D.J. Uiagalelei

2022 College Football Win Total Projections, Odds & Picks: ACC

In the article below, college football expert Thor Nystrom projects the spread for every game using his ATL system (Adjusted Thor Spread). These spreads are from the perspective of the team in question – i.e., Army is a +2.5 underdog at Coastal Carolina and a -5 favorite hosting UTSA.

Here are his total win projections, odds, and picks for the ACC.

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Clemson Tigers
Thor’s Preseason Power Ranking: 4 out of 131

Away
Home
Day
Spread
Win odds
Georgia Tech
Clemson
Mon, Sep 5
-24.5
1
Furman
Clemson
Sat, Sep 10
-51
1
Louisiana Tech
Clemson
Sat, Sep 17
-35
1
Clemson
Wake Forest
Sat, Sep 24
-15
0.956
North Carolina St.
Clemson
Sat, Oct 1
-10.5
0.86
Clemson
Boston College
Sat, Oct 8
-19.5
1
Clemson
Florida St.
Sat, Oct 15
-8
0.791
Syracuse
Clemson
Sat, Oct 22
-21
1
Clemson
Notre Dame
Sat, Nov 5
-2
0.535
Louisville
Clemson
Sat, Nov 12
-12.5
0.887
Miami (FL)
Clemson
Sat, Nov 19
-9
0.807
South Carolina
Clemson
Sat, Nov 26
-20.5
1

Clemson reached 10 wins for the 11th-consecutive season in 2021 despite ranking No. 112 EPA/pass and No. 117 passing explosion. The Tigers had every opportunity to address their quarterback issue in an offseason that featured unprecedented transfer movement, particularly at the signal-calling position. Instead, HC Dabo Swinney decided to ignore the portal – a longtime philosophy he has quadrupled down on – and roll it back with QB D.J. Uiagalelei, whose struggles derailed the offense last year.

Swinney has one bullet – and one bullet only – if Uiagalelei stinks again: five-star, top-10 overall recruit QB Cade Klubnik. The situation is eerily similar to Trevor Lawrence’s true freshman season when Lawrence signed with a national contender with an established-but-mediocre veteran starting QB in Kelly Bryant. Lawrence wrestled the job away from Bryant by late September. Clemson’s QB situation bears close watching again early this fall. Whoever is behind center is praying for better OL play this fall.

Elsewhere, Clemson is breaking in new coordinators after former OC Tony Eliot and DC Brent Venables left to take HC jobs this offseason. Swinney replaced both with internal options. Clemson had a top-three defense last year despite getting left out to dry by the offense and dealing with injuries. Clemson’s front seven is easily the nation’s best. This defensive line will remind you of your older brother’s title-winning Tigers’ defensive lines. Will this team likewise turn to a freshman QB to spark the offense for a playoff run?

Thor’s projected win total: 10.8
Las Vegas win total: 10.5
Thor’s bet: Pass

I absolutely love the defense – it’s undoubtedly championship caliber. But the quarterback position is a real problem. Uiagalelei has now posted a 14/10 TD/INT ratio over 491 career passing attempts. Kelly Bryant was yanked after a 16/10 TD/INT ratio over 470 attempts. Unless Uiagalelei is magically a different player, or Klubnik is a young Lawrence, this team is just as tragically flawed as last year’s team. That’s still probably good enough to go 10-2, but that’d go under. I have to pass.

Miami Hurricanes
Thor’s Preseason Power Ranking: 9 out of 131

Away
Home
Day
Spread
Win odds
Bethune-Cookman
Miami (FL)
Sat, Sep 3
-45
1
Southern Miss
Miami (FL)
Sat, Sep 10
-27
1
Miami (FL)
Texas A&M
Sat, Sep 17
3.5
0.357
Middle Tennessee
Miami (FL)
Sat, Sep 24
-26
1
North Carolina
Miami (FL)
Sat, Oct 8
-9
0.807
Miami (FL)
Virginia Tech
Sat, Oct 15
-9.5
0.811
Duke
Miami (FL)
Sat, Oct 22
-30.5
1
Miami (FL)
Virginia
Sat, Oct 29
-10.5
0.86
Florida St.
Miami (FL)
Sat, Nov 5
-6.5
0.724
Miami (FL)
Georgia Tech
Sat, Nov 12
-16
0.981
Miami (FL)
Clemson
Sat, Nov 19
9
0.193
Pittsburgh
Miami (FL)
Sat, Nov 26
-5
0.681

When QB1 D’Eriq King got hurt, and QB2 Tyler Van Dyke took over last year, I immediately assumed the HC Manny Diaz era was over. And I was right about that – but very much not in the way I expected to be. Far from the offense devolving into a joke, Van Dyke was a ready-made star who gave it a jolt. Van Dyke’s lost his first two starts to FBS teams by a combined five points. Then he led the Hurricanes to five-of-six wins to close the season. Miami fired Diaz anyway, paving the way for Mario Cristobal’s hiring. Cristobal added former Michigan OC Josh Gattis to call plays.

