In its seven year history, the ACC title game has never had a representative from the Coastal Division that didn't have the word "Tech" in its title. The Yellow Jackets and the Hokies have made it a two-team league and teams like Miami and Virginia would like a piece of the action. Here's my "way too early" ranking of the Coastal Division.
I think we all expected Duke to show more success under head man David Cutcliff than they have to this point. Three or four wins at Duke is certainly nothing to dismiss, but with teams like Vanderbilt and Wake Forest heading to bowls, Duke fans would like a taste of the same.
Nobody expects Duke to be a perennial contender for titles, but a trip to Shreveport would be a nice little treat once in a while.
Not this year though.
Is North Carolina too low on my list?
I just don't feel good about many of the first-year head coaches this coming season. I usually give them the benefit of the doubt, but for 2012 they'll have to earn respect. Larry Fedora is a fine coach, and I'm not questioning his abilities. The ACC has struggled as a whole of late, but it's far from the world of Conference USA.
Southern Miss had a great few years under coach Fedora, but it's impossible to tell whether that'll translate into big boy football.
Until then, I'm not holding my breath.
Al Golden's Hurricanes had a disappointing season, and even after they clawed their way to six wins, the administration made the decision to forgo a bowl birth with the NCAA still looming in shadows.
This year's Miami squad will be a "see it when I believe it" case for me, but I believe they have all the weapons to prove me wrong. How they end up using those weapons, however, remains to be seen.
Middle of the pack for yet another year.
Coach Mike London and his Virginia team had an impressive season.
Some early wins seemed less and less like flukes as the year went on in 2011. I'm not sure anybody expected the Cavaliers to show up in Atlanta on New Year's Eve before the season began, but a hard loss to a frustrated Auburn team left the fighting Thomas Jefferson's with a bad taste in their mouths.
I see good things from the Wahoos this season with a lot of positives to build upon for 2012.
The two-man Coastal race has always come down to the Tech's and is often decided by a single head-to-head meeting. I put the Jackets in second, simply because Virginia Tech owns the head-to-head, and Tech has more title game appearances since it began.
The Yellow Jackets have to make a decision at quarterback with several young guns waiting in line, and I have a feeling the entire offense will be up for grabs in camp. If the defense continues to improve under Al Groh's 3-4 scheme, then the Ramblin' Wreck will be back in the hunt. If the rumor of a Yellow Jacket/Hokie opener in Blacksburg holds true, then this division could be decided by the end of Week 1.
Frank Beamer has his team in the hunt every single year it seems. I'm not looking for them to fall off the map for 2012 either. And exciting quarterback in Logan Thomas returns for another year and he can only improve.
The Hokies snuck through the back door for a BCS birth last season, and lost in a heart-breaker to Michigan.
This number one slot was a toss up between the two Tech's, but I had to give it to the Hokes in a close one.