ACC football preview, odds, predictions: Who will Clemson play in the ACC title game?

Previously: AAC, Big Ten, Big 12, C-USA, MAC, Mountain West, Pac-12, SEC, Sun Belt

The 2021 college football season is right around the corner and this week we previewed each of the Power Five conferences. On Monday we broke down the SEC. On Tuesday it was the Pac-12's turn. Wednesday was the Big 12, and Thursday was the Big Ten. Last, but not least, it's time for the ACC.

Below, Yahoo Sports' Sam Cooper and Nick Bromberg provide their thoughts on each ACC team before predicting where those teams will finish in the conference and if they will go over or under their projected preseason win total.

Betting odds and win totals are provided by BetMGM. Teams are listed in alphabetical order.

ACC championship odds

  • Clemson: -750

  • North Carolina: +1000

  • Miami: +1000

  • Boston College: +2500

  • Louisville: +3000

  • NC State: +5000

  • Florida State: +5000

  • Virginia Tech: +5000

  • Wake Forest: +5000

  • Pittsburgh: +6600

  • Virginia: +10000

  • Georgia Tech: +10000

  • Syracuse: +25000

  • Duke: +25000

ACC champion

Sam: Clemson

Nick: Clemson

ACC Atlantic

Boston College

ACC Atlantic odds: +2200

Over/under: 7 wins

Sam: BC outperformed expectations in Jeff Hafley’s first season, and I think there are a lot of reasons for fans to be optimistic. But is this team ready to make a leap up to eight wins to hit this over? I don’t think so. Phil Jurkovec is a good player and BC has one of the better WR groups in the ACC. At the same time, BC really struggled to run the ball and does not have a very good defense. Hafley is a defensive coach, so I expect that unit to be a bit better, but I also have a lot of concerns about the front seven, particularly up front. I think this is a 6-6 team.

UNDER 7 wins

Projected division finish: 5th*

Nick: If Boston College had a cupcake on the schedule instead of Missouri on Sep. 25 then I would be bullish on eight wins. Instead, I think the under is probably the right play here in a move to go with recent history. BC has won six or seven games in each of the past five seasons. The team improved on defense in Hafley’s first year and brings back a majority of the starting lineup again. Improving the run game with a line that brings back all five starters is the next goal. The push is probably the smart move.

UNDER 7 wins

Projected division finish: 5th

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - DECEMBER 19: Quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei #5 of the Clemson Tigers warms up before the ACC Championship game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Bank of America Stadium on December 19, 2020 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei of Clemson warms up before the ACC championship game against Notre Dame at Bank of America Stadium on Dec. 19, 2020, in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Clemson

ACC Atlantic odds: -2000

Over/under: 11.5 wins

Sam: This 11.5 number pretty much comes down to whether you think Clemson is going to beat Georgia in Week 1. As I noted in the SEC preview, I think Clemson is going to win that game. From there, Clemson has South Dakota State, UConn and rival South Carolina in the rest of the non-con, and then Georgia Tech and Pitt in cross-division games. That schedule is so weak that I could make the argument that the Georgia game is a must-win for CFP resume purposes. We won’t have to hear that argument if Clemson wins. And with D.J. Uiagalelei at QB and the best defensive line in the country, I think the Tigers will do just that and enter the playoff with a 12-0 record.

OVER 11.5 wins

Projected division finish: 1st

Nick: Am I really going to take the under on Clemson’s win total? I am. Even if I go back and forth on the Georgia game, I can’t have four teams projected to go undefeated in the regular season. That’s just not going to happen. I’m fascinated to see how Clemson replenishes the offense and how WR Justyn Ross looks now that he’s been cleared to return to the field. The defense is going to be phenomenal again with nine starters back, thanks to the extra year of eligibility the NCAA granted to players.

UNDER 11.5 wins

Projected division finish: 1st

Florida State

ACC Atlantic odds: +2500

Over/under: 5.5 wins

Sam: With the ACC Atlantic there’s a clear best team (Clemson) and a clear worst team (Syracuse). In the middle are a bunch of competitive, comparable teams. Florida State has moved back into that mix. FSU, with the help of the transfer portal, seems to have some solid footing entering Mike Norvell’s second season, but this schedule is brutal. FSU plays both Miami and North Carolina from the Coastal, opens with Notre Dame and ends the season at rival Florida. That’s four top 15 programs right there. Oh, and there’s also a trip to Clemson. If Norvell gets this team to a bowl, it should be viewed as a major accomplishment. I’m on the under with 5-7 as the most likely outcome.