Gattis should make good use of Van Dyke’s NFL arm. Last year, Van Dyke finished No. 2 in PFF big-time throw rate. And though this is Cristobal’s first Miami team, it will very much be in line with the trench-play ethos we saw at Oregon. The Canes return three starters on the offensive line and have one of the nation’s best sets of offensive tackles. The defensive line isn’t as established, but it was the area Cristobal hit hardest in the transfer portal, signing several high-ceiling candidates for immediate playing time.

Just as Miami’s defensive line expects to take a jump forward from its average play last year, improvement is also expected out of the secondary. Miami added South Beach native CB Tyrique Stevenson in the portal from Georgia. Stevenson, who spent the last two years in the slot, wanted to play his last year at home on the outside. Meanwhile, this is probably the year we’re getting the star-leap out of 2021 five-star S James Williams.

Thor’s projected win total: 9.4
Las Vegas win total: 8.5
Thor’s bet: OVER

Cristobal is set up to win quickly. He’s got the personnel for it, including a round-one QB prospect, good line play and good team speed. The schedule is also manageable. Three cupcakes arrive in the OOC, and my numbers favor Miami by at least five points in seven different conference games.

North Carolina State Wolfpack
Thor’s Preseason Power Ranking: 12 out of 131

Away
Home
Day
Spread
Win odds
North Carolina St.
East Carolina
Sat, Sep 3
-13.5
0.9
Charleston Southern
North Carolina St.
Sat, Sep 10
-44
1
Texas Tech
North Carolina St.
Sat, Sep 17
-14.5
0.949
Connecticut
North Carolina St.
Sat, Sep 24
-38
1
North Carolina St.
Clemson
Sat, Oct 1
10.5
0.14
Florida St.
North Carolina St.
Sat, Oct 8
-6
0.707
North Carolina St.
Syracuse
Sat, Oct 15
-8
0.791
Virginia Tech
North Carolina St.
Thur, Oct 27
-13.5
0.9
Wake Forest
North Carolina St.
Sat, Nov 5
-13
0.893
Boston College
North Carolina St.
Sat, Nov 12
-16.5
0.998
North Carolina St.
Louisville
Sat, Nov 19
-1
0.513
North Carolina St.
North Carolina
Fri, Nov 25
-2.5
0.545

This summer’s sleeper du jour. Coming off a 9-3 season, NC State ranks No. 8 nationally in returning production. The Wolfpack return NFL prospect QB Devin Leary among seven starters on offense, as well as 10 starters on defense. Perhaps because of all the returning talent, the Pack mostly steered clear of the transfer portal. The biggest loss on offense was OT Ikem Ekwonu, and he’s obviously a huge one.

But the other four starters on the offensive line are back (95 career starts), so that unit should be stabilized. Leary takes care of the ball as much as any QB in the nation while still consistently threatening the defense deep. DC Tony Gibson’s 3-3-5 defense does a great job of stifling running games, generating pressure and confusing quarterbacks. With so much experience back, it could match last year’s top-15 SP+ finish.

Thor’s projected win total: 9.3
Las Vegas win total: 8.5
Thor’s bet: OVER

What’s not to like? NC State proved the concept last year, and most of the band is back together. The schedule is manageable. My numbers give NC State roughly an 85% chance of emerging undefeated from its four OOC games. The toughie of in-conference play is the road game at Clemson, but that one isn’t unwinnable. And my numbers project NC State as favorites in the other seven ACC games.

