Key stretch: Virginia Tech

We continue the series of key games that could make or break a season:


Key stretch: Georgia Tech, at North Carolina, at Miami (Nov. 4-Nov. 20)

Analysis: Welcome to Murderer’s Row. This is the stretch where the Coastal Division will be won or lost. It could also be where the Hokies’ national championship hopes skyrocket or plummet. The good news for Virginia Tech is the bye week heading into this slate, which begins on Nov. 4 against the Jackets -- perfect timing to prepare for Paul Johnson's offense. (But don't forget it's also time for Al Groh to prepare for the Hokies' loaded backfield.) It’s conceivable for the Hokies to be 8-0 entering that game. They’ll obviously want to redeem themselves from last year’s back-to-back losses against Georgia Tech and UNC, but even if they manage that feat, a road trip to Miami still looms. The Canes will have something to prove after last year’s loss in Blacksburg. You know the saying, what goes around ...

Prediction: The outcomes of these games will depend heavily upon how the Coastal Division race has shaped up to this point. UNC will have already played Georgia Tech and Miami, so the Tar Heels will know where they stand. The trend lately has been for the Georgia Tech-Virginia Tech game to determine the division winner, but I predict this year it will come down to the game at Miami. I think the Hokies beat the Jackets this year in Lane Stadium but drop the next two road games. Now, if UNC already has two division losses by then and appears out of the race, Virginia Tech could take advantage of a downtrodden Carolina team and win that one, but if the Heels are hot, Virginia Tech’s not.

More key stretches: