2019 College Football ACC Betting Preview


Accurately analyzing the probability of a team winning their conference or winning the national championship and using that analysis to beat the “implied odds” offered by the sports books will allow you to turn a profit long term on those bets. Lets use an example where your analysis of “Team A” suggests they have a 50% chance to win the conference. To break even, “Team A” would need to be priced at “even money” or +100 in American odds. If “Team A” has better than a 50% chance and is priced at +100, then the bet will be profitable over the long term. The same can be said if their chance is 50% but the odds are greater than +100.

This is a very simple concept that most should be able to understand. However, unfortunately for bettors, most teams will have worse odds than what their actual chance is of cashing the ticket. Odds-makers can get away with this because they can count on people betting with emotion and bias. Everyone who enjoys college football knows that it is packed with emotional fans, players and coaches. This is what draws people to root for or against certain teams. And it is often what drives recreational bettors to place a bet. For me, my bias is geared towards the teams that will put a little extra beer money in my pocket and is based off comparing my in-depth analysis to the available odds.


In the Atlantic Coast Conference, if you are going to “talk the talk” and put your money where your mouth is, you should really consider “walking the chalk.” As discussed in my B1G futures betting preview, when it comes to national championship futures, I am an advocate for betting the “chalk.” While the B1G will have a lot of parity and some of the underdogs have value, that is not the case with the top of the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Many will argue that the lack of parity in the ACC is because the conference is “weak.” That simply is not true. Of course the ACC was down last year with teams like Miami, FSU, NC State, and Virginia Tech regressing from what they were a couple seasons ago. But that won’t be a regular occurrence. Regardless, Clemson will remain an absolute freight train that will continue to bring futures bettors to the window.


Four seasons ago, Clemson and Alabama were each between +500 and +700 to win the college football playoff National Championship. In the ACC that year, Clemson was actually a plus money favorite to win the conference. As we all know, that season was the start of the Alabama/Clemson saga. We would get a re-match the following three years (one semi-final in the 2017 season). Alabama won the first showdown but failed to cover the 6.5 point spread. If you bet the Tigers’ spread and Alabama future from the beginning of the year, it would’ve been a nice double payout.

It was even sweeter icing on the cake knowing that Clemson returned superstar quarterback Deshaun Watson. And they were getting back big play threat WR Mike Williams from injury and 7 other offensive starters. Going into that 2016 season, Clemson only returned 4 starters on defense. However, they had several young key players like future first round picks Christian Wilkins, Clelin Ferrell and Dexter Lawerence. Plus, they had future third round pick Austin Bryant who played meaningful snaps in the 2015 championship game.

The 2016 Tigers won the championship and cashed national championship futures tickets that ranged between +500 to +700 before the season and throughout the year. They did so with Brett Venables least efficient defense of the CFP era. They ranked ninth in adjusted defensive efficiency.  The purpose of this section is give perspective on how the Tigers were priced then compared to now. Going into the 2019 season Clemson is priced between +200 to +230 to win the national championship and -375 to -400 to win the ACC. Oddsmakers have clearly adjusted. Fortunately, for bettors backing the Tigers, the gap between them and the majority of their competition has increased more than the odds imply.


Understanding the market is very important, you should be aware that at -400, the implied probability of Clemson winning the ACC is 80% to break even. (For every one loss, you would need four wins to make up for the loss.) However, most of you probably came here for a handicap of the team, as opposed to a math lesson.

Trevor Lawrence

The Tigers return a true sophomore quarterback in Trevor Lawrence who completed 65.2% of his passes. He averaged 8.3 yards per attempt and threw 30 touchdowns to only 4 interceptions. After not starting the first four games of the season, he got knocked out of his first start with a neck/head injury. All this and he was only 18 years old most of the season. Lawrence is being touted as one of the best NFL draft prospects ever. Those expectations are not hyperbolic. He has one of the strongest arms that we have seen. Add to that the ability to process smart football decisions as quickly as most NFL veterans. The kid will only get better with a year of experience under his belt.

The biggest concern for people laying four dollars to win one on Clemson winning the conference would be an injury to Lawrence. Don’t worry about it. Backup Chase Brice will be the most capable backup in the country. He was a Top 30 ranked quarterback in the 2017 recruiting class. And he has now been with the program for two years prior to this season. He was not spectacular last season completing 62.7% of his passes while throwing five touchdowns to go with three picks. However, he got valuable experience vs Syracuse and in blowout games.

The O-line and WRs

Protecting the quarterbacks on the offensive side of the ball will be an offensive line loaded with 4 veterans. Each had at least 7 starts on last year’s national championship team. And they have the number one tackle in the 2018 recruiting class. Lawrence will be throwing the ball to a group of receivers that can only be matched by the Crimson Tide. Tee Higgins (59 catches, 963 yards, 12TD’s) and Justyn Ross (46 catches, 1,000 yards,9TD’s) are future first round picks. They’ll lead a group that is so deep it will seem like those two are never on the field unless they are catching a touchdown.

