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.


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)

Syracuse at No. 2 Notre Dame Betting Preview

Saturday, December 5, 2020, Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, Indiana, 2:30 p.m. ET

Orange at Fighting Irish Betting Preview: Orange (+33.5), Fighting Irish (-33.5)

Syracuse Orange Betting Preview

The Orange (1-9, 1-8 Atlantic Coast Conference) have dropped seven games in a row, including a 36-29 defeat last week against North Carolina State. They have allowed 30-plus points in six of the past seven games.

Syracuse quarterback Rex Culpepper will try to move on from an embarrassing gaffe a week ago in which he spiked the ball on fourth-and-goal with five seconds remaining.

“One mistake didn’t win or lose a game,” Orange coach Dino Babers said in defense of his quarterback. “There were other mistakes made during that game, and people need to realize that.”

On the season, Culpepper has thrown for 843 yards with eight touchdowns and seven interceptions.

Running back Sean Tucker leads the Orange with 525 rushing yards and three touchdowns. The top option in the passing game is wide receiver Taj Harris, who has 50 catches for 664 yards and five touchdowns.

The Orange defense has surrendered an average of 31.5 points and 453.5 yards a game with nearly 202 of that total on the ground.

No. 2 Notre Dame Fighting Irish Betting Preview

The No. 2 Fighting Irish (9-0, 8-0 ACC) already have clinched a spot in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game by virtue of a scheduling change this week and likely will face No. 3 Clemson in the Dec. 19 game. The conference announced that the teams will be decided on a nine-game league schedule, and the Irish hold all the potential tiebreakers.

A huge showdown on the horizon could lead the Fighting Irish to overlook this weekend’s matchup against struggling Syracuse, which sits at the bottom of the conference standings. But the Fighting Irish have proved so far that they can avoid letdowns, with seven of their nine victories coming by double digits.

Notre Dame running back Kyren Williams said he never would have expected a ticket to the ACC title game.

“It’s crazy,” said Williams, whose team joined the ACC as a full-time member this year as the COVID-19 pandemic forced the independent school to search for a conference partner. “You come to Notre Dame, and you don’t think that you are going to play in any conference games. But now look, we are in the conference championship for the first time in Notre Dame history and the first time ever in my career.

“This is a goal we as a team have been preaching on since we joined the ACC, that we were going to come in here and we were going to compete for an ACC championship no matter what it was. So I feel like now that we are at that goal — or not yet, because we’ve still got Syracuse — we see that goal in the future that we just can’t forget.

“We can’t forget that we’ve still got to keep working to get to that goal. We haven’t accomplished anything yet.”

Williams leads the Fighting Irish with 901 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns.

A dual threat, quarterback Ian Book has thrown for 2,097 yards, 12 touchdowns and one interception and has rushed for 412 yards and six touchdowns.

Wideout Ben Skowronek has five touchdown catches for the Fighting Irish and tight end Michael Mayer and wide receiver Avery Davis have two touchdown catches apiece.

Orange at Fighting Irish Betting Pick for December 5, 2020

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly is 7-0 versus the Orange. Ian Book was 23 of 37 passing for 292 yards and two touchdowns the last time these two teams met, and the Irish defense was dominant in the 36-3 victory at Yankee Stadium.

The Irish came up with three interceptions and held an Orange offense that was averaging over 44 points and 482 yards a game to just a field goal and 234 yards.

Orange at Fighting Irish Betting Pick:

Fighting Irish 49, Orange 14

Orange at Fighting Irish Best Bet for December 5, 2020

The Irish are coming off an impressive shutdown performance defensively in their 31-17 win at North Carolina last week, shutting out the high-scoring Tar Heels in the second half.

The Irish have scored at least 31 points in each of their last five games. The Orange have topped the 30-point mark only once this season, but just missed a second time in a 36-29 loss to North Carolina State last week.

Orange at Fighting Irish Best Bet: OVER 51.5

–Field Level Media

Black Friday Best Bets: Irish, Heels to Light Up the Scoreboard?

