It’s never too soon to start thinking about football season.

Especially the one coming up this fall, with its expanded playoff and the number of “power” conferences shrinking from 5 to 4.

The demise of the Pac-12 has altered the entire landscape of college athletics, including the ACC. But even with the addition of West Coast stragglers Stanford and Cal, along with fellow new member SMU, the league’s early preseason favorites – at least according to FanDuel’s initial win projections for the upcoming season – are the unusual suspects.

The sportsbook has set the over/under for both Florida State and Clemson at 9.5, the highest among the ACC’s 17 teams.

Miami, on the strength of a strong incoming transfer class, is next at 9 wins, followed by Louisville and NC State at 8.5, Virginia Tech, North Carolina and newcomer SMU at 7.5, Syracuse at 7, Duke and Cal at 6.5, Pittsburgh at 5.5, and Georgia Tech at and Boston College at 5. Wake Forest and Virginia at 4.5, and Stanford at 3.5 are the expected bottom feeders.

Keep in mind that these are very early projections and things could change dramatically between now and September because of injury and a still active transfer portal.

But if you’re the type that likes to get in on the action before everybody else, here are some best bets.

Along with a few you probably want to avoid.

Best bets

Virginia Tech (Over 7.5 –144, Under 7.5 +118)

The folks in Vegas loved Florida State in last year’s preseason win projections, setting its number at 10 based on the previous season’s strong finish and the nation’s highest percentage of returning production.

This year’s Hokies have a similar profile.

They won 5 of their last 7 games, with the only losses coming to FSU and Louisville, the ACC’s top 2 teams. They rank No. 1 nationally with 95% of last year’s production back on offense and 86% back on defense – including dynamic dual-threat quarterback Kyron Drones and star edge rusher Antwaun Powell-Ryland.

Coach Brent Pry’s team also has the advantage of a soft nonconference schedule and its toughest ACC game – against Clemson on Nov. 9 – in Blacksburg. And yet, FanDuel has set Tech’s over/under at only 7.5 wins.

None of this is meant to imply that like last year’s Seminoles, the Hokies are set up for an unbeaten championship season. But it sure feels like that 7.5-win number is low.

Florida State (Over 9.5 +120. Under 9.5 –148)

About the only similarities between the Seminoles that got hosed by the College Football Playoff committee last December and the team that takes the field for its 2024 opener against Georgia Tech in Ireland on Aug. 24 are the uniforms they’ll wear and the fact that Mike Norvell will coach them. But that doesn’t mean FSU is primed to take a major step backward.

Norvell has used the transfer portal aggressively to reload a roster decimated by the loss of 10 players chosen in last week’s NFL draft. Among his high-profile pickups are quarterback DJ Uiagalelei from Oregon State, receiver Malik Benson from Alabama, running back Jaylin Lucas from Indiana and edge rusher Marvin Jones Jr. from Georgia.

As for those returning players such as edge rusher Patrick Payton, running back Lawrance Toafili and most of its starting offensive line, there’s an intense motivation to make amends for the disappointing way last season ended and the promise of an automatic bid to the expanded 12-team playoff.

Even with a challenging schedule, it’s hard to imagine FSU not reaching at least the 10-win mark for the 3rd straight year.

Duke (Over 6.5 +112, Under 6.6 –138)

I know Mike Elko has left for Texas A&M. And Riley Leonard is the latest ACC expat quarterback to be lured to South Bend by the shine of the Golden Dome. But new coach Manny Diaz wasn’t left with a bare cupboard, even before bringing in former 4-star Texas transfer Maalik Murphy to play quarterback.

The Blue Devils are also blessed with a bakery full of cupcakes on their nonconference schedule. Win those 1st 4 games – against Elon, Northwestern, UConn and Middle Tennessee – and all they have to do is go 3-5 in the ACC to hit the over.

Worst bets

Miami (Over 9 +128, Under 9 –158)

No ACC tradition has become more time-honored in the 2 decades since Miami joined the league than the overhyping of the Hurricanes heading into every new football season.

It’s like a broken record: This is the year The U gets its swag back. No, this is the year The U gets its swag back. No, THIS is the year The U gets its swag back.

And we’re still waiting.

Who knows? Maybe this is the year it finally happens. FanDuel has certainly set the bar high.

Mario Cristobal has beefed up his roster with an impressive haul of high-profile transfers, including the No. 1-rated quarterback in the portal. But collecting talent is only half the battle. The challenge now is learning when to take a knee and mastering any number of other game-management decisions.

Nine-plus wins is a big ask for a program that has reached double-digits only once as an ACC member. Take the over at your own risk.

North Carolina (Over 7.5 –130, Under 7.5 +110)

The Tar Heels are the ACC’s other “Sleeping Giant” waiting to be awakened. While their projection of 7.5 wins is a much more modest goal than that of rival Miami, it feels like an even bigger hill to climb because of the circumstances involved.

Consider that UNC managed only 8 wins last season with Drake Maye, the No. 3 overall pick in the NFL draft, playing quarterback for it. Maye is gone now. In his place is the duo of Conner Harrell and Texas A&M transfer Max Johnson – 2 guys whose performance this spring has been so spotty that coach Mack Brown has decided to bring back former backup Jacolby Criswell off the portal.

Even if he finds one, he’s going to have to hope that new defensive coordinator Geoff Collins is a miracle worker. Because the unit he’s been hired to coach has been among the ACC’s worst over the past few seasons.

UNC’s schedule is manageable. But its margin for error is slim. And it will only get slimmer if it doesn’t win a tricky opener at Minnesota.

Clemson (Over 9.5 +110, Under 9.5 –130)

This is not to suggest that the Tigers can’t or won’t surpass FanDuel’s 9.5 projection. So please hold off on the angry responses. Dabo Swinney’s team is fully capable of bouncing back from last year’s disappointing 6th-place finish in the ACC and returning to championship contention. There are simply too many variables involved.

Among them are the holes Clemson has to fill on a defense that lost Nate Wiggins, Ruke Orhorhoro, Xavier Thomas, Jeremiah Trotter Jr. and Tyler Davis to the NFL draft and Andrew Mukuba to Texas. There’s also Swinney’s continued reluctance to use the transfer portal, a strategy that puts enormous expectations – and pressure – on true freshmen such as linebacker Sammy Brown and receiver Bryant Wesco.

Then there’s the schedule. The Tigers open against perennial SEC power Georgia at a neutral site, then play their toughest ACC game at Florida State a few weeks later. If they lose both, they’d have to win out the rest of the way with a schedule that includes a trip to Virginia Tech and a rivalry game against South Carolina.

Again, hitting the over is not out of the question. But the smart play is to save your money. Or put it on somebody else.