Pittsburgh Panthers
Thor’s Preseason Power Ranking: 19 out of 131

Away
Home
Day
Spread
Win odds
West Virginia
Pittsburgh
Thur, Sep 1
-15
0.956
Tennessee
Pittsburgh
Sat, Sep 10
-1
0.513
Pittsburgh
Western Michigan
Sat, Sep 17
-21.5
1
Rhode Island
Pittsburgh
Sat, Sep 24
-41
1
Georgia Tech
Pittsburgh
Sat, Oct 1
-18
1
Virginia Tech
Pittsburgh
Sat, Oct 8
-11
0.871
Pittsburgh
Louisville
Sat, Oct 22
1
0.488
Pittsburgh
North Carolina
Sat, Oct 29
-1
0.513
Syracuse
Pittsburgh
Sat, Nov 5
-11
0.871
Pittsburgh
Virginia
Sat, Nov 12
-7.5
0.781
Duke
Pittsburgh
Sat, Nov 19
-27.5
1
Pittsburgh
Miami (FL)
Sat, Nov 26
5
0.319

Last year, Pitt went 11-3 and won the ACC title with a Heisman finalist QB and a Biletnikoff-winning WR. But after losing QB Kenny Pickett (and CB Damarri Mathis) to the NFL Draft, WR Jordan Addison to the transfer portal and multiple important assistants to other staffs, Pitt is likely to take a normalizing step backward in 2022. HC Pat Narduzzi is attempting to replace Pickett and Addison with portal adds QB Kedon Slovis (former USC starter) and WR Konata Mumpfield (96th percentile separation rate against single coverage, per PFF).

The Panthers’ passing attack will not only have lesser personnel, but it may struggle acclimating to life without OC Mark Whipple and WR Brennan Marion. Pitt has a deep stable of backs and expects to run more this year to offset losses in the passing game. Last year’s defense ranked No. 2 in sacks per game and No. 5 in EPA/run and returned seven starters, six of whom were all-conference. Last year’s unit finished No. 29 SP+. This year’s looks like top-25 quality.

Thor’s projected win total: 9.3
Las Vegas win total: 8.5
Thor’s bet: Pass

Pitt’s magical 2021 season crossed a talent zenith with an ACC low-point. Pitt’s schedule ranked No. 60 SP+. Though the ACC should be better this year, Pitt ducks Clemson this time around. Pitt doesn’t have that trump-card passing offense anymore, but it shouldn’t fall off as much as expected with a better rushing attack and defense. But even though my numbers make a case for the over, I will pass. Pitt can’t win in the way it won last year, so this is a totally different squad with less overall talent playing in a conference with a ton of parity. I’m unable to pull the trigger.

Louisville Cardinals
Thor’s Preseason Power Ranking: 24 out of 131

Away
Home
Day
Spread
Win odds
Louisville
Syracuse
Sat, Sep 3
-5.5
0.69
Louisville
UCF
Fri, Sep 9
-1
0.513
Florida St.
Louisville
Fri, Sep 16
-2
0.535
South Florida
Louisville
Sat, Sep 24
-21
1
Louisville
Boston College
Sat, Oct 1
-8.5
0.802
Louisville
Virginia
Sat, Oct 8
-6.5
0.724
Pittsburgh
Louisville
Sat, Oct 22
0
0.5
Wake Forest
Louisville
Sat, Oct 29
-9.5
0.811
James Madison
Louisville
Sat, Nov 5
-23
1
Louisville
Clemson
Sat, Nov 12
13
0.107
North Carolina St.
Louisville
Sat, Nov 19
1
0.488
Louisville
Kentucky
Sat, Nov 26
1.5
0.475

Louisville finished 6-7 last year with a top-25 SP+ offense but the No. 64 SP+ defense and No. 79 SP+ special teams. The Cardinals have now had losing seasons in three of the last four years. Multiple factors suggest they’ll get back to their winning ways this year. Firstly, Louisville was better than its record last year, finishing with 7.2 second-order wins (+1.2). And the Cardinals have a ton of experience back, with 14 starters returning, seven on each of side of the ball. Louisville augmented that core by absolutely hammering the portal over the offseason.

The offense will go as far as QB Malik Cunningham can take them. Cunningham’s OL returns four starters and is one of the conference’s best. The RB and WR rooms are both deep, but it would be nice if a star could clearly step forward in each. Scott Satterfield’s most aggressive portal work came in the secondary, where he signed six different players with FBS experience. But Satterfield also won highly-competitive portal battles for DL Jermayne Lole and LBs Momo Sanogo and Nicario Harper in the front seven.

Thor’s projected win total: 7.6
Las Vegas win total: 6.5
Thor’s bet: OVER

Under a new AD and school president, Satterfield is clearly feeling the heat. That became crystal clear with the maniacal way Satterfield attacked the portal. He signed the fifth-most career FBS snaps played among P5 teams. Satterfield will return to stable ground with a strong season, but things could unravel quickly if they start to go the other way. Fortunately for Satterfield, my numbers project Louisville as favorites in the first nine games. And though the Cards are projected ‘dogs in the last three, two of those are essentially pick ‘ems. Vegas doesn’t seem to account for how much talent Louisville picked up in the portal.

