Today we turn our attention toward the Coastal Division and how things should play out this fall. The same rules apply as with my Atlantic outlook...I'll sack-up and pick those games I listed as "toss ups" in the team previews in order to come up with a reasonable prediction for the division. And away we go...
1. Georgia Tech (10-2 overall, 7-1 ACC)
I agree, it's a bit perplexing to see the Jackets up here with that kind of a record, especially with the loss of Calvin Johnson. But, after close inspection of the returning talent and the schedule, the only thing actually holding me back from picking the Ramblin' Wreck to run the table can be summed up in one word: Chan. He bears as much responsibility as Reggie Ball and Patrick Nix for the eyesore that has been the Jacket offense lo' these many years. Nonetheless, the defense is a monster, the offensive line is loaded, Tashard Choice is back at RB, Ball and Nix are long gone, and QB Taylor Bennett is one talented and salty som'bitch. I really wanted to project the Jackets at 11-1 overall, but until The Chanster actually beats Georgia for the first time, that's a game I just can't call for Tech.
2. Virginia Tech (9-3 overall, 6-2 ACC)
Overall, this team is just as good as last year's edition, the only difference being that the 2006 Hokie squad didn't have LSU on the schedule. On the plus side, Virginia Tech will finally get that elusive win over Florida State (to date, Frank Beamer is 0-7 vs. Bobby Bowden). As I stated in their team preview, they will ride as far as Sean Glennon can take them, and unfortunately he doesn't have the horsepower to go all the way to Jacksonville this fall.
3. Miami (8-4 overall, 5-3 ACC)
I'm not sold just yet on uber-disciplinarian Randy Shannon and his coaching staff, but a fairly manageable conference slate (the first tough ACC road game isn't until late October, @FSU) will likely have the Canes bowl-eligible entering November. The defense will be typically fierce, but the QB situation may be in flux all year.
4. Virginia (7-5 overall, 3-5 ACC)
A killer defense and a patchwork offense will make the Cavaliers a hit-or-miss team all season. They could feasibly lose to Duke, while they could also knock off either of the Techs. The schedule plays out in their favor and they'll be back in the bowl picture when all is said and done. The Chessmaster lives to see another season.
5. North Carolina (4-8 overall, 2-6 ACC)
Two wins should be assured: the opener with James Madison and the home finale with Duke. The Heels will likely be underdogs in every game in between, but Butch Davis and Co. are good enough to steal a couple of games in WTF? fashion. Anything more than four wins this year should be cause for parades and general pandemonium in Chapel Hill.
6. Duke (2-10 overall, 0-8 ACC)
Memo to Ted Roof: Get. The. Hell. Out. Now. You're a decent coach in an impossible situation. You're decent enough to be successful at a place like East Carolina (just down the road from you), Southern Miss, Middle Tennessee, etc., but you ain't decent enough to take Duke out of the ACC cellar. The Blue Devil job is a hopeless case for a non-"name" coach given the fan and administration apathy. This year will just prove that even more.
I'm much more comfortable with these projections than with my picks in the Atlantic Division. Other than the two Techs switching spots at 1 and 2, I'll be quite bumfuzzled if things don't pan out the way I've outlined above.