UNDER 5.5 wins

Projected division finish: 6th*

Nick: Norvell still hasn’t named a starting quarterback for the opener against Notre Dame, but I’ll be surprised if the guy taking the first snap isn’t McKenzie Milton. His return to the field is a great story and hopefully he resembles the guy that was awesome pre-knee injury. If Florida State can go 4-4 in the conference, the over is going to hit. It’s just tough to find four wins with games against North Carolina, Clemson, NC State and at Boston College on the schedule.

UNDER 5.5 wins

Projected division finish: 4th

Louisville

ACC Atlantic odds: +1800

Over/under: 6.5 wins

Sam: Louisville went 8-5 in Scott Satterfield’s first season and 4-7 in his second season. I could make the argument that those teams weren’t that far apart. UL was just killed by turnover problems all year, and turnovers are what make a team go 0-4 in one-possession games. Despite losing two wideouts to the NFL, I still really like this offense. In the ACC, only Clemson and UNC averaged more plays of 20-plus yards per game than Louisville in 2020. If the defense improves, I think this will be a nice bounce-back year for the Cardinals.

OVER 6.5 wins

Projected division finish: 2nd

Nick: Sam’s much higher on Louisville than I am. There’s a bunch of players currently on NFL rosters who need to be replaced. Malik Cunningham will keep the offense’s floor pretty high, but Louisville needs replacements for RB Javian Hawkins and WRs Tutu Atwell and Dez Fitzpatrick. They were a big reason why the offense was so explosive. The defense was a lot better in 2020 than it was in 2019 and shouldn’t be any worse. With the potential to go 1-3 in non-conference play, I’m all over the under here, even if I have Louisville in the top half of the division.

UNDER 6.5 wins

Projected division finish: 3rd

PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 03: Devin Leary #13 of the North Carolina State Wolfpack in action during the game against the Pittsburgh Panthers at Heinz Field on October 3, 2020 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
Devin Leary of North Carolina State runs against Pittsburgh at Heinz Field on Oct. 3, 2020. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)

NC State

ACC Atlantic odds: +2000

Over/under: 6.5 wins

Sam: Other than a 4-8 blip in 2019, NC State has won at least seven games in every season since 2014. This 2021 team could be the most complete group Dave Doeren has had. The Wolfpack have 18 starters back, including QB Devin Leary, two RBs who combined for 1,500 yards and their top four WRs. The defense is highlighted by Payton Wilson, one of the ACC’s best linebackers. Though there are some tricky spots on the schedule, I’m pretty confident about over 6.5 wins. This is an experienced roster that I’m counting on to win a few tough road games.

OVER 6.5 wins

Projected division finish: 3rd

Nick: I’m a little confused about the win total here. Either I see NC State in a different light than oddsmakers or this is one of the most obvious totals across college football. Yeah, NC State has Clemson, Miami and North Carolina on the schedule, but outside of a trip to Mississippi State in Week 2, the Wolfpack could be favored in every other game. The offense was better with Leary at QB in 2020 and Zonovan Knight averaged 5.5 yards a carry. NC State should go 8-4 again.

OVER 6.5 wins

Projected division finish: 2nd

Syracuse

ACC Atlantic odds: +10000

Over/under: 3 wins

Sam: Syracuse’s 2020 season was decimated by injuries and opt-outs. The result was a 1-10 record. The Orange went 10-3 in 2018 but have a combined 14-33 record in Babers’ four other seasons as head coach. This feels like a make-or-break year for Babers. Last year’s team was so bad on the offensive line and defensively that it would be hard for there not to be improvement. Looking at this schedule, I land on 3-9 most often but think 4-8 is more likely than 2-10. I think 'Cuse could upset somebody in the Carrier Dome to get to 4-8, so I’ll take the over.

OVER 3 wins

Projected division finish: 7th

Nick: It’s never a good thing when the head coach says the team will start the season playing two QBs. I’m not going to be surprised if Syracuse loses at Ohio to start the season. The only gimme on the schedule in 2021 is a game against Albany, though Syracuse has to get another win somewhere. I don’t know if I see three other wins out there, however. I’ll take the under and wonder if there will be a new coach for the Orange in 2022.

UNDER 3 wins

Projected division finish: 7th

Wake Forest

ACC Atlantic odds: +2200

Over/under: 7 wins

Sam: Dave Clawson has consistently identified under-the-radar talent and developed competitive teams. From 2016-19, Wake’s regular-season records looked like this: 6-6, 7-5, 6-6, 8-4. Its 2020 season (a 4-5 record with a bowl loss) was a bit all over the place, including some COVID cancellations. I like this offense a lot. The Deacs scored 40-plus points four times last year and can have similar success this year. Despite their experience, I worry about the talent on this defense and those concerns have me at 6-6 or 7-5 as the most likely outcome. Not 8-4.

