The media was pretty in synch when they chose the Atlantic Division, the only real disagreement came at the top. Florida State received 121 first place votes (Total 1,108 points) while Clemson (1,007) received 37 first place ballots and Louisville (843) was the only other Atlantic vote-getter with 9 selections. Following behind the big names is the unanimous ACC dark horse selection NC State (658). They have a lot of experience and the stats love them, but it’s a tough battle to finish above fourth place. There is a significant drop off after the Wolfpack until you reach Wake Forest (415). The Demon Deacons had a surprising bowl season last year, but it seems unlikely that they will take another big leap. There is some hype for projected 6th place Syracuse (362), but it mostly revolves around next season as the Orange face a brutal schedule this year. Many are expecting big improvements on the offensive side of the ball, but they would need to also make a jump defensively to compete in the Atlantic. BC (283) is picked to take up the rear. The Eagles eked into a bowl game last season on the back of a very easy schedule, but the media doesn’t seem to believe that Addazio can put together an FBS caliber offense which would be required to make any noise this year.
The Coastal Division gets a lot muddier. Six different teams garnered at least 4 first place votes, with only Virginia getting left out. The projected winner is Miami (1,065 points) with 103 first place votes. “The Hurricanes are back!” - Said the media. Stop me if you’ve heard this before. Next up are the reigning ACC Coastal Champs Virginia Tech (932) with 40 first place votes. They are replacing a lot, but the media seems to believe in coach Justin Fuente enough to keep the team a contender. Project in third are our Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (708) with 9 first place votes. A lot of people are very uncertain about this team, especially with the quarterback position in flux, so it shows a lot of respect for Paul Johnson to be placed this high. They are, however, very close to the next two teams. In 4th is Pitt (673) with 7 first place votes. The Panthers are losing a good amount on offense, including OC Matt Canada, and returning a lot on defense, which might not be the best thing in the world given their struggles last year. They are followed closely by UNC (606) with 4 first place votes. The perpetually hyped Tar Heels are taking a break from the expectations this year after losing most of their offense. Duke (473) had a wide range of picks. They had 4 first place votes and somebody even picked them to win the ACC. But they still were picked comfortably in the 6th spot. Finally, Virginia was the near-consensus pick for last place after their dismal showing this year.
There is not a whole lot of surprise here. The Atlantic has well-defined tiers with a very strong top couple teams (160 media members chose an Atlantic team to win the Championship versus just 7 choosing Coastal teams). Most of the Coastal is in a bit of transition year with new quarterbacks and a lot of new faces all over the field which lends itself to uncertainty. Coastal Chaos looks like it will continue.
Georgia Tech is actually ranked higher than I thought they would be, I was expecting 4th or 5th. The middle of the coastal (GT, Pitt, and UNC) may as well have been tied in the voting. I really am having a hard time pinning this team and I expect many media members did as well. One thing to note, in Paul Johnson’s 9 years on the Flats he has only underperformed the projections once and only met them once. That’s 7 of his 9 seasons that GT has over-performed the media expectations. Maybe they are finally catching on.