8/27, 9am ET: 2018 ACC Win Totals
I am going to rapid fire my way through the Power 5, providing as much detail as I can before moving on to the next thing. Again, good news here for you is that these aren't prices from May 10th or something (May 10th was a happier time, when Cal was at 5.5 and summer was still on the horizon). Anyways, away we go:
**All prices will be given using 5D because it's easier for me in a limited amount of time but PLEASE shop around**
Miami over 9.5 -115
I just don't get it man. One day, all will become clear to me, and I will achieve true enlightenment perhaps, but until then, I'm still scrambling around in the dark with a flashlight I guess. This number should always be 10 and it isn't. This team is infinitely more talented than every other team in their division ((I also like Miami to win the Coastal +115 a great deal, as I wrote at Action Network), they will be favored in all 12 games, they avoid Clemson, and they've recruited insanely. They check the boxes of talent + coaching (even if you don't love Richt, Manny Diaz has been great) + schedule + price. Malik Rosier isn't elite but he doesn't have to be to hit this number easily. He does have to probably be elite for them to make any national noise, which they were on the verge of doing last year. I'm not as sure that's possible, but the prices are also much more appealing for those events anyway which allows me stomach them. They have one weakness on their team -- defensive tackle -- where they lost 2 guys to the NFL, but they are elite at so many other position groups. There are only 4 games on the schedule that they lose with any frequency -- the opener vs LSU on a neutral, vs Florida State, at Boston College and at Virginia Tech. They are MUCH more talented than BC or VT this year, they get FSU at home, and I'm way down on LSU in general, plus you're getting the Tigers in the first game with a new QB and a new OC. I think 10-2 occurs by far the highest percentage of the time in the spectrum of records, and there are slightly more outliers up than down.
Pittsburgh under 5 wins +130
This one is much more about price than analysis. They actually will win 5 a pretty good amount of the time, but the hype/money on this team is a little perplexing when considering the schedule. They have recruited at about a 40th-type level, so the talent isn't elite. They are breaking in a new defensive coordinator who runs some different schemes so the players need some time to adapt (and they lost 2 defensive players to the NFL from last year's roster), I don't see a lot of great offensive talent, and the QB is a total question mark (who had 1 really good game when they upset Miami last year). We really don't know who the QB will end being long-term, because they have about 10 of them in camp, and apparently just got Jeff George, Jr. as well. What I don't see here is returning production and talent on par with a significant improvement in wins. But let's get back to the schedule: after Albany, the 3 non-conference games are Penn State, at UCF and at Notre Dame. Win 1 of those and I'll throw you a parade. At 1-3 entering conference play a high percent of the time, 3-5 or worse is required to win this bet, and really only home vs Syracuse is one you can reliably pencil in the win column. Virginia is the weakest opponent but they're on the road, and after that it's really a lot of games that can be called toss-ups at best and touchdown-underdogs more reliably as the season progresses. The one thing which hurt this bet a little bit after I placed it was the UNC sneaker-gate scandal, because Pitt is the 4th game UNC will play, meaning the Tar Heels implicated will miss that game before returning the following week. Pitt gets a weaker UNC team on the road in that contest.
NC State under 7.5 wins -130
Here's how I'd like to frame this analysis: I know that Ryan Finley is really good, and will be drafted into the NFL at some point in April. But this is much less about him and much more about the program. NC State is one of the most underachieving teams the last 2 years that I can ever remember, but people don't talk about it as much because they're NC State. With the amount of talent on hand last year, the opportunity was there for 10, 11, even 12 wins, and instead they lost to South Carolina, Notre Dame, Clemson, and Wake Forest to go 8-4 and beat Arizona State in the prestigious Sun Bowl. Their ENTIRE defensive line then got drafted into the pros as well as both key offensive pieces. What a waste. So much talent. We talk up Clemson's defensive line as this four-horseman-of-the-apocalypse, cancel-the-season-right-now unit. This team JUST DID THE SAME THING. ALL FOUR GUYS DRAFTED. But again, NC State, so whatever. So what's more likely, that this team just gets all the bad bounces in the world every game, and eventually will turn it around, OR that the coaching staff is unable to perform at a high level in taking that talent and converting it into success on the field? Depending on your answer to that, you will probably pick their win total differently. They basically lost every productive piece on the entire defense from last year -- entire DL, 2 of 3 LB, 2 biggest contributors in the secondary. Ryan Finley is great, but they only won 8 games last year and he had Hines and Samuels to do everything, as well as a better offensive line. Now I'm supposed to believe they win 8 again? I understand that the schedule is easier and that's honestly why this number is 7.5 and not 6.5 or 6 -- they avoid Miami and VT out of the Coastal, although I guess VT isn't even an avoid right now, and will start 2-0 with a home game against Virginia later in the year -- so you're getting 3 out of the gate. But find me 5 more. I don't think they're ever there, and the circumstances to play the teams they're playing did not work in their favor here. They play UNC at their place the final week when all the suspended players are back and the team will, on average, be playing much better. They play Syracuse at Syracuse, which is almost a night-day difference when you look at some of the splits and results. This (to me) is a situation where a truly elite quarterback is masking all of the other really problematic things on a team, including a coaching staff that just botched a legitimate chance for the most successful team in the program's history.