No. 2 Notre Dame Fighting Irish at No. 3 Clemson Tigers Betting Preview

Saturday, December 19, 2020, Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, North Carolina, 4 p.m. ET

Fighting Irish at Tigers Betting Preview: Fighting Irish  (+10.5), Tigers (-10.5)

Fighting Irish

The possibility exists that both No. 2 Notre Dame and No. 3 Clemson could both make the College Football Playoff regardless of the outcome of Saturday’s Atlantic Coast Conference Championship Game, but neither wants to take that chance.

“We’ve got our hands full focusing on this ACC Championship,” Fighting Irish coach  Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said. “The playoffs take care of themselves. We can’t control that.

“Do our players understand that if they win they’re going to be in the Playoffs? Sure, they get that. But we’re wired to think we’re going to win the football game.”

The Fighting Irish (10-0, 9-0 ACC) found considerable success with the run against Clemson the first time around, amassing 208 yards, including 140 yards and three touchdowns from Kyren Williams.

For the season, the Irish have averaged 235 yards a game rushing with Williams accounting for 101.1 of that total.

Quarterback Ian Book is next on the list with 46.5 a game rushing to go with his 238.2 passing. Book is an adept scrambler — the Irish have given up only 17 sacks –and has completed 63.3 percent of his passes with 15 going for touchdowns against only two interceptions.

“This kid is a great player,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “He’s got a bit of magic to him, can do it all. He’s the heart and soul — he makes them go. He’s a problem. We didn’t do a very good job against him. For us to win the game, we’ve got to affect him and not let him get comfortable. He’s tough. He’s as good a runner as you’re going to see.”

Book’s top two targets are Javon McKinley (37 catches, 660 yards) and Michael Mayer (30-337). Williams is a factor in the passing game as well. His 24 receptions are third on the team.

Tigers

Clemson is bidding for not only its sixth consecutive ACC title, but its sixth consecutive trip to the playoff as well. The Tigers (9-1, 8-1 ACC) have claimed two national titles in that span.

Their hopes in the rematch with the Irish are buoyed by the return of several key players, including quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Lawrence missed the first Notre Dame game while continuing his recovery protocol from COVID-19.

Freshman D.J. Uiagalelei performed admirably in Lawrence’s stead, but Lawrence’s absence was noticeable at times.

“There are a lot of great players out there, but none like this guy,” Swinney said of Lawrence. “He’s the total package. The guy’s a winner.”

In Lawrence and Notre Dame’s Book, fans will be treated to the winningest quarterbacks in the histories of their storied programs. Lawrence is 33-1 in his career as a starter at Clemson. Book is 30-3 at Notre Dame.

Still, the ability to run the ball effectively looms large and may hold the key for both teams in the rematch.

Notre Dame throttled Clemson on Nov. 7, holding the Tigers to a season-low 34 yards rushing and standout running Travis Etienne to a career-low 28 yards.

“Bottom line, we’ve got to play better up front,” Swinney said.

Etienne, the ACC’s all-time career rushing leader, presents multiple challenges. He already has caught 41 passes for 512 yards this season.

“You have to know where he is,” Notre Dame’s Kelly said. “It’s a team defensive effort and we’re going to have to have a similar one. He’s an explosive player that we have such great respect for. When you put your game plan together, the first thing you think of is how you’re going to slow him down.”

Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables is hopeful that top linebacker James Skalski, who missed the first game against the Fighting Irish, will be back in the lineup as well as top defensive tackle Tyler Davis.

Skalski has been dealing with a groin injury that has limited him to seven games. His primary backup, Jake Venables (son of the defensive coordinator) is out with a broken arm. Davis has been limited to just five games after injuring his knee in the opener and later injuring his ankle.

Fighting Irish at Tigers  Betting Pick for December 19, 2020

The Irish won the regular-season meeting 47-40 in two overtimes, but the Tigers were without Lawrence. Still, Lawrence’s backup, Uiagaleilei, passed for 439 yards and two touchdowns in that game, but the Tigers gave up 310 passing yards to Book and 140 on the ground to Williams as the Irish outgained the Tigers 518-473 in total offense.

Fighting Irish at Tigers Betting Pick:

 Tigrers 38, Fighting Irish 28

Fighting Irish at Tigers Best Bet for December 19, 2020

The two teams ended up with 87 combined points in double-overtime in the first meeting after playing to a 33-33 tie at the end of regulation. The Irish have scored at least 45 points in three of their last four games and four of their last six while the Tigers have had at least 40 points in eight games.

Fighting Irish at Tigers Best Bet: OVER 60.5

OddsUSA Top Five Prop Bets For The ACC Championship Game

When the college football season began, it looked like it would be just another year for the Clemson Tigers. They were one of the national championship favorites, and everyone expected them to win the ACC yet again.

Sure, having Notre Dame in the conference this season might throw a wrench in the plan— but they did. The Fighting Irish took down the Tigers earlier this season. If they can do so again this weekend in the ACC Championship game, they will stop Clemson’s ACC title streak at five.

More importantly, they will likely knock the Tigers out of the college football playoffs.

It is not going to be any easier to do the second time around, though. Last time, the Tigers were without their superstar quarterback, Trevor Lawrence, due to COVID-19 protocols. D.J. Uiagalelei did a great job in his place, which has led many to believe Lawrence will do even better this time.

But he might not.

The game is likely going to be a close one once again. That makes the ten-point spread in favor of Clemson appear to be a bit generous. Then again, oddsmakers set the spread how they do for a reason. So, do you take the points or not?

