The Coastal division of the ACC has a wide talent range entering the 2009 season.
Last year saw Virginia Tech emerge as the ACC Champion for the second year straight while Virginia slipped to join Duke at the bottom of the conference.
The division has had a wide gap between the top and bottom performers and that trend looks to continue in the coming season.
Here is a look ahead at what will be a very interesting year in the ACC Coastal division.
FAVORITE: VIRGINIA TECH
The Hokies have big expectations for 2009 as they begin their quest for a third—consecutive ACC crown and a trip to a BCS bowl game.
Their strength lies in a defensive unit, which was in the top 10 nationally in yards per game.
The biggest question mark for Virginia Tech is their offensive production, as Tyrod Taylor takes over full-time quarterback duties. He threw for only two touchdowns and seven interceptions last year. If he continues to turn the ball over the Hokies will fall.
Between Darren Evans and Tyrod Taylor, the rushing attack will be solid and could be the difference maker for this team.
Ironically, the two biggest games for the Hokies will both be played in Atlanta. They open the season with the Chick—Fil—A—College kickoff game against Alabama on September 5, in what should be a great ACC vs. SEC match up.
The other game that will be key in deciding the ACC champion will be the the September 17 showdown when Virginia Tech goes on the road against the Yellow Jackets.
CONTENDER: GEORGIA TECH
Georgia Tech comes off a very good season in 2008, when they rose quickly to contend for the division title.
They bring what is arguably the nation’s best rushing attack with Jonathan Dwyer returning to feature in the triple-option attack.
The offensive line will be more experienced and accustomed to the unique blocking schemes Paul Johnson uses.
The Jackets have a manageable out—of—conference schedule, at Mississippi State and Vanderbilt and hosting Georgia. But, playing three SEC defenses will be a challenge.
The Virginia Tech game ,along with a trip to Florida State, will be the big deciding factors towards the Jackets' run at an ACC Championship.
DARK HORSE: NORTH CAROLINA
The North Carolina Tar Heels have a chance to make a run in the ACC Coastal division as they return with what should be a great defense.
They return nine starters to the unit that is one of the fastest defenses in the ACC.
T.J. Yates' return from injury could spark the offense that put up 27.5 points per game last year, but was last in the ACC in time of possession.
They get a couple good warm—up games before they face their first big challenge at Georgia Tech on September 26.
They will have to be a good team away from home as they also face Virginia Tech, Boston College, and NC State on the road.
REMAINDER OF DIVISION
The Miami Hurricanes are a talented team but their first four games are brutal: at FSU, GT,VT, and Oklahoma.
The Virginia Cavilers have a manageable schedule, but they are implementing a new spread offense and the talent level is not there yet.
David Cutcliffe has one of the toughest coaching jobs in the nation as Duke lose their best offensive threat at wide receiver.
Will Virginia Tech be able to repeat as ACC Champions in 2009?
Can the Georgia Tech offense continue to baffle defenses and lead them to a big season?
Will North Carolina rise to the top of the ACC or will they slump back into mediocrity?
(For other Arcicles on ACC and SEC teams visit www.accsecfootball.com "THE VOICE OF COLLEGE FOOTBALL IN THE SOUTH")