ACC Coastal Division Preview from MadduxSports.com
Defense, defense, and more defense, that is what the ACC Coastal is about. The Coastal is a rather interesting division to break down. Between quarterback battles, new coaches, coaches on the hot seat, national title contenders, and surprise teams, the Coastal division expects to offer many story lines in the 2007 season. Here is how the Maddux Sports college football picks team predicts the conference slate to pan out.
1) Virginia Tech – When you look at the Hokies’ defense on paper you have to be in awe. They return 8 starters from a crew that allowed 11ppg and 219 ypg overall. Both stats were good for #1 ranks in the country. From our preseason rankings Virginia Tech has the best secondary in all of College football. They also have a top 10 unit in the linebacking core, and although the DL has to replace 2 starters, 7 of the top 8 guys return. Bud Foster appears to be in line for another Broyles award at seasons end.
With a stout defense setting up for endless short field scoring opportunities, the offense won’t have to do much to win games. Junior quarterback Sean Glennon will be more of a game manager, being called upon to just not make silly mistakes. He will have an all ACC tailback in Branden Ore to help him out. Ore rushed for 1137 yards and took it to the house 16 times last year. Ore accomplished all of this while missing 2 games and running behind a below average offensive line. Five guys with playing experience are back on the OL so count on this unit being much improved. As long as the Hokies stay away from injuries and Glennon limits the mistakes, the defense should carry the team to the coastal division crown and possibly a national title appearance.
2) Georgia Tech – Even though the Yellow Jackets lose a four year starting quarterback in Reggie Ball and the College player of the year in Calvin Johnson, there is reason for optimism in Atlanta. Ball’s replacement is junior quarterback Taylor Bennett. Bennett has good size and a strong arm. He will be protected by one of the leagues best offensive lines that returns 4 of the 5 starters. Running behind that line will be tailback Tashard Choice. Choice is one of the most underrated backs in the country. In 2006 Choice rushed for 1473 yards and finished off the season with 7 straight 100 yard rushing games. On defense the Yellow Jackets return 8 players from a unit that was 27th in total defense. With an accommodating schedule we see Georgia Tech set to capture the 2 spot in the Coastal and should be a lock to reach their 11th consecutive post season bowl game.
3) Miami – The Hurricanes fired Larry Coker and replaced him with former defensive coordinator Randy Shannon. Shannon, like the Hurricanes, is looking to prove himself. If past results can be an accurate predictor of future performance, expect the new coach to be just fine. In the 7 years when Shannon ran Miami’s defense, the unit finished in the top ten in total defense 6 times. This year should be more of the same as he has plenty to work with. The defense returns 7 starters including future first round draft choice Calais Campbell. Campbell led all ACC defenders with 20.5 tackles for loss and racked up 10.5 sacks. The linebackers are the soft spot of the defense as the unit lacks a playmaker. Fortunately they will get plenty of help from the secondary that returns all 4 starters. The offense should make or break Miami’s season. There is QB battle going on between Kyle Wright and Kirby Freemen. A starter won’t be named until late fall but expect scoring to be back up in the high 20’s regardless which kid wins the job. The road schedule is brutal, having to face Oklahoma, Florida State, Virginia Tech, and Boston College on the road, but if Kyle Wright lives up to the can’t-miss potential he once garnered, the Hurricanes could reach double digit wins.
4) Virginia – After starting out the season 2-5, the Cavaliers finished with some momentum earning victories in 3 of their final 5 games. A big reason for the slow start and good finish was freshmen Jameel Sewell making good progress and showing nice potential as a college quarterback. Coming into last season Virginia had to replace 2 NFL draft choices, including D’Brickashaw Ferguson. Consequently, the offensive line was very inexperienced and labored to open holes for the running game. The unit also had trouble keeping opposing defenders out of the backfield and allowed 35 sacks for the season. This year the OL returns 6 players with starting experience and should be an asset instead of a liability. The defense is well-stocked, returning 10 of the 11 starters that allowed 17.8ppg and was 17th overall in total defense. Virginia’s defense is loaded and should keep the team in many tough ACC games. The Cavaliers are one of the most improved teams and will earn a post season bowl birth. Don’t be surprised to see Virginia occupy the 2nd spot if the ball bounces their way.
5) North Carolina – After a 1-6 start, coach John Bunting was canned. The team seemed to respond well to the change, playing competitive against 3 ranked opponents, then finished the season with two wins over NC State and Duke. Butch Davis is the man in charge to rebuild the program and with one of the highest rated recruiting classes in the country, he is well on his way. Bunting didn’t leave Davis with much talent, as only 9 starters return. Expect the new coach to try and play his guys making the team very young and raw. It will be a rebuilding year for the Heels, but anticipate them to be in a spot to challenge for the ACC Coast Division title in the not so distant future.
6) Duke – In seven of the last eleven seasons, Duke has failed to win at least one ACC game. Last season was more of the same as the Blue Devils took the doughnut in conference play and finished 0-12 overall. Although it should be noted that they were very close to upsetting ACC champs Wake Forest & national power Miami. It took a blocked field goal on the final play of the game for the Demon Deacons to hold off Duke 14-13. Against the Canes, Duke was intercepted in the end zone and just missed pulling off a momentous upset, going down 20-15. I don’t think either of those scares were aberrations and it wouldn’t shock us to see the Blue Devils win 2 games in 07. With 11 starters returning on offense and one of the ACC’s best QB’s Thaddeus Lewis (yes we said one of the best) Duke has closed the talent gap on the rest of the Coastal division foes. The problem is the schedule which could be the toughest in the entire conference. Is Duke Improved? Yes. Will it translate to wins? Probably not, but don’t be surprised to see the Blue Devils putting a scare into a team or two.
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