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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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