The Coastal Division died as it lived — namely, by producing a nonrepeat champion that got mauled by the Atlantic champ in the ACC championship. From 2011 to 2021, Coastal winners went 1-10 in title games, losing by an average score of 41-18. In the final title game before the ACC ditched divisions for an increasingly common 1 vs. 2 approach, North Carolina made its first appearance in seven years and lost to Clemson 39-10.
In theory, it could be a while before a former Coastal member sees Charlotte, North Carolina, in early December. None of these seven teams are currently projected higher than 28th in SP+, and only North Carolina has a projected conference win total above 4.5. The Tar Heels, with star quarterback Drake Maye, don’t need that many breaks to move into contention, but are they the ones with a shot? Can Miami deploy a second-year surge after Mario Cristobal’s dismal debut season as head coach? Can Pitt replenish its defensive front and find a bit more offense? Can Duke turn turnovers luck into something sustainable?
The Coastal Division is no more, but for the purposes of this two-part ACC preview, we’ll keep them together out of sentimentality. Former Coastal now, former Atlantic next week.
It’s time to preview the ACC!
Every week through the offseason, Bill Connelly will preview another division from the Group of 5 and Power 5 exclusively for ESPN+, ultimately including all 133 FBS teams. The previews will include 2022 breakdowns, 2023 previews and burning questions for each team.
The Coastal always had a bit of an “expect the unexpected” vibe. It did, after all, produce seven different champions in seven years. And in its last year, preseason projections in almost no way matched in-season output. SP+ projected 8.7 wins for Pitt, and Pat Narduzzi’s Panthers cooperated by winning nine games, but almost no one else’s season went according to plan.
Miami, Virginia and Virginia Tech were projected to average 22.2 wins among them, and they went a combined 11-22. Duke, meanwhile, told SP+ to shove its three-win projection and went 9-4. Georgia Tech won some close, late games after firing its head coach, and North Carolina won Mack Brown his first Coastal title with a six-game winning streak midseason. The Heels then ended the year with four straight losses.