Ah, the day after Thanksgiving, a wonderful day where you can spend the day on the couch feasting on Thanksgiving Day leftovers while avoiding getting stampeded for discounted electronics.

The college football is typically pretty good too, even during the broken year that is 2020.

Friday’s slate boasts nine matchups in all, but we’ve unearthed the three Best Bets of the day.  If you want to make a little extra dough today while trying to get that new PS5, we got you covered.

#2 Notre Dame at #19 North Carolina

Spread: Notre Dame -5.5
Total: O/U 68.5
Time/TV: 3:30 PM ET, ABC

The first CFP ranking is out and the Irish are sitting as the #2 team in the country.  Today, however, Notre Dame faces its biggest road test of the season with a trip to Chapel Hill to meet Mack Brown’s 19th ranked North Carolina Tar Heels.

Let’s get into the nitty-gritty of this matchup. 

The Notre Dame offense has come to life in recent weeks, posting 40+ points in three of the last four games including a wild 47-40 2OT win over Clemson.  QB Ian Book is playing the best football of his collegiate football career and the Irish have put up over 500 yards of offense in their last two games.

Analytics has the Irish as a Top 10 offense.  Old fashioned statistics back up that assessment.  Notre Dame is playing its best football of the season and gets a great matchup today against a North Carolina defense that is giving up over 410 yards of offense per game and nearly six yards per play.

While the ‘Heels defense leaves a lot to be desired, their offense is one of the best in the country.  North Carolina boasts the 4th overall offense in the country, averaging an eye-popping 563 yards per contest and 43 points per game.

To me, this has all the makings of a possible upset and an even more probable shootout.  The recent trends back up the shootout as well as Notre Dame has gone over the total in five of the last six games off a Notre Dame bye week, while UNC is 7-3-1 to the over in their last 11 games as the underdog.

Both defenses could be in for a long day, making that 5.5-point spread a riskier play.  I will avoid picking a side in this contest and root for the scoreboard to light up.  Take the over in this one and don’t look back.

Best Bet: OVER 68.5 (Play up to 69.5)

#15 Oregon at Oregon State

Spread: Oregon -12.5
O/U 66.5
7:30 PM ET, ESPN

The 124th installment of Oregon vs. Oregon State kicks off later this evening from Corvallis with the Ducks looking to improve their CFP standing with another victory.

The rivalry formerly known as the ‘Civil War’ has been dominated by the Ducks over the last decade with Oregon going 9-1 overall in the L10 matchups between these two schools.  Against the spread, however, has been a different story as the two sides have split it right down the middle going 5-5 ATS over the same time frame.

The Ducks are led by sophomore quarterback Tyler Shough this season and Shough has done a great job out of the gates in replacing the likely NFL Rookie of the Year Justin Herbert.  Oregon is averaging just under 500 yards of total offense through their first three games of the season and Shough leads the conference in touchdown passes.  The Ducks are not the same offensive powerhouse that they were under Chip Kelly many years ago, but they’re still a very potent group.

Oregon State, however, has shown to be better than advertised thus far to start the season.  While the Beavs are sitting at 1-2 to start the year, they’ve been competitive in all three contests including a 27-21 loss to Washington that was scheduled at the very last minute due to COVID-19 cancellations.

The Beavers’ focal point on offense comes with running back Jermar Jefferson.  Jefferson averages over 166 yards of total offense per game and has notched five rushing touchdowns.  The Beavers offense as a whole averages about 360 yards of offense, so you can see how much they lean on their junior running back.

Each defense comes into this game showing signs of weakness, most notably Oregon’s rushing defense which has been gouged for nearly 190 yards a game.  

Despite the unorthodox Pac-12 season, this is still a rivalry game and these are still two teams that do not like each other.  Oregon should come away with another win in this series, but I like the Beavers to keep it close by running the ball and keeping the Ducks explosive offense on the sideline.

Best Bet: Oregon State +12.5

Central Michigan at Eastern Michigan

Spread: Central Michigan -7
Total: O/U 59.5
Time/TV: 4:00 PM ET, CBS Sports Network

Of course, I couldn’t resist that sweet, sweet MACtion.

