You’ve read my best players in the ACC previews, and you seen @HokieSmash’s panel interviews that prepare and preview the ACC season. Now it’s prediction time. Who’s going to win the Coastal Division? Who’s going to win the Atlantic Division? Let’s start with the Coastal Division.
Miami Hurricanes 9-3 (6-2) – Coastal Winner
The Hurricanes are building. For the first time since they joined the ACC, Miami is moving in the right direction. Al Golden is recruiting well despite the NCAA rulings still hanging over their heads. I love the backfield combination of QB Stephen Morris and RB Duke Johnson. I think Johnson will be a Heisman candidate in 2014.
Will Go 11-1 (7-1) if:
They knock off Florida September 7th. If the Hurricanes win that game, there isn’t a game on their schedule they aren’t capable of winning. Florida will show us where Miami is at. The Florida State and Miami game would be epic, and that would be the Canes only loss.
Will Go 8-4 (5-3) if:
The defense is the mess it was last year. The Hurricanes offense can take them a long way, but only so far. Last year proved the defense could be an absolute liability, giving up more than 30 points 7 times.
Virginia Tech 9-3 (6-2)
I refuse to believe that last year is a downward spiral in Blacksburg. The days of dominating the ACC are over, but Virginia Tech will remain a major player in the ACC. I look for a rebound, because the Hokies can still play some defense.
Will Go 10-2 (7-1) if:
Logan Thomas can ever play to the potential he sometimes shows. Can new OC Scot Loeffler bring out the best of Thomas? We’ll see, but if he can the Hokies could be a very dangerous team.
Will go 8-4 (5-3) if:
The offense resembles anything it was last year. Again this falls on Leoffer… Last season the Hokies looked liked one of the worst coached offensive teams in the country. If you could put Miami’s offense together with the Hokies defense you’d have something.
North Carolina 8-4 (5-3)
Just how good is UNC? Bryn Renner is a solid QB, and good talent dots the roster. Larry Fedora’s offense in his second season should be as dynamic as you’ll see in the ACC.
Will go 10-2 (6-2) if:
UNC wins the close games. Last year the Tar Heels were 9 points from being 11-1. Think about that for a second… There was a 1 point loss to Wake Forest, a 5 point loss at Louisville, and a 3 point loss at Duke. Only Louisville had comparable talent to UNC. You’ll notice under this scenario, I have UNC beating South Carolina. Yes I do think the Tar Heels have shot at winning in Columbia.
Will go 7-5 (4-4) if:
Again the Heels don’t play to their talent level. Looking at the Tar Heels schedule top to bottom only South Carolina and maybe Miami have better talent. For the last several years UNC produced a quite a few NFL players only lose 2 or 3 games a year to teams with inferior talent.
Georgia Tech 7-5 (5-3)
What’s Georgia Tech going to look like with a QB in Vad Lee that can actually throw the football? Tevin Washington was limited athletically at QB last year. Lee has a world of talent, and could be the type quarterback Paul Johnson has been looking for since he arrived in Atlanta. The record may not reflect an improved team, because of the difficult schedule.
Will go 9-3 (6-2) if:
The Defense comes together under new DC Ted Roof. There’s talent on the defense especially in the back 7, and that showed in solid year end of the year performances against Florida State and USC. The Jackets will also need to find a win from one of these 4 teams, Miami, Clemson, BYU, and Georgia.
Will go 5-7 (3-5) if:
The Jackets come out of September with more than 1 loss. Georgia Tech has a really tough schedule. The stretch of Virginia Tech, @Miami, and @BYU is brutal. Then you finish with Clemson and UGA sandwiching a game with Alabama A&M. The Jackets can’t afford to lose 2 of 3 early against Duke, UNC, or Virginia Tech.
Pittsburgh 6-6 (3-5)
It’s Pittsburgh first year in the ACC, how competitive will they be? Going through the top ACC players, we know there is talent on the roster. I like Paul Chryst as head coach, but Pitt is probably a couple of years away from really being an ACC contender.
Will go 7-5 (5-3) if:
Pittsburgh can get to November 5-2. This isn’t out of the question. Other than Florida State and a game at Virginia Tech the schedule is one Pitt can take advantage of. Pittsburgh beat Virginia Tech last year. Games at Duke and Virginia at home are winnable.
Will go 3-9 (2-6) if:
The quarterback situation doesn’t come together. Tom Savage looked like a can’t miss prospect at Rutgers a few years ago. He’s at Pitt now, and may end up being the starting QB. If he or whoever plays QB struggles it could be a long season. The Panthers start the season with the one of the country’s most talented defense’s in Florida State. Oh boy…
Duke 6-6 (2-6)
Can Duke can back to a bowl game for the 2nd straight year? Anthony Boone will take over at QB, but he’ll be learning under David Cutcliffe. If Boone listens he’ll be fine.
Will go 8-4 (4-4) if:
The Blue Devils open the 5-1 season. Do you think that’s impossible? This is Duke’s first 6 games… North Carolina A&T, @Memphis, Georgia Tech, Pittsburgh, Troy, Navy. Does Duke go into any of those games thinking they can’t win? None of those teams can overwhelm Duke in terms of pure talent. I tell you what Georgia Tech and Pitt better be ready when they go to Durham.
Will go 4-8 (2-6) if:
Duke struggles in the non-conference portion of their schedule. You’ve already seen the non-conference schedule from above with North Carolina A&T, Memphis, Troy and Navy. Duke should go 4-0 with those teams, and no worse than 3-1. If Duke is ready to turn the corner, they need to roll through this part of their schedule.
Virginia 4-8 (2-6)
I don’t like the way the Virginia program is trending. Mike London recruits decently but the results aren’t showing up on the field. The ACC Coastal isn’t as top heavy as the Atlantic, but it may be deeper, and Virginia is getting left behind. Honestly, Virginia over scheduled this year opening with BYU and Oregon.
Will go 8-4 (5-3) if:
They can go 4-0 in October.The Cavaliers have a manageable stretch with 3 homes games against Ball State, Duke, and Georgia Tech, and a very winnable road game at Maryland. The opening game against BYU is a must if Virginia wants to go bowling.
Will go 3-9 (1-7) if:
The quarterback position stays as unsettled as it appears. Sounds like Pitt huh? I know London named RS Sophomore David Waterford the number 1 QB going into camp, but that would hardly make me feel easy if I was a Virginia fan. Waterford didn’t play last year, and only completed 40% of his passes the year before in spot duty as a freshman. Where are the wins going to come from in a schedule that features, BYU, Oregon, Clemson, @UNC, @Miami, and Virginia Tech?