As you may recall from our recent 2023 ACC Preview, we recommended fading both Florida State and Clemson to win the conference and putting the Pittsburgh Panthers in your college football picks instead. That still looks like the right call with Pitt holding steady at +2000 on the NCAAF odds board at Caesars Sportsbook.
But where does that leave Clemson? While they’re not worth backing as +130 ACC title favorites, if you want to bet on the Tigers this offseason, you might find a bargain price for Over 9.5 on the college football futures market for regular-season win totals.
However, as they say, deals like this don’t last long. BetMGM and others have already hiked their totals for Clemson from 9.5 wins to 10; you can still find the Tigers at 9.5 at some top online sportsbooks, as we go to press, although you’ll have to pay a premium on vigorish to bet the Over.
Ten Tiger Triumphs
Clemson and Florida State are basically neck-and-neck to win the ACC because it’s easy to see each team winning 10 games this year. There are no divisions in this conference anymore, so these are the most likely candidates to play in the 2023 ACC Championship Game, having previously been lumped together in the Atlantic Division.
This is part of the reason we’re not recommending either team to win the conference. But the new format has no bearing on the regular-season win totals, and it does look like Clemson is in very good shape to win 10 games this year – enough to make this our official prediction.
The baked-in losses for the 2023 Tigers are their two roughest road games: October 21 versus the Miami Hurricanes (Week 8), and the November 25 season finale versus the South Carolina Gamecocks (Week 13).
Clemson will have home-field advantage when they face Florida State (Week 4) on September 23, and again when Notre Dame (Week 10) comes to town on November 4.
The Tigers should also be reasonably chunky favorites when they host the North Carolina Tar Heels on November 18. Otherwise, this is a cottony-soft schedule for Clemson – par for the course in the ACC, which ranked last among the Power 5 conferences last year in both Simple Rating System and Strength of Schedule at Sports Reference.
It isn’t written in stone that Clemson will lose to South Carolina, either. They were heartbreakingly close to making the College Football Playoff again last year before dropping a 31-30 decision to the Gamecocks (+14 away) in Week 13.
Between that gut-punch and their 31-14 loss to the Tennessee Volunteers (+4) at the Orange Bowl, Dabo Swinney knew he needed to upgrade this Tigers program to get them back into title contention. That upgrade starts at quarterback, where Cade Klubnik has taken over full-time for the departed DJ Uiagalelei (now with Oregon State).
Klubnik saw plenty of action last year for Clemson, including at the ACC title game versus North Carolina (+7), where he took over for Uiagalelei after their second offensive series and led the Tigers to a convincing 39-10 victory. There’s some concern that Klubnik isn’t quite ready for prime time given his struggles at the Orange Bowl, but he’s a five-star prospect with the world on a plate.
The thing is, Uiagalelei wasn’t all that bad in 2022 – Clemson’s larger problem was their lack of receiving talent. Simply having WR Adam Randall back and healthy from his torn ACL will change that. But yes, Klubnik should have more success finding these targets in 2023, especially further downfield.
Klubnik also has a new offensive coordinator in Garrett Riley, most recently with the TCU Horned Frogs. Riley is the younger brother of USC Trojans head coach Lincoln Riley, who has guided three quarterbacks (Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray at Oklahoma, and now Caleb Williams at USC) to Heisman Trophy fame. Expect some of that Air Raid magic to rub off on Klubnik this year.
Follow the Leader
Even with these changes, Clemson’s continuity under Swinney is part of their successful blueprint. Klubnik will have the luxury of playing behind one of the strongest offensive lines in the ACC, which brings back guards Marcus Tate and Walker Parks. And versatile First-Team All-American RB Will Shipley will provide the balance this Tigers offense needs to challenge for another national title.
There’s even more continuity on defense, which was easily the better half of Clemson’s game last year.
Putting Over 9.5 in your NCAAF picks is a relatively safe play; Over 10 might get you more betting value if the vigorish is right, but either way, bet accordingly.
NCAAF Pick: Clemson Over 10 Wins (-125) at Caesars Sportsbook