You may have noticed the Tuesday and Wednesday MACtion goodness was absent this week.  Unfortunately, we’re now at the point of the schedule where we will no longer have our mid-week fix of Mid-American Conference football, but Friday MACtion is just as juicy.

Today’s offering is an in-state rivalry amongst Michigan universities when Central Michigan heads to Ypsilanti to meet Eastern Michigan.

Central Michigan is coming off of their first loss of the season, a 52-44 defeat at the hands of Western Michigan, and now looks to keep their MAC West division hopes alive with a road victory today.

Eastern Michigan has been a tough foe for their MAC brethren to face, however.  Take these trends into consideration today:

• EMU is 15-4 ATS after failing to cover in its previous game (EMU did not cover in 45-28 loss to Toledo)
• EMU is 24-8 ATS in their last 32 games overall as an underdog
• EMU is 18-8 ATS the last 26 games against teams with a winning record
• EMU is 19-7 ATS following a straight-up loss in their last 26 games

While Central Michigan has covered the last three match-ups in this series, I still like Eastern Michigan’s chances to keep this game within a touchdown today.  EMU has been miserable in running the football this season (115th overall in the country), but they’ve been respectable throwing the ball (52nd overall) and they face a Chippewas defense that just got lit up in the passing game a little over a week ago.

Look for CMU to win, but EMU to cover in another MAC thriller.  I love the seven here but would buy the hook if you have the opportunity.

Best Bet: Eastern Michigan +7 (Would buy up to +7.5)

OddsUSA NCAAF Best Bet of the Week for Week 13: Notre Dame at UNC

Ian Book has been here before, and he does not want history to repeat itself. During his freshman season in 2017, Notre Dame entered their game against No. 7 Miami ranked No. 3 in the nation. While the Hurricanes were supposed to be tough, the Fighting Irish were supposed to win—but they did not.

Just like that, their national championship dreams came to an end that year.

The situation is a little different this time around. The College Football Playoff Committee just named Notre Dame the No. 2 team in the country, and this time, Book is the starting quarterback. As for their opponent, North Carolina, the Tar Heels are good but not as highly ranked as Miami was (UNC is No. 19).

This could be a trap game for the Fighting Irish, but it could just as easily be nothing more than a stepping stone on their journey to the playoffs.

Spread: Notre Dame -5.0

Moneyline: Notre Dame -195; North Carolina +155

Over/Under: 68.0

*Odds via

Notre Dame Fighting Irish Betting Preview

If Ian Book wanted to make one last-ditch effort to get into the Heisman conversation, this would be the game to do it in. While Notre Dame has a good defense, the North Carolina offense is simply one you hope to slow down as it is too potent to stop it altogether.

Sam Howell is a talented, veteran quarterback with better wide receivers, and he is going to know how to exploit the Notre Dame defense better than Uiagalelei.

Now, the Notre Dame defense did limit Clemson’s run game to just 34 yards, but the secondary got torched by DJ Uiagalelei for 400+ yards and a pair of touchdowns.

That means, to secure a win, the Fighting Irish are going to need Book to put up some big numbers—on the stat sheet and the scoreboard.

With one of the better offensive lines in the country and an excellent group of wide receivers and running backs, that should not be a problem. It helps, of course, that the Tar Heels defense is not very tough; they rarely force turnovers and allow over 30 points a game.

UNC Tar Heels Betting Preview

The Tar Heels came into the season with high expectations but struggled to get on track early on. Consequently, they lost two games they probably should have won. So, more than likely, they are out of the national championship and ACC title pictures.

But with how the offense has looked in the last two games, they could certainly play spoiler to a team with aspirations like Notre Dame.

Howell threw for close to 800 yards and nine touchdowns combined in his last two games… and not at the expense of the run game. Against Wake Forest, they ran for 192 yards, and that was after they gouged the Duke Blue Devils for 338 yards and five touchdowns in the previous week.

However, they may struggle to run the ball against Notre Dame’s run defense. Sam Howell will need to get on the same page with his wide receivers early in the game in order to open up their run game.

Notre Dame at UNC Betting Prediction

Notre Dame’s best defense in this game will be their offense, especially their run game. Why? Because Sam Howell cannot throw touchdowns if he is not on the field. North Carolina’s defense is averaging 151.9 yards a game, so, theoretically, it may not be easy. But the Tar Heels gave up 241 yards to Florida State, 210 to Virginia, and 260 to Virginia Tech.

So, the Fighting Irish will likely try to win this one on the ground where UNC is giving up just 75 yards a game. With the No. 14 rushing attack in the country, there is a good chance they will succeed. North Carolina will stay in the game because of their passing attack, but they will be hard-pressed to win this one. Notre Dame is a complete team while the Tar Heels have too many holes.

Take Notre Dame to win straight up and against the spread. Plus, if you feel like a one-game parlay thanks to these two offenses, you should also hit the over with no problem.

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

NCAAF National Championship Odds for Week 13: Is it Alabama’s to Lose?

Nothing extraordinary happened over the weekend. No contenders lost. A new contender did not emerge. Theoretically, the national championship picture did not change. But it still might have been one of the more impactful weekends of the season.

How so?

Well, Clemson saw their game get postponed at the last minute. Assuming they get to play this week against Pitt, they will have had three weeks off since their last game (the loss to Notre Dame). Trevor Lawrence has not played in over a month.   

Few coaches prepare their teams as well as Dabo Swinney does, but if there happens to be a little rust and the Tigers do not play well… An upset loss at this point will eliminate them from playoff consideration.

Clemson is favored by close to four touchdowns, but this is 2020—crazier things have happened.

But Clemson not playing is far from the most impactful thing that happened over the weekend regarding the national championship picture.

College Football National Championship Odds: There’s A Chink in the Alabama Armor

Clemson’s (+350; odds via DraftKings) long layoff could prove problematic for them. With the loss to Notre Dame, they must run the table to make the playoffs. A loss, whether it is to Notre Dame in the ACC title game, or someone else will eliminate them.

Notre Dame (+1400) was off last weekend, so their outlook has not changed. They might remain in the top four if they lose to Clemson in the ACC title game, but they will be out more than likely.

Alabama (+135) did not face much of a challenge against Kentucky, so we learned nothing new about them. But from what we have seen, teams can score on Alabama. However, the hard part for most teams will be stopping Alabama from scoring.

The most interesting development over the weekend had to be the close call that Ohio State (+225) had. In their first three games, the Buckeyes did not face much of a challenge from anyone. Subsequently, they appeared to be fantastic on both sides of the ball—and nearly impossible to beat.

But then Indiana almost pulled it off by throwing for nearly 500 yards against the Ohio State defense.

Now, the Buckeyes are not going to be facing another good passing team until the playoffs. But if Indiana can decimate their secondary, Clemson and Alabama will be able to do so much more.

Florida (+1000) still belongs in the conversation and looked great in a win over Vanderbilt. But even if they beat Alabama in the SEC title game, they might not get in. Their best hope is to beat Alabama and for Notre Dame to beat Clemson.

That way, Notre Dame moves up to No. 1, but Alabama will not fall out of the top four. But a Clemson loss will knock the Tigers out, which would make room for Florida to move in. If they make it in, they have the kind of offense that could win it all.

Can the Boys from Bryant Make a Bang in the NCAAF National Championship Odds?

However, depending on how the Committee seats Florida and Texas A&M, the Aggies could be the team moving into the top four (+20000). With how well their defense is playing and their run game, they might be able to make things interesting if they make it in.

But they are going to be massive underdogs to whoever they face.

One team that has not been in the national title conversation, and will probably not win it, could impact it. But Northwestern could certainly affect who plays in the title game. With how well their defense is playing, Ohio State will have their hands full in the Big Ten title game.

If Northwestern (+5000) does win the Big Ten, they will probably not make the playoffs. But they will knock Ohio State out of the running—and potentially open a door for Florida or Texas A&M.

So, the teams viewed as contenders going into the weekend still are. But no one really looks as invulnerable as they once did. If any contenders play less than their best the rest of the way, their national championship dreams could end.