ACC Coastal Division: 2015 Preview
Gotta have two divisions to need a money-spinning championship game, which is currently the only justifiable reason the ACC's Coastal exists.
The question is, can the Coastal shake its tomato can image in 2015?
This year's Beetlebaum in the Coastal will need to upset Georgia Tech.
The Yellow Jackets are the division's defending champions and played Florida State tough in 2014's ACC title tilt. It's often forgotten that the Ramblin' Wreck -- an allusion to their renowned engineering program -- is up there with Ivy Leaguers, Northwestern, Vanderbilt, and Stanford for admission standards, which is one reason why Paul Johnson's triple-option works. They return QB Justin Thomas, but they must improve on defense if they're to play on New Year's Day.
Virginia Tech finished 7-6 overall last season but was the only team to beat Ohio State, returns QB Michael Brewer and receivers Isaiah Ford and Cam Phillips. The Hokies lost to East Carolina and Wake Forest last season and need to avoid a repeat of those letdowns this season. Virginia Tech does get another chance to shock the world again on opening night, when they host defending NCAA champion Ohio State.
A champion candidate from elsewhere in the division could well be described as Spike Jones's Banana coming up through the bunch. Each of these teams could finish anywhere from third to last.
Miami is still trying to get back to its glory days. Al Golden enters his fifth season as the Hurricanes' head coach, and he's feeling the heat. Brad Kaaya returns for his sophomore season at quarterback and will had the ball off to RB Gus Edwards, who will replace Duke Johnson.
Pittsburgh has a new coach in Pat Narduzzi and the Panthers will look to do better than last year's 6-7 record. Pitt has finished 6-7 for three of the past four years, and they're hoping that their two stars, RB James Conner and WR Tyler Boyd can help move them into the upper tier of the division.
North Carolina is another team hoping to be relevant again -- not to mention remaining eligible -- and they moved in the right direction when they hired Gene Chizik to run their defense. The Tar Heels gave up 70 points to East Carolina, 50 to Clemson and Notre Dame, 47 to Miami, and 40 to Rutgers in their bowl game. Yes, after all that, they got into a bowl.
If the defense does improve, the Heels do have QB Marquise Williams and RB TJ Logan back. Maybe they should set their sights on 60 points a game. Otherwise, they'd best hope this pump-up video represents truth in advertising:
Still, it used to take the Blue Devils five years to win 19 games. Coach David Cutcliffe has turned things around in Durham, with the Devils taking the division in 2013 and only a one-point loss to Virginia Tech denied them a berth in the title game last season. Duke must replace Anthony Boone at quarterback and shore up the defense, but the Blue Devils are now legit as long as Cutcliffe is in charge.
That leaves Virginia.
Coach Mike London seems to be in trouble every season, which happens when one has had only one winning campaign. This year, his squad opens with UCLA on the road and then hosts Notre Dame, so the Cavaliers are most likely going to start the season at 0-2. Add to that another tough non-league game with Boise State and a crossover league game with Louisville, and Virginia had better hope their young 'uns grow up quickly.
Bluntly, unless Jedi knights arrive in Charlottesville, that's the only hope they've got.
But hell. It's August. They can still dream.
Beetlebaum would be proud.