1. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets– Paul Johnson’s team is in good position to win this division. Georgia Tech will return thirteen starters this fall, with the most important being quarterback Justin Thomas. With Thomas under center, they will be amongst the nation’s most prolific rushing teams despite losing Zach Laskey, Charles Perkins and Synjyn Days. From a defensive standpoint, Georgia Tech ranked at the bottom of the ACC in many statistical categories. They gave up almost 26 points and over 400 yards per game. Georgia Tech is coming off an 11-win season and a victory in the Orange Bowl.
2. Virginia Tech Hokies– Frank Beamer’s team is a questionable one to say the least. When we expect something big from them, they struggle it seems. This offense must succeed under third-year coordinator Scot Loeffler. A good chunk of that offense including quarterback Michael Brewer have all decided to come back for yet another season. The big x-factor will be a healthy Trey Edmunds. The defense will be the strength once again for these Hokies. Since 2012, Virginia Tech has a record of 22-17 in the ACC. Frank Beamer is on the hot seat.
3. Pittsburgh Panthers– It’s another season for Pittsburgh with another head coach. Paul Chryst is out and former Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi is now being depended on to get this Pittsburgh football team over the hump. They will be very run heavy. James Conner and Tyler Boyd are one of the best rushing tandems in the country. The big question will be can these two be enough to lead this offense with questions at quarterback? With a defensive minded head coach now, the defense will look to improve after losing some star power. Seven seasons, five head coaches and very few wins. That’s been the storyline with this football team.
4. North Carolina Tar Heels– This is a very important year for head coach Larry Fedora. The talent is there and the Hugh expectations have been there. He’s been solid in the conference but hasn’t been able to get them over the hump and compete for the divisional crown. In his three seasons as head coach in Chapel Hill, Fedora’s win total has dropped. Quarterback Marquise Williams is back under center and the coaches want to make him more of a passer so he doesn’t take so many hits. He will have some impressive receivers to throw the ball too. Quinshad Davis, Mack Hollins and Bug Howard all stand at 6’4 in height. As for the defense, Fedora hired former Auburn head coach Gene Chizik to fix an atrocious defense. North Carolina’s season will simply depend on the health of Marquise Williams and the defense making some key improvements.
5. Miami Hurricanes– Al Golden has a very talented team. The historic college football team just hasn’t been able to elevate itself to the ACC’s elite category in Golden’s four seasons as head coach. These guys lost some talent to the NFL. Ereck Flowers, Phillip Dorsett and Duke Johnson are all pros now. Replacing all those guys especially Duke Johnson will be tough. The U does have two promising backs that can get the job done in Joseph Yearby and Gus Edwards. On defense, they lose Denzel Perryman. It’s a make or break year for Al Golden. If they don’t win this year, he’ll be shown the door.
6. Duke Blue Devils– They have a great thing going in Durham. Instead of rebuilding, I see them relaoding and taking that next step. They are now considered to be a threat in the ACC Coastal. With twelve starters returning, they enter the fall with some optimism. The offensive line took a hit after Laken Tomlinson decided to go pro. The biggest strength of Duke’s defense will be its secondary once again. They will be heavily depended on in the back-end of the defense because they lack the bodies up front to dominate in the trenches.
7. Virginia Cavaliers– Head coach Mike London is on the hot seat again for the third consecutive season. They improved last year out the gates winning four of their first six games. Where they struggled was in ACC play. The saying couldn’t be anymore true: In order to win your division, you have to win in your division. Matt Johns will more than likely be the starting quarterback when the season begins. Eli Harold decided to go pro. This is London’s last shot with Virginia.
Prediction: I like Georgia Tech to win the Coastal division. With Thomas there, the offense will continue to be potent and will make plays. They will go as far as he take them. The defense will have to get better in all phases of the game, especially stopping the run.