2021 College football predictions: ACC contenders, odds, and best bets - check out this +5000 longshot

North Carolina quarterback Sam Howell celebrates with teammates after touchdown in game against Western Carolina
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Ricky Dimon


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Since graduating from Davidson (The College That Stephen Curry Built), I have been writing about sports--just about any and all you can think of!--and coaching tennis in Atlanta, Ga. Beyond the four major sports, I am an avid tennis fan and cover the ATP Tour on a daily basis. If I'm not busy writing, you can generally find me on a tennis court or traveling the world wherever a sporting event takes me.

The college football season will be here before we know it, and hopefully it proves to be a relatively normal one. That wasn’t the case in 2020, when there were conference-only schedules, some teams deciding not to play at all, game cancellations left and right, and little to no fans in attendance. But, hey, at least we had a season!

Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence was one of the leaders of the charge to save college football in 2020. Although it did not result in a Heisman Trophy or another National Championship for the Tigers, they won the ACC again and earned a spot in the College Football Playoff. Lawrence cemented himself as the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft (selected by the Jacksonville Jaguars). With Lawrence and Travis Etienne (also drafted by the Jags) gone, it is a new era at Clemson. Still, head coach Dabo Swinney’s squad is a massive favorite to win the ACC yet again. North Carolina and Miami (FL), however, cannot be entirely discounted.

What will happen in the ACC this coming season? Let’s take a look.

ACC title odds

It seems like a lot of conferences — even more than usual, perhaps — have an overwhelming favorite to win it in 2021. The ACC is certainly no exception. In fact, this conference is home to the biggest favorite of all. A lot of that has to do with Clemson, but even more of it has to do with the unspectacular competition. UNC and Miami are decent, but after that, there is a huge dropoff in talent level. You have to go all the way down to +3300 to find the fourth favorite (Louisville) and to +5000 to reach the fifth choices (Virginia Tech and NC State).

Make sure you also check out our Big Ten and SEC season previews and predictions!

ACC best bet: North Carolina Tar Heels +1000

Needless to say, I’m not touching Clemson at -715; there just isn’t any value at that price. I wouldn’t do it even if Lawrence and everyone else was back; I’m certainly not doing it with Lawrence, Etienne, and several stud defensive players gone.

Because the Tigers are such overwhelming favorites, there is some value on the underdogs—most notably North Carolina. In the second season of head coach Mack Brown’s second stint at Chapel Hill, the Tar Heels went 8-4 and earned an Orange Bowl berth (lost to Texas A&M). Running backs Javonte Williams and Michael Carter have taken their talents to the NFL, but the offense should reload with Sam Howell back under center. Howell, who is one of our best Heisman Trophy bets, threw for 38 touchdowns and 7 interceptions as a freshman and then 30 touchdowns and 7 interceptions as a sophomore.

On defense, pretty much everyone other than linebacker Chazz Surratt is back. Away from Atlantic Division powerhouse Clemson as part of the Coastal, the Heels have a direct path to the ACC title game. They would obviously be underdogs against the Tigers at that point, but it’s not like Brown’s bunch wouldn’t have the talent to compete.

ACC longshot: Virginia Tech Hokies +5000

Virginia Tech Hokies quarterback Braxton Burmeister (3) passes against the Duke Blue Devils in the second half at Wallace Wade Stadium. The Virginia Tech Hokies won 38-31.

CREDIT – Neil Redmond (USA Today)

You really have to look at the Coastal and Coastal only to find a potentially profitable dark horse. Clemson is just too good to like anyone else in the Atlantic. Compiling a better season-long record than the Tigers simply isn’t going to happen; upsetting them in a single game (the ACC Championship) is at least within the realm of possibility.

Virginia Tech also finds itself in the Coastal along with North Carolina and Miami. The Hokies underwhelmed in 2020 to the tune of a 5-6 record, but last year was pretty much a ridiculous one for all teams involved. It should also be noted that three of their setbacks came by 7 points or fewer, including one by 3 points (to a ranked Liberty team) and another by 1 (to Miami). Head coach Justin Fuentes’ passing attack should be strong thanks to QB Braxton Burmeister and pass-catchers Tre Turner, Tayvion Robinson, and James Mitchell. A couple of key transfers will likely have the defense much improved.

Make sure you read our preview for the upcoming PAC 12 season!

At Pickswise we offer free expert College Football Picks and College Football Predictions for all games in the Power Five conferences and the top 25 teams outside of Power five, including our College Football Parlay picks each week.

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