Do you take Notre Dame and the points or roll with Clemson? Maybe what you need to do instead is check out the following prop bets at Bovada for the game. It may be a little easier to decide on some of them.

Clemson Team Total Prop

Over 35.5 (-110)
Under 35.5 (-125)

Clemson has been averaging over 46 points a game this season, making it seem like taking the over is a no-brainer. But the Notre Dame defense is strong. Maybe they can slow the Tigers down this time? Eh—do not bank on it.

This game will be a lot like the one earlier this season—high scoring and a ton of fun to watch. With Trevor Lawrence behind center for Clemson, it would be shocking if the Tigers scored less than 35.5 points in this game.

Take the over.

Best Bet: Clemson OVER 35.5 points (-110)

Notre Dame Team Total Prop

Over 24.5 (EVEN)
Under 24.5 (-130)

The last time these two teams played, Notre Dame rolled up over 500 yards of total offense and 47 points. Their season average has been 37.7 points/game. With people healthy and rested, it is almost hard to see them only scoring 24 points in this game.

But last time, Clemson was missing a few defenders. Was their absence why Notre Dame’s offense played so well? Maybe—but the Notre Dame offense is pretty good as well.

Clemson’s defense being at full strength may slow Notre Dame down some, but the Tigers will not hold them to 24 points. Take the over.

Best Bet: Notre Dame OVER 24.5 points (EVEN)

Clemson – Notre Dame Margin of Victory

Clemson By 1-6 Points (+425)
Notre Dame By 1-6 Points (+650)

Clemson By 7-12 Points (+425)
Notre Dame By 7-12 Points (+1200)

Clemson By 13-18 Points (+425)
Notre Dame By 13-18 Points (+2200)

Clemson By 19-24 Points (+600)
Notre Dame By 19-24 Points (+4000)

Clemson By 25-30 Points (+900)
Notre Dame By 25-30 Points (+6600)

Clemson By 31-36 Points (+1200)
Notre Dame By 31-36 Points (+10000)

Clemson By 37-42 Points (+2000)
Notre Dame By 37-42 Points (+10000)

Clemson By 43 Or More Points (+2000)
Notre Dame By 43 Or More Points (+12500)

No one is getting blown out in this game, so cross all those winning margins off the list. More than likely, the score is going to be high like it was last time and close.  But the question is whether the final margin will be more or less than a touchdown.

It is not hard to imagine it going either way.

Now, the Clemson faithful will disagree and say the winning margin will be ‘Clemson by 13-18 points.’ It will either be that or take either team to win by 1-6 points.

Best Bet: Clemson by 1-6 points (+425)

Clemson – Notre Dame Points Range

Between 0 And 20 (+8000)
Between 21 And 30 (+3500)
Between 31 And 40 (+1200)
Between 41 And 50 (+500)
Between 51 And 60 (+260)
Between 61 And 70 (+285)
71 And Over (+295)

The first game between the two saw the final score fall under the 71 and over option. If both teams score their season averages, that is where it would fall this time, too. With Trevor Lawrence playing this time, there is little doubt Clemson will struggle to put up points.

With how Notre Dame carved up the Clemson defense the first time, there is no reason to think they will no do well this time. The score for this game will easily get into the 60s, but it would not be shocking to see it get into the 70s or higher this time, too.

Take either ’between 61-70’ or 71 and over.

Best Bet: Between 61-70 points (+285)

Clemson – Notre Dame Race To 35 Points

Notre Dame (+1200)
Clemson (-140)
Neither (+135)

Both teams have excellent offenses, but they also have good defenses. That makes it seem like neither team may reach 35 points.  Trevor Lawrence does give Clemson an understandable edge for this bet. But Ian Book and the Notre Dame offense is no joke, either.

Someone, if not both teams, will score 35 points in this game. If you want to play it safe, take Clemson. But if you are willing to take on the risk for a nice reward, take Notre Dame.

Best Bet: Clemson (-140)

Tuesday College Hoops Best Bets: Back the Illini to Rebound

Well, Monday wasn’t the best way to kick off the college basketball betting week, as yours truly went 0-2 last evening thanks to Marquette shooting the ball like the entire team was on fire like a game of NBA Jam.

Fortunately, the college basketball gods have blessed us with another jam-packed schedule!  Here are the three games I’m eyeing the most this evening.   

#24 Clemson at Virginia Tech

Spread: VA Tech -2
Total: O/U 126.5
Time/TV: 6:30 PM ET, ACC Network

While Clemson faithful may be slightly more attentive to their football team, the basketball side of things has gone tremendously well to open up the 2020 season.  The Tigers currently sit at #24 in the AP Top 25 and have opened the season with a 5-0 record, covering in all five games of the early season.  Their most recent victory was a 64-56 defeat of Alabama, and the Tigers already have notched wins over the likes of Mississippi State, Purdue, and Maryland, giving Clemson a strong non-conference schedule before they jump feet first into ACC play.

Meanwhile, Virginia Tech soared up to #15 in the AP Top 25 thanks in large part to their 81-73 overtime win over #3 Villanova back on November 28th, but last Tuesday they were devoured 75-55 by a rebuilding Penn State team in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.  They’ve since fallen completely out of the rankings and have spent the last week stewing over their poor performance.

Clemson Players to Watch

Unlike their football team, the Clemson basketball team is largely devoid of any star talent.  However, the Tigers present one of the deeper units in the ACC and boast the 2nd best defensive efficiency in all of college basketball.