Florida State Seminoles
Thor’s Preseason Power Ranking: 28 out of 131

Away
Home
Day
Spread
Win odds
Duquesne
Florida St.
Sat, Aug 27
-40.5
1
Florida St.
LSU
Sun, Sep 4
2
0.465
Florida St.
Louisville
Fri, Sep 16
2
0.465
Boston College
Florida St.
Sat, Sep 24
-13
0.893
Wake Forest
Florida St.
Sat, Oct 1
-10
0.836
Florida St.
North Carolina St.
Sat, Oct 8
6
0.294
Clemson
Florida St.
Sat, Oct 15
8
0.209
Georgia Tech
Florida St.
Sat, Oct 29
-17
1
Florida St.
Miami (FL)
Sat, Nov 5
6.5
0.277
Florida St.
Syracuse
Sat, Nov 12
-7.5
0.781
Louisiana
Florida St.
Sat, Nov 19
-16
0.981
Florida
Florida St.
Fri, Nov 25
0
0.5

FSU hadn’t had a losing season in my lifetime until 2018. That’s also now the last year the Seminoles had a winning season. And while I felt FSU could have reinvigorated the program over the winter by hiring favorite son Deion Sanders, I understand why the Seminoles gave HC Mike Norvell one more shot. Norvell looked to be going the way of Willie Taggart early last season, with a 0-4 start that included a home upset loss to an FCS team. But as the obituaries started to come in, the offense rose from the dead during a torrid 5-3. QB Jordan Travis, previously a run-only “dual-threat” behind a bad offensive line, posted an 11/2 TD/INT ratio during those last eight games.

Remember Norvell’s devastating offenses at Memphis? With the passing threat, it’s close to becoming a reality at FSU: The rushing attack is already on-schedule, as evidenced by FSU ranking No. 4 in explosive runs and No. 6 in red zone TD rate last year. There are also signs that the defense, which returns eight starters as the offense does, is similarly ready for a leap. After coughing up 36.0 PPG in 2020, and 31.75 PPG during the 0-4 start last year, FSU held the final eight opponents to 30 points or less. Norvell also added top-10 overall transfer EDGE Jared Verse (21.5 TFL and 14.5 sacks in 15 games for Albany) to that group.

Thor’s projected win total: 7.7
Las Vegas win total: 6.5
Thor’s bet: OVER

Last year’s team was bad overall, but you could see signs of improvement: The strong finish, the consistently-explosive rushing attack, Travis’ improvement as a passer, the defense’s finish and overall strength against the run (No. 16 EPA/run). This schedule presents the possibility that FSU could finish anywhere from 4-8 to 12-0. I think 8-4 is the most likely outcome.

North Carolina Tar Heels
Thor’s Preseason Power Ranking: 35 out of 131

Away
Home
Day
Spread
Win odds
Florida A&M
North Carolina
Sat, Aug 27
-38
1
North Carolina
Appalachian St.
Sat, Sep 3
-5
0.681
North Carolina
Georgia St.
Sat, Sep 10
-11
0.871
Notre Dame
North Carolina
Sat, Sep 24
5
0.319
Virginia Tech
North Carolina
Sat, Oct 1
-8.5
0.802
North Carolina
Miami (FL)
Sat, Oct 8
9
0.193
North Carolina
Duke
Sat, Oct 15
18.5
0
Pittsburgh
North Carolina
Sat, Oct 29
1
0.488
North Carolina
Virginia
Sat, Nov 5
-4
0.658
North Carolina
Wake Forest
Sat, Nov 12
-5
0.681
Georgia Tech
North Carolina
Sat, Nov 19
-15
0.956
North Carolina St.
North Carolina
Fri, Nov 25
5.5
0.311

The Tar Heels managed to rank No. 84 EPA/run and No. 104 EPA/pass last season with a group that just lost QB Sam Howell, RB Ty Chandler, and two starting OL to the NFL Draft (and a third OL starter who signed as a UDFA). In and of itself, that makes projecting this coming year’s offense (and overall team) difficult. Last year’s team didn’t conform to logic, and only five starters returned. So what do we really know? We don’t know the identity of the starting QB, though UNC has two former hyped recruits jockeying for the job. We know that WR Josh Downs is one of the best in America (No. 19 in PFF grade; 97th percentile separation rate).

