The opening week is finally upon us! Well, if you don’t count Week 0, and by the way one of our fellow Coastal compatriots played in their first game they may want to forget they played it too.
There are a lot of new faces with mass transfers and coaching shakeups. Clemson will take the field without Brent Venables coaching the defense for the first time since 2011. Is Clemson finally losing their footing as an annual contender or will Dabo make solid hires to show last year was just a hiccup? The rest of the Atlantic is starting to catch up if the slide continues. Wake Forest captured that side of the conference last year and NC State isn’t far behind either. Syracuse seems the only easy out left in the crowded Atlantic.
On the other side is a different story, four of the seven Coastal teams will be debuting a new head coach this season in Duke, Miami, Virginia, and Virginia Tech. Georgia Tech shook up most of its staff and Pitt lost key players and their offensive coordinator after a solid season as ACC Champs.
- Miami - Yeah, you read that right. The Hurricane offense hummed along quite nicely under QB Tyler Van Dyke’s rookie season. Now he has a coach who engineered some great offenses at Oregon. Miami recruits speed similar to Oregon so that should only help. The Canes haven’t lacked talent on defense but have been poor at tackling as an overall unit. Rod Wright will oversee the defense after a few years at UTSA where he helped them to 14th in the nation in yards allowed. They may not make the playoffs but this could be the team to beat in the ACC.
- North Carolina State - The Wolf Pack were so close to having an even better season last year with a 9-3 record. They took down Clemson at home but just lost to Miami and Wake Forest by a combined 4 points. A win over Wake would have had NC State playing Pitt in the conference championship instead. Devin Leary returns as QB after a great performance last year with 35 touchdowns to 5 interceptions.
- Clemson - The offense took a huge step back after Trevor Lawrence left for the NFL. DJ Uiagalelei filled in well as backup to Lawrence in 2020 but was very inconsistent last year. The former 5-star will have to improve to keep Clemson in the hunt for the ACC title. The defense is still loaded with talent and should continue to pressure opposing QBs but will have to work with two new Co-DCs.
- Wake Forest - The Demon Deacons shocked everyone last year by claiming the Atlantic division. Head Coach Dave Clawson has been a perfect fit for Wake Forest as he gets the most out of his players and is a true program builder. Unfortunately, a lot of the reason for success last year was QB Sam Hartman who was recently injured in fall camp and is out indefinitely. Redshirt freshman Mitch Griffis appears to be one who will try to fill in until word on Hartman’s return.
- Pittsburgh - Pittsburgh loses QB Kenny Pickett after what seems like an eternity. Pickett will be replaced by USC transfer Kedon Slovis who started 26 games for the Trojans. OC Mark Whipple has left though and he had a lot to do with Pickett’s progression. Another blow was WR Jordan Addison making the trek out west to USC. He was the main threat in the Panther's offense. Pitt won’t have enough firepower left to vie for the conference title but should be able to hang on the second in the Coastal.
- Louisville - The Cardinals are a hard one to gauge right now. They’ve had two straight losing seasons and yet QB Malik Cunnigham has been one of the better QBs in the league. The defense has been the Achilles Heel of this team but they are bringing in a lot of young talent that perhaps can help. They start the season with more winnable conference games so perhaps an early lead will boost them for a strong finish.
- Florida State - The Seminoles were one of the two teams that kicked off the season early against FCS Duquesne. Duquesne managed a win over Ohio last year and finished 7-3 so they aren’t terrible. FSU shredded them on the ground and QB Jordan Travis didn’t really need to make much happen before the backups came in. The defense also kept Duquesne from mustering much offense. The lone score came on a 22-yard pass that was all YAC. Outside of that FSU didn’t give up much else.
- Boston College - BC took a hit when QB Phil Jurkovic fractured his throwing hand and was out for multiple games. They have the potential to push for the top of the Atlantic but will need to be better protecting the QB. The secondary will be the strength for the defense as most of their playmakers return.
- North Carolina - Now had I done the ranking before Week 0 the Tar Heels probably would have ranked higher, but they just did not look good against FAMU. Don’t let the 56-24 score fool you. FAMU made headlines when 26 of their players were ruled ineligible the week before this game. It was even thought they may not even have enough players to play. The Rattlers made the trip with only 7 offensive linemen and 3 of those went down in the game. UNC took three quarters before pulling away against such an undermanned team. Mack Brown will need to figure out the issues before getting into conference play.
- Georgia Tech - The Yellow Jackets need to prove something this year for Coach Collins to last into next year. This is about the worst schedule you could hope for to do that. Still, there are games that can be won if the team can improve on defense and the offensive line. Duke, Virginia, and Virginia Tech are all in major transitions with both players and coaching staff. Look for those games to be the ones Tech needs to take advantage of.
- Virginia - Tony Elliot has left Clemson to take over the Cavaliers. His cupboard isn’t bare with QB Brennan Armstrong back but he will need to find some supporting pieces around him. There isn’t a lot of experience on the defensive line but a few transfers have come in to try and fill in the gaps.
- Virginia Tech - It feels strange to even list this once stalwart ACC team this low, but VT was absolutely gutted on offense from early NFL departures and transfers. QB Grant Wells transfers in from Marshall where he accumulated just over 5,000 yards but will have a lot of inexperience around him in the receiving game. Chamarri Connor anchors the defense at defensive back after having a season of 85 tackles, 2 sacks, and an INT.
- Syracuse - Running Back Sean Tucker set the single-season record for rushing yards at Syracuse with 1,496 yards. The problem is he was about the lone bright spot on the offense as they only managed 10 touchdowns through the air vs 6 interceptions. The defense also allowed 30+ points in six games.
- Duke - Mike Elko from Texas A&M was a good hire by Duke to replace head coach David Cutcliffe. Except for the talent at Duke was lacking last year and it won’t be any better this year. Duke struggled to score last year and only returns half of that production. New coach, new QB, new receivers on an already struggling team probably won’t see many wins for the Blue Devils this year.