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ACC notebook: Pitt predicted to finish 6th in Coastal Division

Jerry DiPaola
| Monday, July 21, 2014, 1:48 p.m.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Pitt coach Paul Chryst's reaction was predictable when he saw his team picked to finish sixth in the ACC's seven-team Coastal Division.

“It doesn't mean a lot,” he said about the preseason media poll released Monday.

Indeed, recent history is the clearest indicator.

Duke was picked last in 2013, but won the division and earned a berth in the conference championship game.

“It's not just what Duke did,” Chryst said. “We all have been a part of teams that weren't expected to do well and didn't do well and weren't expected to do well and did well.” Pitt was one of six Coastal teams that received first-place votes (two), a possible prelude to a title chase that Chryst and several other coaches said is “wide open.” Defending national champion Florida State of the Atlantic Division was the nearly unanimous choice to repeat as conference champion, picked to win it on 104 of 112 ballots. Miami edged Duke for first in the Coastal with a 614-597 edge in the voting system, but Duke received 33 first-place votes to the Hurricanes' 26.

Florida State quarterback and defending Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston was named preseason player of the year with 99 votes. Clemson defensive end Vic Beasley had six and Miami running back Duke Johnson, Duke wide receiver Jamison Crowder and Virginia Tech quarterback Brenden Motley had one vote each.

Motley is a curious choice. Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer has yet to name his starter among a field of five, including Texas Tech transfer Michael Brewer.

“Not knowing who your quarterback is, you would rather be on the other side of that,” Beamer said.

The predicted order of finish in the Coastal: Miami, Duke, Virginia Tech, North Carolina, Georgia Tech, Pitt and Virginia. In the Atlantic, it is: Florida State, Clemson, Louisville, Syracuse, North Carolina State, Boston College and Wake Forest.

• Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher was asked if it's possible for his team to duplicate its successful run through the 1990s when it won or shared the ACC championship every year from 1992-2000. “It's feasible,” he said, “but it would be tougher now. More people are playing football now than have ever played.” Said Clemson coach Dabo Swinney: “The gap's not that wide between Florida State and other ACC teams.”

• The ACC will increase the size of its officiating crews to eight for conference games. ACC coordinator of football officiating Doug Rhoads, who worked on five-man crews 30 years ago, said the new man — the center judge — will line up in the backfield opposite the referee and will be responsible for spotting the football and managing substitutions.

• Rhoads also termed ACC replay review “wonderful,” noting there were only 49 reversals of 210 stops last season, with an average time of 64 seconds. “Shorter than commercials,” he said. “That's 49 things I don't have to deal with on Sunday or Monday.”

• There are two major rule changes in the ACC this season. First, when replay review overturns a targeting penalty and reinstates the ejected player, the 15-yard penalty also disappears. Last season, the penalty remained. Second, low hits on quarterbacks will draw a 15-yard penalty, with stipulations. The passer must be in a throwing posture and have one or both feet on the ground. The defensive player must make unabated contact with the knee or below, employing a forcible, driving blow and can't be pushed into the passer.

Michael Kelly, chief operating officer of the College Football Playoff group, said tickets for the national championship Jan. 12 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, will be $450 each, with the participating schools having the ability to sell 50 percent of the allotment.

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