UNDER 7 wins

Projected division finish: 6th*

*Florida State, Boston College and Wake Forest all going 3-5 in ACC play. Tiebreakers put FSU fourth, BC fifth and Wake sixth.

Nick: This division is a mess from third to sixth in my eyes. I can make a case for four teams to finish anywhere in that range. Wake Forest is one of those teams. This is a team that brings back a ton of talent but also has a “non-conference” game against North Carolina and a road trip to Army. It’s conceivable that Wake Forest could be 6-0 ahead of that trip to Army on Oct. 23. But the second half of the schedule includes that UNC game plus a game against NC State and trips to Clemson and Boston College. I really love the push.

UNDER 7 wins

Projected division finish: 4th

ACC Coastal

Duke

ACC Coastal odds: +8000

Over/under: 4 wins

Sam: I wonder if the David Cutcliffe era at Duke is winding down. Cutcliffe had Duke — Duke! — play in six bowl games in a seven-year stretch, including a trip to the Peach Bowl. The last two years have seen a steep decline (especially on offense) with a 2-9 finish in 2020. QB play has always been Cutcliffe’s calling card, but the past two seasons have been rough. I don’t expect that to change this year, but maybe Gunnar Holmberg will prove me wrong. I think 5-7 is the ceiling here, but 3-9 is more likely.

UNDER 4 wins

Projected division finish: 7th

Nick: I have the same thought as Sam. It’s hard to see how Duke bounces back from the decline we’ve seen over the last two seasons. The Blue Devils should just need one conference win to get a push, thanks to winnable non-conference games against Charlotte, North Carolina A&T, and Kansas. But I’m not going to be stunned if Charlotte scares Duke in Week 1. No matter how bad the season is for the Blue Devils, Mateo Durant should be a bright spot. He rushed for 817 yards and eight TDs on just 120 carries a year ago.

UNDER 4 wins

Projected division finish: 7th

Georgia Tech

ACC Coastal odds: +3500

Over/under: 5 wins

Sam: Georgia Tech is lucky it gets to beat up on some lower-level teams early because the rest of its schedule is brutal. GT gets Clemson and North Carolina in Weeks 3 and 4, has to play Miami on the road and closes its season with Notre Dame and Georgia. The Yellow Jackets will be a better team than they were last year, and there are a few spots I could envision an upset. But I don’t see where they can get to six wins to hit this over.

UNDER 5 wins

Projected division finish: 6th

Nick: As Sam noted, Georgia Tech has one of the toughest schedules in the country. The only one of the games he mentioned above at home is the season finale against Georgia. And that’s not going to give the Yellow Jackets much of an edge. Geoff Collins has done a good job transforming this roster from the option-based one it was under Paul Johnson. But this is a rebuild that’s going to take a half-decade and he’s only in Year 3.

UNDER 5 wins

Projected division finish: 6th

Miami quarterback D'Eriq King looks for a receiver against Oklahoma State during the first half of the Cheez-it Bowl NCAA college football game, Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
Miami quarterback D'Eriq King looks for a receiver against Oklahoma State during the first half of the Cheez-it Bowl on Dec. 29, 2020, in Orlando, Florida. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Miami

ACC Coastal odds: +130

Over/under: 9.5 wins

Sam: As much as Miami improved last year, I’m not sure this is a team that can win 10 games — something it has done just once in the last 17 seasons. My main concerns revolve around the health of QB D’Eriq King, a group of receivers I think is overrated, and the NFL-level talent lost from the defensive line. Losing those disruptive pass-rushers is tough, and Miami was already in the bottom half of the conference in run defense a year ago. With Alabama and UNC on the schedule, there needs to be just one upset for Miami to finish a very respectable 9-3.

UNDER 9.5 wins

Projected division finish: 2nd

Nick: I think the Hurricanes are going to get another shot at Clemson this season. Miami brings back more than North Carolina does and I like D’Eriq King to be fully healthy after the knee injury he suffered in the bowl game against Oklahoma State. Don’t get dissuaded by a season-opening loss to Alabama, this is a Miami team capable of going 9-3 or even 10-2 and winning the division.

