MIAMI GARDENS, FL - JANUARY 04: Sammy Watkins #2 of the Clemson Tigers runs for yards after the catch in the first quarter against the West Virginia Mountaineers during the Discover Orange Bowl at Sun Life Stadium on January 4, 2012 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
To do something of a preview of college football on a country-wide scale, we're going to be looking at win totals (courtesy of Beyond the Bets) and project how I feel about the teams. These win totals are regular season only, and this is meant for recreational purposes only. I am not responsible if you lose your kid's college fund.
Boston College 4.5: Under
BC was one of the most consistent and successful teams in all of college football for the aughts. Then they fired Jeff Jagodzinski after he flirted with the NFL (and won 20 games in his two seasons at BC), and it's been a hilarious downfall to watch since that moment. It's nice when a dumb move is punished by the football gods. Anyway, BC wasn't good last year, doesn't look good this year, and their schedule does them no favors. The only games they're likely to be favored in are against Maine and Army. They don't get the one ACC team they're clearly better than (Duke) and they have what look to be clear nonconference losses against Notre Dame and @Northwestern. 5 wins would be a tall order for a school that has quickly become one of the ACC's bottom dwellers.
Clemson 8.5: Over
Clemson threw a ton of money at Offensive Coordinator Chad Morris to bring back his high octane attack, and with Heisman contenders Sammy Watkins and Tajh Boyd returning, the scoreboard operators in Death Valley will be getting quite the workout this season. The nonconference schedule has some bumps, with Auburn and South Carolina to open and close the season respectively, but they're both winnable, and Clemson will probably be favored in every game except @Florida State. If they can hold serve, they should win 10 or so games.
Duke 4: Under
It's hard to pick any BCS team to win fewer than 4 games, but Duke is one that you can typically mark down for that. The only team remaining on their schedule from last season that they defeated is Florida International, but they're a well coached team that I'm not comfortable saying Duke should beat. Heck, Duke lost to Richmond last season, so I'm not even comfortable saying they should beat North Carolina Central. Their ACC schedule is about as tough as they come (they miss Boston College and Maryland) and they get Stanford to boot. They might not win 2 games.
Florida State 10: Over
11 wins is a hard milestone to hit, even for college football's elite. FSU's defense could be the best in the country next season, and Jimbo Fisher's offense should be very good as well, but picking the over here is basically saying that they're winning the ACC, and at this point I'm not completely convinced they even beat out Clemson for the division title. They get Florida at home, though I have to imagine the Gators will be improved from last season. I'd say the same about Miami as well. But still, looking at all they have returning combined with their schedule it's really hard to see them losing more than a couple games, and worst case you take a push here.
Georgia Tech 7.5: Under
Disclaimer: I hate a BCS conference team running the triple option. I don't know why, I know it's not rational, but it is what it is. Having said that, I see Tech beating a team they shouldn't (as they did with Clemson last season), but they also seem due to drop one to a lesser team, which they did not do last year. I also don't give them much shot at all against Georgia, who is simply too talented, or Virginia Tech, who they get in week 1 and will have had all the time in the world to prepare for Paul Johnson's attack.
Maryland 4: Under
For Maryland to win more than four games, the only scenario that seems likely is: 3-1 nonconference (only losing to West Virginia), beat Boston College, and upset somebody else. The problem with that is that 3-1 nonconference is no gimme: UConn wasn't good last year, but they were definitely better than the Terps, and Temple has suddenly turned into a very solid football program (and one that drubbed UMD 38-7 last year). And that game against BC is a tossup. They may hit 4, but they're not going over. Under is the safe play.
Miami 6: Over
If you expect any improvement at all in year 2 under Al Golden, then there's your 7 wins right off the bat. Perhaps my biggest reason for being optimistic about Miami this season is that all 6 of their losses last season were by 1 score. Nobody was blowing them out, and if the players grow in the system their 2-6 record in 1 score games should move toward .500. I also don't imagine they'll lose to Boston College this year, and wouldn't be shocked at all to see them upset Florida State or Virginia Tech, both home games.
NC State 8: Under
The Wolfpack play 2 FCS teams (South Alabama and The Citadel), UConn, Boston College and Maryland. That right there should be 5 wins. They also have one of the best QB's in the country in Mike Glennon, so winning 3 games in addition to those shouldn't be too much of a stretch. I wouldn't be surprised at all to see NC State start the season 5-0 and ranked pretty high heading into their showdown with FSU. But they're not so good a team that I couldn't see them dropping games against Tennessee and Miami going into that matchup 3-2, losing to FSU and needing to win out to get to 9 wins. 8 seems perfect, in that if it were 7.5 I'd go over, but 9 just seems too high. Not having the Hokies helps though.
North Carolina 7.5: Under
North Carolina is the Cal of the ACC. They always seem to find a way to do less with more. They've had a ton of talent leave for the NFL (20! draft picks since 2008), but never had the wins you'd expect to go along with it. They brought in Larry Fedora to try to turn that around, but I'd bet against it happening in year 1. Their schedule is cake (Elon, @Louisville, East Carolina, Idaho), but 8 wins still seems like a stretch for a perpetually underachieving program.
Virginia 6: Under
People are really high on Mike London after his 8 win season last year, and this isn't necessarily an indictment of him, rather I just think they played a little over their heads last year. The rebuild is underway, but the W/L may take a hit this year. They play both Penn State and TCU non-league, so a 2-2 record there looks likely, and I wouldn't expect them to go 3-0 against FSU, Miami and Georgia Tech this season. I definitely wouldn't bet this, but gun to my head I'd go with the under.
Virginia Tech 9: Over
You'd have to be out of your mind to pick Virginia Tech, who has won 10+ games every year they've been in the ACC, to win fewer than 9. Completely Looney Tunes. Skinny Frank Beamer!
Wake Forest 6: Over
This was probably the hardest pick for me. You could pretty much set Wake's win total at 6 any given year and I would never bet it. The nonconference is a bit easier, trading @Syracuse for Army at home, and getting Vandy at home. I look at their schedule and see 9 winnable games, but none of them really make me feel super confident.