Clemson is led by the team’s leading scorer, senior big man Aamir Simms (11.6 ppg, 20% 3PM).  No other Clemson player averages double-digits in scoring, but coach Brad Brownell loves to rotate players as a means to keep the defense coming in waves.  The Tigers feature eleven players in total that have logged 10 minutes or more in their first five games, and the team as a whole is holding their opponents to just over 51 points per game on sub 35% shooting. 

If the Hokies had issues with Penn State’s slow tempo and defensive approach, they could be in for a frustrating evening against one of the best defensive teams in all of college basketball.  

Virginia Tech Players to Watch

Unlike their opponents tonight, the Hokies have a trio of players they lean on for most of their offensive production, and while Mike Young’s team will go to their bench, they’re nowhere near as deep as Clemson as a whole. 

However, thanks to the likes of Keve Aluma (15.8 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 42.9% 3PM) and the backcourt tandem of Tyrece Radford (11.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg) and Nahiem Alleyne (11.0 ppg), the Hokies still have plenty of firepower to give any defense trouble, including one as proficient as Clemson’s.  

Clemson-VA Tech Prediction

Following a disappointing showing a week ago, the Hokies hope to bounce back on their home floor against a Clemson team they are 7-1 against in their last eight matchups in Blacksburg.  There’s been another constant in this series and that’s the under.  In the last five games played between Clemson and VA Tech in Blacksburg, the total has gone under in all five matchups.

The Hokies enter tonight’s game with the 343rd overall tempo in the nation.  They play a slow, methodical brand of basketball and when they are not creating easy buckets from their defensive play, they can struggle mightily to put points on the scoreboard.  We got another reminder of this a week ago when the Hokies labored to a 55-point evening.

Conversely, Clemson also plays at a slow pace (312th overall) and defends like nobody else in the ACC outside of Virginia.  This has all the makings of another grind it out, defensive game and I could see either team coming out of this game with the win.  If I were to bet on a side to win, I would slightly favor Clemson, but I believe the under is a much better play tonight so I will go with that.

Prediction: Clemson 60, VA Tech 58
Best Bet:
UNDER 126.5

Minnesota at #13 Illinois

Spread: Illinois -8
Total: O/U 146.5
Time/TV: 7:00 PM ET, ESPN2

Undefeated Minnesota faces its biggest test of the young season when they visit 13th ranked Illinois to kick off the Big Ten Conference schedule for both schools.

The Illini enter tonight’s game with a 4-2 record, with losses coming in the past two weeks to #2 Baylor and a surprising 81-78 upset at the hands of Missouri on Saturday.  Despite their recent setback, however, they remain as one of the bigger contenders in the supremely loaded Big Ten Conference.

Illinois’ opponent for their conference opener is none other than the 6-0 Minnesota Golden Gophers, but before you gravitate over to their sterling record know that Richard Pitino’s team has played such a cupcake schedule it should be sponsored by Betty Crocker. 

The Gophers have played the 258th strongest schedule to date this season and two of their six victories came at the expense of Loyola Marymount.  Minnesota’s best win to date was an 85-80 victory over ACC basement dweller Boston College, and their other victories came against Green Bay, North Dakota, and UMKC.  They’re not exactly entering tonight’s game with the most decorated resume.

Tonight will answer a lot of questions as to what team Pitino has at his disposal in what could be his make or break season with the Gophers.

Minnesota Players to Watch

The unquestioned leader of the Golden Gophers is that of junior guard Marcus Carr, and through the first six games of the season, Carr has looked terrific.  Carr is averaging just under 24 points per game while shooting nearly 40 percent from three-point range.  If the Gophers are to pull the upset tonight, Carr will be a big reason why.

Joining Carr in the backcourt is fellow junior sharpshooter Both Gach (15.3 ppg, 40% 3PM), and 7-footer Liam Robbins gives the Gophers an imposing rim protector down low.   Jamal Mashburn Jr. is the most notable freshman on the roster, but mainly because of his namesake and not for his play thus far.  

While the Gophers aren’t the most talented team in the conference, they certainly have enough to give the elite teams in the conference a run for their money. 

Illinois Players to Watch

The Illini feature one of the best inside-outside duos in the entire country thanks in large part to future NBA’er and Wooden Award candidate Ayo Dosunmu (24.8 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 41% 3PM) and big man Kofi Cockburn (14.0 ppg, 8.8 rpg).  They will be the focal point for Brad Underwood’s attack every night the Illini take the floor, and tonight’s matchup between Dosunmu and Marcus Carr is worth the price of admission on its own (though, thanks to COVID-19 the price of admission is a moot point).

Freshman guard Andre Curbelo is the Illini’s best option off the bench, while freshman Adam Miller is Brad Underwood’s second-best threat from outside as he’s connected on 38% of his three-point shots to start the new season.

Minnesota-Illinois Prediction

While the Gophers are indeed a perfect 6-0 on the season and have covered in all six games, they have feasted on the minnows of the college basketball pond.  Illinois is infinitely better than any of the teams Minnesota has faced to date, and they’re coming off of a frustrating loss to an inferior Missouri opponent just three days ago.

In recent history, Minnesota has struggled against NCAA Tournament caliber competition.  In their last nine games against teams with a winning percentage of .600 or higher, Minnesota is a paltry 1-6-2 ATS.

Marcus Carr will put some points on the scoreboard, but not enough to overcome one of the best duos in all of college basketball.  I like Illinois to bounce back with a double-digit victory and notch their first Big Ten win of the season.

