ACC Coastal Division capsules


Last season: 6-7, 3-5 ACC

Quick hit: Duke had a signature moment last year when students rushed the field after the Blue Devils defeated North Carolina to become bowl eligible for the first time since 1994. Unfortunately, it went downhill after that, with four losses to end the regular season and a loss in the bowl. But most Duke fans were happy with the progress.

Duo of note: Jamison Crowder moves into the role as No. 1 wide receiver after the departure of Connor Vernon, who finished his Duke career as the ACC's all-time leader in receptions. Crowder had 76 catches for 1,074 yards and eight touchdowns last season. … Who will throw the ball? Quarterback Sean Renfree was the first Duke player taken in the NFL draft in nine years. Anthony Boone, who starred in a spot start against Virginia last season, is the new starter.

They'll win the division if: Unlikely, but they have a shot at six wins again without Clemson and Florida State on the schedule.

They'll come up short if: They don't find more depth across the board. Ohio State transfer Jeremy Cash will help the secondary at safety.

Must-see game: Georgia Tech at Duke on Sept. 15. Duke will get a good idea where it stands in the ACC after the conference opener.

Georgia Tech

Last season: 7-7, 5-3 ACC

Quick hit: Tech enters the season with a little momentum after making an appearance in the ACC Championship game and whipping USC in the Sun Bowl.

Duo of note: All-ACC linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu moves to defensive end after registering 10 sacks last season. … Coach Paul Johnson, who is usually guarded with his praise, said outside linebacker Brandon Watts "could really be a breakout player."

They'll win the division if: Vad Lee can live up to the hype at quarterback. Unlike his predecessor (Tevin Washington, who holds the ACC record for career rushing touchdowns), Lee has a good arm. The triple-option offense can reach its max with a true dual-threat quarterback such as Lee.

They'll come up short if: Players take too long to adjust to new defensive coordinator Ted Roof, the former Tech linebacker who installed a 4-3 scheme. Roof replaces Al Groh, who was fired in the middle of last season.

Must-see game: Tech at Georgia on Nov. 30. The Yellow Jackets have lost four games in a row to their archrival.


Last season: 7-5, 5-3 ACC

Quick hit: Al Golden may finally reap the rewards of somehow keeping the program together through the lengthy NCAA investigation, which the Miami coach wants settled before the season opener. After two years of self-imposed penalties, the Hurricanes are the popular pick to win the division.

Duo of note: Stephen Morris is only a second-year starter, but got a heap of praise poured on him at the Manning Passing Academy. One writer said Morris "might be the most talented quarterback in college football" because of his physical tools and game management. … Golden promises more touches (around 18-20 per game) for running back and special teams star Duke Johnson, the ACC's Freshman of the Year. Last year, Johnson averaged 171 yards per game and scored 14 touchdowns. He could evolve into a Heisman candidate.

They'll win the division if: They're eligible for it.

They'll come up short if: The NCAA investigation lingers into the season.

Must-see game: Florida at Miami on Sept. 7. Miami is on the upswing, but is it ready to compete with an SEC power? An upset would earn the Hurricanes mad respect for the ACC and be huge in recruiting as the rivals often go head-to-head for the state's top prospects.

North Carolina

Last season: 8-4, 5-3 ACC

Quick hit: The Tar Heels were co-champs of the division last season, but couldn't play for the conference title because of an NCAA ban on postseason play. Nevertheless, coach Larry Fedora still got rings for the team, which reportedly annoyed some ACC opponents. This year, things have settled down with no NCAA issues and no new offense to learn.

Duo of note: Quarterback Bryn Renner threw for 3,356 yards and 28 touchdowns last season and returns top targets Quinshad Davis at wide receiver and Eric Ebron at tight end.

They'll win the division if: They win at home against Miami on Oct. 17. North Carolina avoids the ACC's top two teams, Clemson and Florida State.

They'll come up short if: If the defense lacks consistency like last season. The Tar Heels gave up 33 or more points in six games, including 68 to Georgia Tech.

Must-see game: North Carolina at South Carolina on Aug. 29. Jadeveon Clowney said Renner was one of the quarterbacks "scared" of him.


Last season: 6-7

Quick hit: Pittsburgh has had five head coaches since 2010. Fortunately, Paul Chryst will be around for a second season to guide the Panthers' debut in the ACC. The former Wisconsin assistant may have had the chance leave after last season, but turned down overtures from the Badgers.

Duo of note: Wide receiver Devin Street decided to come back for his senior season. He led the Big East with 73 catches last season, along with 975 yards and five touchdowns. Street is on track to break school records in receptions and receiving yards. … Defensive end Aaron Donald likely will be motivated after he was inexplicably left off the All-ACC preseason team. Last season, Donald had 18.5 tackles for losses and was named first team All-Big East.

They'll win the division if: They could be a surprise contender. After all, this was a team that took Notre Dame to three overtimes last season before losing. Pitt has nine returning starters on defense.

They'll come up short if: Quarterback Tom Savage is rusty after not taking a snap in a game in two years. He transferred twice (Rutgers and Arizona) to get to Pitt.

Must-see game: Pittsburgh at Syracuse on Nov. 23. It's a battle of the ACC's newest members.


Last season: 4-8, 2-6 ACC

Quick hit: After being named ACC Coach of the Year in 2011, Mike London and the Cavaliers took a step back last season with a 4-8 record. London hired three former head coaches as assistants in an effort to get things corrected before it's too late. London even assigned himself to help with the defensive line this year.

Duo of note: Virginia took a nose dive because it couldn't put points on the board, and most of that had to do with inconsistent quarterback play. Sophomore David Watford likely will start, but he's being pushed by former Wayne County High star Greyson Lambert.

They'll win the division if: They can peak in November when they hit the season's toughest stretch. Fortunately, Virginia has Clemson and archrival Virginia Tech at home, but goes on the road to Miami.

They'll come up short if: They can't win the close games. Four of Virginia's losses last season were by a combined total of 22 points.

Must-see game: Oregon at Virginia on Sept. 7. Virginia is the clear underdog, but it will be a long flight for Oregon.

Virginia Tech

Last season: 7-6, 4-4 ACC

Quick hit: Virginia Tech is looking to rebound from last year's six losses, the most in a season for coach Frank Beamer since 1993. Unfortunately, the Hokies open the season against Alabama, winner of the past two BCS championships.

Duo of note: Linebacker Jack Tyler is one of college football's more inspirational stories, going from walk-on to All-ACC selection. … Quarterback Logan Thomas, once considered a future NFL first-round pick, has a lot to prove after tossing 16 interceptions last season. He has made all kinds of changes, including altering his mechanics, and was named offensive MVP during the spring.

They'll win the division if: If the top-secret offense works. Virginia Tech made major overhauls to the offense after last season, including the hiring of former Auburn offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler. Beamer has revealed very few details

They'll come up short if: The defense, with nine returning starters, doesn't dominate because the offense needs time.

Must-see game: Virginia Tech vs. Alabama on Aug. 31. Maybe only Virginia Tech's players think they have a chance in this one. Maybe.