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Which Team is the Favorite to Win the ACC Coastal in 2013?


Georgia Tech, North Carolina and Miami all finished 5-3 in ACC play last season, making the Coastal Division one of the tightest races in college football.

Another close division battle should be expected in 2013, as all three 5-3 teams from last season, and Virginia Tech could make a case to be picked first.

Clemson is the heavy favorite to win the ACC this season, but all four challengers from the Coastal Division will try to crack the top 25, along with improving their win total from the previous year. 

The 2013 college football season is still over 100 days away, but it’s never too early to start talking predictions and expectations for each team going into 2013.

Athlon Sports’ official college football top 25 countdown for 2013 will begin in early May. With the top 25 and predictions in mind, Athlon’s editors will be debating some of the hottest topics from the preseason throughout April and May. 

Which Team is the Favorite to Win the ACC Coastal in 2013?

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
It really seems like tempting fate to pick against Virginia Tech given the Hokies track record. But I like Miami this season even though the Hurricanes face Florida State on the road (North Carolina and Virginia Tech miss Atlantic favorites Florida State and Clemson, Georgia Tech faces Clemson only). With Stephen Morris at quarterback, Duke Johnson at running back and a strong offensive line, Miami should have the most dynamic offense in the ACC other than Syracuse. The defense is a concern after giving up 6.1 yards per play, but the Hurricanes should be optimistic this side of the ball is going to get better. Guys like Anthony Chickillo need to play to their potential, and Miami’s top-10 signing class from 2012 needs to come into its own. Al Golden has done a great job holding the program together despite the cloud of sanctions. This seems as good a time as any to take the next step.

Jim Young, (@ACCSports),
Might as well ask what one hand clapping sounds like. There are four teams - Georgia Tech, Miami, North Carolina and Virginia Tech - who can all reasonably expect to make a run at the Coastal Division crown. I'm not sold on any of them, so I'll go by process of elimination. While Larry Fedora's offenses typically take off in year two, the Tar Heels' defense needs a TON of work and Bryn Renner will miss the three offensive linemen recently taken in the NFL draft. Virginia Tech's finally making changes on offense, but that could result in some early struggles that might make playing at Georgia Tech and then against UNC too much to handle. Georgia Tech? There's a lot to like here, particularly if you think that the Yellow Jackets might actually be able to pass some with Vad Lee. But the schedule makers did Paul Johnson no favors. So Miami, the last team standing here, is my pick to win. Stephen Morris, Duke Johnson and ... I mean, that defense has to get better ... right?

Ryan Tice (@RyanTice),
It’s always hard to predict who will win a division title in April, especially in the ACC, and the Coastal Division is a toss-up. Every team has at least one major question mark, and while there are some nice pieces, there is no runaway favorite. Miami returns a division-best 20 starters, and they face just seven teams that were bowl eligible last season, but I also expect Virginia Tech to rebound from last season. The team that recorded last year’s best record, North Carolina (8-4), is also lurking but they return just 14 starters on offense and defense, and must replace the majority of their marquee weapons. If I have to gamble on one of those, I think the safest bet is banking on Frank Beamer finding a way to get it done once again at Virginia Tech behind a strong defense, but that will require a bounce back campaign from quarterback Logan Thomas.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
This will be the most entertaining and wide-open division in all of college football. Four teams have a legitimate case to be the frontrunner in 2013 and five of the six were bowl eligible a year ago. North Carolina will score a bunch of points but has loads of talent to replace. Georgia Tech will be a tough out as usual, and Vad Lee could be an upgrade at quarterback, but this team may not have the upside of some of Paul Johnson's past teams. That leaves the talented but turnover prone Logan Thomas and the Hokies battling with the underrated Stephen Morris and the Hurricanes for top billing. The schedules are fairly even as both miss Clemson and Virginia Tech avoids Florida State in crossover play. The division crown could be decided Nov. 9 in South Florida when Tech visits Miami, possibly giving the Canes a small edge. Al Golden's team improved in his first offseason and tied for the division crown a year ago with a starting lineup stacked with freshmen and sophomores. There is no reason to believe this team won't continue to improve under his leadership in 2013. Meanwhile, there was a lot of turnover on the coaching staff in Blacksburg after the program took a major step back last fall. Give me The U to win the Coastal.

