We’ve already given our final grades to the Atlantic Division teams, now lets check on the Coastal Division.
Duke 10-4 (6-2) Grade : A
2013 will go down as one of Duke’s most successful football seasons ever. After a 58-55 loss to Pitt back in September the Blue Devils rolled off 8 straight wins to win the ACC Coastal Division. David Cutcliffe has done a remarkable at Duke during his tenure turning the Blue Devils into a credible football program.
While they lost the Chick Fil A Bowl to Texas A&M and Johnny Manzeil, their performance in the 52-48 loss earned them respect and final top 25 ranking, which they deserved. Cutcliffe has improved the talent level, but it’s not like the Blue Devils are winning with top 15 classes. They are well coached, play hard, and have a new attitude. You can win at Duke, and this year’s team proved that.
North Carolina 7-6 (4-4) Grade : B
It’s not always how you start, it’s how you finish. If I had given out grades mid-season, UNC would have got an F for that 1-5 start. By the end of the year they were playing as well as anyone in the ACC not named FSU, Clemson or Duke.
We knew there was talent on the team, but it didn’t come together until the 2nd half. Larry Fedora gets a lot of credit for keeping his team together. Then the Tar Heels played extremely well in their in bowl game blowing out Cincinnati. The Tar Heels are already the trendy pick to win next year’s Coastal Division.
Miami 9-4 (5-3) Grade : B-
It was an uneven season for Miami, a 7-0 start gave way to a 2-4 finish. There was the big win over a healthy Florida team early that opened a lot of eyes. The Canes used that to propel them into an eventual top 10 ranking. Yes they were overrated at that time, but it was significant step forward for a program that’s rebuilding.
After Duke Johnson got hurt the Canes really struggled. The 42-24 home loss to a mediocre Virginia Tech team was particularly ugly. The bowl blowout defeat 38-6 to Louisville was really ugly too. Miami simply looked overmatched, and defensively they got worse as the season went on. There were enough positives that I think Miami is headed in the right direction, but there’s still plenty of work to do. The NCAA investigation behind them now is a big load off Miami and head coach Al Golden.
Pittsburgh 7-6 (3-5) Grade : B-
If you’ve been following my grades, it really helped if you won or played well in your bowl game. Pittsburgh defeated MAC Champion Bowling Green 30-27 in the Little Ceasars Pizza Bowl. They went into the game as an underdog. There was a notable win over Duke, and big non-conference win over Notre Dame.
Pittsburgh also got tons of great publicity from their outstanding Defensive Lineman Aaron Donald. Donald cleaned up on several major college football individual awards including the Bronco Nagurski and Outland Trophies. Head coach Paul Chryst and Panther fans have to feel pretty good about their first season in the ACC. The Panthers return young talent on offense in RB James Conner and WR Tyler Boyd for next year too. Not much was expected from Pitt this year and they have quite a few positives to look back on.
Virginia Tech 8-5 (5-3) Grade : C+
Why did I give Virginia Tech a lower grade than a Miami team they beat? For one thing Virginia Tech avoided Florida State which Miami did not, and I also thought the Canes showed improvement over the previous year. Virginia Tech got off to a nice 6-1 start, then things fell apart. The only team they beat with a pulse after October 12th was Miami. They played reasonably well on defense for nearly 3 quarters against UCLA, before the Bruins ran the Hokies out of the Sun Bowl 42-12.
Last year was supposed to be a blip, but this season proved that the Virginia Tech program is stuck in neutral. The offense lacked playmakers, the play calling was predictable and the offensive line was frequently beat upfront. They were the ACC’s dominant team for years, now they’ve gone 2 straight years without winning their division. On the bright side, there does seem to be young talent on the defense which gives hope.
Georgia Tech 7-6 (5-3) Grade : C
Georgia Tech is very similar to Virginia Tech. The program is stuck in neutral. The Yellow Jackets lost 3 of their last 4 including a 25-17 loss to a slightly above average Ole Miss team. The Yellow Jackets are now 1-15 since 2010 against their primary rivals UGA, Miami, Virginia Tech and Clemson. Throw in a 1-5 Bowl record, and you wonder where the progress is in Atlanta.
It certainly wasn’t there this season, and now your starting QB Vad Lee has left the school. There were even rumors Paul Johnson was unhappy at Georgia Tech. He denied them so we’ll take his word on that. Still not good to hear that going into NSD. Tough to be optimistic for a program that’s seems to hanging on by a thread. Next season is very critical for Paul Johnson.
Virginia 2-10 (0-8) Grade : F
I don’t even know what to say about Virginia. They beat BYU which was good, but if you’re Mike London you can’t go 2-10 (0-8) in your 4th season. London seems to be a pretty good recruiter, but on gameday his teams have no identity. Virginia is 2-14 in the ACC the last two years. Cavalier fans deserve much better than what they are getting.