UNC’s defense was horrible in every conceivable metric last year. So Brown in essence demoted his co-DCs and brought Gene Chizik and his 4-2-5 back. Chizik told the media this year’s defense will focus on minding gaps and winning upfront more while sending less exotic blitzes. There’s a real shot this leads to enormous improvement. Though UNC stunk on D last year, it had a stockpile of highly-recruited D-linemen and a group of highly-touted defensive backs. The DL didn’t seem to develop in the old system, and last year’s secondary was done in by a combination of injuries, penalties, miscues, and being stranded on islands by the coaching staff.

Thor’s projected win total: 7.0
Las Vegas win total: 7.5
Thor’s bet: UNDER

UNC scheduled a tough four-game OOC slate. Odds are better that the Heels will emerge from that 2-2 or 3-1 than 4-0. The Tar Heels also have a tougher-than-average ACC draw, pulling NC State and Wake Forest from the other side while traveling to Miami. I see a 6-6 or 7-5 season coming.

Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Thor’s Preseason Power Ranking: 49 out of 131

Away
Home
Day
Spread
Win odds
VMI
Wake Forest
Thur, Sep 1
-34
1
Wake Forest
Vanderbilt
Sat, Sep 10
-15
0.956
Liberty
Wake Forest
Sat, Sep 17
-9
0.807
Clemson
Wake Forest
Sat, Sep 24
15
0.044
Wake Forest
Florida St.
Sat, Oct 1
10
0.164
Army
Wake Forest
Sat, Oct 8
-8.5
0.802
Boston College
Wake Forest
Sat, Oct 22
-6
0.707
Wake Forest
Louisville
Sat, Oct 29
9.5
0.189
Wake Forest
North Carolina St.
Sat, Nov 5
13
0.107
North Carolina
Wake Forest
Sat, Nov 12
2
0.465
Syracuse
Wake Forest
Sat, Nov 19
-3
0.594
Wake Forest
Duke
Sat, Nov 26
-13.5
0.9

Everything was set up for another run. Multiple All-American candidates and 11 starters returned from last season’s 11-win breakthrough. They would be joined by standout WR Donavon Greene and LT Je’Vionte’ Nash, returning after missing last season with injury and FCS second-team All-American DT Kobie Turner via the portal. An offense that ranked No. 4 with 41 PPG last season would be terrific again. The defense that ranked No. 88 last and couldn’t stop the run would be improved. If Pitt took a step back as expected and Clemson’s quarterback situation submarined its offense again, Wake had positioned itself to potentially steal the conference.

Then came the news, on Aug. 10, that 4,228-yard QB Sam Hartman would miss the season with a non-football injury. This is a cataclysmic loss. Hartman took 781 of Wake Forest’s 829 passing attempts the last two seasons, being the trigger-man for Wake’s unique slow-mesh RPO offense. Hartman said he’s unlikely to return next year – you’ve probably already seen the last of him at Wake. Mitch Griffis is taking over. We don’t know much about him. Yet, the OL returns four starters plus Nash. The WR corps, headlined by AT Perry, is also one of the nation’s best. Wake’s defense, rotten against the run, had a few things going for it last year: top-five in turnovers generated, top-20 in TFL, and top-45 in EPA/pass. The pass rush is strong, and the corners have coverage chops. If Turner can help turn around the run defense, this unit could take a big step forward.

Thor’s projected win total: 6.7
Las Vegas win total: N/A
Thor’s bet: N/A

Before the Hartman announcement, Wake Forest’s win total number was 8.5 and my projected win total was 8.4. After adjustments to my numbers, the Deacs’ projected win total falls to 6.7. Wake’s win total has been pulled off the board at sportsbooks in (ahem) wake of the news.

Syracuse Orange
Thor’s Preseason Power Ranking: 50 out of 131

Away
Home
Day
Spread
Win odds
Louisville
Syracuse
Sat, Sep 3
5.5
0.311
Syracuse
Connecticut
Sat, Sep 10
-23.5
1
Purdue
Syracuse
Sat, Sep 17
2
0.465
Virginia
Syracuse
Fri, Sep 23
-3.5
0.643
Wagner
Syracuse
Sat, Oct 1
-33
1
North Carolina St.
Syracuse
Sat, Oct 15
8
0.209
Syracuse
Clemson
Sat, Oct 22
21
0
Notre Dame
Syracuse
Sat, Oct 29
10.5
0.14
Syracuse
Pittsburgh
Sat, Nov 5
11
0.129
Florida St.
Syracuse
Sat, Nov 12
5
0.319
Syracuse
Wake Forest
Sat, Nov 19
3
0.406
Boston College
Syracuse
Sat, Nov 26
-5.5
0.69

Can you believe that Dino Babers is already entering year No. 7 at Syracuse? It’s been an odd run. Babers went 10-3 with a bowl win in 2018, and the Orange were preseason top-25 the next summer. But Babers has gone 19-40 in his six other seasons at the school. He likely needs a bowl berth to save himself this season. This one could truly go either way.