Prediction: Illinois 80, Minnesota 67
Best Bet: Illinois -8

Kansas State at Iowa State

Spread: Iowa State -7.5
Total: O/U 136.5
Time/TV: 9:00 PM ET, ESPNU

It wasn’t that long ago that Kansas State and Iowa State were among the consistent contenders for the Big 12 throne. 

Those days are very clearly in the past this season, however, as Kansas State looks to be one of the worst Power 5 basketball teams in the country, and Iowa State is not incredibly far behind them either.

Kansas State enters tonight’s Big 12 opener with a 2-4 record after they narrowly defeated UW-Milwaukee 76-75 on Friday, but they are 0-5 against the spread and managed to lose by 13 points at home to NAIA member Fort Hays State.

Meanwhile, Iowa State has only played three games to date this season, their most recent showing was a 105-77 thumping at the hands of #3 Iowa on Friday.  Their lone victory of the early season was an 80-63 defeat of Arkansas Pine Bluff (Ranked 350th overall by Ken Pomeroy), with their other loss coming at the hands of South Dakota State on their home floor.

Kansas State Players to Watch

Honestly, Kansas State is so bad we suggest probably just … not watching them.  But if you want a guy to look out for, Wildcats’ leading scorer Mike McGuirl (14.5 ppg, 42.9 3PM) is probably your best bet. 

Iowa State Players to Watch

Steve Prohm is very much on the hot season this season after posting sub 15-win campaigns in two of the last three Iowa State seasons.  The Cyclones were faced with the daunting task of replacing NBA lottery pick Tyrese Haliburton in the lineup and Prohm elected to hit the transfer portal particularly heavily to retool the roster.

With just three games under their belt, one of which coming against a legitimate National Championship contender, the talent has yet to truly gel.  Prohm has also already shown he will not be dipping too deep into his bench, as only two reserves average more than 10 minutes a game (George Conditt IV and Darlinstone Dunbar).

The Cyclones are paced by former Illinois and DePaul product Jalen Coleman-Lands (15.3 ppg, 41.7% 3PM) and former Troy product Javan Johnson (13.7 ppg), while 2019 Penn State transfer Rasir Bolton logs 35 minutes a game while averaging 14.7 points per contest.

Iowa State simply just needs more game action for their talent to come together.  A game against Kansas State could be just the tune-up the Cyclones need to get their season on track for the rest of the conference slate that’s forthcoming.

Kansas State-Iowa State Prediction

Kansas State is one of the worst teams in the country and while Iowa State will likely be at the bottom of the standings with them when the season draws to a close, the talent gaps between even the Cyclones and Wildcats are immense.

Bruce Weber is in for one long season, as Kansas State is only projected to win six games this season by Ken Pomeroy.  One of those six wins is not coming tonight.  Look for the Cyclones to cruise for most of the game before clinging on to the cover late.

Prediction: Iowa State 81, Kansas State 71
Best Bet: Iowa State -7.5

Pittsburgh Panthers at No. 3 Clemson Tigers Betting Preview

Saturday, November 28, 2020, Memorial Stadium, Clemson, South Carolina, 3:30 p.m. ET

Panthers at Tigers Betting Preview: Panthers (+24), Tigers (-24)

Pittsburgh Panthers Betting Preview

The Panthers (5-4, 4-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) have come back to life with the return of quarterback Kenny Pickett following an ankle injury. Pickett is coming off a 404-yard passing game in a 47-14 win against Virginia Tech.

In seven games, five of them Pitt wins, Pickett has completed 63.3 percent of his passes for 286.1 yards a game with 10 touchdowns against four interceptions.

“Everything starts with their quarterback,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “He’s a really good player — a veteran guy, he’s savvy, understands what they’re doing.”

The Panthers have had issues running the ball in averaging only 109.6 yards a game on the ground. But they have been even tougher stopping the run in holding opponents to an average of just 87.3 yards a game rushing.

Clemson has rushed for 150 yards a game and passed for 353.6 even with Trevor Lawrence missing two outings after testing positive for COVID-19. Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi, however, is focused on his own team and what it does, not Clemson.

“You really worry about what we do — not worrying about Clemson and who they are,” Narduzzi said. “It’s about us executing.”

Swinney has respect for Narduzzi’s Panthers. Pitt has posted two straight impressive victories, rolling past Florida State and Virginia Tech by a combined 57 points.

“Pitt’s a good football team,” Swinney said. “A lot of people had them ranked really high early in the season and when you watch them, you’ll see why. They’re 5-4, but they easily are a 7-2, 8-1 team. They had two one-point losses.

“They’re first in the country in tackles for loss, second in the country in sacks. A fun team to watch on tape, to be honest with you, because they play the game the way I think it should be played — physical, tough, great effort, aggressiveness. We know we’ll have our hands full with this group.”

No. 3 Clemson Tigers Betting Preview

Lawrence may finally get back in a game. Clemson’s junior quarterback hasn’t played in more than a month said this week he is eager to return against Pitt after missing two games after testing positive for COVID-19.

He was set to play last week at Florida State, but that game was postponed. Lawrence hasn’t played since an Oct. 24 win against Syracuse.

“I had a really good week of practice and was ready to go,” Lawrence said. “I felt like I was in a good spot. Hopefully, everything goes well this week and we get to play.”

The No. 3 Tigers (7-1, 6-1 ACC) also may welcome back three key defenders who have missed substantial time with injuries. They are linebackers James Skalski and Mike Jones Jr. and All-ACC defensive tackle Tyler Davis.

