So far, our 2009 college football previews and predictions have covered the ACC Atlantic Division. We pick Florida State as our favorite to win the Atlantic.
The Demon Deacons from Wake Forest will push the ‘Noles all season long. The rest of the Atlantic will be playing for a bowl bid.
The ACC Coastal Division will be our focus next. The Coastal, in my eyes, has two teams that could make a case for either a BCS or national title slot.
One team has been a traditional ACC powerhouse for more than the last decade. The other could be going back in time offensively to make some noise now in the future.
So here are my ACC preview and predictions for the 2009 Coastal division in alphabetical order.
Duke Blue Devils: Prediction 4-8
After last season’s 4-8 record, some think that Duke could be getting close to turning the corner in football. The Blue Devils were more relevant last season than they have been in years.
As fans of the SEC can tell you, David Cutcliffe will always have his team ready to play. He will use the talent he has to best of their ability.
Two things will keep Duke from becoming a middle-of-the-road football program. Like Vanderbilt, Duke will always have problems getting top talent because academically, it is hard to go after every player you might want.
Secondly, the Blue Devils will have to upgrade their football facilities. The best way to get recruits is to have top-notch stadiums and training facilities.
Until at least the facilities get better, Cutcliffe will always behind in the race for the best players. Now translating the 2009 season for Duke is easy.
Things look to be rough for the Blue Devils. All but one of the out-of-conference games look winnable.
Duke should get wins against Richmond, Army, and NC Central. The lone out-of- conference lost will come on the road against Kansas.
In conference, things do not look so good for the Blue Devils. They get all the great ACC teams at home.
The home schedule has Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, and Wake Forest all coming to Durham, and will all beat Duke. The one winnable in-conference game could be Maryland, and that is because it is at home.
The road schedule does not look daunting, but it’s hard to win on the road. Games at NC State, Virginia, Miami, and North Carolina are not the toughest a team as ever faced.
The problem is that a team that is not used to winning a lot, has three gimmie games out of conference, and has expectations of a bowl game or winning season might be too much pressure for this team.
Look for at least three wins for sure this season for the Blue Devils. While a 3-9 season can be expected, do not be surprised of a 6-6 season. More than likely it will be a 4-8 season once more for Duke, but next season could be very special.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets: Prediction 11-1
Anyone looking for a team that could sneak up and win the ACC Coastal division this season should look no farther than Georgia Tech after last year’s 9-4 mark. The Yellow Jackets could be in position to win big this year.
While everyone else in college football seems to be using some variation of the spread, Georgia Tech has gone with an old time offensive attack going with the triple option.
It’s year two under head coach Paul Johnson’s triple option attack and things line up nice for the Yellow Jackets. Both the out-of-conference and in-conference schedule looks good.
The non-conference games should all be wins. There should be no trouble from Jacksonville State, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, and Georgia.
The Georgia game is at home, and Georgia Tech beat the Bulldogs last season. The Vanderbilt game is on the road and could be a trap game. Still, I think the Yellow Jackets will go 4-0 out of conference.
The in-conference schedule looks great for the Yellow Jackets. They get both Wake Forest and Virginia Tech at home.
Looking at this schedule, I think it could come down to four games and one big question on offense.
First, the schedule where Clemson, North Carolina, Virginia, and Duke are all wins. Four games that could go either way are road games against Miami and Florida State and home games against Wake Forest and Virginia Tech.
If Georgia Tech can split those games, they might be able to win the Coastal Division. It will all come down to Josh Nesbit. The Yellow Jackets will have Jonathan Dwyer and Roddy Jones on the Heisman watch list.
If Nesbit can become a better passer and make defenses pay for trying to stop the run, the sky is the limit for the Yellow Jackets. With the unusual offense the Yellow Jackets run, it will be hard to game plan for the triple option.
As of now with Nesbit, the Yellow Jackets are good enough to coast to an 8-4 season. If Nesbit can get better, a 12-0 season would not shock me.
The best guess I can make is that Georgia Tech will win three of the four tough games. I think Miami on the road will be loss, and Virginia Tech and Wake Forest will be wins at home, along with a FSU road win.
I am guessing 11-1, but think it could be a game or two better or worse. I also think Georgia Tech will win the Coastal division.
Miami Hurricanes: Prediction 9-3
This could be a make or break year for head coach Randy Shannon and the Hurricanes. Miami has not been a power on the national stage since a title loss to Ohio State.
Before Miami can claim its place on the national scene, they will have to start first by becoming a major player in the ACC. First by winning the Coastal division, and then by winning the ACC title game.
To me, it looks to be a year away before Miami cam challenge for a coastal title, with Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech looking loaded this year. The wheels could come off by early October with the four games that start the Hurricanes season.
Miami starts the year off on the road against FSU, then home against Georgia Tech, another road trip to Virginia Tech, and then Oklahoma comes to Coral Gables. It would surprise no one if Miami starts the season 0-4.
If the Hurricanes cannot get things going early, it could fall apart for Shannon and he could be out of a job. The out-of-conference schedule gets easier after the Sooners game, and there should be wins against Central Florida, South Florida, and Florida A&M.
The in-conference games against Clemson, Virginia, North Carolina, and Duke should be wins. A road game against Wake Forest could go either way but should be winnable.
The trip to Blacksburg and Tallahassee will be losses, and so will the home game against Oklahoma. The home game against Georgia Tech should be a win with two weeks to prepare for the triple option attack.
Look for a 1-3 start, but a quick turn around. After the Oklahoma game the Hurricanes should be favored in just about every game except maybe the Wake Forest game. The Hurricanes should beat the Demon Deacons, though, and run off eight straight wins.
This season could be as bad as 7-5 if Miami does not win one of the first four and drops the Wake game. The best it could be is 10-2, and that is with a split in the first four.
