CONFERENCE PREVIEWS: The ACC Coastal
The Coastal is peak college football– unpredictability, #GoACC memes, weird teams like Georgia Tech, former powers including Miami and Pitt…just a strange amalgamation of teams.
So much so, that last year was the first year in 11 tries that the Coastal’s representative in the ACC Championship game navigated the regular season unscathed. North Carolina, in winning its first division title, ran roughshod over the rest of the division (and weak crossover opponents).
Don’t expect that to be the norm going forward. The division has four contenders separated only by their crossover schedules (Virginia Tech avoids Florida State and Clemson), and…not much else.
The ACC Coastal
7) Virginia. They hired Bronco Mendenhall, so they’ll take the cake as the dirtiest team in a league full of them. They’ll force a frontrunning team *cough* Miami *cough* into dumb retaliatory penalties and win a game or two they shouldn’t.
Back to Bronco for a second, UVA is set to remain at the bottom of the division because the transition from recruiting the weird BYU bubble to the Mid-Atlantic is a stark one. His early enrollees from this spring:
Studly group, to be sure. True story: the black guy transferred to Northern Illinois during spring ball.
6) Duke. They’re still riding the coattails of a Peach Bowl loss to Johnny Football and David Cutcliffe’s relationship with the Manning brothers. It still…kinda works. I don’t see more than one winnable road game for them (Northwestern, Notre Dame, Louisville, Georgia Tech, Pitt, Miami) nor do I see them holding serve at home vs. Virginia Tech or UNC…so let’s nip that momentum in the bud, finally.
5) Miami. Everyone’s darling to win the division, I’m breaking stride and thinking they finish behind one of the non-contenders (Georgia Tech). ACC home games vs. FSU, UNC, and Pitt are no joke, and they don’t have a homefield advantage to speak of, anyway. Richt with less of a talent advantage will lose more games than we’re used to him losing.
4) Georgia Tech. Could win the division a la 2014, could tank again a la 2015, either way Paul Johnson is saved again only by his FULLY GUARANTEED BUYOUT.
3) Virginia Tech. And so goes the theme of this division. They could win it, or Bud Foster could decide he doesn’t like working for Justin Fuente (unlikely, Fuente is apparently a helluva dude) and blow the whole thing up. Basically, it comes down to JC transfer Jerod Evans doing Cam Newtonish things.
2) North Carolina. I’m too close to this situation, obviously, but a 2-3 start with losses to Georgia, Pitt, and Florida State and the Heels are in trouble. Hell, their next two after that are VT and at Miami. Cautionary pessimism here.
1)Pitt. Yes, I picked them last year before the James Connor cancer diagnosis. He’s back, and set to play WR, DE, and kick returner, apparently. While that’s not necessarily a great idea, they bring back a huge offensive line and a stout (never doubt Pat Narduzzi) defense.
Five Games Worth Watchin’
See, this is where the Coastal gets hard.
- (tie) Pitt at UNC, Sept. 24. VT at UNC, Oct. 8. UNC at Miami, Oct. 15. Miami at VT, Oct. 20. VT at Pitt, Oct. 27 (back to back Thursdays!). Pitt at Miami, Nov. 5. Six games between the four best teams– Miami, UNC, and VT get two at home, Pitt gets one. Otherwise, HELLO HOMOGENEITY!
- Florida State at Miami, Oct. 8: Al Golden’s Miami did an amazing job of keeping games against FSU close…when they had no expectations. CMR can achieve Schnellenberger/Johnson/Davis status FAST with a win to get to 5-0.
- Virginia Tech vs. Tennessee, Sept. 10: I mean, its being played at Bristol Motor Speedway. I came up with this idea in my first DYC post back in 2013. Timestamp: 5/10/13. Announced: sometime in 2014. I’m a genius.
- Pitt at Clemson, Nov. 12: Even if Pitt emerges from the scrum of Coastal foes, they will probably get knocked right back into the manpile.
- UNC at Florida State, Oct. 1: If my pessimism about Carolina sustaining success is unwarranted, a showdown of undefeated top-10 ACC contenders is on the books. If this is the case, I will be in attendance.
Players to Know
Brad Kaaya, QB, Miami: He’s been shoved down our throats as Felicia from Friday’s son, as a perfect Richt project, and is actually a damn decent quarterback. But he got first-team preseason votes over Deshaun friggin’ Watson. He could be on that Hackenberg trajectory.
Quin Blanding, S, Virginia: The ‘I’ve never heard of this guy and my NFL team drafted him in the middle of the first round’ guy. Also, I have a thing for Sean Taylor prototype safeties.
Marcus Marshall, FB (B-Back for those initiated with CPJ’s offense), Georgia Tech: KEITH’S LITTLE BROTHER! Unlike Keith, he absorbs contact. Tech’s offense needs competence at B-Back and QB to be successful, and Marshall put up 7.6 yards per carry as a true freshman. That’ll do.
E’Juan Price, DE, Pitt: 1st-team All-ACC last year, now bookended by senior tackles and a Tennessee transfer (Dewayne Hendrix) who is a stud in his own right, Price could blow up.
Mack Hollins, WR, UNC: Suspended for the first half of the Georgia game for targeting in the bowl, Hollins is 6’4 and runs a legit sub-4.4. In so doing, he averaged 24.8 yards per catch en route to 8 touchdowns last year. And he’s overshadowed by Bug Howard and Ryan Switzer somehow.
I promise you this, faithful readers: if the noon SEC Network game doesn’t interest you (and it rarely will), I highly suggest you invest your early games in the ESPN/ESPN2 Coastal game du jour. With Narduzzi, Richt, Mendenhall, and Fuente replacing deadbeats, Fedora stepping it up, Johnson doing Johnson/Tech things, and Cutcliffe overachieving, the Coastal is on the road to being downright treacherous.
Or, at the very least, more exciting than the two good teams and four dwarves in the Atlantic.