Christian Ponder is plus 1500 at TheGreek.com to win the Heisman.
The Atlantic Coast Conference has gone 1-9 in BCS bowls this past decade. However, the conference is steadily improving in postseason play going from 2-6 in 2007 to 4-6 in ’08 and 3-4 last year.
This year the conference is the strongest it has been in years with five to seven potential Top 25 teams and the four top contenders in the Coastal Division can knock off any team in the country.
The Miami Hurricanes (11/4) are the preseason betting favorites http://www.donbest.com/ncaaf/odds/, but they face a killer schedule that includes no less than eight bowlers in 2010, leaving the door open for Virginia Tech (21/10), North Carolina (6/1) and Georgia Tech (6/1) to finish atop the Coastal.
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Florida State (9/2) has a new head coach in Jimbo Fisher, a much improved defense and one of the most explosive offenses in the country and should run away and hide from the rest of their Atlantic Division rivals.
Here’s a brief look at the ACC, including some betting trends to keep an eye on in 2010.
MIAMI (9-4 SU, 6-6 ATS in 2009)
The Hurricanes were arguably the most talented team in the conference last year and look even stronger in 2010.
If quarterback Jacory Harris can stay healthy, Miami may deliver a few more knockout blows, but he needs to cut down on his interceptions (17 in 2009).
The Hurricanes return eight starters on defense, including Allen Bailey, an All-ACC defensive end who recorded seven sacks last season.
Miami has been a bit of a betting bust recently, especially as favorites. The Hurricanes have failed to cash 13 of their last 20 as home chalk and eight of 12 as road choices. They have also come up short in 21 of 32 ATS versus conference competition.
VIRGINIA TECH (10-3, 7-5-1)
Coach Frank Beamer welcomes back just 12 returning starts and loses 23 lettermen (most in the ACC), yet Virginia Tech remains a legitimate national title contender if it can knock off Boise State in their opener.
The Hokies, who have allowed a nation-low 268 yards per game since 2004, haven’t lost a game by more than 10 points in the last 39 tries.
Virginia Tech, with just five returnees on defense, will be shaky by Beamer standards. The offense should be more than capable of taking up the slack.
A healthy Darren Evans’ power in the backfield combined with Ryan Williams’ speed will make a devastating combination. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor proved he’s not limited to making plays with his feet by leading the conference in pass efficiency last season.
The Hokies have thrived in conference play, grabbing the cheese at a torrid 21-12-1 clip since 2006.
NORTH CAROLINA (8-5, 5-6)
North Carolina has the best defense in the conference last year but only split eight ACC games.
The Tar Heels return 10 starters on offense and nine on a stop unit that has combined for 239 starts and held 13 foes to 94 yards per game below their total offensive average.
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In fact, five all-star defensive candidates spurned the NFL draft to return to Chapel Hill.
But North Carolina’s offense could be a problem again, starting with the quarterback position. Senior T.J. Yates has passed for 5,939 yards in his career, but threw more interceptions (15) than TD passes last season and often overthrew open receivers.
UNC has cashed six of its last eight as home puppies.
GEORGIA TECH (11-3, 8-5)
Georgia Tech will have a tough time defending its ACC title considering it has to play North Carolina, Clemson and Virginia Tech on the road.
The Yellow Jackets have brought in veteran coach Al Groh to shore up a defense that allowed over 25 points per game and almost five yards per rush. Although Groh’s prickliness sometimes rubbed fans the wrong way at Virginia, no one doubts his intelligence or his ability to teach the 3-4.
The offense has no such concerns with Josh Nesbitt back under center. Despite losing Jonathan Dwyer, last season’s second-ranked rushing attack (295 YPG) shouldn’t miss a beat as Roddy Jones (7.7 YPC) and Anthony Allen (26 career TD’s) return to Atlanta.
Georgia Tech has been a bookie-buster the past two seasons, cashing at a torrid 16-8 clip. The Jackets’ have been particularly potent as road short-enders, ‘covering’ seven of their last nine. They have also passed 12 of their last 17 conference tests ATS.
DUKE (5-7, 5-4-1)
David Cutcliffe has accomplished a lot in two seasons as Duke’s football coach.
His nine wins over those two campaigns exceeded the Blue Devils’ total for the previous five years before he arrived.
This year his backfield is a huge question mark. Sophomore quarterback Sean Renfree came off the bench to lead Duke to a come-from-behind win over Army last year, but is still a first-year starter and missed most of spring practice while recovering from a knee injury.
The Blue Devils have their three top rushers returning, but averaged an abysmal 63.5 rushing yards per game last season.
Duke will need to avoid a perpetual season-ending slide that has seen it go 3-37 in each of the final four games of the season since 2000.
The Blue Devils have been a solid investment as road underdogs, grabbing the biscuit at a 14-8 rate over the last four seasons.
VIRGINIA (3-9, 5-5-1)
Rookie coach Mike London faces a rude baptism as he inherits just six starters on each side of the ball.
