Virginia Tech Again Favored To Win ACC Coastal Division Title
Since the Atlantic Coast Conference went to divisions for the 2005 season, following the additions of Big East teams Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College, the Hokies have dominated the Coastal Division, winning it in five of the seven years. Tech is the two-time defending champion of the Coastal and is a big 10/11 favorite at Bovada to make it a threepeat in 2012.
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The Hokies finished the 2011 regular season 7-1 in the ACC to win the division by two games - the only loss came to Clemson. Virginia Tech got another shot at the Tigers in the conference championship game but was beaten soundly again by Clemson. Despite that, the Hokies got a Sugar Bowl berth - the first time the ACC got two BCS bowl berths - but there lost to Michigan to finish 11-3.
Virginia Tech has won at least 10 games in eight consecutive seasons, the longest such streak in the country. But the team might be hard-pressed to match that this season with just three starters back on offense. Gone is one of the nation's top rushers, David Wilson (who rushed for a school-record 1,709 yards in 2011), as well as the team's top two receivers and four starting offensive linemen.
The Hokies' ACC title hopes (3/1 at Bovada) rest largely on QB Logan Thomas and what should be a very good defense. Thomas accounted for 30 total touchdowns last season and set the school's single-season total yardage mark (3,482) as a first-year starter. The Hokies' defense led the league with 41 sacks last year and everyone up front is back.
Miami, Fl. is the 9/2 Coastal second-favorite in coach Al Golden's second season. Golden is trying to rebuild the program while waiting for possible NCAA sanctions. Those could come before the end of this season and make Miami ineligible for the ACC title game. Last year the Hurricanes finished 6-6 and were bowl-eligible but the school decided to not accept a bid to get ahead of potential sanctions.
The Canes were hit extremely hard by departures this offseason, led by quarterback Jacory Harris, leading rusher Lamar Miller (who left school early for the NFL), top receiver Tommy Streeter and leading tackler Sean Spence. Miami is 9/1 to win its first ACC title game - the Canes have yet to play in the game. UM does get the two conference favorites, Florida State and Virginia Tech, in south Florida this season.
North Carolina is the third-favorite to win the Coastal at 11/2 but the Heels won't be playing in a bowl game regardless as they were hit with NCAA sanctions this offseason. New head coach Larry Fedora is overhauling the offense and defense after last year's 7-6 overall finish. The offense has one of the best young tailbacks in the nation in Giovani Bernard, who last season led all FBS freshmen in rushing and became UNC's first 1,000-yard runner since 1997. He and QB Bryn Renner (3,086 yards passing and school-record 26 TD passes in 2011) are among eight starters back on offense.
The only team to ever win the Coastal Division other than Virginia Tech is Georgia Tech, with the Jackets doing so in 2006 and '09. They are 6/1 to win the Coastal and 15/1 to win the ACC title, which Georgia Tech did in 2009 but was later forced to vacate. The Jackets' option offense is one of the most difficult schemes in the nation to defend. QB Tevin Washington, who led the team in rushing and passing, is one of seven offensive starters back. One thing is sure: the Jackets will be among the nation's rushing leaders; they ranked No. 2 in the country a year ago.
Virginia was a huge surprise a season ago, finishing 8-5 overall and second in the Coastal at 5-3, and is 13/2 to win the division and 18/1 to win the ACC. The Cavs have a trio of running backs returning who totaled 1,990 rushing yards and 21 total touchdowns a year ago and QB Michael Rocco also is back. But the defense only returns four starters.
And then there's Duke, which finished in its customary last place in the Coastal a season ago at 3-9 overall and 1-7 in conference play. The Blue Devils are 30/1 to win the division and 100/1 to win the ACC and their fans are simply waiting for basketball season.
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