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Data diving into the ACC Coastal

The ACC had been Clemson’s stomping ground for nearly a decade. Now it’s up to either Pitt or Wake Forest in 2021.

ACC Championship - Clemson v Notre Dame Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

The ACC Coastal has one single team ranked in the top-25 of the AP poll, and one team ranked in the top-25 of the SP+. That team is the Pitt Panthers. The Panthers are guided by 5th year QB Kenny Pickett, a really good offensive line, and a solid defense. But Pat Narduzzi’s squad is far from being the most “talented” in the Coastal.

In the ACC Atlantic, three teams are in the AP Top-25, and two are in the SP+ Top-25. Wake (18), NC State (21) and Clemson (22) are ranked per the AP, while Clemson (9) and NCSU (12) make the SP+ list. The SP+ has Wake Forest 32nd overall in FBS.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 27 Pitt at Syracuse Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

I’m a firm believer in Bill Connelly’s program model of: acquisition, development and deployment. However, I’ve never seen anyone place a ‘value’ on the three into the success of the program. I’ve used a 50-40-10 approach, which is a similar approach attributed to happiness in humans.

Talent is at least 50% of the equation. Development is probably around 40%, while deployment is 10%. The talent level gets you in the door, the development (culture, S&C, tactical and technical skill) determines who is going to even get into the top-10, and the Deployment / the playbook is a mere 10%.

If plays mattered any more than 10%, people would spend less money on recruiting, and the guru OC’s and DC’s of the world would make for better head coaches.

The Data

Lance, I hope you see this and are proud of me.

Above- This is the spreadsheet I created to track the data for each program from 2019-2021. It was built upon SP+ data from Bill Connelly’s metrics and the penalty data is from Team Rankings. The Blue Chip Ratio is from Bud Elliott, and the blue chip prospect numbers were calculated from the 247 Sports team rankings pages.

Talent via Blue Chip Ratio

Acquisition is the most important factor in being able to win football games. However, it’s the barrier for entry, not a guarantee teams will actually be good. Without a baseline level of talent, a program won’t make the College Football Playoff. Bud Elliott calls this the Blue Chip Ratio. Elliott, a former SB Nation writer and current 247 recruiting guru, has been spot on in his approach.

New England Patriots v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

However, as Bill Belichick once said, “Talent sets the floor, character sets the ceiling.” Coach Belichick is right, and Miami has been the model of that failure in the Coastal. The ‘Canes have one ACC Coastal title in the past six seasons (2016-2021), however, The U has certainly has had the most talent over that time span.

Miami has averaged 10.8 Blue Chip (BC) players per year since 2016. Since 2019, Miami has had 10.3 blue chippers per class. The rest of the Coastal: 2.7. Miami also made the Blue Chip Ratio number twice since 2019. No other Coastal program has been in the BCR since Diaz took over at Miami.

The only team in the Coastal even close to Miami has been UNC under Mack Brown. The Tar Heels average 6.5 BC players since 2016, and 9.0 since 2019. The least talented teams over the past three years have been Duke and Pitt. Duke has signed 0.3 blue chip prospects per year while Pitt has signed only 1.7.

SP+ overall and wins

Virginia Tech v Miami Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

Since the Manny Diaz Era, aka The New Miami, has taken over Coral Gables, the Hurricanes have averaged seven wins per season. The rest of the Coastal has averaged 5.7 wins over that same three year span. The leader in wins over the three seasons has been Pitt with eight per year. UNC, like Miami, has averaged seven wins. UVA just misses the seven win cutoff with 6.7. Va Tech has won 6.3 per season.

The dregs of the Coastal society have been Duke and Georgia Tech. GT has only won three games per year while Duke has won 3.3. In the ACC, Miami and Pitt are tied with 5.3 wins per season. UNC, UVA, and Virginia Tech all average 4.7 per year. The Jackets have edged Duke winning 2.3 per season while Duke has averaged 1.3.

The ‘Canes overall SP+ from 2019-2021 has been a league leading 29th. UNC trails just behind at 29.3. The non-Miami Coastal has averaged a 57.3 metric. There are 65 Power 5 programs, the Coastal averages at the bottom end of the P5. Pitt’s 33.7 has the Panthers in 3rd place. The bottom two are, once again, Duke and GT. Duke is 95th in overall SP+ over the three year span while the Jackets are 93.3.

SP+ Offense vs. Defense

Virginia Tech v Miami Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

The Coastal offenses have averaged a ranking of 60.7, while Miami’s offense has been 46.3. The highest Coastal offense has been UNC at 13.3. The worst Coastal offense has been Duke at 105th, Georgia Tech is just behind the Devils averaging 93rd in the SP+. Pitt’s 67.3 average puts them just below the 65 P5 schools mark.

The Coastal defenses have been equally as bad. The Coastal has averaged a ranking of 59.9, while Miami has been 31st. The ‘Canes are a middle of the road P5 defense. The best Coastal defense has been Pitt at 24. The worst Coastal defense has been Duke at 78.7, while GT is just behind the Devils at 77.3. UVA is also below the 65th parallel with an SP+ average defense of 70, while UNC just made the cut at 64.7.