Senior triggerman Mark Veria needs to pick up the pace considering the Cavaliers offense finished dead last in the ACC in overall yardage in 2009.
London wants to build his offense around a physical running game and will have to count on inexperienced backs to do so. If he can get the ground game going and rely on his special teams, Virginia has a chance to improve on last year’s record.
Cavalier backers figure to be getting plenty of points on the road with games at USC, Georgia Tech, Boston College and Virginia Tech on the menu. Virginia has cashed seven of its past eight as highway pups.
FLORIDA STATE (7-6, 4-8)
Florida State has underachieved the last few years and the Noles’ defense was horrific last season allowing 435 yards per game.
Fisher needs to improve on a recipe that has seen the Seminoles go 16-16 in ACC play over the last four seasons.
Christian Ponder led the loop in total offense in 2009 despite a shoulder injury that ended his campaign after nine games. With nearly his entire starting cast back, the FSU signal-caller should be in the Heisman running.
With five Top 25 foes dotting the schedule, including trips to Oklahoma and Miami, that’s exactly what the Seminoles might need.
Mark Stoops takes over the defense from Mickey Andrews, who produced 19 NFL draft picks in 26 years.
FSU failed to cash in five home games as favorites last year, though it did get the money in four of six as road dogs.
BOSTON COLLEGE (8-5, 6-5-1)
Thanks to a defense that ranked 14th against the run and 19th in total points, Boston College surpassed all expectations with an eight-win season and an Emerald Bowl appearance.
The Eagles won’t catch teams by surprise this time around. Mark Herzlich, the 2008 defensive player of the year, is back after sitting out last season with bone cancer to join ACC defensive rookie of the year Luke Kuechly, who led the conference in tackles per game.
As he looks for an encore, coach Frank Spaziani still has quarterback problems to contend with. Incumbent Dave Shinskie, a 25-year-old sophomore who spent seven years playing minor league baseball, has new competition with the arrival of a pair of freshman challengers.
Boston College draws a favorable schedule with Duke and Virginia out of the Coastal and Virginia Tech coming to Chestnut Hill. If Herzlich is 100 percent healthy this team is a contender for the ACC title.
CLEMSON (9-5, 8-5)
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney has set his sights on the school’s first ACC title since Ken Hatfield’s team won it in 1991.
Swinney, who replaced Tommy Bowden in the seventh game of the 2008 season, came close last year, when the Tigers won the Atlantic Division before losing to Georgia Tech 39-34 in the ACC championship.
Clemson loses nine starters from last year’s 9-5 squad, including All-American running back C.J. Spiller and wide receiver Jacoby Ford.
The Tigers’ defense finished third in the ACC in total defense ((314.3 yards per game) and fourth in scoring defense (20.4 points per game). With six starters returning on that side of the ball, they have a chance to ignite.
Quarterback Kyle Parker won nine games as redshirt freshman, including a Music City Bowl win over Kentucky.
MARYLAND (2-10, 4-6-1)
Despite a scoring and pass defense that was the worst in the conference last year, half of Maryland’s 10 losses were by a meager 3.4 PPG. Thus, there is still some hope in College Park.
Coach Ralph Friedgen has piloted the Terps to six bowl games but produced only two winning seasons in the past six years and has just two years remaining on his cushy contract.
Friedgen expects an upswing with the return of seven starters on offense, including Da ‘Rel Scott, a first-team All-ACC running back in 2008 who was limited to seven starts and 425 yards last year due to a broken wrist.
A mid-season stretch that finds Maryland on the road four of five games will likely decide if these Turtles can sprint to the finish.
The Terrapins are worth a look when they play at Clemson on Oct. 16. Maryland has cashed eight of 10 against the Tigers, including five straight on the highway.
WAKE FOREST (5-7, 5-6)
Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe has to hope that some of his young talent will emerge quickly if the Deacons are going to remain competitive in the Atlantic Division.
The most gaping hole is at quarterback with the departure of Riley Skinner, who holds most of the career records at Wake.
Junior Skylar Jones emerged as the favorite after an impressive spring. Whoever wins the job will need a consistent effort from an offensive line that allowed 28 sacks last year.
Keep in mind that the Deacons had five losses by three points or less and could have easily been a 10-2 team.
Take a chance on Wake Forest as big dogs at Florida State in late September. The Deacons have cashed five of six against the Noles and three straight in Tallahassee.
NC STATE (5-7, 4-6)
North Carolina State was one of just two FBS teams in the nation to improve its numbers on both sides of the ball while declining SU and ATS in 2009.
This year the Wolf Pack has the toughest schedule of any Atlantic teams as they draw North Carolina, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech out of the Coastal.
They have just 12 returning starters and 20 of 49 lettermen. Defensive coordinator Mike Archer will need an influx of new talent and further development of veterans after losing Willie Young and six other starters.
Seven starters return from an offense that ranked fourth in the conference with 30.3 points a game.
North Carolina State has stumbled in seven of its last nine as home favorites, while cashing seven of nine as short-enders at Carter-Finley Stadium.