UNC Can Calm Coastal Chaos in Preseason Polls

The ACC Preseason Poll will be released on Monday morning.

The ACC media will converge on Charlotte on Thursday and Friday to parse the particulars of the 2016 football regular season and offer their prognostications for the best teams and players in the conference. If the recent past is any indication, the media will need plenty of help in accurately forecasting the Coastal Division.

That’s not intended as a media blast. Only the media types with the largest of egos believe they are soothsayers. Preseason projections are merely a tool to elevate interest and hype the coming schedule. The fans of teams picked to win their divisions and conferences claim pseudo-bragging rights until the season actually kicks off while the fans of teams picked further down the pecking order claim biases and ignorance in their attempt to withstand the inevitable disappointment likely to come.

After all, everyone is undefeated in July.

The ACC media have correctly picked the conference champion in the preseason poll 60 percent of the time over the 40-year span of the ACC Football Kickoff event, including hitting at a 72 percent clip over the last 25 years. Granted, it helps Florida State made the pick a foregone conclusion during its reign of dominance from 1992-2005.

The presence of a national championship contender makes the guessing game that is preseason prognostications that much easier when it comes to conference polls. Every known quantity reduces the multitude of possible results, thereby simplifying the process. For example, Florida State was the ACC’s top team in 2014 (with Clemson a close second) and the Tigers flipped that order in 2015, allowing the league media to appear omniscient in the preseason poll.

That hasn’t been the case in the Coastal Division, where chaos has reigned ever since Frank Beamer lost his mojo at Virginia Tech. Duke won the Coastal in 2013 after being picked seventh in the preseason poll. Georgia Tech won the division in 2014 after being picked fifth, and North Carolina won its first Coastal crown in 2015 after also being picked fifth. Adding to the bedlam was 2014 preseason favorite Miami finishing tied for fifth place and 2015 preseason favorite Georgia Tech falling to seventh.

The ACC media were not alone in their Coastal confusion. Stassen.com ranks magazines and websites based upon their preseason conference prediction accuracy, and over the past three seasons, the ACC Coastal Division has been the toughest to accurately predict of the Power-5 conferences.

ACC Coastal ACC Atlantic SEC East SEC West Big 12 B1G East B1G West Pac-12 South Pac-12 North
2015 9 3 8 5 6 1 7 4 2
2014 8 2 5 6 9 7 4 3 1
2013 6 8 5 4 7 9 1 2 3

While UNC’s rise to the top of the Coastal Division last fall added to the mounting evidence of madness, the program’s likelihood of staying there may serve to quiet the noise. Athlon, The Sporting News, Lindy’s and ESPN have all projected the Tar Heels to win their division this year. Seven of eight preseason publications that Stassen.com is currently tracking all have UNC atop the Coastal (Phil Steele picked Miami to win).

Those seven first-place selections are the most in the ACC, thanks to Clemson and Florida State splitting the vote in the Atlantic.


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