Who wants it? The ACC Coastal Division is completely up for grabs ... again

Duke went 10-4 last season and won the ACC Coastal Division with a 6-2 conference record under coach David Cutcliffe. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome, File)

Miami will win the ACC Coastal Division and play in the ACC Championship Game Dec. 6 in Charlotte.

After all, the Hurricanes were picked to do so by media members at the conference's media kickoff last month and they have the league's best returning running back.

No, Duke will win the Coastal Division and play in the ACC Championship Game. The Blue Devils actually commanded the most first-place votes in that media poll, and Duke's not the same old Duke after winning 10 games last year.

No, North Carolina will win the division and play in the ACC Championship Game. The Tar Heels are the Coastal's only team in the national preseason rankings, and boast 16 returning starters - the most among their top competition.

No, Virginia Tech will win because the Hokies have been the division's most consistent member (albeit two rough years in 2012-13), and field what appears to be a softer ACC schedule than Duke, UNC and Miami.

No, Georgia Tech, Pittsburgh and Virginia stand a chance - because the person who insists total knowledge of how the seven-team race will unfold is lying.

The ACC Coastal: the Hail Mary of college divisional derbies. As opposed to the Atlantic Division, where Florida State, Clemson and Louisville form a crystallized hierarchy.

"It is up in the air, and you don't know who's going to come down with it," North Carolina quarterback Marquise Williams said. "I'm hoping and praying it's us that come down with it."

Picking up right where it left off in 2013 - when a five-way tiebreaker scenario was a mind-numbingly realistic result with just one week to play before Duke beat UNC to emerge as the only 6-2 squad - the Coastal is a cluster of unknowns and good-but-not-quite-great teams.

Duke's the reigning champ after finishing last or second-to-last in each of the eight previous years since the league was broken into divisions.

"We've been lost in that poll for years and years," said Blue Devils linebacker Kelby Brown before suffering a season-ending ACL tear in fall camp. "People have given us a lot more respect for sure. Luckily we have another season to prove that we deserve it."

Also on Tobacco Road, the Tar Heels crave respect.

"Virginia Tech and Miami and schools like that, they've been great football schools for a long time," Williams said. "You're going to look at North Carolina as a basketball school. We get that all the time. Well, we're going to try to shock the world and let everybody know we're a football school, too."

Georgia Tech has 19 consecutive .500-or-better ACC marks, but finds its coach, Paul Johnson, on the hot seat entering 2014.

"The Coastal is wide open. We're in the mix every year, so we've just got to finish out games," Yellow Jackets offensive lineman Shaq Mason said. "You saw Duke won the Coastal, so Duke is no longer Duke. All praise to them for evolving their program."

From 2004-2011, Virginia Tech found the livin' easy transitioning from the Big East, winning 53 of its first 64 conference games as an ACC member. The past two years, the Hokies are 9-7.

"We dropped off the last couple years, had a bunch of years (eight) where we won at least 10 games in a row," Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said. "I think it goes back to being able to run the ball more consistently, and we dropped off there a little bit. I think we're well on our way."

Even the team picked to win the ACC Coastal is a little wary of the preseason predictions.

"Should we be viewed as the favorite? No. I don't think so because we haven't proven anything to be viewed as the favorite," Miami running back Duke Johnson said. "I don't like being the favorite. I prefer to be the underdog."