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ACC Coastal 2020 Preview: where southern hospitality meets Saturday showdowns.

ACC Coastal 2020 Preview: where southern hospitality meets Saturday showdowns.

Welcome to the ACC Coastal division, home of slang, southern hospitality, and Saturday showdowns. Brother to the SEC, the ACC puts up a fight as one of the toughest conferences in all of college football—even though Clemson made it look easy for awhile. 

The Coastal division proved to be a battlefield last year, as Carolina and Virginia fought it out for the top spot, with Miami and Virginia Tech not far behind. This year is up for grabs, as multiple teams possess the talent and tenacity to bring home a divisional title. 

With college football’s destiny still in the air, we can only hope that come fall, all is right with the world. Until then, we are going to keep bringing you our Hot Takes. Here's who we think will walk away as the ACC Coastal Division champion... 

1. UNC 

Tar Heel fans should be excited as Mack Brown starts his second season as head coach. After leading North Carolina to a Military Bowl win over Temple and a nailbiter against Clemson, 2020 looks promising.

The Heels will field 10 of 11 starters from last season, including sophomore quarterback Sam Howell, who led the ACC in passing touchdowns last year. On the defensive side of the ball, the Heels won over Desmond Evans—the no.2 recruit in the class of 2020. Yes, you’re going to want to watch his highlight tape.

With newfound confidence in Mack Brown and the talent to back it up, North Carolina has a shot at taking control of the Coastal Division and making a run at the ACC title. 

2. Miami

After splitting the season at .500 last year, the Hurricanes are looking to make a bigger splash in the fall, starting with their new transfer, D’Eriq King. The former Houston quarterback went off for 78 touchdowns in three seasons including 28 on the ground—they say he has Ferraris on his feet

As expected, Miami returns a solid defense, known for big turnovers and even bigger celebrations. Coach Diaz, also added a new defensive lineman to their arsenal—Quincy Roche, 2019 ACC Defensive Player of the Year. With the foundations built for a promising season, Miami could be in for a shot at the Coastal Division title—if they can get off to a good start.

3. Virginia

Virginia is coming off their first 9-win season since 2007. After taking a hefty loss to Clemson in the ACC championship, they’re looking at the top of the Coastal division once again. 

Brennan Armstrong has a massive mountain in front of him. Not only does he have to follow Bryce Perkins, who slung it for 3,000+ yards and 22 touchdowns in 2019, he also has to face off against Georgia in his first game as a starter. Their offense will rely heavily on junior running back Wayne Taulapapa to keep the chains moving. 

The Cavaliers have the talent to win some big games, but their schedule is pretty serious. After playing Georgia, they face Clemson and North Carolina in back-to-back weeks. If they can take one win out of those three games I would consider it an accomplishment. 

4. Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech head coach, Justin Fuente, added some much needed defensive assistance during the offseason. Justin Hamilton will be calling the shots as the Hokies hope to build upon a respected 2019 record of 5-3 in the division. They will be returning a majority of their defense which bodes well for their recent coaching transition. 

What’s still unclear is who will be under the snap when kickoff comes. After watching Hendon Hooker sling some beauties last season, it seems likely he will be the first choice. But, Fuente seems to love close competition, as he recently said all offensive positions are up for grabs. That being said, the Hokies will need to get going early as they face national contender Penn State in week 2. 

5. Pitt 

Since Pat Narduzzi’s start in 2015, the Panthers have seen steady progress season after season. At 4-4 last year, they secured wins against formidable opponents like UCF but dropped tough losses to Miami and Georgia Tech.  

Pitt is bringing back 17 starters in the fall and their defense will be airtight with players like Paris Ford. Where they will see trouble is on the offensive side of the ball. Kenny Pickett is coming off a 3,000+ yard season, which only yielded 13 touchdowns. If the Panthers want to give the division title a go, they’re going to have to average more than 21.2 points per game. With that big question mark, the likeliness of Pitt stealing a 1 or 2 spot in the Coastal division is slim. 

6. Duke 

The Blue Devils seem to thrive better on the hardwood than the gridiron—which is no surprise really. Last year that flaunted a record of 3-5, taking some big losses on the chin. This year, they’re going to need some serious offense if they want to compete in games. 

Luckily their prayer was answered when Chase Brice decided to take his final season to Durham. After sitting behind Trevor Lawrence, Brice has the in-game experience and competitive edge that could ignite a Duke offense. If the Blue Devils can keep opponents out of their endzone, while also rallying around their new quarterback, they have a chance at winning more than three games this fall. 

7. Georgia Tech 

With Geoff Collins going into his second year as head coach, the Yellow Jackets are still in the early stages of development. This was evident in the up and down performances of James Graham last season. This year is more promising with Graham gaining more confidence as a thrower, and a beefed-up the offensive line, that added in two graduate transfers. 

The challenge for Tech will be the schedule. With Clemson in week 1, then North Carolina, Notre Dame, and Georgia in their final game, it’s going to be a long fall for the Yellow Jackets. Hopefully, they can sting a few bigger teams and pull together a solid season—but don’t put your chips on them to take over the ACC.