Clemson is riding a 27-game home winning streak and hasn’t lost at home in 1,477 days. That defeat came 43-42 at the hands of Pitt on Nov. 12, 2016. The Tigers never lost again that season, reeling off five straight victories en route to the national title.

The Tigers’ only defeat this season came in a 47-40 double-overtime loss at Notre Dame on Nov. 7, the last time they got to play.

Narduzzi is perhaps most impressed with Clemson’s balance. The Tigers are one of only two teams to rank among the top 17 nationally in both total offense and total defense.

“Those are two really, really good ratings when you’re both,” Narduzzi said. “A lot of times you see a team that’s got a top-rated offense and maybe not as good of a defense and vice versa, but they’re good at everything they do. We know they’re a talent-rich football team.”

Pitt Panthers at Clemson Tigers Betting Prediction

The Tigers have won 27 consecutive home games, the nation’s longest current such streak, since losing 43-42 to the Panthers in 2016. That was the Panthers’ second win in two meetings with the Tigers after a 34-3 Pitt win in the 1977 Gator Bowl.

The Tigers scored their only win over the Panthers 42-10 in the 2018 ACC title game with Travis Etienne rushing for 136 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries and Trevor Lawrence passing for two touchdowns but only 118 yards.

Panthers at Tigers Betting Pick:

Tigers 45, Panthers 24

Pitt Panthers at Clemson Tigers Best Bet

The Tigers haven’t played since losing at Notre Dame 47-40 while the Panthers have been on an offensive spree their last two outings. They won 41-17 at Florida State and 47-14 at home against Virginia Tech.

Panthers at Tigers Best Bet: OVER 55.5

–Field Level Media

ACC College Basketball 2020-21 Preview

The ACC was well on their way to having one of the most disappointing showings in conference history before the COVID-19 put an end to the college basketball season in the middle of March.

Despite the surprisingly down season from the conference, Duke was still sitting in the top-10, Florida State was emerging as a real threat to make a deep run in the tournament, Louisville was a dangerous team, and Virginia was playing some of its best basketball of the season.

The 2020/21 campaign should have the ACC returning more to the form we’re accustomed to seeing from the basketball power conference, though the league does not have a truly imposing team for all of the country to fear either.

Instead, the ACC is a very balanced conference this season that will have its familiar names at the top of the standings, but when it comes to the rest of the pecking order the conference has the potential to be very competitive and very exciting.

Here’s how the ACC shakes out for the upcoming season.

The Contenders

#4 Virginia Cavaliers (+215 to Win ACC)

Before the 2019/20 college basketball season was called off due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Tony Bennett’s Virginia Cavaliers were quietly playing their best basketball of the season.  They were on an eight-game winning streak and heading into the ACC Tournament before they would defend their title in March.

That of course never got the chance to happen, but Tony Bennett’s team is in perfect position this season to pick up where they left off in March and to be a very serious contender in cutting the nets down all over again. 

The Hoos are widely considered to be the favorite to win the ACC this season, both from pundits and oddsmakers alike and for good reason.  Tony Bennett has compiled quite the group for the 2020/21 campaign. 

A strong returning core became that much better when Bennett added Marquette grad transfer, Sam Hauser, to the team.  Hauser is the ideal stretch four and will dramatically improve the Virginia offense.  Once again the veteran Kihei Clark will run the point, and he is amongst the most efficient point guards in all of college basketball.

Bennett also has a solid incoming recruiting class, headlined by four-star recruit Jabril Abdur-Rahim.  If that name sounds somewhat familiar, it’s probably because he is the son of former NBA star Shareef Abdur-Rahim.

Top to bottom, there is not a more complete team in the ACC than Virginia.  If there is a 1 seed to come out of the ACC this season, it will likely be Bennett’s Cavs that land it.

#9 Duke Blue Devils (+225 to Win ACC)

No one in the ACC has reaped the benefits of the one-and-done era more than Coach K and the Duke Blue Devils.  We’ve seen some of the most highly-decorated recruiting classes in college basketball come through Durham, North Carolina, but the 2020/21 iteration of Duke basketball will look differently than we’ve grown accustomed to over the years.

Before Duke haters rejoice that Coach K doesn’t have a future #1 overall draft pick on his roster, it should be known that he does have a team riddled with five-star talent once again. 

Freshman guards Jeremy Roach and DJ Steward will fill the holes from Tre Jones and Cassius Stanley departing to the NBA, while the front-court will be aided by the additions of five-star forwards Jalen Johnson and Jaemyn Brakefield. 

Duke saw center Vernon Carey depart for the NBA Draft, but also added four-star center Mark Williams and grad transfer Patrick Tape (Columbia) to help fill that void.  In addition to that, the Blue Devils also get Matthew Hurt and Wendell Moore back, so this is going to be a very deep team with no spectacular star that stands out. 

If there’s a potential x-factor to the upcoming season for Duke, however, it’s the fact that this season will be played with no fans at Cameron Indoor Stadium.  If there’s a school in college basketball that has an imposing home-court advantage, it’s Duke.  Does taking that away level the playing field now with other schools who have notoriously struggled playing in that hostile environment?  We’re about to find out.  

#21 Florida State Seminoles (+300 to Win ACC)

Thanks to the sudden stoppage of the 2019/20 season, the Florida State Seminoles are your reigning ACC champions.  Florida State will need to replace the losses of Devin Vassell and Patrick Williams, both of whom were lottery picks in the 2020 NBA Draft. 

