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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Sunday, July 21, 2013 at 7:00 AM

Yesterday we studied Clemson, Florida State, and the rest of the ACC “Atlantic” Division. As promised, we’re back today to look at Miami, Virginia Tech, and the ACC “Coastal” Division. The Hurricanes and Hokies are basically co-favorites to take the division away from Georgia Tech…but both teams are dealing with losses from graduation.

Miami only has 4 players back on defense

Virginia Tech only has 4 players back on offense\\

Georgia Tech won the division by default last year with a 5-3 record when Miami and North Carolina (both also 5-3) were ineligible for the postseason. Tech returns more starters than the other contenders, but will be breaking in a new quarterback. Clearly, we have a lot of volatility in this division, where new faces need to step up quick to stop the gradual decline the ACC has been suffering in recent seasons.

Let’s crunch some numbers. Remember that the returning starter data comes from the respected Athlon publication. Be sure to check out JIM HURLEY’S big display ad on page 173!

 

ACC COASTAL DIVISION

 

MIAMI

Returning Starters: 8 on offense, 4 on defense

Quarterback: Stephen Morris

Head Coach: Al Golden

The Miami defense was a stunning disaster last year, ranking #116 in total yardage. That just shouldn’t happen at a major program, particularly one based in a state with a lot of high school talent. Maybe it’s a good thing so many starters left! For now, you have to again expect a lot of shootouts…where Morris and the experienced offense try to outscore what their inexperienced and possibly BAD defense is allowing. It tells you a lot about how far the ACC has fallen that a team that ranks #116 defensively would have won one of its divisions if not for probation. Big early test September 7 vs. Florida. November will feature Florida State and Virginia Tech in succession.

 

VIRGINIA TECH

Returning Starters: 4 on offense, 9 on defense

Quarterback: Logan Thomas

Head Coach: Frank Beamer

Just an awful 2012 for the Hokies by their normal standards. They needed a weak schedule to reach 6-6 in the regular season (needing overtime to beat a bad Boston College team. They eked out an overtime bowl win over Rutgers in one of the worst bowl games of the new century. That lousy offense ranked #81 against a soft schedule…and must now rebuild. The media loves QB Thomas because he has the body of a big time QB. He doesn’t have the production or decision-making though. A season opener vs. Alabama in Atlanta could get very ugly unless the Tide gets caught looking ahead to Texas A&M.

 

GEORGIA TECH

Returning Starters: 8 on offense, 8 on defense

Quarterback: Vad Lee

Head Coach: Paul Johnson

Tech was wildly inconsistent last year, losing home games to Middle Tennessee and BYU while still being on their way to a divisional crown. They did show class on defense very late in a near-upset of Florida State in the ACC title tilt and in the Sun Bowl against disinterested USC. Tech has the most experience coming back in the whole division…but untested quarterback Lee is far from a sure thing to succeed. If Lee can keep his feet on the ground, this could be a very entertaining three-team race at the top. Most Power Ratings we’ve seen have Miami-Virginia Tech-Georgia Tech bunched closely together.

 

NORTH CAROLINA

Returning Starters: 6 on offense, 7 on defense

Quarterback: Bryn Renner

Head Coach: Larry Fedora

Can Carolina make it a quartet? That depends on whether or not Fedora is ready for the big time. He helped improve NC’s offense last year…but some of that was running up the score on the likes of Elon and Idaho. Somehow they couldn’t score on Miami’s horrible defense in an 18-14 nailbiter. The Tar Heels are a true Wildcard in this division…the way Texas Tech can be a Wildcard in the Big 12. Wide open offenses that try to win shootouts every week generally DON’T make it all the way to a conference crown. There’s too much pressure on the defense to keep up in fast break football. JIM HURLEY will pick his spots with this team…and is very interested in seeing how they fare against South Carolina in the season opener.

 

PITTSBURGH

Returning Starters: 5 on offense, 8 on defense

Quarterback: Tom Savage

Head Coach: Paul Chryst

The early guess is that Savage (who used to play for Rutgers) will be the starting quarterback who replaces disappointing Tino Sunseri. The offense only ranked #71 last year against a Big East schedule plus the likes of Youngstown State, Gardner-Webb, and Buffalo. You’d better be able to move the ball and score if you want to contend in the ACC. The Panthers will try to win with defense, as eight starters return to the #17 ranked unit in the nation. Big opener at home against Florida State on Labor Day will tell us a lot about what ACC football is going to look like for this group.

 

VIRGINIA

Returning Starters: 6 on offense, 7 on defense

Quarterback: Philip Sims

Head Coach: Mike London

Sims isn’t a lock to win the quarterback position, but he did start four games last season. It’s always best to look for “value underdog” spots with the Cavaliers instead of asking for too much. The depth of talent just isn’t there. And, the coaches seem overmatched except when opponents are taking the team too lightly. Virginia only went 2-6 in the league last year, but one of the wins was over Miami…and one of the losses was a 17-14 heartbreaker against state rival Virginia Tech.

 

DUKE

Returning Starters: 6 on offense, 5 on defense

Quarterback: Anthony Boone

Head Coach: David Cutcliffe

The big concern every year with Duke is on defense. They just can’t recruit athletes that scare people on that side of the ball. That means they have to play shootouts every week…which just causes the undersized defense to wear down even faster. Like Virginia…you try to pick your spots with Duke rather than asking to much. But, in this case, you’re trying to outscore the opponent rather than cover a grinder.

That wraps up the ACC. We’ll devote Monday to a baseball series preview (possibilities include Pittsburgh/Washington, Tampa Bay/Boston, and NY Yankees/Texas). College football conference previews resume Tuesday with the Big 12 and Wednesday with the American Athletic Conference (formerly the Big East). That will leave only the Pac 12, who we’ll feature next weekend.

Don’t forget that great early-bird rates are available online for JIM HURLEY’S full season of college and pro football. If you have any questions about our program, call us in the office during normal business hours at 1-800-323-4453.

Like we said yesterday, ACC means for ALWAYS COLLECTING CASH at JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!

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