Despite Virginia Tech's hold on the ACC championship, the Atlantic Division has actually been stronger and more balanced than the Coastal Division since expansion. The Atlantic Division is 59-55 against the Coastal Division over the past six seasons, and its worst team, Maryland, is a respectable 8-10.
In the Coastal Division, Duke is 2-16 in interdivisional play, while Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech have done all of the work. The Hokies and Jackets have combined to go 30-12 against their Atlantic Division opponents.
Last season, the Atlantic Division once again had a slight edge, finishing with a 10-9 record in interleauge games.
Expect another close race this fall.
While Virginia Tech and Florida State continue to be deemed the favorites in most preseason publications, both divisions run deep. NC State, Clemson, Boston College and Maryland are each capable of making a run for the title. In the Coastal Division, North Carolina and Miami are legitimate contenders while Georgia Tech should be considered a dark-horse candidate. Wake Forest, Virginia and Duke are all making progress and could play the role of spoiler, but none of them look like title teams right now.
Prediction: The divisions will finish dead-even, but Florida State's ACC championship game win will give the Atlantic Division the edge once again.
I went back and looked at all of the cross-divisional games, and here's how I see the Atlantic Division teams finishing:
Florida State: 4-0 (includes ACCCG)
NC State: 2-1
Wake Forest: 0-3
Wildcard: Clemson. I don't think the Tigers will win in Blacksburg, but I have no idea how they'll fare against Carolina or Georgia Tech. The Clemson/Georgia Tech game is typically a close, good game, and this year it's at Georgia Tech. On paper, Clemson should win, but Paul Johnson is one of the best coaches in the league and could win on the sideline. Same can be said for Clemson's home game against the Tar Heels. It should be one of the better matchups up front, as both programs should be strong on both lines.
And no, I don't think Butch Davis will lose to Tom O'Brien again, and Miami is my early Labor Day pick.
If there's one thing I'm sure about in the ACC, it's that it's unpredictable, and another balanced season should produce more of the same in 2011.