The Hurricanes are building with solid recruiting classes that consistently reach Scout’s top-10. Al Golden has stuck around despite chances to bail amid lingering, and annoying, NCAA investigations that have led the school removing itself from bowl consideration in two of the last three seasons. Miami made its postseason return in 2013 and seems poised to expand on it this year.
Unlike Virginia Tech, the Canes’ schedule is not as favorable. There is the annual blood match with Florida State and a season opener at Louisville, who blew out Miami in Orlando at the Russell Athletic Bowl last season.
However, talent-wise the Canes remain the class of the division. Expectations are that senior quarterback Ryan Williams will play this year after tearing his ACL in the spring, and Duke Johnson is the league's top tailback.
This should be the year the Canes win the Coastal Division crown.
2. Virginia Tech
It was a disappointing season for Virginia Tech in 2013. The Hokies did not reach its normal double-digit victory threshold and often looked sluggish. Last season, Duke defeated then-No. 14 Virginia Tech at Lane Stadium without actually converting a third down.
The law of averages says that Frank Beamer’s team will have better luck in 2014. That could occur simply due to its schedule. The Hokies have division rival-Miami at home and its crossover games are against Boston College and Wake Forest, each being winnable.
The Blue Devils were the feel good story of 2013 after ending the regular season with eight straight wins and coming close to upending Johnny Manzel-led Texas A&M at the Chick-Fil-a Bowl. David Cutcliffe has Duke competing and Wallace Wade Stadium is no longer simply a place for opposing teams to pick up a win in a docile environment.
Anthony Boone returns at quarterback and Jamison Crowder will be his main target. The Devils host Virginia Tech and North Carolina but travel to Georgia Tech and Miami. A return to a bowl game is there for the taking but repeating as Coastal Division champs is unlikely.
4. North Carolina
The Tar Heels enter the third year of Larry Fedora’s tenure in Chapel Hill with some questions but, as often the case, plenty of talent. Marquise Williams will probably benefit from having started in five games after the season-ending injury to Bryn Renner but the loss of Eric Ebron will be hard to overcome.
However, it's not a lock that Williams will start as he's being pushed by Mitch Trubisky, and the defense has glaring holes, especially in the front seven.
UNC, for all of its talent, usually seems to stub its toes at least once or twice each season. With nonconference games at East Carolina and against Notre Dame, along with trips to Clemson, Duke and Miami, the schedule isn't an easy one.
5. Georgia Tech
In a clear case of being careful what you wish for, many Yellow Jacket fans who lamented the play of Vad Lee will now get to see the team be forced to deal with his transfer to James Madison. Paul Johnson’s offense, breathtaking when it works and deflating when it does not, will look the replace the dual-threat at quarterback with Justin Thomas.
As with most rushing teams dating back to the wishbone-era, the problem the Yellow Jackets face is what to do when the defense is yielding points and the offense has to be expanded to come-from-behind. Lee completed only 46 percent of his passes in 2013, which was the main source of consternation among Georgia Tech faithful.
Thomas will have to prove he can do better this season or it could be a long year.
The Panthers could be better in 2014. Pitt played well in its bowl victory over Bowling Green and they also were one of two teams to defeat Coastal champs Duke last season. This is the third season for Pittsburgh under head coach Paul Chryst and the program has his stamp all over it now.
Pitt has a top-notch wide receiver in Tyler Boyd. Starting quarterback Chad Voytik, will likely be the biggest factor to the Panthers’ success. If Voytik, who produced in last season’s bowl game, can continue to grow this year, Pitt could be the Duke of 2014.
The Cavaliers, like N.C. State, went winless in league play in 2013. Unlike the Wolfpack, who had a terrific recruiting haul in the offseason and seems poised to improve somewhat this year, it looks like it will be more of the same in Charlottesville this season.
The talent at Scott Stadium this fall will be thin and head coach Mike London could be on his last leg. The talent level in the Commonwealth is abundant but it has not translated to success for the Cavaliers in the past few years.
A look at this season’s schedule is foreboding. A matchup against UCLA, along with crossover tilts against Florida State and Louisville awaits the Wahoos. Then there is also that tricky season finale against Virginia Tech, a school UVa has not defeated in 10 years.