The ACC Atlantic is a powerful division. It has won the last several ACC football championships. Either Clemson or Florida State has won each of the last six ACC titles dating back to 2011. The last time an ACC Coastal team won the ACC was in 2010, when Virginia Tech beat Florida State in the ACC Championship Game.
The feeling in and around the ACC is that Florida State is likely to displace Clemson in the ACC Atlantic. The Coastal is less certain and more cluttered. The big storyline of the offseason is that the Miami Hurricanes – with a talented and young defense plus added stability in year two of Mark Richt’s coaching tenure – are ready to finally end the school’s 13-year ACC championship drought and 12-year division title drought. Miami has never appeared in the ACC Championship Game, let alone won it, and while the Coastal is very much up for grabs, experts generally do agree that this is Miami’s best chance to win the division since it joined the conference. The Hurricanes, though, are replacing quarterback Brad Kaaya, and must contend with Florida State, an annual opponent on the season schedule. Virginia Tech also loses its starting quarterback, Jerod Evans, but head coach Justin Fuente is a magician in terms of teaching quarterbacks how to run an offense. Evans developed much more rapidly than people expected, so the next man up for the Hokies could be more than enough to lead them past Miami.
Here are more notes on the 2017 Coastal:
North Carolina +1,000
Georgia Tech +500
Virginia Tech +150
Team On The Rise:
The Duke Blue Devils will be better because they couldn’t have been much worse in 2016. Daniel Jones should be a lot better at quarterback after an offseason with head coach David Cutcliffe. He suffered multiple games last season in which he committed large numbers of turnovers. Eliminating those kinds of games should give Duke at least one more win if not two. The Blue Devils were also ripped apart by injuries to their defensive back seven. More stability and less bad luck should put Duke in position to win six games and return to a bowl.
Team In Decline:
The North Carolina Tar Heels lost defensive coordinator Gene Chizik, who kept the defense focused and on task. Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky also leaves, giving North Carolina its least certain quarterback situation in a few years. There are a lot of uncertainties for the program, even though coach Larry Fedora has generally recruited well. This year figures to be a very difficult transitional year, and the improvement of rival North Carolina State makes that game a lot harder to win. It will also be on the road. The ceiling is lower for this team compared to 2016.
Pat Narduzzi of Pittsburgh will probably coach in 2018, but if this season completely gets away from him – meaning no bowl game – he could face a surprising amount of internal pressure which could lead to a panic move by the Pitt administration. Pittsburgh had one of the nation’s best offenses last year. A sharp regression this year with a new offensive coordinator, Shawn Watson, could lead to enough grumbling to give Narduzzi a pink slip. It’s not likely, but it is possible.
The Miami Hurricanes are favored to win the division but we like the Hokies to come through. For starters, this team is entering the season with plenty of momentum. Remember that they nearly beat No. 3 Clemson on December 3rd last season and then shocked Arkansas in the Belk Bowl (they trailed 24-0 at the half and won 35-24). While they have a tough start to this year’s schedule with a neutral site game with West Virginia, they only have one traditional road game in their first five. They have a good chance to start at least 3-1, if not 4-0.
While they do have to go to Miami this year, most of their tough games are at home. They’ll host Clemson and they’ll host North Carolina. Look for them to win the Coastal this year.
Prediction: Virginia Tech to win the ACC Coastal
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