ACC Coastal Schedule Outlook
July 30, 2013
By Joe Nelson
The ACC looks to step back into the national spotlight this season and it appears there are a few teams capable of making a great run with a Coastal division featuring several contenders after a tight race last season. With college football just around the corner, here is a look at the key games ahead for each team in the ACC Coastal division.
Duke Blue Devils: The Blue Devils made a historic bowl appearance last season and should have been bowl winners before one of the more remarkable collapses (and ATS bad beats) in recent history. Duke retained head coach Cutcliffe but this was a team with a suspect statistical profile last season, soundly out-scored and out-gained despite the postseason bid. Duke should be favored in every non-conference game this season so a return bowl trip is possible and avoiding both Florida State and Clemson is certainly a break in the ACC schedule.
Atlantic Draw: NC State and Wake Forest
Toughest Back-to-Back: A critical stretch for Duke will be playing at Virginia and at Virginia Tech in back-to-back weeks in late October. Duke should have a solid record at that point in the season and it could be a turning point road trip in either direction. Duke only won once on the road last season and any bowl hopes will likely require at least two road wins this season.
Biggest Non-Conference Game: While games with Troy and Navy may be more significant in national stature, the week 2 game at Memphis will be critically important for a team that has had so little success on the road in recent years. Memphis has had awful results the last few years but will bring an experienced team ready to host a major conference foe. Duke has Georgia Tech the following week and they cannot afford to get caught in a road game that may be easily overlooked.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets: Despite opening last season 2-4, Georgia Tech ended up in the ACC championship game, commendably playing a tight game with Florida State. The Yellow Jackets also delivered a nice Sun Bowl win over USC to close the season on a high note. The Yellow Jackets are certainly among the contenders in this division but they have a difficult path with tough road games at Miami and at Clemson on the way. Georgia Tech also closes the year with Georgia facing one of the more difficult overall schedules in this division.
Atlantic Draw: Syracuse and Clemson
Toughest Back-to-Back: Georgia Tech has a very tough start to the conference season, opening up at Duke and then hosting North Carolina for two big division games in September. The stakes are higher the following two weeks, hosting Virginia Tech in a huge primetime Thursday night game, seeking to avenge an overtime loss from last season. The next week the Yellow Jackets are at Miami seeking to avenge another overtime loss from last season. Those will be games that could decide the division title in what figures to be a multi-team race.
Biggest Non-Conference Game: While the Georgia game at the end of the season certainly will have the most national attention, in recent years the series has not provided a great deal of meaning as often one of the teams may be locked into a bigger championship game the following week as was the case for both squads last season. A key game ahead on the schedule will follow-up the early ACC gauntlet with a road trip to BYU in mid-October, following up the Miami game. That will be a tough situation for Georgia Tech but it is a game that the team will want to perform well in after an embarrassing 41-17 home loss in the matchup last season.
Miami, FL Hurricanes: After declining postseason spots the last two seasons this will be a big opportunity for Al Golden and the Hurricanes in his third season in Coral Gables. This is an experienced team that can certainly make some noise in the ACC this season but this was also a very inconsistent team last year, suffering a couple of lopsided losses. Miami has to play at Florida State for a tough draw from the Atlantic but games with Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech will be at home for a favorable division draw.
Atlantic Draw: Wake Forest and Florida State
Toughest Back-to-Back: Miami only plays a few meaningful games in the first half of the season before closing with games in seven straight weeks. The two biggest games will be at Florida State and then hosting Virginia Tech for homecoming in the first two weeks of November. Those will be season-making games for the Hurricanes, particularly if Miami is able to pass all of the early season tests.
Biggest Non-Conference Game: In the second game of the season Miami will play Florida for the first time since 2008. Both teams figure to be in the top 25 at the time and it will be a big national game and a key SEC vs. ACC matchup early in the year. A loss won’t spoil Miami’s season but a win could propel the Hurricanes to a prominent place in the spotlight.
