GREENSBORO — In the Atlantic Coast Conference, the word "unbalanced" no longer refers just to the league's men's basketball schedule.
Judging by the preseason magazines, it's anticipated that five ACC football teams will be in the top 25 to begin the 2010 season.
Four of them are in the Coastal Division, led by Virginia Tech, the media's preseason pick to win the ACC championship. In the Atlantic Division, only Florida State is projected as a top 25 team.
Coastal Division teams Miami, Georgia Tech and North Carolina have appeared in preseason magazines' top 25 projections along with the Hokies.
"There's probably going to be four teams ranked in the top 25 in the country in the preseason," said Paul Johnson, who coached Georgia Tech to the ACC title in 2009. "There's probably not another division in the country that can say that."
The SEC West, from which Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn and LSU were listed in The Sporting News' top 25, may argue with Johnson, but his point remains valid.
There aren't many divisional races in the nation that shape up to be as competitive as the ACC Coastal Division's. Led by quarterback Tyrod Taylor, Virginia Tech is expected to have its best offense in years, and the Hokies usually are good on defense and special teams, as well.
Miami, the ACC media's pick to finish second in the division, also has a talented, veteran quarterback - Jacory Harris - as well as a defense stocked with fast, athletic players because of strong recruiting by coach Randy Shannon.
Georgia Tech was picked third and has returning first-team All-ACC quarterback Joshua Nesbitt running Johnson's triple-option offense, an attack that few teams have been able to stop. North Carolina, while under the cloud of an NCAA investigation into possible improprieties with sports agents, has five preseason All-ACC players on defense.
Duke and Virginia, picked fifth and sixth, respectively, in the division, aren't expected to be as strong. All four of the other teams received at least five first-place votes for the Coastal Division in the preseason poll.
"We were one of those two teams that didn't get any of those votes," Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. "So that kind of gives you an idea of what we're trying to do. The thing, I think, if you asked any of the teams in our division - I don't reckon any of them are looking forward to playing us anymore."
The balance shifted last season as the Coastal posted a 13-6 advantage in interdivisional play. Over the previous three seasons, the Atlantic won 34 games to 23 by the Coastal. The Atlantic still holds a 49-47 advantage in games against Coastal teams since the conference expanded to 12 teams and separated into divisions in 2005.
"When we came in the league, it was all about the Atlantic and how it was tough," said N.C. State coach Tom O'Brien, who joined the ACC in 2005 as Boston College's coach. "Things go back and forth, and you have to work to get better."
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