NCAA Previews

2018 ACC Coastal Division College Football Preview

Hurricanes Could be Tough to Control

In the ACC Coastal, we certainly like what we see in the Miami Hurricanes. They are by far the top team in this division. The other teams in the Coastal Division are all a good step or two below the Hurricanes. In fact, our 2018 ACC Coastal Division college football betting preview finds that the Atlantic Division is definitely the stronger of the two. Still, ACC Coastal teams like Duke, North Carolina, and Virginia Tech will be competitive. Read below to see how we think each team will do and to get an idea of their strengths and weaknesses. For a full picture of the ACC, after reading our 2018 ACC Coastal Division college football betting preview, please see our betting preview of the Atlantic Division.

2018 ACC Coastal Division College Football Betting Preview

The Miami Hurricanes have the top defense in the division and one of the best offenses. The Duke Blue Devils can match them in some areas, but not in all, while the North Carolina Tar Heels may have enough talent to be competitive. In researching our 2018 ACC Coastal Division college football betting preview, we found that the Tar Heels are helped by the fact that they have a much easier schedule than Duke. Additionally, they play a list of games that are a tad easier than Miami’s. The Virginia Tech Hokies do have some fine talent on defense, while their offense is lacking upfront as well as when it comes to receivers. The also-rans look to be the Pittsburgh Panthers and Virginia Cavaliers. Our 2018 ACC Coastal Division college football betting preview takes a closer look at each of these teams.

1. Miami Hurricane


The Miami offense averaged 29.1 PPG in 2017. Two people who generated a lot of that offense, QB Malik Rosier and RB Travis Homer, return for their respective senior and junior seasons. Rosier tossed 24 TD passes and scored five times on the run. Homer rushed for close to 1,000 yards, scoring nine times on the ground. Rosier’s go-to guy when it came to receptions, Braxton Berrios, is gone. He had 55 catches, including nine for TDs. Junior Ahmmon Richards will be asked to take up the slack. Richards, who looked like an All-American in his freshman year, had a tough sophomore season that ended with surgery. He’s expected to be in top form in 2018. The O-line will be challenged this year, but our 2018 ACC Coastal Division college football betting preview notes that they do have some fine talent.

Defense & Special Teams

Last year, the Miami D held teams to 21.0 PPG (4th ACC, 28th Nationally). They were a major asset. That should be the case again this season, as Miami fields one of the best linebacking units and secondaries in the ACC. Plus, their D-line is top-notch. Senior safety Jaquan Johnson and senior CB Michael Jackson both return having grabbed four INTs each last season. Our 2018 ACC Coastal Division college football betting preview does find that there are certainly some concerns on special teams. Freshman Bubba Baxa comes in as placekicker, but there are some big questions concerning his viability. Sophomore Zach Feagles returns as punter after an uneven frosh season. It’s expected that DeeJay Dallas will do well on run backs. For more information on this team see our top-25 preview of the Miami Hurricanes.

2. North Carolina Tar Heels


In 2017, the North Carolina Tar Heels saw their offense crippled by injuries, as they averaged 26.0 PPG (11th ACC, 83rd Nationally). They come back healed and healthy in 2018 and should be stronger than they were last season. Sophomore QB Chazz Surratt (58.5 COMP%, 8 TDs, 3 INTs) sees his top target, Anthony Ratliff-Williams (35 REC, 18.0 YPC, 6 TDs) return. Our 2018 ACC Coastal Division college football betting preview envisions this duo as being a solid threat. RBs Jordan Brown (613 YDs, 4.4 YPA, 4 TDs) and Michael Carter (558 YDs, 5.8 YPA, 8 TDs), a junior and sophomore respectively, will man the rush attack. Our 2018 ACC Coastal Division college football betting preview has determined that the offensive line is a worry, as just one starter returns.

Defense & Special Teams

The Tar Heel defense allowed 31.3 PPG (13th ACC, 88th Nationally) and 213.0 YPG (14th ACC, 113th Nationally) on the ground. On defense, the line is this team’s strength while the linebacking squad is its weakness. The secondary is somewhere between these two groups. Senior DE Malik Carney (57 TKLs, 5.5 SCKs, 6.5 TFL, 5 QBHs) is the glue on the line, while senior Cole Holcomb (93 TKLs, 3 PBU, 4 QBHs) will try to keep the linebacking unit focused. Junior FS Myles Dorn (71 TKLs, 5 PBU, 2 INTs) could have a big year. Senior CB K.J. sails broke up 13 passes last season while making 30 tackles.

Special teams include run back expert Ratliff-Williams, who took two all the way for TDs and was named All-ACC. The punting game becomes the purview of senior Hunter Lent who was impressive in limited action past season. PK Freeman Jones put up some decent numbers as a freshman, hitting six-of-seven inside the 40 and 37-of-38 in field goals. He needs to build up leg strength and accuracy on long-range kicks.