North Carolina Tar Heels: It seems like every year North Carolina has high end talent going early in the NFL draft but the Tar Heels have never put it all together for an overly successful season. North Carolina has never made it to the ACC Championship game although last season they would have if they were not on a postseason ban. This season North Carolina has a favorable draw from the Atlantic division but some of the toughest Coastal games will be on the road and another good but not great season figures to be the most likely scenario.
Atlantic Draw: Boston College and NC State
Toughest Back-to-Back: The toughest games are fairly well spaced out on the North Carolina schedule this season but the most important stretch may be back-to-back home games with Miami and Boston College in late October. With a tough early season schedule a loss or two seems likely for the Tar Heels and that home stand will be a critical juncture to make sure the remainder of the season heads in a positive direction.
Biggest Non-Conference Game: North Carolina has a big opportunity to open the season, playing a Thursday night national TV game with South Carolina. While the Tar Heels will be a road underdog this team has a lot of experienced players back in action and it would be a huge statement win for the program and the ACC in general.
Pittsburgh Panthers: It wound up being a losing season for Pittsburgh last season after an ugly bowl showing but the Panthers had some highlights in an up-and-down season. In a second season for the coaching staff there might be more consistency although the defense is much more experienced than the offense. Moving to the ACC will also provide a much tougher overall schedule for Pittsburgh so it may not be easy to return to the postseason. Pittsburgh has a tough ACC schedule with Florida State present and several tough road games within the division.
Atlantic Draw: Florida State and Syracuse
Toughest Back-to-Back: A tricky stretch on the schedule will feature back-to-back road games at Navy and then at Georgia Tech. There will be some advantage in getting to play Georgia Tech immediately after playing Navy given the similar offensive styles but it will also be a grueling stretch for the defense. Looking ahead to a big game with Notre Dame also could hurt Pittsburgh in the back-to-back road trip.
Biggest Non-Conference Game: No question the game circled for Pittsburgh is a home date with Notre Dame in November. Last season Notre Dame somehow survived the upset bid with a triple-overtime win and Pittsburgh will look to win for the first time since 2009 in the series.
Virginia Cavaliers: In three years under Mike London the Cavaliers have alternated bad and good seasons, with this season due for a rebound if the pattern holds after a discouraging 4-8 campaign last year. Virginia out-gained its foes substantially last season despite the losing record and a veteran roster will help the cause. Virginia does face a challenging schedule however with tough non-conference games and a difficult draw from the Atlantic division but eight of 12 games will be at home.
Atlantic Draw: Maryland and Clemson
Toughest Back-to-Back: Following up homecoming week, Virginia has two huge games to open November, hosting Clemson and then playing at North Carolina. The final five games of the season present a great challenge for Virginia so getting a win in at least one of those big games will be critical. Virginia closes the season with another tough pair, at Miami and then hosting Virginia Tech.
Biggest Non-Conference Game: The opening game with BYU will draw some attention but hosting Oregon in the second week will make national waves. It will be long travel for the Ducks and a big opportunity for a season-making win for Virginia. Virginia is just 3-9 ATS the last four years as a home underdog however.
Virginia Tech Hokies: After a down season in 2012 many expect Virginia Tech to rise to the top of the ACC again this season. While going undefeated might go out the window in the opener against Alabama, Virginia Tech has a favorable ACC slate and could be a serious threat to win this division, as they have three of the last five years. The Hokies have a nice Atlantic draw but also play some of the toughest division games on the road.
Atlantic Draw: Boston College and Maryland
Toughest Back-to-Back: While the opener will be brutally tough, Virginia Tech could get on a roll with winnable non-conference games for the next few weeks in September. The ACC season opens with a bang however with two big games and for the Hokies to return to its elite standing they will need to perform well. The ACC opener is a Thursday night game at Georgia Tech in what was a very tight game last season. The next week North Carolina visits for homecoming after Virginia Tech allowed 48 points in losing to the Tar Heels last season.
Biggest Non-Conference Game: No question the biggest game of the season for Virginia Tech and perhaps one of the biggest games of the season in the entire college football landscape is the opener with Alabama in Atlanta. Virginia Tech lost by 10 against Alabama to open the 2009 season and while the Hokies will be solid underdogs this is a great opportunity for the program if they can play well.
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