Clemson is a huge favorite to capture a 4th straight ACC title in 2018, running the table with relative ease in the regular season before facing Miami as a 4.90-point favorite in the conference championship game.
Yes, the 'Canes have the best shot they have had in years of proving they're back. The Congrove Computer Rankings have Miami marching through the regular season unscathed to set up a showdown between a pair of unbeaten programs in Charlotte on December 1.
The biggest surprises in the computer's forecast are not the first-place divisional picks, but rather who is expected to finish 2nd in each division.
In the Atlantic, it's a Louisville program that no longer has Lamar Jackson at QB, but does have a QB named Pass - as in Jawon Pass. The Cardinals, and that new QB, have the daunting task of opening the season in Orlando against Alabama. And here's another surprise - the computer favors the Tide by just 5.75 points.
In the Coastal, the surprise at second-place is Duke. The program returns 15 starters and has a conference slate that gets a not-as-good-as-usual Virginia Tech at home, while not having to face Florida State or Louisville, or even N.C. State. The Blue Devils' are a 12.02-point underdog at Northwestern on September 8. The only forecasted conference losses are at Miami and Clemson in the month of November.
Perhaps even more surprising than who is picked to finish second is where you'll find Florida State and Virginia Tech. The 'Noles are projected to enjoy a 4-0 start that includes a slim opening day win (-0.47) vs. Virginia Tech in Tallahassee, but are the computer underdog in 7 straight games from September 29 through November 17. Under first-year head coach Willie Taggart, FSU has to travel to Louisville, Miami, N.C. State and Notre Dame.
Meanwhile, Virginia Tech is expected to rebound (somewhat) from that opening-week loss at FSU to stitch together another winning season at 7-5. Considering all the talent the Hokies have lost on both sides of the ball - leading receiver Cam Phillips, both Edmunds brothers, and second-leading rusher Travon McMillian to name just a few - a 7-5 season could be deemed impressive.
There's a lot of bad in the bottom on the conference, but no absolute awful. Syracuse, Virginia and North Carolina are expected to struggle, but the Orange and Cavs are each picked to pocket 4 wins while UNC gets 3.
In the final analysis, no team in the Atlantic should even come close to catching Clemson, and no team in the Coastal looks to be in Miami's neighborhood. The Tigers and Hurricanes are double-digit favorites in 9 games.
Clemson is expected to make another Final Four appearance as a 3-seed, but face Oklahoma as a 1.57-point underdog. In turn, the Sooners are a 0.15-point underdog to Michigan State in the championship game.
*-Tie-breaker: Wake Forest beats Boston College