Toe Meets Leather: 13 Days
Following the past few weeks of opponent previews and postseason prospects, this week From the Rumble Seat takes a look at the rest of the conference. So, just like last year, taken with a grain of salt, here is hopefully at least one of the many, many possible outcomes swirling in the muddy waters of the ACC Coastal.
These rankings reflect any and all tiebreakers.
1 - Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (7 - 1)
Wins: Boston College, Duke, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Miami, Pittsburgh, Virginia
Losses: Florida State
Season in a Sentence: QB Josh Jackson isn’t in trouble? Time to make the most with the window they’ve got.
S&P+ Ranking: 21st
It’ll take a little bit of magic for the Hokies to find themselves atop the division at the end of the season. It always does. However, with the defensive depth basically gone from last year’s team, finding their replacements seems to be the bill of order in Blacksburg. Since they’ve got one of the ACC’s resident immovable defensive coordinators, that seems to be less of an issue for the Hokies than almost anywhere else. Bud Foster has put together fine defenses before out of elbow grease, ace bandages, and those green stains you get from landing hard on the grass, so there’s no reason to think he’s close to slowing down yet. Their schedule helps. They draw an easier schedule here than they could have, but Florida State at Doak Campbell Stadium is always a tough ask. That said, the Coastal may be chaos, but it’ll be back to its old tricks. Essentially, the Thursday night Techmo Bowl will decide the division and it’s difficult to see the Yellow Jackets taking their third straight win in the spooky and mysterious world of Thursday night football in Blacksburg.
2 (tie) - Georgia Tech (6 - 2)
Wins: Louisville, Duke, North Carolina, Virginia, Miami, Pittsburgh
Losses: Clemson, VPISU
Season in a Sentence: New defensive coordinator, who this? New defense, who this? You may be noticing a theme...
S&P+ Ranking: 53rd
It’s more than a little concerning that Bill Connelly is not too keen on the Jackets this year, what with his fancy numbers and math he has over in his corner of the SB Nation world. That said, this engineering believes we can fight numbers with pure gut feel. Honestly, I’m higher on Tech than I think most people are. Our home schedule is fairly inviting come conference play and we have a fighting chance against the Hurricanes at home. That’s all one can ask for sometimes. It’ll be tough to come up a game short of the division title, but with starting quarterback Taquon Marshall and a plethora of other starters coming back on that side of the ball, the offense should be able to drag this team to a few wins, even while the new-look defense is still figuring it out.
2 (tie) - Miami (6 - 2)
Wins: Boston College, Florida State, Virginia, Pittsburgh, North Carolina, Duke
Losses: VPISU, Georgia Tech
Season in a Sentence: Miami is on a three game losing streak and hasn’t looked too swell in the process.
S&P+ Ranking: 13th
The U was back, baby! And then it wasn’t. They made it to 10-0 before dropping three straight to a mediocre at best Pittsburgh team, the steamroller that is Clemson, and the Fighting Cheeseheads of Wisconsin in their home stadium in the Orange Bowl, a game played in their own stadium. Malik Rosier is not as much of a sure bet as most thought. But, this is Mark Richt and his past baseline of success and the talent he has in Miami belies that they won’t exactly be bad. Oh, they’ll lose a game everyone suspects they’ll win, don’t get that wrong (*cough cough* at Georgia Tech *cough*) because they’re totally capable of that, but, for the most part, they’ll hack-saw through the rest of their conference schedule leading everyone to declare once again that the U is back, baby! Maybe. Can you say “TaxSlayer Gator Bowl” three times fast?
4 - Duke (4 - 4)
Wins: Wake Forest, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Virginia
Losses: Clemson, Georgia Tech, Miami, VPISU
Season in a Sentence: They’ve got probably the best quarterback in the division but does he have the tools around him to get them the rest of the way?
S&P+ Ranking: 40th
The most consistently inconsistent team in the ACC Coastal from last year is back at it again for another round. Daniel Jones is a year older and a year wiser. The bulk of his receiving corps is back. But, they did lose six games last season and they looked the part. The Blue Demons still have yet to show they can avoid the trap of losing absolute head scratchers. But that seems to be a conference-wide theme. There were times last year when they looked to be the best team in the division. Other times, the most certainly did not. They are primed to over perform this projected fourth place finish, yet it is all too easy to see them just...not.
5 - North Carolina (3 - 5)
Wins: Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Virginia
Losses: North Carolina State, VPISU, Georgia Tech, Duke, Miami
Season in a Sentence: The rebuild gets knocked down a peg with the addition of thirteen suspensions to a team that finished 3-9 last year.
S&P+ Ranking: 51st
The odds the Tar Heels made a legitimate run at the Coastal crown were long before they suspended thirteen of their players due to some shoe-related shenanigans, including likely starting quarterback Chazz Surratt. Larry Fedora didn’t manage to avoid a bad case of foot-in-mouth disease, either, at ACC Media Days. They had a down year, to be sure, but there’s nothing too obvious saying their team is going to make the leap into contention, especially not with all the other drama leading to their crowded bench. And that’s why it could be another long season in Chapel Hill, if not quite as bad as the bottoming-out they saw last year.
6 - Pittsburgh (2 - 6)
Wins: Syracuse, Virginia
Losses: Wake Forest, Miami, Georgia Tech, VPISU, North Carolina, Duke
Season in a Sentence: Pat Narduzzi might learn this year that the ride his team has been on the last few years is causing his team whiplash, not the chop blocks. Maybe.
S&P+ Ranking: 45th
Sometimes, you can look at numbers and see what they tell you and still wind up thinking “Well, I know that isn’t right.” And that, my friends, is the story of the 2018 Pittsburgh Panthers. The team honestly was mediocre at best last year. Their young quarterback played fine in a tough situation down the stretch but this team has perpetually felt like it was another year away from contention, at best. They’ve knocked off Clemson and Miami the past two seasons, great wins, to be sure, but they haven’t figured out how to take care of their business against lesser teams. Once again, Pitt is one year away from being able to make some noise. Maybe once the offense settles in this year, they might improve down the stretch. But when they face Georgia Tech to open the conference slate in earnest, a lot of these questions will still be unanswered. And thus the roller coaster ride begins again.
7 - Virginia (1 - 7)
Losses: North Carolina State, VPISU, Georgia Tech, Miami, Duke, North Carolina, Pittsburgh
Season in a Sentence: A lack of talent will spoil Bronco Mendenhall’s junior prom, and, unlike last season, the Cavaliers won’t end the season dancing.
S & P+ Ranking: 73rd
When we last saw the boys, they were getting their doors absolutely blown off by Navy in the Military Bowl. It wasn’t a great look. Now, armed with just 27 ACC-caliber players, according to their very own coach, things don’t look too great for the Hoos up in Charlottesville. Their last seven games, the meat of their conference schedule, they played much closer to the absolutely abysmal team they were in 2016 than the bowl-eligible (woo!) team they had seemed like to start the season. I’ll let you guess who that one win is over, but, hint hint, it may or may not have cause me to almost tumble backward off the porch at lovely Rocky Mountain Pizza. But where was I? Oh, yeah, Virginia. They won’t be too hot this year up in Hooville, but they can take their blasé football and perhaps deal with another bump in their rebuild while they wait for their slow-paced basketball to come back.
Any inkling to how this mess will shake out? Let’s hear it.