Leonard Hamilton has quietly built quite the program in Tallahassee, however, and Florida State may just very well be a basketball school now the way their football program has struggled immensely over the last several seasons.

Hamilton’s program is now in the position to draw in top recruits and did just that when Scottie Barnes signed on to play at Florida State.  The 6’9” five-star prospect became the highest-rated recruit to ever play at Florida State and is a likely high draft pick in the making for the 2021 NBA Draft.  He was also tabbed as the preseason Freshman of the Year in the ACC by coaches and media alike. 

If Barnes plays to his potential, the ‘Noles could soar once more.  Florida State returns three starters including guards M.J. Walker and Anthony Polite.  Sophomore Balsa Koprivica also returns to the team after showing a lot of promise in his freshman season that was cut short with a back injury. 

The Dangerous Sleepers

#16 North Carolina Tar Heels (+650 to Win ACC)

If there was anyone in college basketball not terribly sad to see the season suddenly get canceled days before the bracket was to be announced, it was probably Roy Williams. 

North Carolina began the season ranked in the Top 10, with prized recruit Cole Anthony added to a roster that was expected to take another run at an ACC championship.  Instead, the Tar Heels would be mired by injury and have a disastrous 14-19 season while finishing in a three-way tie for last place in the conference with Pitt and Wake Forest.

Now UNC returns reloaded with the 2nd best-recruiting class in the country and the preseason pick for ACC Player of the Year in Garrison Brooks.  Media members seem to buy into the Tar Heels to bounce back as they’re ranked higher than Florida State in the preseason Top 25 poll.  If the loaded freshman class gels better than it did a year ago, North Carolina could be a potentially dangerous team come March.

Miami Hurricanes (+2000 to Win ACC)

After back-to-back losing seasons in South Beach, Jim Larranaga has quietly assembled a roster of talent that’s capable of giving the contenders in the conference a scare at the top of the standings and to send the Canes back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2018.

Miami boasts one of the best backcourts in the entire country with seniors Chris Lykes and Kameron McGusty.  The Canes depth is where the backcourt gets really fun though as sophomores Isaiah Wong and Harland Beverly, along with standout recruit Earl Timberlake (no relation to Justin) round out Larranaga’s stable of talented guards.

The frontcourt also received a jolt of talent when Cincinnati transfer Nysier Brooks agreed to join the team, giving the Canes one of the best interior defenders in the country.  Brooks should help alleviate the loss of Sam Waardenburg, Miami’s leading rebounder from a year ago, who will miss the season with a foot injury.  

If the Canes can avoid any additional losses to their front-court, and Brooks can step in for Waardenburg, Miami has the potential to be a second-weekend team in the NCAA Tournament when it’s all said and done.

Middle of the Pack

Louisville Cardinals (+1200 to Win ACC)

Louisville is a team with futures odds that have not quite adjusted to the actual state of the team.  Oddsmakers have Chris Mack’s group at 12/1 to win the ACC, but we would consider that to be much too high at the moment.

The Cardinals were already going to face a significant challenge in replacing the talent they were losing, as Mack losing his team’s 4 top scorers from a year ago including the services of Jordan Nwora, who departed for the NBA Draft.

Chris Mack’s answer to fill those voids was to hit the transfer portal, as Charles Mineland (San Francisco) and Carlik Jones (Radford) both made their way over to Louisville in the offseason and to rely on their most experienced returning player, Malik Williams, to be the team anchor. 

Unfortunately for Mack, Mineland already suffered a knee injury and will not be available for at least six weeks and Williams will miss at least 12 weeks with a broken bone in his foot.  He will likely be lost for the season entirely.

That puts the load on the aforementioned Carlik Jones and sophomores David Johnson and Samuell Williamson.  Williamson has freakish potential and could be a high draft pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, but Louisville is dangerously thin everywhere else on the roster. 

Chris Mack is a great coach, but he will need an extra level of wizardry to get Louisville to the top of the conference standings once again.    

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (+3200 to Win ACC)

While North Carolina was the biggest surprise from the ACC a season ago for all the wrong reasons, Georgia Tech was the conference’s biggest surprise for all the right ones.

Josh Pastner’s Yellow Jackets were tabbed to finish 12th in the ACC a season ago by coaches and media alike, and Georgia Tech wound up overachieving en route to finishing 5th in the conference.  Had the season not been canceled, there’s a very good chance Pastner would have at least had his team in the NIT – a great achievement considering where the program was when he took over four years ago.

Now as Pastner enters his fifth season he hopes the experienced backcourt of Jose Alvarado (14.4 ppg) and Mike DeVoe (16.0 ppg, 42.7% 3PM) can get the Jackets back in the conversation for an NCAA Tournament bid. 

If there’s a glaring issue with the Yellow Jackets roster this season it’s the lack of a dependable rim protector, as James Banks graduated from the school.  Banks was an imposing presence down low for the Yellow Jackets and his rebounding and rim protection will be missed this year.  Pastner hopes that 7-footer freshman Saba Gigiberia can fill this void, but it’s a pretty big ask of the youngster.

With that said, Georgia Tech will give a lot of teams fits with their high-scoring backcourt and at least on a game-by-game basis should merit strong consideration in betting on them against the spread.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish (+4000 to Win ACC)

While Duke and North Carolina get the fortunate break of reloading with five-star talent whenever they see fit, Mike Brey and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish have to go the old school route of building a team by recruiting talent that’s looking to stay with the team for at least three years, and ideally for four.

