The next college football season contains a number of divisions which are wide open, but the ACC Coastal doesn’t really fit that description. This is a division in which there are two top contenders and then a few teams which have remote outside chances to wreak havoc and maybe shake things up. The biggest storyline of the 2021 ACC Coastal season is which Heisman Trophy candidate at quarterback will lead his team to a division title and advance to a likely battle with Clemson for the ACC championship in December.
North Carolina Tar Heels
Odds To Win National Championship: +4600
The Tar Heels lose a number of skill position players from last year’s team, most notably running back Javonte Williams, who was a versatile threat as a ball carrier and as someone who could catch passes coming out of the backfield. The Tar Heels also lose running back Michael Carter, receiver Dazz Newsome, and receiver Dyami Brown. On defense, they lose linebacker Chazz Surratt. Yet, despite those losses, the Tar Heels have stockpiled depth at wide receiver. They have almost all of their offensive line coming back, and they have Sam Howell – a leading contender in the Heisman Trophy odds this season – coming back at quarterback. Last season’s team might not have had the offensive line it needed in order to play its best against elite defenses, and more specifically, against high-quality defensive lines. This year, the offensive line might have evolved enough to give this offense an even greater measure of stability, reliability and strength. North Carolina is in a very strong position to compete for a division title and give Clemson a battle in the ACC Championship Game. Nearly everyone who follows the ACC thinks it will be a two-horse race between North Carolina and Miami for the ACC Coastal Division championship.
Odds To Win National Championship: +5500
North Carolina has Howell as its Heisman candidate at quarterback but Miami has D’Eriq King, who surprisingly chose to return to school instead of getting an NFL paycheck. King and Howell will wage a battle all season and their meeting on the field will be the ACC Coastal game of the year.
Miami is the one team which can genuinely challenge North Carolina for division supremacy. The Hurricanes should have a great offense with King at the controls, but their defense leaves a lot of work to be desired. They allowed 62 points to North Carolina last season and they now lose three members of their front seven: Greg Rousseau, Jaelan Phillips and Quincy Roche. They also lose kicker Jose Borregales, who hit several long field goals last year. His absence could be acutely felt in close games. Miami has a high ceiling, but if the Hurricanes don’t put the pieces together, their floor could be lower than a lot of people currently think.
Odds To Win National Championship: +10000
The Panthers lose defensive ends Patrick Jones and Rashad Weaver, plus center Jimmy Morrissey and safety Damar Hamlin. All four of them were important players who significantly contributed to the Panthers. Pittsburgh needs to find competent replacements for all of them and develop an offense that can produce more consistently. Pittsburgh has had a tendency to be a Jekyll-and-Hyde team which plays to the level of its competition and isn’t relentlessly steady. The losses on the roster will make it hard for this roster to come together in 2021, though tight end Lucas Krull will help.
Virginia Tech Hokies
Odds To Win National Championship: +10000
The Hokies lost offensive lineman Christian Darrisaw, cornerback Caleb Farley and defensive back Divine Deablo, who were all taken in the top 80 picks of the 2021 NFL draft. That’s a significant amount of quality and talent to lose on a roster. Quarterback Hendon Hooker, who was hoping to have a huge 2020 season for the Hokies, didn’t fare very well and he bid farewell to the program this offseason, hitting the transfer portal and seeking a fresh start elsewhere. There are a lot of moving pieces on this roster, and head coach Justin Fuente has not shown a steady hand in terms of being able to develop all the resources at his disposal. Fuente, a former offensive coordinator, has fallen short chiefly in terms of cultivating an elite quarterback. He hasn’t been able to do that in Blacksburg.
The Hokies will have a strong offensive line, just as they did last year. The unit will have a potential 2022 first-round draft pick, Lecitus Smith. Center Brock Hoffman is expected to be a very good offensive lineman as well. The Hokies have strong line play and they also have good linebackers such as Dax Hollifield and Alan Tisdale, but they fall short on the edges. Their lack of speed will catch up with them against North Carolina and Miami.
Odds To Win National Championship: +15000
The Cavaliers are still trying to recover from a 2020 season in which they took a hard fall after winning the ACC Coastal in 2019. Virginia has some decent pieces on offense, with tight end Jelani Woods, offensive lineman Chris Glaser, linebacker Nick Jackson and linebacker Noah Taylor. However, Virginia does not have a strong quarterback or wide receiver group. Its offense will not be potent enough to score at the rate which will be needed in this year’s ACC Coastal.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Odds To Win National Championship: +25000
The Yellow Jackets are continuing to remake their roster after transitioning from a triple-option offense to a more recognizable and conventional pro-style offense last season. Georgia Tech is hoping to build primarily on defense while it gets its offense figured out. Defensive lineman Jordan Domineck will try to give Georgia Tech the pass-rushing prowess that can enable his defensive teammates to thrive. This roster is ultimately not equipped with enough resources or depth to strike fear into the hearts of its ACC Coastal competitors.
Duke Blue Devils
Odds To Win National Championship: +75000
The Blue Devils lose quarterback Chase Brice … but this is not a hardship. The Blue Devils needed a reset at QB since Brice, a transfer from Clemson, was surprisingly bad last year.
Mataeo Durant is a high-quality running back and almost certainly the best player on the Duke roster, but he needs a lot of help, starting at quarterback and continuing with his offensive line.