On the one hand, Syracuse has 17 returning starters and is one of the most experienced teams in the P5. On the other, the Orange did almost nothing in the transfer portal outside of losing deep-ball maven WR Taj Harris.

Syracuse ranked top-25 EPA/run last year and has all the pieces back to match or improve that finish. But while Babers’ hiring of quick-hit guru OC Robert Anae was an inspired nod to aid the No. 106 EPA/pass attack, QB Garrett Shrader, a big dual-threat with a strong arm and scattershot accuracy, appears to be a poor fit for it. The defense returns all eight projected starters in the LB corps and secondary. Syracuse has one of the best back-halves in the conference. But the three-man front lost all three starters, and the three players projected to replace them average a paltry 250 pounds (30 pounds beneath a typical FBS 3-4 front)

Thor’s projected win total: 5.3
Las Vegas win total: 5
Thor’s bet: Pass

Syracuse is the fascinating proposition of a coach on the hot seat with a high-variance roster getting a high-variance schedule. Syracuse will be heavily-favored in two OOC games. The other 10 games on the schedule all have projected spreads of 11 points or less either way, with six featuring projected spreads under a touchdown. It’s a pass for me.

Virginia Tech Hokies
Thor’s Preseason Power Ranking: 51 out of 131

Away
Home
Day
Spread
Win odds
Virginia Tech
Old Dominion
Fri, Sep 2
-11.5
0.882
Boston College
Virginia Tech
Sat, Sep 10
-5.5
0.69
Wofford
Virginia Tech
Sat, Sep 17
-33
1
West Virginia
Virginia Tech
Thur, Sep 22
-6.5
0.724
Virginia Tech
North Carolina
Sat, Oct 1
-8.5
0.802
Virginia Tech
Pittsburgh
Sat, Oct 8
11
0.129
Miami (FL)
Virginia Tech
Sat, Oct 15
9.5
0.189
Virginia Tech
North Carolina St.
Thur, Oct 27
13.5
0.1
Georgia Tech
Virginia Tech
Sat, Nov 5
-9.5
0.811
Virginia Tech
Duke
Sat, Nov 12
13
0.107
Virginia Tech
Liberty
Sat, Nov 19
-2.5
0.545
Virginia
Virginia Tech
Sat, Nov 26
-3.5
0.643

The Hokies were ready for a reset after an up-and-down six-year marriage with Justin Fuente. They’re going to get one with new HC Brent Pry and a series of portal imports, including QB Grant Wells. New OC Tyler Bowen wants to establish the run and hit play-action shots over the top. Wells has the arm for that, and he generally makes good decisions with the ball. Still, we’ll have to see if Bowen can clean up Wells’ longtime bugaboo of scattershot accuracy.

The Hokies like their offensive line, but the RB and WR rooms look barren after Fuente’s recruiting dried up at the end. The new DC is Chris Marve, installing a traditional 4-3 base. He has seven returning starters going for him. But there’s a lot of work to do: VT finished No. 110 EPA/run and No. 80 EPA/pass last year. The outside corners are solid, but the Hokies have a feeble pass rush, get pushed backward in the run game and have below-average safeties and slot defenders.

Thor’s projected win total: 6.6
Las Vegas win total: 6.5
Thor’s bet: Pass

This is an objectively fair number. It’s fair to have questions about Pry’s first Hokies team, but against this schedule, six or seven wins should be the expectation. Vegas’ number is right in line with mine.