UNDER 9.5 wins

Projected division finish: 1st

CHAPEL HILL, NORTH CAROLINA - APRIL 24: Sam Howell #7 of North Carolina Tar Heels drops back to pass during their spring game at Kenan Memorial Stadium on April 24, 2021 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Sam Howell of North Carolina drops back to pass during the spring game at Kenan Memorial Stadium on April 24, 2021, in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

North Carolina

ACC Coastal odds: +130

Over/under: 9.5 wins

Sam: I tend to avoid trendy teams, but I’m having a hard time picking anybody other than UNC to win the Coastal in 2021. Sam Howell is an All-American-caliber player at quarterback. Both the offensive and defensive lines are among the best in the ACC. So is the secondary. There’s a lot to replace at the skill positions, especially running back, but I’m confident in the talent Mack Brown has assembled. I like the over here and am looking forward to seeing an actual competitive ACC title game against Clemson.

OVER 9.5 wins

Projected division finish: 1st

Nick: UNC brings back 18 starters, including Howell. But the players that aren’t back were very, very important. UNC has to replace both Michael Carter and Javonte Williams at running back, Dyami Brown and Dazz Newsome at receiver, and leading tackler Chazz Surratt. Don’t underrate the skill position losses. I think North Carolina goes 9-3 as well, with a loss at Notre Dame in late October. The Coastal could come down to a tiebreaker.

UNDER 9.5 wins

Projected division finish: 2nd

Pittsburgh

ACC Coastal odds: +1000

Over/under: 7 wins

Sam: Pitt continues to be a good but not great program under Pat Narduzzi. Kenny Pickett is back again at QB and he’s got some pieces around him. I expect this group to take advantage of a pretty easy start to the season. And that includes beating Tennessee in Knoxville. After the bye week, there’s so much variance on this schedule. Clemson is a likely loss. Duke is a likely win. I could see Pitt upsetting Miami at home. At the same time, I could see Pitt losing on the road to Syracuse. No matter how it gets there, the record will end up in that 7-5 range. Because the non-conference schedule is easy, I’m going to pick the over with absolutely no confidence.

OVER 7 wins

Projected division finish: 5th

Nick: Pitt should be 5-0 before a trip to Virginia Tech on Oct. 16. Tennessee is in the midst of a rebuild and the Panthers are more talented than Georgia Tech. Will that "should" transfer into certainty? There’s been an annual confounding loss during Pat Narduzzi’s tenure and I’m not sure that changes this year. But Pitt somehow draws UNC, Clemson and Miami all at home. I’ll go with the over here too, and I have a little more confidence that it hits than Sam does.

OVER 7 wins

Projected division finish: 3rd

Virginia

ACC Coastal odds: +1200

Over/under: 6.5 wins

Sam: Virginia was up and down last year, but managed to play pretty well in games where Brennan Armstrong was available at quarterback. UVA finished 5-5 and lost both games where Armstrong was unavailable. Armstrong is back, and so is UVA’s entire offensive line and a talented group of rushers. The defense should be solid up front, but the back seven has a lot of questions. This is another one of those middle-of-the-pack ACC teams, but I’ll go with a 7-5 record with a win in Bronco Mendenhall’s return trip to BYU being the difference.

OVER 6.5 wins

Projected division finish: 3rd

Nick: Armstrong was the team’s leading passer and rusher in 2020. Virginia needs to find someone to pick up the rushing slack if it wants to be better than .500 in 2021. I also don’t see the over hitting here for the Cavaliers. Virginia has games at UNC and Miami in the first half of the season and then ends the year at BYU, vs. Notre Dame, at Pitt and at home against Virginia Tech. A 6-6 record feels really right here.

UNDER 6.5 wins

Projected division finish: 5th

Virginia Tech

ACC Coastal odds: +850

Over/under: 7.5 wins

Sam: I’ve got real questions about this offense. VT was evidently content letting Hendon Hooker transfer to hand the reins at quarterback over to Braxton Burmeister. Burmeister had some flashes last year, but I’m not sure he’s even in the top half of ACC QBs. The receiving group is promising, but I’ve got offensive line concerns and there’s no clear heir apparent to Khalil Herbert at running back. The defense should be better. For much of 2020, VT was missing significant pieces due to COVID issues. In the end, though, my concerns about the offense coupled with the tenuous status of coach Justin Fuente have me siding with the under.

UNDER 7.5 wins

Projected division finish: 4th

Nick: Would a win over UNC in Week 1 be the biggest win in Justin Fuente’s Virginia Tech tenure? It would also set the stage for a great season. Tech allowed over 32 points per game and 6.2 yards per play a year ago — that can’t happen again in 2021 if the Hokies are going to finish over .500. With Herbert off to the NFL, the running game falls to Rutgers transfer Raheem Blackshear. If he can get going behind a line replacing two starters, then Virginia Tech should finish the season 7-5. I’m not sure if 8-4 is in play.

UNDER 7.5 wins

Projected division finish: 4th