So the Coastal offenses have been slightly behind the Coastal defenses. Both are in the bottom of the 65 Power 5 schools based on their rankings of 60.7 and 59.9. Duke and Georgia Tech certainly haven’t helped that.

SP+ kicking

Reese’s Senior Bowl Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

The Coastal has been slightly better at kicking than they have been at offense and defense. However, the Coastal teams are still just above the cusp of the 65th parallel line of Power 5 schools. The average SP+ kicking over the last three seasons has been 53.7 for all Coastal teams.

Miami has been 46th, riding high off the 3rd ranking in 2020 with Jose Borregales and Lou Hedley being stellar at their skill jobs. As poor as the punt return game was, it was overmatched by touchbacks and booming punts in the efficiency department.

The worst kicking program over the past three years? It has clearly been the Yellow Jackets. GT has averaged a ranking of 110.3 under Geoff Collins. The best has been Virginia Tech at 28th, followed by Pitt with a 38.7 ranking.


Miami v Pittsburgh Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

What about the dreaded penalties? Pitt has been the most penalized team in the Coastal since 2019. The Panthers average position in fewest penalties in the FBS has been 117 of 130 teams. Miami has been 111.3, while UNC is 100.3.

One thing to say about all three programs is that while they’ve led the Coastal in wins, they’ve all lost stupid games they never should’ve lost, too. Pitt lost to Western Michigan in ‘21, Miami to FSU in ‘21, and UNC to Ga Tech in ‘21. Those are some ugly losses just this season.

The least penalized teams have been Virginia Tech (39.3) and Virginia (47). The Coastal has averaged being ranked 76.5, well under the 65th parallel. The moral here is that teams with average talent can’t afford to commit this many penalties without the curse of losing to crappier teams.

We’ve seen this in real-time with Miami. Every season under Manny Diaz the ‘Canes have lost to some under performing schlub of a squad: Georgia Tech, FIU and Louisiana Tech in 2019- just to name a few.

What does it all mean?

ACC Football Championship - Clemson v Miami Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

It means that the most talented program in the ACC Coastal from 2019-2021, the Miami Hurricanes, has failed to make the ACC Championship Game under Manny Diaz. Diaz can say he needs five more recruiting classes all that he wants, but the team with the most wins in the Coastal has been Pitt. The Panthers have had the second least talent in the Coastal over that time span.

Miami clearly has the talent in the program. Now it’s time to begin to develop and deploy that talent better. That start with strength and conditioning, diet and nutrition, individual periods, and the mental focus in the film room and on the practice field. As Richard Johnson says, this is a game of blocking and tackling.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 11 Stanford at USC Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

National Champions and Kicking

Another thing to analyze is that a bad kicking game can hurt much more than penalties do. Pitt has been the most penalized Coastal program from ‘19-’21, but the 2nd best kicking team in the division. In college football, the national champion typically has had a strong kicking game per the SP+.

The 2021 favorite for the National Championship, the Georgia Bulldogs, have the 32nd ranked kicking game in FBS per the SP+. The Alabama Crimson Tide are 25th, the Michigan Wolverines are 2nd. The Cincinnati Bearcats are 72nd.

In 2020, the Tide finished 13th in kicking. Ohio State was 86th, while the Clemson Tigers were 10th. In 2019, the LSU Tigers had the 12th rated kicking game. They beat the Clemson Tigers who had the 84th rated kicking game in FBS.

National penalties

In ‘21, Georgia is ranked 21st in fewest penalties with 4.9 per game. Bama is 101st, while Michigan is 24th with five per game, and the Bearcats are 116th.

In ‘20, Alabama finished 62nd with six penalties per game. The Tide beat the Buckeyes in the College Football Playoff Championship Game. OSU finished 73rd, while the Clemson Tigers were 4th.

In ‘19, the LSU Tigers were 78th with 6.4 penalties. The Clemson Tigers were 51st, while Buckeyes were 55th.

The moral of the penalty story is, while Miami might be able to win more games than their less talented Coastal counterparts, we can more than likely point to kicking and penalty woes as to why the ‘Canes aren’t a well developed or deployed program- acquired talent aside.

Miami’s Future

If Diaz does return, he will have to find a new offensive coordinator and should replace Jonathan Patke as the special teams coach and hire a defensive coordinator. Diaz could oversee the kicking and culture, while letting someone like Bob Shoop handle the DC duties. At OC, Miami should look around at coaches like Graham Harrell (formerly of USC), Andrew Sowder from Kent State, and Major Applewhite who is now at South Alabama.

The Hurricanes athletic department is in shambles right now with football being mediocre, baseball being average and the basketball team is just plain hard to watch. A new AD is coming soon, but will they have the backing to clean house of Diaz, Gino DiMare and Jim Larranaga?