What I see is a 9-3 season this year in Miami, and next year could be the year the Hurricanes start their march back to the top of the college football world.
North Carolina Tar Heels: Prediction 8-4
North Carolina football could be in position to make fans in Chapel Hill start looking forward to the start of football, and not just basketball season anymore. Slowly Butch Davis has built talent and depth at North Carolina.
The Tar Heels might never compete for the national championship in any given year, but could become a solid bowl team each and every year. North Carolina could also win the ACC as well if the recruiting classes keep pouring in.
Much like Miami, I do not see the Tar Heels winning the Coastal division this year. I do think a good season is possible though.
The out-of-conference games are all winnable with not one big out of conference game. North Carolina should win all four non-conference games against the Citadel, Connecticut, East Carolina, and Georgia Southern.
The Tar Heels should be 4-0 with that non-conference schedule. In conference is where North Carolina will run into trouble.
Games against Georgia Tech, Florida State, Virginia Tech, and Miami look like losses, although the Miami game is winnable. Games against Virginia, Duke, Boston College, and NC State are all winnable.
The Tar Heels could be a year or two away from making any plans to play in the ACC championship game. Still, they are closer then they have been in quite some time.
A bowl bid should not be a problem for this team. The season at worst could be 7-5 to .500. The best the Tar Heels could do is 9-3 with some luck. I see a very solid 8-4 team that will only get better next season.
Virginia Cavaliers: Prediction 3-9
This could be the final season we see Al Groh mining the sidelines at Virginia. After a 5-7 season, last year things do not look better this season.
If this season turns out as bad as I think it will, after several up and down seasons, the end could be near for Groh. Virginia is not the type of school to suffer too many losing seasons in a row.
Since 2005, the Cavaliers have been on a roller coaster record-wise. The '05 team went 7-5 and followed that up in 2006 with a 5-7 season. The 2007 Cavaliers played way above their talent level and went 9-3, only to go 5-7 in 2008.
This season starts out with two very tough out-of-conference games. After a win against non-conference foe William and Mary, things look tough for the Cavaliers for the next three weeks.
Virginia gets a very good TCU team at home that will be a loss as the Horn Frogs are looking for a BCS bid. Then, the Cavaliers head to Hattiesburg to face a very good Southern Mississippi team.
I know I will hear it from Virginia fans, but they will lose the trip to USM. The Golden Eagles could be the class of C-USA and could crash the BCS party. Trust me, the USM defense is always solid and the offense is loaded with talent.
The last out-of-conference game will be against Indiana, and should be a win for Virginia. The non-conference game schedule will leave the Cavaliers 2-2 with a dark outlook in conference.
Virginia has one sure win in conference, and that game is at home against Duke. The other in-conference games includes sure losses against North Carolina, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, and Miami.
The rest of the conference schedule, Maryland, Boston College, and Clemson could go either way but look like loses. The season does not look like there will be much to cheer about.
The best I see this Virginia team doing in 2009 will be 5-7. Things could get as bad as 1-11 if Duke and Indiana do not play along.
I think the Cavaliers will finish 3-9 and will be looking forward to 2010 by mid-October.
Virginia Tech Hokies: Prediction 10-2
What Frank Beamer has done at Virginia Tech has been nothing short of outstanding. Year in and year out, the Hokies are considered one of the best teams in college football.
Even in years when Virginia Tech should be rebuilding, like last year, they have gone on to win the ACC Coastal division and the ACC championship. Since Beamer became the head coach, the Hokies have become one of the best-coached teams in the country.
This season has high hopes for the Hokies and their fan base. Most out there believe the Coastal division is the Hokies' to lose. As always, defense will be good and special teams will be special as they have been under Beamer.
The offense took a big blow with the loss of Darren Evans to an ACL tear. That will hamper the Hokies a little on offense. But Virginia Tech is not reliant on just one player to score points and move the ball on offense.
The only offensive question could be the passing game and quarterback Tyrod Taylor. The answer could come in the first game of the season.
That could be the biggest game of the first month of the 2009 college football season when Virginia Tech and Alabama hook up in Atlanta. The winner could be on the path to a BCS season.
I think Alabama will find enough offense to go along with a great defense to win this huge non-conference game. The rest of the out-of-conference games should not be a problem for the Hokies.
The out-of-conference games against Marshall and East Carolina out of C-USA should not pose a challenge to Virginia Tech. The other non-conference game will be against Nebraska in Blacksburg, and will be a tough game but should be a win.
In conference, not much should stop the Hokies. Games against Miami, Duke, Boston College, Maryland, North Carolina State, and Virginia all should be wins. The schedule does not include Wake Forest or Florida State.
The conference game of the year could be October 17 against Georgia Tech. As the Hokies take a second trip to Atlanta it could become the place they dislike after this season.
I only see Virginia Tech losing two games and both will be played in Atlanta. The first of those two games will be against the Crimson Tide of Alabama and the second against the Yellow Jackets of Georgia Tech.
The game against Georgia Tech will be the downfall of the Hokies. If Virginia Tech loses this game as I think, they will lose the Coastal Division because of the head-to-head matchup.
The season could at worse be 9-3 and at best be perfect. The schedule is there for the Hokies to make a perfect run.
I still think they will drop the two games in Atlanta and finish 10-2.
So there it is, my ACC Coastal division preview and predictions. I think Georgia Tech will win the Coastal division.
The Yellow Jackets will face Florida State in the ACC Championship game. I will take Georgia Tech over the Seminoles for the BCS bid. Depending how the rest of the conferences do, I believe the ACC could get two teams in the BCS.
Stay tuned to the rest of my preseason previews and predictions. Next up, we will look at the Big East this season.