ACC Coastal Preview



by Mathew Hurley, Managing Editor

Yesterday, we ran through a rather disappointing list of ACC Atlantic teams, even the best of whom had possible issues entering the 2010 season. Today, we look at the much more loaded ACC Coastal division...which has:

*The always dangerous Virginia Tech whom can make a big early statement with a season opening win over Boise State.

*Oncoming Miami, who finally figured out how to play offense last year in a breakout season.

*Experienced North Carolina, a team that returns nine starters on both sides of the ball...including a defense that ranked 6th nationally last year.

*Georgia Tech, who...oh, by the way...won the ACC last year and returns the QB magician who ran their option attack.

We've mostly been pretty grouchy this year looking through the SEC, Big East, and half the ACC (check the archives if you missed those earlier reports). There's a lot to get excited about in the ACC Coastal.

Athlon Ranking: 10
Last Year's Stat Rankings: 50 on offense, 12 on defense
Returning Starters: 7 on offense, 3 on defense
2010 OUTLOOK: Defense could obviously be a big problem with so many new faces. The good news is that this team runs a very smart schematic, and recruits very well on that side of the ball. Tech knows how to coach and play defense. Assume a drop-off from the very high #12 ranking on that side of the ball last year. Don't make the mistake of assuming a collapse, unless Boise State runs amok in the season opener in DC. The offense should get getter, with quarterback Tyrod Taylor and tailback Ryan Williams returning at key positions.

This team is always dangerous (though occasionally overrated in terms of the national championship race). A win over Boise State could set them up for a very big year. The toughest ACC games don't start until Nov. 4th. The likely headache of Georgia Tech, at North Carolina, and at Miami in a 16-day stretch will make or break title hopes in this division, this league, and possibly even something bigger.

You regulars know we're always super-skeptical of Boise State, and how they'd perform in a real conference. We're VERY interested in that season opener needless to say.

Athlon Ranking: 14
Last Year's Stat Rankings: 45 on offense, 29 on defense
Returning Starters: 5 on offense, 6 on defense
2010 OUTLOOK: There were a lot of reasons to get excited about Miami last year. That was until they were badly outplayed at the point of attack by Wisconsin in the Champs Sports Bowl. Sure, the turf wasn't very good. Miami still shouldn't have looked so helpless offensively!

Things are clearly headed in the right direction under Randy Shannon. Jacory Harris showed improvement during the course of the season in decision-making (though there's still some work to do). A brutal early schedule will tell us a lot about how 2010 is going to play out. Miami has road games at Ohio State and Pittsburgh in September. Boy, you win those...and the world could be your oyster. Lose those, and this is the kind of team that can break into factions at the drop of a hat. Big month!

We were glad to see last year's turnaround. Strong rankings on both sides of the ball are very encouraging signs for the Shannon regime in our view. The Ohio State team that almost lost to Navy last September better not assume that Miami is automatically a pushover for Big Ten physicality.

Athlon Ranking: 19
Last Year's Stat Rankings: 108 on offense, 6 on defense
Returning Starters: 9 on offense, 9 on defense
2010 OUTLOOK: News broke the other day that investigators are hunting around North Carolina for possible rules violations. They do have several future NFLers who might be prone to follow Reggie Bush's path of misbehavior from his USC days. Something like that is all that could slow down this defense. The Heels were awesome last year, and return nine starters. This is the consensus 'best defense in college football'entering the 2010 campaign.

TJ Yates returns at quarterback, making it three straight (so far) returning quarterbacks in the Coastal Division. Other places are breaking in new guys. These ACC contenders will be able to pick up where they left off. Unfortunately for NC, like Miami...they left off with a bowl loss to a Northern team. Carolina lost to Pittsburgh 19-17 in the Meineke Car Care Bowl.

You have to love the early scheduling for the ACC. So many teams are hiding to protect their record. You've already seen Virginia Tech/Boise State and Miami/Ohio State on the schedule. North Carolina opens with LSU in the Georgia Dome. A big game with Georgia Tech follows, then it's off to Rutgers to face a Big East contender on the road. This is the way it should be done!

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Athlon Ranking: 28
Last Year's Stat Rankings: 26 on offense, 54 on defense
Returning Starters: 6 on offense, 6 on defense
2010 OUTLOOK: The media is making a lot of the fact that Jonathan Dwyer won't be carrying the ball in the option attack this year. Well, this is an offensive schematic that creates starts, not vice versa. We fully expect Tech to be dangerous once again this year on that side of the ball. Josh Nesbitt makes it four for four in returning quarterbacks thus far in the Coastal. He did a good job running the show last year, and will have an even bigger impact in his senior season.

So, AGAIN, we have a team ready to pick up where it left off...and a team that left off with a bowl loss to a team from up North! Georgia Tech lost to Iowa in the Orange Bowl 24-14. this point, the Big Ten is winning heads up with the ACC in terms of how you should be rating the powers nationally. Ohio State, Iowa, and Wisconsin may be a cut above these guys. Or, maybe they just prepared better for their bowl challenges. We'll see how that plays out.

Georgia Tech has an early road game at Kansas, which is much less scary now than it would have been a couple of years ago. They'll have a chance to navigate the challenges in good health until Virginia Tech and Miami come back-to-back in November.

Athlon Ranking: 70
Last Year's Stat Rankings: 69 on offense, 61 on defense
Returning Starters: 8 on offense, 5 on defense
2010 OUTLOOK: Now we reach a big drop off. Duke loses its starting quarterback to graduation...and they could only rank 69th on offense last year with the #9 rated passing offense. The air game may collapse, and then what?!

Oh, Duke has Alabama on the schedule too! We'll look to pick our spots with a team that should occasionally offer value as a big dog under head coach David Cutcliffe. This will probably come in the second two months of the season once the new quarterback has his sea legs...and when other ACC teams will be looking past Duke because of the other big games on the schedule. There's a good chance to make some money with Duke assuming they stay off the radar.

Athlon Ranking: 81
Last Year's Stat Rankings: 118 on offense, 52 on defense
Returning Starters: 5 on offense, 6 on defense
2010 OUTLOOK: Things could get messy here. The offense collapsed last year with an ill-advised effort at the spread. Now new coach Mike London is going to bring boring back. Like that worked! They don't have a quarterback they can rust. They have a green head coach. They're in a killer division of a major conference. And, a road game at USC is on the September schedule!

As with Duke, we'll mostly consider a team like this in letdown or lookahead spots for their opponents. There's not much to like up front. We'll let them show us something to like on the field And, we may step in aggressively against them if a good team has a chip on its shoulder after a bad outing.

It's not a six-team race by any means, but we're in store for a great four-team race barring injuries...and you just can't say that about too many six team divisions. We're definitely looking forward to watching the ACC Coastal play this year. And, we respect the heck out of programs who schedule themselves September challenges.

We're back tomorrow to look at the Big Ten. We've already started that look today since some Big Ten powers impressed vs. ACC powers in bowls last season. Monday we'll have another one-day oasis in baseball...reviewing the Sunday action...and really the first full weekend since the All-Star Break. It's back to football Tuesday for the Big 12 South (Texas and Oklahoma), the Big 12 North (Nebraska), and the Pac 10 as we finish up the BCS leagues. The mid-majors will follow soon afterward. Our NFL divisional previews will start on the day of the Hall of Fame game in early August.

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Back tomorrow to outline what could be a very exciting year in the Big Ten. See you then!

This article is part of the VSM MASTERS SERIES presented by and For more information on JIM HURLEY'S handicapping packages, call 1-800-323-4453.


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