3. Duke Blue Devils


In the past five years, the Duke Blue Devils have put up winning records four times. However, in 2016, they faltered as they went 4-8. In 2017, they had a comeback year, recording seven wins and six losses. One of those wins was in the Quick Lane Bowl where they took down Northern Illinois 36-14. Junior QB Daniel Jones (56.7 COMP%, 14 TDs, 11 INTs) needs to reduce the number of picks he gives up. He’s a decent runner, averaging 3.2 YPA in 2017 while gaining 518 yards and scoring seven rushing TDs. Jones three top receivers return, which should certainly offer him a solid advantage. The rush attack will feature sophomore Brittain Brown (701 YDs, 5.4 YPA, 7 TDs), a talented, speedy, and athletic running back who has the potential to make things happen. However, the O-line is relatively weak, and that could certainly hurt this team’s chances of scoring.

Defense & Special Teams

The Duke defense helped this team get back on track last season, as they kept opponent scores on average to 20.2 PPG. The Blue Devil linebacking unit is its strength. Junior MLB Joe Giles-Harris (125 TKLs, 4.5 SCKs, 11.5 TFL) and senior WLB Ben Humphreys (70 TKLs, 2.5 SCKs, 6.5 TFL) are premium players. Each accumulated nine QBHs and one pick last season. Junior DE Tre Hornbuckle (50 TKLs, 1 SCK, 8.5 TFL) is solid in the front, while junior corner Mark Gilbert, who took in six interceptions and broke up 15 passes, is a major contributor and tough competitor. Special teams are a major challenge for Duke. Our 2018 ACC Coastal Division college football betting preview finds that the return game is weak. Also, the kicking and punting spots will be manned by walk-ons. Consequently, we don’t expect much from STs.

4. Virginia Tech Hokies


The Virginia Tech Hokies will once again most likely post winning numbers. But they will have their struggles also, as they try to put a sound O-line on the field and look for the solution to their running back problems. There’s some good news, as the team sees sophomore QB Josh Jackson (59.6 COMP%, 20 TDs, 9 INTs) return after a solid freshman season. Along with tossing 20 touchdown passes, he also rushed for six scores. Plus, some of the club’s top receivers are back, including sophomore Sean Savoy (39 REC, 11.6 YPC, 4 TDs) and junior Eric Kumah (28 REC, 11.6 YPC, 2 TDs). Three guys will carry the ball, each of which is capable of gaining anywhere from 300 to 500 yards this season.

Defense & Special Teams

This team put a top defense on the field in 2017, as they allowed a mere 14.8 PPG (2nd ACC, 4th Nationally). Most of the defensive line returns. They are the strength on this side of the ball. Senior Ricky Walker (41 TKLs, 4.5 SCKs, 8 TFL) and junior Trevon Hill (46 TKLs, 5.5 SCKs, 4 TFL) are both exceptionally tough on quarterbacks as well as running backs. Together they posted 13 QBHs. SS Reggie Floyd, a junior, grabbed three picks last season, while OLB Mook Reynolds made 70 tackles, had 7.5 TFL, and posted four QBHs. PK Joey Sly and return man Greg Stroman, both quality special teams players, will have to be replaced. Sophomore Oscar Bradburn (66 Punts, 42.4 YPP, 24 w/in20) had a very fine freshman season. After reading our 2018 ACC Coastal Division college football betting preview, you can get more information on this team by going to our top-25 preview of the Virginia Tech Hokies.

5. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets


The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets have a few things going for them in 2018. Despite the fact that they have a tough schedule that includes Clemson, they do possess a devastating ground attack, a fairly solid O-line, and a new defensive coordinator in Nate Woody. Woody was formerly with Appalachian State. Still, there are numerous factors working against this team, including their inability last season to mount any type of pass attack. On the ground, the Yellow Jackets posted 307.4 YPG (1st ACC, 5th Nationally), but they passed for only 84.3 YPG (14th ACC, 128th Nationally).

QB TaQuon Marshall threw just 10 TDs, while tossing five picks and completing merely 37.1% of his passes. Marshall ran for more than 1,100 yards, averaging 4.6 YPA and scoring 17 times. Junior back KirVonte Benson returns after rushing for just over 1,000 yards, averaging 5.2 YPA, and scoring six TDs. WR Brad Stuart, who snagged four passes last season, may be the team’s next big pass catcher. Our 2018 ACC Coastal Division college football betting preview finds that if the Yellow Jackets can score 28.1 PPG, as they did in 2017, they could have a decent season.

Defense & Special Teams

However, how good a season they do experience will have a lot to do with Woody and his attacking 3-4 scheme. This type of defense should prove to be a good fit for Georgia Tech, which features smaller, speedier players. The D-backs are weak, but the linebacking unit has some fine vets and includes the top tackler from last season, OLB Victor Alexander, a senior who had 70 bring downs. ILB Brant Mitchell, also a senior, returns having made 50 tackles while defending three passes. In front, senior DE Anree Saint-Amour, who posted 32 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and three tackles for a loss, is fast and agile.

This team allowed 26.5 PPG. A reduction in that average would help their cause a lot. As far as special teams go, our 2018 ACC Coastal Division college football betting preview notes that the Jackets need help when it comes to placekicking. However, freshman punter Pressley Harvin put up some good numbers, averaging 44.1 YPP and putting 16 within the 20-yard-line.

