Over the past couple seasons, the ACC Coastal Division hasn’t really been the mess of randomness and 6-6 teams that it has often been portrayed as. While it might not end up being the team people expect at the start of the season, in the last couple years at least one team in the division has ended up proving itself to be good.
All that being said, in four of the past five years, the division winner has had at least two conference losses. (The exception of course being UNC in 2015.) With several teams replacing key pieces, this might be another year where the Coastal winner has at least two losses. They may not be preseason favorites or anything, but UNC is not out of contention due to some of those question marks around the division.
It could be a year where a team can take advantage of their schedule en route to winning the Coastal. With that in mind, here’s a look at how UNC’s ACC schedule compares to the rest of the division.
One big potential knock against the Tar Heels is who they draw from the Atlantic Division. UNC is the only team in the Coastal to draw two of the expected top four Atlantic teams. In addition to the late season trip to Raleigh to play NC State, North Carolina also has to host Louisville in week two.
Miami was picked as Coastal favorite at ACC Kickoff, but they do have possibly the toughest cross-division game. Miami has to go Tallahassee in what will be their first major test of the season. The Hurricanes get Bethune-Cookman and Arkansas State before having to play FSU in week three. Arkansas State should be pretty good, but that is quite the jump in quality.
Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech were both picked above UNC, but they’re also the two Coastal teams that draw Clemson. The Tigers obviously lost a lot from their national championship team, but that’s still a tough ask for the either opponent, especially the Yellow Jackets who have to go to Clemson
The biggest winner in terms of cross division opponents is probably Pitt. The Panthers are State’s other Coastal opponent, but the Panthers get to host the Wolfpack in October. Pitt also gets Syracuse from the Atlantic. While the Orange are a program that’s seemingly improving, the combination of those two teams is slightly better than what anyone else has to deal with.
As far as in division games go, it’s a mixed bag for the Tar Heels. After wasting last year’s home game against Virginia Tech, UNC has to go to Blacksburg this year. Other road trips include Georgia Tech and Pitt. The Tar Heels won their last meeting in Atlanta, but it was also their first win there in a long time.
UNC gets to host Duke, Virginia, and Miami in Chapel Hill this year. While last year’s Duke game proved that the Tar Heels are not immune to messing those type of games up, getting the home advantage in the Duke and Virginia games probably isn’t optimal as far as the division race goes. If you’re building the perfect 2017 ACC schedule, you’d be fine having to play those games on the road.
The team with arguably the most advantageous home, in-division schedule is probably Virginia Tech. The Hokies get UNC in Blacksburg as mentioned, but also host Pitt and Duke.
The hardest schedule in the division arguably belongs to Virginia. They likely would have been picked to finish last in the Coastal anyway, but the schedule makes it worse. All four road games are against pretty good teams, and a home game against Boston College appears to be the only game that you could feel okay about picking them to win.
The Tar Heels probably did not draw the best schedule of any Coastal team. All four road games are against good teams, and only one game looks like a for sure win at this stage. However, the ACC in general is getting really tough, so everyone has a couple hard games. The Coastal winner may end up with at least two losses, but the division should not be a punchline.