Clemson RB Travie Etienne is a force for the Tigers – (Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports)
The Backfield

Travis Etienne and Lynn-J Dixon are the top two backs on the depth chart for the upcoming season. Both averaged over 8 yards per touch last year with Etienne leading the way with 1,658 yards. They should be strong at that position, as well. Even if Clemson were to have a mediocre defense, this offense should be projected to be one of the best we have seen. It’s good enough to carry them through the ACC championship into the playoffs.

The Defense Remains Strong

The Tigers Reload

Hopefully, people holding futures tickets on other teams winning the conference are not counting on this defense being mediocre. The Clemson offense should be historically great. But the defense will be among the nation’s best again. As I mentioned, the weakest Brent Venables defense in the CFP era ranked 9th in adjusted defensive efficiency. That defense was good enough to bring home a National Championship. It had a first round 3-technique DL filling in at the defensive end position because they lacked depth in his sophomore year.

This year’s defense lost several key contributors on the defensive side of the ball, including all four starters on the defensive line. Each was drafted in the first or third round of the NFL draft. Under any other circumstances this is a major problem. But Clemson is re-loading at the defensive end position with the two highest rated ends in the 2018 recruiting class and a junior defensive end that was ranked in the Top 10 in the 2017 class.

The D-line

I do not anticipate any regression at the end position. This year’s defense will be just as good if not better at getting after the quarterback in passing situations. They ranked fifth in the country last year in sack rate on passing downs. The biggest regression on the defense will likely be in the run game along the defensive line. Last year they were tops in the country in stuff rate due to the monsters they had inside. Filling the void of two first round draft picks and a key backup who started in the CFP due to a suspension will take more than 6 months of practice to replace that production.

Clemson DB AJ Terrell is a bona fide playmaker
The Secondary

If the D-line is not as elite in pressuring the quarterback, then Clemson will have a solid and experienced secondary to help them out. AJ Terrell is being considered as a budding star at DB. He’s getting some recognition by professional scouts as possible a first to second round pick. The Tigers also return two seniors, K’von Wallace and Tanner Muse. They’ll team up with former walk on Nolan Turner, who stepped up big in last years college football playoffs. Early projections suggest sophomore Derion Kendrick will switch from receiver to start at the other corner position. Kendrick is a super athlete and was recruited as such coming out of high school. He is ultra competitive and does not shy away from contact. Don’t at all be surprised if he turns into a superstar defensive back.

Undoubtedly the best weapon on the defensive side of the ball is last year’s leading tackler Isaiah Simmons. The kid is an absolute freak. It’s a head scratcher as to why he was only rated as a 3-star recruit with the athleticism he displays. Simmons will be all over the field at 6’3″ 230 lbs, hammering ball carriers in the run game and shutting down tight ends or even slot receivers in the passing game. He will be off the draft board very early next spring.


The “bad boys” in Miami dominated the 80’s and early into the 90’s winning 5 national championships in the programs history. Alright, I do not think that Miami will be a true contender in the National Championship picture or pose much of a threat to beat the Tigers in the ACC. However, I do project them to be a very good football team and win the Coastal. The Cane’s were a very unlucky team last year. That was the total opposite of the 2017 team that was constantly breaking out the turnover chain.

The Return of the Turnover?

Often turnovers in football can be attributed to luck, as well as skill. A football is an oddly shaped ball that can bounce in all different and unpredictable directions. So there is a variable of randomness to winning the turnover battle, which can make a massive impact on the outcome of a game.

In 2017, Miami was +13 in turnovers on the season. However, last year they were -1. Against LSU last season, Miami out-gained the Tigers by 46 yards. But they lost the turnover battle (-2), and suffered from a targeting call in the first quarter. LSU was the better team, but not by as large of a margin as the score would suggest. Aside from the luck factor, the Hurricanes also had quarterbacks that were sloppy with the ball and not skilled enough to compensate for their poor decision making.

This year the Hurricanes bring in transfer quarterback Tate Martell, who was a very highly touted recruit out of a powerhouse Bishop Gorman high school. He brings with him former high school teammate Bubba Bolden, who should help a defense that I project to be very strong like they were last year. They return 6 starters on a defense that was ranked sixth in adjusted defensive efficiency and was 14th per S&P+ ratings. They gave up only 0.310 points per play (22nd) and only 4.3 yards per play (3rd).

If Miami can protect the football and stay dominant on defense, this team could get to ten wins and face off vs Clemson in the ACC Championship Game. I do not advocate a bet on Miami to win the conference. However, at +750 and a possible hedging opportunity if Clemson is less than a -600 favorite in the ACC championship game, I do not oppose it.


Clemson to win the ACC: -375 to -400

Clemson to win the CFP National Championship +225


Miami to win the ACC +750