After a 14-win season in 2018, Mike Brey’s Irish finished with a very respectable 20-12 record including an opening-round victory in the ACC Tournament.

That would place this year’s version of the Fighting Irish right around year three of Mike Brey’s plan to get Notre Dame back into the NCAA Tournament, meaning the pressure to take that next step falls on the shoulders of juniors Prentiss Hubb and Dane Goodwin.  The Irish guard tandem will be joined by Stanford transfer Cormac Ryan, giving the Irish a trio of scoring threats from the perimeter.

In the Notre Dame frontcourt, Juwan Durham will give the Irish one of the best rim protectors in the conference, and junior Nate Laszewski will be asked to fill the void left by John Mooney’s departure.  Beyond that, however, Notre Dame has a lot of questions defensively, and that figures to be the biggest issue they will deal with throughout the season.

If Notre Dame can tighten up the defense and their junior class continues to improve, the Irish could be in the bubble conversation, but they look more likely to be a higher scoring team that will have a hard time hanging with the bigger, more athletic teams in the conference.

Syracuse Orange (+5000 to Win ACC)

Jim Boeheim appears to already be 1-0 on the year after beating COVID-19, so that’s a good start to the season for the famed Syracuse coach.

On the actual basketball court, however, Syracuse may face a little more difficulty. 

Syracuse will be a fun team to watch play at least, as Boeheim has two guards that will be encouraged to launch it from three-point range in Joe Girard and Jim’s son Buddy Boeheim.  Marek Dolezaj and Bourama Sidibe also return to Cuse’s starting lineup, with their biggest responsibilities being to play the suffocating trademark 2-3 zone defense on ACC opponents.

Boeheim’s group, however, will be among the youngest in the conference as he will add seven freshmen in total to the team.  How good this Orange team can be will largely come down to how quickly those freshmen can pick up Boeheim’s 2-3 defense. 

NC State Wolf Pack (+8000 to Win ACC)

History tells us that one of the teams in the “middle of the pack” of the ACC will eventually emerge as an NCAA Tournament team.  This season that team could very well be that of Kevin Keatts NC State Wolf Pack.

While Keatts loses the services of dynamic guard Markell Johnson, he fields a team with a lot of experience including his trio of seniors in Devon Daniels, D.J. Funderburk, and Braxton Beverly.  NC State added four-star freshman Cameron Hayes as well as Nebraska transfer Thomas Allen as a means to replace Johnson, but this is a team that has more depth than most of the schools in the ACC and will play a high-tempo brand of basketball that could be very difficult to go against.

If the Pack can successfully find a new point guard to run the offense, this is a very dangerous team lurking in the middle of the conference.

Clemson Tigers (+20000 to Win ACC)

Clemson, believe it or not, actually plays basketball too!  And coach Brad Brownell may have the Tigers’ best recruiting class yet.  Well, in basketball anyway.

Brownell landed a trio of four-star recruits including guard P.J. Hall, forward Olivier Maxence-Prosper, and center Lynn Kidd.  Perhaps the best news of all came when forward Aamir Simms (13.0 ppg, 7.2 rpg) returned to the team after lukewarm interest in the NBA Draft.

Couple all of that with the exciting growth of sophomores Al-Amir Dawes (9.0 ppg) and John Newman III (9.5 ppg) and the Tigers could be a potentially dangerous opponent throughout league play.

It’s unlikely that Clemson has the talent to contend for the ACC crown, but a few upset wins could place the Tigers in the thick of the race for an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament.

The Long Shots

Virginia Tech Hokies (+10000 to Win ACC)

Mike Young’s first season at Virginia Tech after a very successful coaching career at Wofford got off to mixed reviews.  Young inherited a roster that lost a lot of talent from Buzz Williams’ last season with the Hokies and got the Hokies off to a 14-5 start to the season.

Virginia Tech would then go on to finish the year 2-11, and Young’s standout frosh Landers Nolley would transfer to Memphis shortly after the season ended.

That puts the Hokies in a precarious position for the 2020/21 year, and Virginia Tech is expected to finish at the bottom of the conference as a result. 

However, if there are positives to take into the new season for the Hokies it’s that the team returns his top three players in three-pointers made from a season ago, and Young was able to add grad transfers Cartier Diarra (Kansas State) and Cordell Pemsl (Iowa) into the mix.

Best case scenario for the season would be overachieving on the part of this young roster and a run at a possible NIT bid.  In all likelihood though, the Hokies will struggle to hit .500 and be one of the first teams eliminated in the ACC Tournament.

Pittsburgh Panthers (+10000 to Win ACC)

Jeff Capel has Pitt heading in the right direction, but the Panthers are still several pieces away from being a contender in the conference again.

Pitt does return a trio of talented players that showed flashes of playing really good basketball a season ago with Xavier Johnson (11.7 ppg), Justin Champagnie (12.7 ppg), and Au’Diese Toney (9.5 ppg).  Capel was hoping to also have the services of Miami (Ohio) transfer Nike Sibande, but he will not be immediately eligible to play after having his request denied by the NCAA.

If the trio of experienced players can outperform what they did a season ago, Pitt has the potential to at the least be a difficult team to face.  But the Panthers are likely in for another long season as they try to undo the horror that was the Kevin Stallings era.

Boston College Eagles (+30000 to Win ACC)

There’s really nothing to write home about here with Boston College, as in my opinion, they are your likely bet to finish dead last in the conference.

