Now that everyone in the ACC has finally played a conference game, I feel like we can makes some knee-jerk reactions to what we've seen. Miami may, in fact, be back (at least to contending for a conference championship), Notre Dame has the pieces to win the ACC in its one year of full membership and the rebuilding effort ahead for Mike Norvell at Florida State is much longer and tougher than maybe even he imagined at the start of the season.
As we enter Week 5, it's important to note that not all records are the alike. While Miami and Pitt both appear to be league title contenders, the proximity of Boston College to Clemson and Notre Dame in the standings is likely going to be short-lived. The same could be said for Louisville who, while 0-2 in league play, is near the bottom of the conference with Florida State and Wake Forest but appears to have the weapons, at least offensively, to climb out of the cellar with some wins in the near future.
Duke, the only team in the ACC at 0-3 overall with all three losses coming in league play, does have plenty of issues to address before the season gets out of hand.
The point is we have some perception alignment issues from small sample sizes that can create advantages in the point spread. The market tends to overreact to the significance of these individual results when we don't have enough data points to form the full picture of a team, and that is an opportunity for us.
So with all that mind, let's take a look at the Week 5 lines in the ACC hoping to get you set with winners for the weekend, with odds provided via William Hill Sportsbook.
Note: Lines involving FCS opponents aren't set until later in the week, so there will be no picks for Campbell at Wake Forest on Friday and Jacksonville State at Florida State on Saturday.
ACC Week 5 odds, picks
NC State at No. 24 Pitt (-14): With a 3-0 record against the spread (or 2-0-1, depending on whether you are counting -2.5 or -3 as the closing number against Louisville), Pitt was bound to get a large number against an NC State team that got run by Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. The Panthers defense is one of the best in the country, devastating opposing offensive lines with pressure against the pass and great fits against the runs with high-level playmakers on the back end that have made opposing quarterbacks pay for mistakes with six interceptions on the year (No. 2 in FBS). I think that group helps power a Pitt win, and several more to come this year, but covering a two-touchdown spread requires a bit more consistency offensively than what the Panthers have shown. Pitt is averaging 4.54 yards per play in two games against FBS opponents, a number that ranks No. 13 among the 15 ACC teams, and has just 10 second-half points combined in those wins against Syracuse and Louisville. With playmakers like Taysir Mack and Jordan Addison, the Panthers are dangerous and capable of hitting big game-changing plays. But for now, those help seal wins rather than pile it on in blowout victories. Pick: NC State +14
No. 12 North Carolina (-13.5) at Boston College: Most players and coaches would much prefer to be playing and not experience the kind of start-and-stop that North Carolina has gotten during this pandemic-impacted season. The Tar Heels haven't played since defeating Syracuse 31-6 on Sept. 12 because of one game getting canceled followed by a scheduled off week. In those two weeks, Boston College kicked off its season with an impressive win against Duke and then a comeback win against Texas State to improve to 2-0 under first-year coach Jeff Hafley. You might think the Eagles have an advantage here with two straight wins of momentum against the Tar Heels' rust, but I think two people established a unique advantage during that time off: offensive coordinator Phil Longo and quarterback Sam Howell. Longo has praised Howell's development in the mental side of the game, and during their time on the sidelines they got to see how Boston College's defense defended two different teams in two very different games. I expect the film sessions between a 20-point win against Duke and a 17-point comeback win against Texas State include plenty of information to use in the gameplan. I'm expecting Howell to have a great game and the Tar Heels can cover this two-score spread. Pick: North Carolina -13.5
Virginia Tech (-10.5) at Duke: Big revenge game factor here for Justin Fuente and the Hokies, who looked awfully motivated already in its romp of the Wolfpack last Saturday. Down 23 players, including starting quarterback Hendon Hooker, and multiple coaches, including defensive coordinator Justin Hamilton, Virginia Tech jumped out to a 17-0 lead early and cruised to a 45-24 win. The offense was clicking behind a line that was getting a great push and rolled up 314 rushing yards at a 7.7 yards per attempt clip. They didn't turn the ball over and avoided special teams errors, looking sharp even when the third straight quarterback Quincy Patterson II had to come in for injured second-string quarterback Braxton Burmeister. The revenge factor comes from Duke's 45-10 win in Blacksburg last year, a late-September result that looked as puzzling as any in the ACC by the end of the season. Duke in 2020, so far, has shown a propensity to turn the ball over (seven turnovers in the loss to Virginia last week) and the inability to establish any consistency in the ground game. I'll admit a flaw in my study because of sample size, but right now, 1-0 Virginia Tech has 0-3 Duke needs. Pick: Virginia Tech -10.5
Virginia at No. 1 Clemson (-28): These two programs haven't met in the regular season since 2013, but did face in each other in last year's ACC Championship Game. The combined score of those two games? Clemson 121, Virginia 27. That's why you see such a massive spread here as the Tigers return from an off week to face the Wahoos off a win in their season opener against Duke. Bronco Mendenhall's squad turned the Blue Devils over seven times in the 38-20 win, and new starting quarterback Brennan Armstrong had a solid performance as he takes over the offense that Bryce Perkins thrived in on the way to that Coastal Division title. Virginia's offensive line showed that it's taken some steps forward, but the change in competition is less of a step and more of a jump up to where Clemson's defensive line is at this point in the season. Armstrong will find it much tougher to run the offense with Bryan Bresee, Myles Murphy and the rest of that Tigers front making their home in the backfield, leaving me to believe Virginia won't be putting too many points on the board -- much like last year's ACC title game. Clemson gets to pick its number in this game, and I think it wins by 30. I don't hate tacking on an under play here either, but be wary of the Tigers getting to 42 on their own and the threat of a backdoor cover from Virginia. Pick: Clemson -28
Last week: 3-3 | 2020 season: 10-9