College football is close to being back. We are at the point where speculation and optimism is running rampant. Multiple preview magazines are out, and the prognosis for the Canes is all over the place. Vegas has the over/under placed at 8.5 wins. Lindys has Miami in the Top 15, while others have Miami outside of the Top 25, so where should Miami be and is the Coastal the goal for year 1 of Mario Cristobal?
It’s well chronicled that the Canes have been failures since they became members of the ACC. In 2004 there were T-Shirts made that said “ACC All Canes Conference” or “We Are in Your League, You’re Not in Ours”. At the time they seemed realistic, but now 18 years later it’s hurtful that Miami has yet to win the conference and only once (in 2017) have they even made the conference title game. Old school Miami, the only goal was a national title, but years later the expectations have had to be recalibrated. This year is different, if for no other reason, The U finally spent an enormous amount of capital to invest in the football program.
The Coastal division is in flux as multiple teams have changed coaches, and the ones that haven’t are replacing QBs and other significant contributors off of last seasons teams. Miami obviously changed coaches but has some special talent in certain positions and added a bunch through the transfer portal, but still has questions in some key spots.
The Coastal breaks down to a couple of groups. One is the group that has no chance to contend in 2022, there’s a middle group that if all goes perfect they will be in Charlotte, and then the group that has realistic shots to make it.
Georgia Tech - Tech is coming off 3 straight 3 win seasons and Geoff Collins is on the hot seat. Jeff Sims is good at QB but they lost their best player in Jahmyr Gibbs. A bowl game is their ceiling and they should be little threat in the Coastal.
Duke - David Cutcliffe is no longer the head coach so their schematic advantage could be gone. Mike Elko steps in to a rebuild. Much like GT a bowl should be their goal.
In The Middle, and Would Need All The Breaks
Virginia Tech - Another team with a new coach, as Brent Pry takes over for Justin Fuente. The Hokies have a new QB in Grant Walls a Marshall transfer. VT will go bowling but will most likely be in the middle of the conference.
North Carolina - What a difference 12 months make. The Tar Heels were the overwhelming favorite to be in Charlotte last year, but now are in a mini rebuild. Sam Howell is gone so they will have a new signal caller. It is hard to believe they will be much better.
Virginia - Brennan Armstrong may be the best QB in the conference, and should make the transition to Tony Elliott a smooth one. They have to improve on defense but they will have a punchers chance to be in Charlotte .
Pittsburgh - Last year Pitt was your ACC Champion and Kenny Pickett went on to become a 1st round pick. Pat Narduzzi always coaches a very well prepared team, but will have to get production from new faces in QB Kedon Slovis and new OC Frank Cignetti. Pitt has to come to Miami to close the year and that may be for a shot at Charlotte.
The changes at QB and Coach around the division should put Miami in the drivers seat to get to their 2nd ACC Championship game. The biggest question will be what will be the learning curve with a new staff and a lot of kids arriving via the portal. Miami, obviously, has had an issue beating teams they are supposed to beat in the past, and Mario Cristobal had some of those issues while at Oregon. The Canes have some tough road games at Virginia Tech, Virginia and Clemson, but if they can go 2-1 in the stretch and take care of games at home, they will be good.
Moving forward the Coastal should be the floor, but for this year winning it should be celebrated.