This is likely to be the last season of the Jim Christian coaching experience.  The Eagles will at least have a fun backcourt to pay attention to with Wynston Tabbs returning from injury to join Providence transfer Makai Ashton-Langford, but beyond that, this is a team that will struggle to win double-digit games this season.  They may be a fun team to fade against the spread, however.

Wake Forest Demon Deacons (+50000 to Win ACC)

Wake Forest is going to be a team to reckon with, but probably not until the 2022 season at the earliest.  Danny Manning has been fired and the school made a phenomenal hire when they hired Steve Forbes from East Tennessee State.

Forbes will get the Deacs to play hard and win a few games they probably shouldn’t, but this team can’t be expected to do a whole lot this season, as they don’t return a single player that averaged more than eight points per game.

ACC Projected Order of Finish

  1. Virginia
  2. Duke
  3. Florida State
  4. North Carolina
  5. Miami
  6. Louisville
  7. NC State
  8. Georgia Tech
  9. Syracuse
  10. Clemson
  11. Notre Dame
  12. Virginia Tech
  13. Pittsburgh
  14. Wake Forest
  15. Boston College

No. 4 Clemson Tigers at Florida State Seminoles Betting Preview

Saturday, November 21, 2020, Doak Campbell Stadium, Tallahassee, Florida, noon. ET

Tigers at Seminoles Betting Preview: Tigers (+-34), Seminoles (+34)

Clemson Tigers Betting Preview

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney is preparing his No. 4 Tigers (7-1, 6-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) for the Florida State team that handled North Carolina its only loss of the season, not the bunch that has lost to Louisville, Pittsburgh, and North Carolina State the last three games.

“I know their record is not what they want it to be, but they are improving greatly,” Swinney said. “They are figuring out their personnel. They’ve got a lot of young guys playing and they are competing. Those guys continue to lay it on the line.”

Coming off a bye week following its 47-40 double-overtime loss at Notre Dame on Nov. 7, the Tigers haven’t lost back-to-back games since November 2011.

The loss at Notre Dame ended the Tigers’ 28-game winning streak against ACC opponents, but Swinney said the Tigers are ready for a reset, particularly with standout quarterback Trevor Lawrence back in the fold.

Lawrence missed the Tigers’ last two games after testing positive for COVID-19 but is set to return Saturday.

“He’s chomping at the bit to play,” Swinney said. “He’s Trevor. He’s well-prepared and focused and really locked in. You know what you’re going to get from (No.) 16, there’s no doubt about that.”

Freshman D.J. Uiagalelei played well in Lawrence’s stead, passing for 781 yards and four touchdowns in his two starts, but Lawrence adds another level. It starts with his maturity and confidence.

“He is a special talent,” Norvell said. “He’s a fun player to watch — not only the physical tools, but really the charisma that he brings and the leader that he is.”

Though Lawrence returns, the Tigers still won’t have top linebacker James Skalski for a fourth straight game. He remains out with a groin injury. Swinney is hopeful that multiple players who missed the Notre Dame game may return, including starting defensive tackle Tyler Davis and starting linebacker Mike Jones Jr.

“We had a much-needed break and we took good advantage of it, studying ourselves and getting some guys healthy,” Swinney said, “It has been a weekly challenge, just having consistency and continuity from week to week. The guys are eager to get back going. We’ve got 18 days left in our season. Anything you get after that you’ve got to earn.”

Florida State Seminoles Betting Preview

The Seminoles (2-6, 1-6 ACC) are very much aware of how this series has gone in recent years. Clemson has won five in a row and 10 of the last 15 against the Seminoles, and the last time the Tigers visited Tallahassee, in 2018, they dealt the Seminoles their worst home loss in school history 59-10.

“Our guys, they know the challenge that’s ahead,” first-year Florida State coach Mike Norvell said of his players. “They know the football team that’s coming in here is an exceptional team in all aspects. They’ve got dynamic players all over the field.”

The Seminoles, who have been depleted by the early departures of wide receiver Tamorrion Terry and defensive tackle Marvin Wilson, will counter with sophomore quarterback Jordan Travis, who is a dual-threat player who has had some bright moments.

“He’s a problem,” Swinney said. “We’ve not done a great job of containing the quarterback and getting him on the ground when have opportunities, and this guy is as good as we’re going to see.”

In his four starts, Travis has guided the Seminoles to over 405 yards of total offense three times. He has rushed for at least one touchdown in five consecutive games, the longest such streak in program history. His 88-yard touchdown run against Pitt put him one-up on Charlie Ward and Christian Ponder in the FSU record book.

Defensively, Asante Samuel is fourth in the nation in takeaways with three interceptions and two fumble recoveries. He has been credited with nine passes defended, which ranks seventh nationally.

Tigers at Seminoles Betting Pick

The Tigers have won 11 of the last 17 meetings, including the last five in a row and the last two meetings in Tallahassee. Lawrence was 17 of 25 for 170 yards in Clemson’s 45-14 win last year and was 20 of 37 for 314 yards and four touchdowns in the Tigers’ 59-10 win in 2018, their last meeting in Tallahassee.

Tigers at Seminoles Betting Pick:

Tigers 49, Seminoles 20

Tigers at Seminoles Best Bet

The Tigers have had a week to get over their double-overtime loss at Notre Dame while the Seminoles dropped their third in a row 38-22 last week at North Carolina State. The Seminoles have scored at a 22.0 clip while giving up 36.1 points a game while the Tigers hold a 45.4 to 19.5 scoring advantage over their opponents.

Tigers at Seminoles Best Bet: OVER 66.5

–Field Level Media