Anson Whaley, Founder and Editor of Cardiac Hill@AnsonWhaley
The ACC Coastal Division is wide open as far as I'm concerned and I could see any number of teams winning it. If my hand is forced, I'll take Miami, though. They return most of their offensive starters and quarterback Stephen Morris shook off some early jitters and played incredibly well down the stretch (12 TDs against only one interception in his last five games). And with running back Duke Johnson, the ACC Rookie of the Year, I can see them putting up a lot of points. The concern, obviously, is the defense. The unit was lackluster (okay, they were bad) in 2012 and I'm not sure it gets much better this fall. But I like what the offense can do and as long as the defense isn't horrendous, I could see Miami winning the division.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
A strong case could be made that four teams – Miami, Virginia Tech, North Carolina and Georgia Tech – have a legitimate case to win the Coastal. While this division battle should be entertaining to watch as it unfolds during the year, I’m not sold that any of these teams should be ranked inside of the top 25 in preseason polls.

Although I’m not convinced the defense will be much better, I have to go with Miami as my pick to win the Coastal Division. The Hurricanes went 2-1 against the other three challengers, with a four-point defeat to North Carolina in early October. New offensive coordinator James Coley doesn’t have much experience calling the plays, but he has plenty of talent to work with, including rising star Duke Johnson at running back, quarterback Stephen Morris, one of the ACC’s top offensive lines and a solid receiving corps. Miami’s schedule isn’t particularly overwhelming, as it misses Clemson and hosts Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech.

Al Golden has Miami moving in the right direction, and the Hurricanes are my pick to win another tight, competitive race in the Coastal. 

Mark Ross (@AthlonSports)
I may be the contrarian in this debate, but I am going to take North Carolina over Miami in the Coastal this year, with Virginia Tech lurking. The Hokies are the hardest team in the division to get a handle on at this point because while the defense should be pretty solid, the offense is working under a new coordinator and the early results from the spring game were less than encouraging.

That leaves us with the Tar Heels and the Hurricanes, both of which tied Georgia Tech for the best record (5-3) in the Coastal last season, but also were ineligible for the postseason, which is why the Yellow Jackets went to Charlotte to play Florida State in the ACC championship game. Both UNC and UM lost key personnel from last year's team, but they also each return quite a bit of talent and experience, so there's no reason to not expect similar, if not better, results from these two teams this fall.

Carolina's offense should be just as explosive and productive this season even without All-ACC running back Giovani Bernard because quarterback Bryn Renner is back and he won't lack for weapons. And as poorly as the defense may have played at times last season (namely in the Tar Heels' 68-50 blowout loss to the Yellow Jackets), statistically it still finished in the top half of the ACC in just about every major category.

The same cannot be said, the Hurricanes' defense, which ended up near the bottom of these same conference rankings. With a year of experience in coordinator Dan Disch's unique 4-2-5 system, I fully expect the Tar Heels, with seven returning starters, to be better on defense. Miami returns just five starters on that side of the ball and let's face it, they have farther to go in terms of improvement than Carolina when you look at last year's performances.

Don't get me wrong, the Hurricanes' offense should be pretty good in its own right, especially with All-America candidate Duke Johnson in the backfield, but this unit will be under the direction of a new coordinator, as James Coley comes over from in-state rival Florida State to replace Jedd Fisch. Miami returns nine starters on offense, but the experience factor could be somewhat tempered by the adjustment and acclimation period associated with a reworked coaching staff.

The other reason I like Carolina over Miami is because of their respective ACC schedules. With the addition of Pittsburgh (Coastal) and Syracuse (Atlantic) to the conference, division teams play just two crossover opponents. The Tar Heels will host Boston College and make the short trip to Raleigh to play in-state rival NC State from the Atlantic, while the Hurricanes get Wake Forest and will go to Tallahassee to face the Seminoles. I think it's fair to say advantage Tar Heels here, right? Also, and perhaps the clincher, if you will, is the fact that UNC will host Miami in Chapel Hill on Oct. 17. That Thursday night game may still be early as it relates to the calendar, but it very well could decide who wins the  division. I'll take the Tar Heels at home in the middle of October and to represent the Coastal in Charlotte in December. That is, unless the Hokies get their offensive act together by the fall.

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