August will be here by the end of the week, and every ACC team's goal will be the same: Make the inaugural College Football Playoff and win a national championship. Realistically, some teams have better odds than others of achieving that goal.
Florida State, for one, begins its quest to repeat as national champs with a Heisman winner still in tow. Plenty of other teams in the conference have the talent to make the Noles feel the heat as they pursue perfection again, and it's rarely the most cost effective solution to go with the favorite when it comes to Vegas.
Here's a rundown of my odds for each ACC team to go dancing, in the football sense, come December, including the teams I'd put my money on for the most bang for my buck.
|Every ACC Team's Odds to Make College Football Playoff|
This one's pretty clear. Florida State will look to bring home another title to Tallahassee, and the odds seem to be in its favor, as it should be the favorite in each regular-season game this year.
Repeating is a different animal though, and head coach Jimbo Fisher has repeatedly stated, according to 247Sports' Tim Linafelt (subscription required), that the team won't be trying to defend their title but rather pursue another in 2014.
The Seminoles return Jameis Winston, and even a sophomore slump would still make him one of the best quarterbacks in the nation. If he puts up similar numbers to a year ago, he could be walking away with similar hardware in 2014.
Perhaps even more significant in Florida State's chance to repeat is the offensive line, which returns four of five starters. The unit paved the way for a running attack that featured three of the top seven running backs in yards per carry last year, according to cfbstats.com. The line did give up 33 sacks last year, but some of that can be attributed to a quarterback who loves to improvise and throw the ball downfield when things break down.
Don't think the new starters will hurt their team's chance of repeating either says Matt Brown of SportsOnEarth.com:
Fisher has signed five recruiting classes since replacing Bobby Bowden, two of which finished in Rivals.com's top five and none of which finished worse than 10th. Lose a bunch of all-conference players? So what? There are still eight (first-, second- or third-team) returning and plenty more likely on their way to that recognition.
The Noles will undoubtedly be among the most talented teams in the nation this year, and Jimbo Fisher has already proved he can win a championship. What's scarier is that he looks poised this year to do something his predecessor never did: Repeat.
The Best Value
The Miami Hurricanes know a thing or two about recruiting the nation's best talent too, which is why I think they have the best value for making the College Football Playoff at 12-1.
The scenario is easy to envision if Duke Johnson has an even more spectacular season than his first eight games last year when he rushed for 920 yards. If he stays healthy this year, he may very well dethrone Jameis Winston as the ACC Player of the Year.
Johnson has the ability to take over a game, and if he has the endurance to make plays in the fourth quarter, he could lead Miami to even more than a Coastal Division crown.
The brilliance of Johnson is somewhat expected this season though, and to sneak into the playoff the Hurricanes will have to surprise the country with a stout defensive performance in 2014. Much of the fanbase in Coral Gables was hoping head coach Al Golden would replace Mark D'Onofrio at the end of last season, but the defensive coordinator is getting one more shot.
He has plenty of talent to work with as well, with linebacker Denzel Perryman likely being one of the conference's top tacklers and a secondary that returns both Tracy Howard and Deon Bush at corner.
The Canes will have to shore up the front four on defense and find a quarterback if they hope to be legitimate contenders for the playoff this fall, but this team is the definition of dangerous with a wide variety of weapons and talent on the field.
If there's one quality of every successful sleeper team, it's a great coach who can get the entire squad to believe anything is possible. David Cutcliffe is a brilliant coach and a tough motivator, which is the primary reason the Duke Blue Devils are my sleeper team.
It's hard to claim a team coming off a 10-win season is a sleeper team, but that was the first 10-win season in school history and their first appearance in the ACC title game. What's more, the Dukies have the pieces in place to do it again.
They return quarterback Anthony Boone, who may have even more to play for this season, per ESPN's Matt Fortuna:
Don't be surprised if Anthony Boone enters this season with a chip on his shoulder after seeing multiple preseason All-ACC teams list UNC's Marquise Williams ahead of him as the second-team quarterback. Boone took his Blue Devils into Chapel Hill last season and beat Williams and the Tar Heels, and Williams isn't even assured of starting this season.
Boone will have plenty of options to throw to as well, with Jamison Crowder vying to be the conference's top receiver. He'll get help from tight end Braxton Deaver and an offensive line that returns three starters.
In short, the offense shouldn't be a problem for the Blue Devils. If they hope to make a Cinderella run to the College Football Playoff though, they'll need huge seasons from everyone in the talent-laden secondary to cover up an defensive line that only returns tackle Jamal Bruce.
Safety Jeremy Cash will have to at least duplicate his 121-tackle, four-interception season, and linebacker Kelby Brown will have to be a First Team All-ACC performer for Duke to have a shot.
Far-fetched? Maybe. But remember, it could happen.
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