ACC Coastal: Put Up or Shut Up Time in 2015

2015 will be a critical year for the ACC Coastal.

It's put up or shut up time in the ACC Coastal.

 

In 10 years with two divisions, Miami has never played in the ACC title game. Neither has North Carolina or Virginia. In just two seasons, Pitt has yet to make a splash in their new home as well.

 

Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech have won every Coastal Division championship since the league split into divisions except one (2013) and both lead the preseason rankings in the Coastal again in 2015. 

 

Duke, to its credit, unexpectedly broke through before the Hurricanes, Tar Heels or Cavaliers. Needless to say, David Cutcliffe is in great shape in Durham, N.C.

 

So is Paul Johnson. The Georgia Tech coach has had his ups and downs with the fans and administration in Atlanta, but the Yellow Jackets have gone to seven bowls games in seven seasons under Johnson — which includes three trips to the ACC title game.

 

After 25 losses in four seasons, his 11-win campaign last year put Johnson right back atop the division's coaching hierarchy.

 

But the rest of the division should be under serious pressure to perform in 2015.

 

Related: Complete 2015 ACC Preview and Predictions

 

Al Golden has a rising superstar at quarterback in Brad Kaaya and the No. 4-rated recruiting class in the nation according to 247Sports. He did a fantastic job at Temple but has reached a tipping point in South Florida this fall.

 

After a nine-win season two years ago, Miami posted a losing record in the ACC (3-5) and overall (6-7) in 2014. He's 16-16 in four seasons at the helm for the Hurricanes, and, while signs of growth and improvement can be found — the defense has gone from 97th to 80th to 15th in yards per play allowed over the last three years — this team is still mired in the middle of the pack in the Coastal.

 

Golden is probably a much better coach than his Miami resume indicates due to extenuating circumstances surrounding his program but he needs a splashy '15 campaign in the worst way.

 

Larry Fedora is in the same exact situation in Chapel Hill. Yes, there is a cloud hanging over North Carolina that makes winning difficult, but his atrocious defense hasn't helped either. He is turning to former Auburn head coach Gene Chizik to save one half of his team this fall.

 

Fedora's offenses have been excellent and he has yet to post a losing ACC record in three seasons, but he's running a program that hasn't lost fewer than three ACC games in a season since 1997. He, too, needs a big splash in '15.

 

Both teams have a lot of upside but both teams also have their share of question marks too.

 

Related: ACC Football Teams as Rock and Roll Bands

Virginia's Mike London is one of the most interesting people in the business and his story is fascinating and inspiring. And while his team showed improvement last fall, his tenure in Charlottesville could come to an end quickly this fall if that improvement isn't continued in a big way.

Even veteran Hall of Fame coach Frank Beamer is entering murky waters at Virginia Tech. He's not on the hot seat in Blacksburg but after eight consecutive seasons with double-digit wins, Beamer is 12-12 in the ACC and 22-17 overall in his last three campaigns. 

 

His offenses are impossible to watch and fifth-place division finishes aren't acceptable to Hokie faithful. 

 

Related: Clemson, Florida State will dominate improving ACC, but won't make the Playoff

 

Johnson and Cutcliffe are in great shape and Pat Narduzzi is entering the fray at Pitt as a rookie head coach. But the rest of this division is clearly entering a critical season on the field.

 

Part of what makes the Coastal Division so entertaining is its unpredictability. Six teams enter 2015 with legitimate eyes toward an ACC title game berth.

 

However, only one team can make it to Charlotte at season's end and that could lead to new faces on the sidelines in 2016.

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