JFP Sports has already discussed the ACC Atlantic division. Now it is time to move on to the Coastal division.
In our first preview of the Atlantic, we made a correlation to how the Big East gets slighted in national talk while the ACC gets away mostly. There is one division that is not pulling its weight in the ACC.
The Coastal division has had only two teams reach the ACC title game as its representative. Those teams are Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech. In the Atlantic only Maryland and NC State have failed to reach the title game.
That is not the case in the Coastal, where Duke, Miami, North Carolina and Virginia have failed to reach the championship game. Virginia Tech has represented the Coastal four times and Georgia Tech twice.
Dethroning last season’s Coastal champ might be harder with all the upheaval that has happened in North Carolina and Miami. Georgia Tech looks to bounce back after a 6-7 season, Virginia is still rebuilding and Duke is, well, Duke.
Duke Blue Devils
Fans of the Blue Devils normally wait for the start of basketball season to have a ton to cheer about. Duke has made steady improvements over the last three seasons and while there have been no bowl trips, this team has been competitive on most Saturdays.
Duke returns most of the offense from last year including quarterback Sean Renfree and spot QB Brandon Connette. The defense is not depleted but needs to find some new starters.
The Blue Devils struggles on the field come from lack of offensive and defensive line talent and lack of overall team speed. High academic standards make recruiting harder at Duke but not impossible.
If Duke hopes to find the six wins needed for a bowl bid they must win three of their four non-conference games. The schedule allows for a 3-1 record after the non-conference schedule.
Starting the season at home against FCS power Richmond will give Blue Devils fans a good idea of how 2011 will go. Other NCGs are home contests against Stanford (Heisman favorite Andrew Luck) and Tulane with a trip to Florida International.
As long as the Blue Devils defeat Richmond, a 3-1 record is attainable with the lone loss to Stanford. That 3-1 record means they would only have to carve out three wins out of their final eight games to be bowl eligible.
In conference this team starts on the road facing Boston College with other road tests at Miami, Virginia and North Carolina. It is possible for Duke to win two out of four games on the road.
Those wins could come against Virginia and North Carolina. Even with suspensions coming Miami’s way, there is more talent on that team if they play up to it but the season could go sideways and become an epic win for the Blue Devils.
Duke needs to split those four road conference games because the home conference schedule is brutal. When you have Florida State, Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech at home with Wake Forest it is tough to win enough games to make the postseason.
The Blue Devils have two weeks to prepare for a three-game homestand starting with FSU but that still won’t help with all the talent the Seminoles have at their disposal. After FSU is Wake Forest, a possible win, and finishing up with a game against Virginia Tech.
Duke’s last home game is against Georgia Tech. Unless they find a way to trip up one of the more dominant teams a 1-3 home record is the best they can hope for.
David Cutcliffe, entering his fourth season at 56-53 overall, knows there is no wiggle room for the Blue Devils. They must defeat teams below or at their talent level or there is no hope for a bowl trip for the first time since 1994.
The schedule makes six wins attainable for the Blue Devils and even seven if they sneak a game. Duke could also go 3-9 like last season as well or worse.
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