6. Pittsburgh Panthers


The Pittsburgh Panthers see just four starters return on offense. That includes center Jimmy Morrissey, a sophomore who started last season. Plus, they welcome Kent State transfer Stefano Millin to the line. One player who did not start last season but did perform well in limited action was freshman QB Kenny Pickett. His bootleg beat Miami. Last year, he ran for 93 yards and passed for 509 more, as he scored a total of two rushing TDs and another one while passing. Pickett connected on 59.1% of his passes. He’ll lead an offense that scored just 23.9 PPG (13th ACC, 101st Nationally). Two senior running backs return, Darrin Hall (628 YDs, 4.9 YPA, 9 TDs) and Qadree Ollison (398 YDs, 4.4 YPA, 5 TDs). They could be key to an improved Panther offense. WR Rafael Araujo-Lopes (43 REC, 12.3 YPC, 2 TDs) is a sure-handed veteran player.

Defense & Special Teams

Defensive coordinator Randy Bates has been brought in to try to improve a defense that gave up 26.6 PPG (9th ACC, 65th Nationally) in 2017. The Pitt defense was solid against the run, but could not stop the pass. Nine starters return to this side of the ball, including senior OLB Oluwaseun Idowu. He led the team in tackles (94), sacks (5), and TFL (6.5). Junior MLB Saleem Brightwell (73 TLKs, 1 SCK, 4 TFL), who was second in tackles, is a solid defender. In addition, senior OLB Elijah Zeise (49 TLKs,5 TFL, 3 PBU, 3 QBHs) offers dependability. The linebacking unit is exceptional.

Senior CB Dane Jackson had 40 tackles, 9 PBU, and 2 INTs. He will be an essential element in a unit that will most likely struggle. The frontline has lost some veteran players, but they have made gains in terms of talent. Senior DE Dwayne Hendricks (21 TKLs, 3 SCKs, 2 TFL, 8 QBHs) will anchor the group. Special teams are not a strength, as they must find a solid return man and hope that sophomore PK Alex Kessman and freshman punter Kirk Christodoulou can find their way towards success.

7. Virginia Cavaliers


The Virginia Cavaliers have not put up a winning record in the past five years. Consequently, our 2018 ACC Coastal Division college football betting preview expects the same result this year. Last year, the Cavs scored just 22.5 PPG (14th ACC, 107th Nationally). RB Jordan Ellis (833 YDs, 6.9 YPA, 6 TDs), a senior, could be an important factor on offense. This is a club that will struggle once again on this side of the ball. Two things that work against them, a weak O-line and shaky QB presence. Both make it tough for them to be competitive.

Defense & Special Teams

The Cavalier defense allowed 28.4 PPG (12th ACC, 98th Nationally). They were 13th in the conference and 102nd nationally versus the rush but second in the ACC and seventh nationally versus the pass. On defense, ILB Jordan Mack returns as does senior OLB Chris Peace. Senior FS Juan Thornhill (63 TKLs, 12 PBU, 4 INTs) and sophomore SS Brenton Nelson (64 TKLs, 6 PBU, 4 INTs) are premium players. Our 2018 ACC Coastal Division college football betting preview notes that the D-line is relatively weak and could pose problems. On special teams last season, freshman punter Lester Coleman and placekicker A.J. Mejia proved to be overall positive factors. Joe Reed is exceptional on returns.

2018 ACC Coastal Preview

Bowl Projections

Peach Bowl: Miami vs Michigan
Military Bowl: Virginia Tech vs Navy
Belk Bowl: North Carolina vs Missouri
Pinstripe Bowl: Duke vs Nebraska

2018 ACC Coastal Division College Football Betting Preview

Projected Best Bets

Sep 1: Albany @ Pittsburgh – Panthers at -7.0 or fewer.
Sep 8: William & Mary @ Virginia Tech – VT takes this home game. Hokies are a good bet at -20.
Sep 29: Bowling Green @ Georgia Tech – Take Tech at -9 or fewer.
Oct 13: Duke @ Virginia Tech – Bet Duke at no more than -12.0. We do think they’ll hold up well in this one.
Oct 20: Virginia @ Duke – It a close, home team win. Take Blue Devils with points or, at worst, at -3.0.
Oct 25: Georgia Tech @ Virginia Tech – Bet GT at -3.0 or fewer. Close game here.
Oct 26: Miami @ Boston College – Go with Hurricanes at around -7.0.
Nov 10: Liberty @ Virginia – Cavs by 10 points.
Nov 17: Western Carolina @ North Carolina – NC wins big. Take Tar Heels at -38.
Nov 23: Virginia @ Virginia Tech – Tech takes Commonwealth Cup by about 7 points.

Use our 2018 ACC Coastal Division college football betting preview to prep for the season. Also, for a full picture of this conference, please see our 2018 ACC Atlantic Division college football betting preview. To access other conferences, return to our college football hub.


Paul has been writing about sports betting and sports for more than a decade, offering picks on the NFL, MLB, NHL, and NBA, as well as on college sports and European football. He's written thousands of season and post-season previews, innumerable articles on sports betting strategies, and various books on sports and sports betting.

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