florida State on November 7 mean anything. There's a short week leading in the Thursday night ACC opener at Louisville (+500) prefacing a long layoff before hosting Notre Dame and Georgia Tech. The road tilts at Miami and NC State are potential stumbles, and the Tigers also end their regular season NCAAF football odds contests out of conference at South Carolina.
Louisville is getting some Summer Love right now, and that early game at home with Clemson is obviously going to impact the ACC and Atlantic Division races. I do not trust head coach Bobby Petrino, never will, and as luck would have it this is yet another ACC/ATL team closing on the road opposite an SEC crew (Kentucky). The Halloween clash between Clemson and North Carolina State (+600) is an even bigger game than Tigers/Cardinals, setting up the expected division-deciding collision between Clemson and FSU.
Will Coastal Division Be Decided In September?
Expectations going into the season this is when the rest of college football catches up with Paul Johnson's option offense. It's the same expectations every season, and they never come true. That's why Georgia Tech (+175 to win Coastal Division) is the top college football pick to meet the winner of the Atlantic Division in Charlotte on December 5.
Duke (+250) is next on the list, and if it really is between the Blue Devils and Yellow Jackets, things will be decided September 26 in Durham. A bigger game is October 10 when the Ramblin' Wreck travels to Clemson. How the Yellow Jackets come out of that game sets up the back-to-back battles in November, a Thursday night home game with Virginia Tech (+280) and trip to face the Hurricanes in Miami (+500).
The end result here could be bad for the conference as far as an invite to the CFP, as it's easy to see nobody from this group coming out of the scrap with less than two losses by the league title tilt. Florida State still has the best shot for a 1-loss campaign, and that would ensure the conference a seat at the table, but I like the ACC Championship coming down to a second 2015 meeting between Clemson and Georgia Tech, the Tigers winning the rematch.