Before we break for the weekend, let’s take a look at the ACC’s Coastal Division. Virginia Tech, the defending ACC champion, is everybody’s pick. But I just get the sense that it’s going to be tightly contested race that may go deep into November.
Again, I surveyed the five preseason magazines I use for reference tools and then made my own picks.
Have a great weekend. On Monday we will break down the SEC East.
Athlon: Virginia Tech, North Carolina, Georgia Tech, Miami, Virginia, Duke
Lindy’s: Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Miami, Virginia, Duke
Phil Steele: Virginia Tech, Miami, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Virginia, Duke
Sporting News: Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Miami, Virginia, Duke
The Kickoff: Virginia Tech, North Carolina, Georgia Tech, Miami, Duke, Virginia
What we learned: It was a clean sweep for the top spot for Virginia Tech. And that’s understandable. The Hokies return 15 starters (8 offense, 7 defense) from a team that won the ACC championship in what was a major rebuilding year. Georgia Tech was picked second by two magazines, while two others picked North Carolina. Phil Steele is really the only magazine showing Miami some love, putting the Hurricanes at No. 2. Everybody else has Miami fourth in the division. Everybody but The Kickoff had Duke last in the division. But the Blue Devils are going to be better in the second year under David Cutcliffe.
Virginia Tech: Yes, the Hokies have to go to Georgia Tech on Oct. 17 and anything could happen there. But if QB Tyrod Taylor stays healthy and RB Darren Evans (who set an ACC record with 1,265 rushing yards as a freshman) has another big year, it’s hard to pick against Virginia Tech. We’ll know how good the Hokies are on Sept. 5 when they play Alabama at the Georgia Dome.
Georgia Tech: I think the offense is going to be better—a lot better—in year two under Paul Johnson. QB Josh Nesbitt is going to be more fluid and confident, plus the Yellow Jackets have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to men who can run the ball. And here’s an early tip: Georgia Tech will be able to throw the ball better to keep defenses honest. But I am worried about replacing those three studs on the defensive line. There is talent on The Flats, but Michael Johnson, Darryl Richard, and Vance Walker were grown men. And very talented. With a three-game stretch against Clemson (Sept. 10), at Miami (Sept. 17) and North Carolina (Sept. 26), we’ll find out about the defense.
Miami: Just call it a hunch. The offense should be dramatically improved under new OC Mark Whipple, who will turn QB Jacory Harris into a star. There is plenty of talent at running back and wide receiver. Head coach Randy Shannon has been telling us for two years that 2009 would be the year that he would finally have enough talent in place to compete in this league. After a couple of outstanding recruiting classes, he appears to be right. But the first four games (at Florida State, Georgia Tech, at Virginia Tech, Oklahoma) are just ridiculous. So it may not be smart to pick the Hurricanes third, but I’m going to do it anyway.
North Carolina: If Butch Davis holds true to form, this should be the year the Tar Heels turn the corner and start looking like a contender. But quarterback T.J. Yates (Pope High School, Marietta) has to stay healthy and he’s had a tough time doing that. I’m also concerned that the Tar Heels are going to have a tough time replacing WR Hakeem Nicks (35 career starts) as their big play guy. The defense, which has been ridiculously young the past two seasons, has finally grown up and will have a bit of a nasty streak.
Virginia: It all comes down to the offense. Former Bowling Green head coach Gregg Brandon was hired to breathe some life into the unit which was just miserable a year ago. There is a chance that can happen with the return of QB Jameel Sewell, who sat out last season with academic issues. Virginia was 5-7 in 2008 and another losing season will turn up the heat on coach Al Groh.
Duke: This time a year ago coach David Cutcliffe had only a handful of players he felt were capable of playing at the ACC level. After a year of conditioning and coaching, there are considerably more in Durham. The Blue Devils will be able to move the ball thanks to QB Thaddeus Lewis (6,735 career passing yards) and WR Johnny Williams, who had 30 catches as a freshman. Duke has a couple of studs on defense in DT Vince Oghobaase and LB Vincent Rey. They could definitely improve on last year’s 4-8 record.
So there are the magazine picks and my picks. What are yours?
You can also follow me on Twitter: