GREENSBORO, N.C. – Florida State was an obvious choice as a favorite in one of the Atlantic Coast Conference’s divisions.
In the other one, the pecking order was nowhere near that clear.
Miami was the pick to win the ACC’s cluttered Coastal Division despite receiving fewer first-place votes than two other teams.
“I think it’s wide open. I think that’s why everybody got votes,” North Carolina coach Larry Fedora said. “Anybody could win it.”
The league announced its predicted order of finish following a vote of 112 media members at its preseason media days.
The Seminoles were picked as the overall league champions by 104 media members and received 109 first-place votes in their division to put them far ahead of Clemson, which had three.
“I feel very similar to this team as far as how it’s went from an attitude standpoint, to a work standpoint to getting the results and what you needed to this stage and where it’s at,” Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said. “So from that standpoint, I do feel very confident.”
It’s hard to say who is the true favorite to face Florida State in the ACC championship game in December in Charlotte.
Four Coastal teams were separated by 44 points: Miami had 614 points to 597 for Duke, 571 for Virginia Tech and 570 for North Carolina.
Both the Blue Devils (33) and Tar Heels (27) received more first-place votes than the Hurricanes (26) – the Coastal favorites for the second straight year.
“I don’t really get into all that. I’m trying to teach the team the opposite,” Miami coach Al Golden said.
“We’ve got to teach this team to ignore the noise, to stay focused on the process and just turn this season into one-game missions. … We’re not really talking about Coastal championships and all that. We’re talking about taking care of our business today.”
For Duke, which won an unlikely Coastal title last year, at least the Blue Devils weren’t in the cellar.
In what had been an annual rite of July, the Blue Devils were the last-place pick in either their division or overall every year from 2000-2013 except one.
This is by far the highest Duke was picked since the league split into divisions in 2005. The Blue Devils were picked third overall in 1983, when the ACC had eight teams.
“There’s got to be a sense of accomplishment,” Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. “The thing that you want them to understand is that if you like the way this tastes, you’re going to have to get better. You don’t stay the same. You have to have those tangible things that we do better for us to have a successful 2014 team.”
Newcomer Louisville was picked third in the Atlantic, followed by Syracuse, North Carolina State, Boston College and Wake Forest.
“Were we picked to win it? Were we unanimous first? The bull’s-eye is on us,” new Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson deadpanned.
“I live in the real world, but (the low expectations are) a challenge,” he added. “It’s not a huge margin for error this year. I get it. But it’s still our challenge as coaches to put our guys in positions to be successful.”
Miami, Duke, Virginia Tech and North Carolina combined to receive all but three first-place votes in the Coastal. Fifth-place pick Georgia Tech had one, Pittsburgh had two and last-place selection Virginia had none.
Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston of Florida State was the overwhelming pick for preseason player of the year with 99 votes.
Clemson defensive end Vic Beasley, who had six votes, was the only player besides Winston to receive multiple votes for the individual award.