Virginia Cavaliers
Thor’s Preseason Power Ranking: 54 out of 131

Away
Home
Day
Spread
Win odds
Richmond
Virginia
Sat, Sep 3
-32
1
Virginia
Illinois
Sat, Sep 10
-4
0.658
Old Dominion
Virginia
Sat, Sep 17
-15
0.956
Virginia
Syracuse
Fri, Sep 23
3.5
0.357
Virginia
Duke
Sat, Oct 1
-12.5
0.887
Louisville
Virginia
Sat, Oct 8
6
0.294
Virginia
Georgia Tech
Thur, Oct 20
-3.5
0.643
Miami (FL)
Virginia
Sat, Oct 29
10
0.164
North Carolina
Virginia
Sat, Nov 5
3.5
0.357
Pittsburgh
Virginia
Sat, Nov 12
7.5
0.219
Coastal Carolina
Virginia
Sat, Nov 19
-6.5
0.724
Virginia
Virginia Tech
Sat, Nov 26
3
0.406

Bronco Mendenhall surprisingly stepped down after six seasons, leaving Virginia to seven-year Clemson OC Tony Elliott. Elliott’s attacks hummed when he had strong quarterback play. He should have that here with QB Brennan Armstrong, who threw for 4,449 yards and a 31/10 TD/INT rate last season. Not only that, but Virginia returns all three starting WR (while getting potential star WR Laval Davis back from injury). That’s the good stuff. However, there are questions almost everywhere else. UVA ranks No. 123 in returning experience, with only 10 returning starters.

The offense returns four starters, and we’ve already referred to them. The entire starting offensive line is gone, three of them to the portal. Will the new group of unknowns be able to protect Armstrong and provide a push in the running game? The defense was horrific last season, finishing sub-105 in both EPA/run and EPA/pass while ranking No. 126 in havoc rate. Former Air Force DC John Rudzinski was an inspired hire. He’s a creative coach who uses combo fronts and likes to keep five DBs on the field. Does he have enough ingredients to field even a competent unit in 2022?

Thor’s projected win total: 6.7
Las Vegas win total: 7
Thor’s bet: Pass

Passing the ball effectively is the most critical thing a football team can do to increase its odds of winning – and Virginia’s QB and WR rooms are among the best in the nation. But I’m spooked by a new staff taking over a team with a barren offensive line and little talent on defense. If the OL is at least competent, UVA will be in all kinds of fun shoot-outs this fall. If it’s not, year No. 1 could be a nightmare for Elliott. Remember that Armstrong takes lots of hits (fearless runner) and has a history of injuries. If he misses any time, UVA sinks.

Boston College Eagles
Thor’s Preseason Power Ranking: 61 out of 131

Away
Home
Day
Spread
Win odds
Rutgers
Boston College
Sat, Sep 3
-5.5
0.69
Boston College
Virginia Tech
Sat, Sep 10
5.5
0.311
Maine
Boston College
Sat, Sep 17
-29.5
1
Boston College
Florida St.
Sat, Sep 24
13
0.107
Louisville
Boston College
Sat, Oct 1
8.5
0.198
Clemson
Boston College
Sat, Oct 8
18.5
0
Boston College
Wake Forest
Sat, Oct 22
6
0.294
Boston College
Connecticut
Sat, Oct 29
20.5
0
Duke
Boston College
Fri, Nov 4
-16
0.981
Boston College
North Carolina St.
Sat, Nov 12
16.5
0.002
Boston College
Notre Dame
Sat, Nov 19
19
0
Syracuse
Boston College
Sat, Nov 26
0
0.5

High expectations were torpedoed last September when a hand injury knocked QB Phil Jurkovec out for most of the season. Over the past two years, BC is 10-6 when Jurkovec starts and 2-5 when he doesn’t. Jurkovec is back healthy, and he’s joined by star WR Zay Flowers, while the defense brings back eight starters. The huge question on offense is a line that needs to replace all five starters (four left, and the fifth tore his ACL).

The run game finished No. 85 EPA/run last year and probably won’t be better behind the inexperienced line. BC needs to hope that line can hold up in front of Jurkovec. BC’s defense has a great secondary (No. 7 PFF coverage grade last year) and a slightly above-average run defense (No. 52 EPA/run). But it is bereft of playmakers up front (No. 96 pressure rate, No. 101 havoc rate). With most of the same cast of characters back, expect it to be a slightly better version of last year’s incarnation.

Thor’s projected win total: 4.1
Las Vegas win total: 6.5
Thor’s bet: UNDER

There are two clear wins on this schedule, home games against an FCS team and Duke. Outside of that, my numbers favor the Eagles in only one other game – and that’s by less than a TD. What should concern those bullish on BC is my numbers project the Eagles as 13-point or more ‘dogs in five games (16 or more in four). If the Eagles simply lose those five games, they’d have to go 7-0 in the others to go over. I love the under.

