ACC Coastal predicted order of finish:
Miami’s quest for the ACC Coastal crown will most likely come down to two games – at North Carolina on Oct. 17 and at Florida State on Nov. 2. If the Hurricanes split the two games and don’t figure out a way to lose to a rebuilding Virginia Tech team on Nov. 9, coach Al Golden should close with a 7-1 mark and earn a spot in the ACC championship game.
Golden has a myriad of returning starters from a team that went 7-5 last season. His defense has to play better if for no other reason than it was one of the NCAA’s worst last year in yards surrendered. The key to big-time success will be the improvement of senior quarterback Stephen Morris. If he falters, so will the Hurricanes.
2. North Carolina
The Tar Heels have been better known for scandal than athletic success as of late. But look for North Carolina to challenge Miami for the ACC Coastal crown. Being host to Miami for a big showdown (on a Thursday night) will help – but it is a must-win game for the Tar Heels if they are to close atop the division and play in the title game in Charlotte, N.C.
Quarterback Bryn Renner threw 28 touchdown passes last season, which he could improve upon in the no-huddle offense his team will run in 2013. A.J. Blue and Romar Morris will share time at running back and will help take pressure off Renner. There will be plenty of pressure on the QB, though, as the Tar Heels must replace three offensive line starters.
3. Georgia Tech
You can flip-flop Georgia Tech with North Carolina if the Yellow Jackets beat the Tar Heels on Sept. 21. For the past several seasons, Georgia Tech has had moments when it looked unstoppable – then it looks like a poorly coached high school team. That is the result of running an option-style offense. Players just can’t be that physical every game.
Quarterback Van Lee rushed for nine touchdowns last season – but only passed for four and had three interceptions. Running backs Zach Laskey and David Sims both rushed for almost 700 years last season, but had just six touchdowns between them.
Tech returns eight starters on a defense that will be led by linebackers Jeremiah Attaochu and Jabari Hunt-Days. If you score points early on the Yellow Jackets, they are in trouble.
4. Virginia Tech
One of college football’s biggest underachievers in 2012. If the Hokies do finish fourth in the Coastal, coach Frank Beamer’s job will be on the line. He catches a break in 2013 because his team does not play the two best teams from the ACC Atlantic – Florida State and Clemson.
Regardless, quarterback Logan Thomas will be the key to success or failure. He barely reached 50 percent on passing attempts in 2012, registering 18 touchdowns and a jaw-dropping 16 interceptions. He also led the Hokies in rushing – which shows how unproductive the offensive line was last year – with 524 yards and nine touchdowns. He is one of just four returning offensive starters.
Thomas is also being asked to learn a new offense this season, which could be trouble.
Nine starters return on defense, with linebacker Jack Tyler being an All-ACC member. The offensive struggles wore out the defense in 2012. Look for more of the same in 2013.
The Blue Devils will finish ahead of newcomer Pittsburgh under coach David Cutliffe. This year-in, year-out football doormat might even reach a bowl game for a second consecutive season.
Anthony Boone should emerge as the starter at quarterback after backing up Sean Renfree last year. He did attempt 95 passes and registered five TD passes with two interceptions. Fans down in Durham were excited by redshirt freshman Thomas Sirk, but a blown Achilles will most likely keep him out for the season.
Running back Shaq Powell was a four-star recruit who didn’t get much done last year. He’ll have to pick up the pace if the Blue Devils are to reach six wins and be bowl-eligible. Jela Duncan had decent games against Memphis and Miami, but the Blue Devils will most likely struggle to move the ball on the ground.
Defense? Not much last year, not much this year.
The Panthers had undefeated Notre Dame beat last year – but somehow managed to blow the game at South Bend.
Here is why the Panthers will falter in their debut season – the schedule .
Welcome to the ACC on the night of Sept. 2 at home against Florida State; at Duke Sept. 21; at Virginia Tech Oct. 12; at Navy Oct. 26; at Georgia Tech Nov. 2; North Carolina Nov. 16; at Syracuse Nov. 23; Miami Nov. 29. Throw in a home game against Notre Dame on Nov. 9, and you have of the nation’s toughest schedules.
Defensive tackle Aaron Donald and safety Jason Hendricks could both be All-ACC on defense. The defense returns eight starters from a team that allowed just 330 yards per game, 17th nationally. This is the same D that kept the Irish under wraps for most of the game in 2012.
Possibly the worst BCS conference team in America. The Cavaliers might go winless in the ACC this season.
Players have been kicked off the team. Players have transferred. Players have underachieved.
Coach Mike London returns for a fourth season, but with new offensive, defensive and special teams coordinators.
David Watford (sophomore) and redshirt freshman Greyson Lambert will both play at QB this season. Watford is more athletic, while Lambert is more of a pro-style signal-caller. Rebuilding time for the Wahoos.