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Thor’s Preseason Power Ranking: 80 out of 131

Away
Home
Day
Spread
Win odds
Clemson
Georgia Tech
Mon, Sep 5
25
0
Western Carolina
Georgia Tech
Sat, Sep 10
-26
1
Ole Miss
Georgia Tech
Sat, Sep 17
14
0.076
Georgia Tech
UCF
Sat, Sep 24
14
0.076
Georgia Tech
Pittsburgh
Sat, Oct 1
18
0
Duke
Georgia Tech
Sat, Oct 8
-12
0.885
Virginia
Georgia Tech
Thur, Oct 20
3.5
0.357
Georgia Tech
Florida St.
Sat, Oct 29
17
0
Georgia Tech
Virginia Tech
Sat, Nov 5
9.5
0.189
Miami (FL)
Georgia Tech
Sat, Nov 12
16
0.019
Georgia Tech
North Carolina
Sat, Nov 19
15
0.044
Georgia Tech
Georgia
Sat, Nov 26
32
0

Geoff Collins is on the hot seat after going 9-25 in three years. That seat is about to feel like the sun’s core. Georgia Tech only returns four starters on defense and three on defense. RB Jahmyr Gibbs transferred to Alabama, and last year’s rushing attack was only middle-of-the-pack even with him, QB Jeff Sims has enormous accuracy concerns. The passing attack is toothless because of that, and new OC Chip Long was pushed out at his last two stops. Tulane HC Willie Fritz criticized Long – without using Long’s name – for not adapting his system to the talent on hand and for painfully predictable playcalling. Other than that, everything’s great.

If it’s possible, there are even more concerns on defense. Last year’s group coughed up 455.2 YPG and ranked second-to-last in the nation in EPA/pass. GT was bottom-20 in havoc rate and bottom-10 in third-down rate. Only three starters return (in this case… maybe a good thing?). DC Andrew Thacker likes to send pressure and muck up the box. The only part of his strategy that worked last year was an above-average run defense (No. 47 EPA/run). Collins signed a bunch of transfers to fill roster spots, not many of them decorated.

Thor’s projected win total: 2.6
Las Vegas win total: 3.5
Thor’s bet: UNDER

My numbers support a play on the under, partly due to the circumstances discussed above and in part due to another bear of a schedule. Last year, GT went 3-9 against the nation’s hardest SOS. This year, the Yellow Jackets play Phil Steele’s No. 3 SOS. Not only do I think the under is a strong play in a vacuum, but there’s hidden extra value. Georgia Tech will fire Collins and push for a youth movement if it starts poorly, strengthening the odds of a barren finish.

Duke Blue Devils
Thor’s Preseason Power Ranking: 112 out of 131

Away
Home
Day
Spread
Win odds
Temple
Duke
Fri, Sep 2
-8
0.791
Duke
Northwestern
Sat, Sep 10
12.5
0.113
NC A&T
Duke
Sat, Sep 17
-16.5
0.998
Duke
Kansas
Sat, Sep 24
7
0.248
Virginia
Duke
Sat, Oct 1
12.5
0.113
Duke
Georgia Tech
Sat, Oct 8
12
0.116
North Carolina
Duke
Sat, Oct 15
18.5
0
Duke
Miami (FL)
Sat, Oct 22
30.5
0
Duke
Boston College
Fri, Nov 4
16
0.019
Virginia Tech
Duke
Sat, Nov 12
13
0.107
Duke
Pittsburgh
Sat, Nov 19
27.5
0
Wake Forest
Duke
Sat, Nov 26
13.5
0.1

Duke went to six bowls in seven seasons during David Cutcliffe’s heyday, but the wheels have fallen off with a 6-21 skid since mid-2019. Duke hired Former Texas A&M and Notre Dame DC Mike Elko to fix things. Elko has four starters returning from a decent offensive line that paved the way for a 1,244-yard season from RB Mataeo Durant. The receiving corps is also decent. But Durant must be replaced, along with the portal-defection quarterback.

Duke hired Elko for his defensive prowess, which will be put to the test in year No.  1. Duke finished dead-last nationally in total defense last year. Duke couldn’t stop the run nor the pass, didn’t generate pressure and didn’t take the ball away. The new 4-2-5 has two strong returning starters at LB. Yet, along the line and in the secondary, the Blue Devils have huge questions.

Thor’s projected win total: 2.6
Las Vegas win total: 3
Thor’s bet: UNDER

This is the rare total bet likely to be decided in September – my numbers peg the Blue Devils as underdogs of 12 points or more in the final eight games. I project Duke for 2.15 wins in September. There is that possibility that Duke wins a third, entering October 3-1, needing only one more win to torch under tickets. But my numbers say the Blue Devils have more than a 50% chance of going winless in ACC play. I’m going under.

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Author: Robert Miller