Duke is leading the Coastal Division standings. There is a very real possibility that the Blue Devils will hold that position through November, but colleague Andrea Adelson and I aren’t convinced. Bowling in Charlotte is one thing. Playing for the ACC title there? With all apologies to Duke, we’ll believe it when we see it. So who WILL represent the Coastal Division in the ACC title game this year?
Depends on who you ask, of course …
Heather Dinich: Miami has lost three straight games, including back-to-back ACC games.
And yet the Canes will still win the Coastal Division.
Hear me out.
One of the biggest things Miami has going in its favor right now is a manageable November schedule. When compared to what Virginia Tech and Duke are facing, Miami has the easiest road to Charlotte. The Canes will at least have home field advantage against Virginia Tech on Thursday night before facing Virginia, South Florida and Duke. UVa and South Florida are a combined 4-11. The Thursday night game against the Hokies will be critical. Win that one and the regular-season finale at Duke could be even bigger. The Hokies, though, have back-to-back Thursday night games against Miami and FSU, and Duke has back-to-back games against FSU and Clemson. Yikes.
The bye week is coming at the perfect time for the Canes, as they have a chance to heal and prepare for Virginia Tech. Their toughest stretch is behind them, and Al Golden is a good enough coach that he will convince them there is still plenty to play for. There is evidence all throughout the schedule -- even in losses -- that the Hurricanes believe what Golden is selling and enjoy playing for him. They’ve played with a passion and enthusiasm that has been missing. Don’t forget that Miami has faced two top 15 teams in the past three weeks. It’s not like the Canes are losing to, say, Middle Tennessee. The wins over Boston College, Georgia Tech and NC State were proof that Golden has his players believing. The Canes came out swinging against Florida State, and a lesser team might have buckled.
Yes, Miami still has to face Virginia Tech. But this isn’t the Virginia Tech ACC fans are used to seeing. This one is beatable. This one is trailing the Canes in the Coastal Division standings.
Andrea Adelson: Virginia Tech has not been a wrecking ball through the conference the way it has been in years past, but the Hokies still have what it takes to win the Coastal Division -- even in a down year.
First, we have seen signs of life from the defense. In a loss to Clemson last week, the Hokies held the high-flying Tigers to a season-low in total offensive yards with 295. In the 41-20 win over Duke, the Hokies surrendered zero points the rest of the way after giving up a quick 20 in the first quarter. They held Duke to 22 yards rushing, and created four turnovers.
If this team is going to win the division, it will have to do it on the back of the defense. So it should be encouraging to Hokies fans that this group has looked better in recent weeks.
Second, Virginia Tech has a good chance at winning all its remaining games. After the bye this week, the Hokies return to play at Miami on a Thursday night. Miami has lost three straight and is all of a sudden struggling on offense. Its defense has been unable to slow anybody down, particularly late in games. All this plays right into the Hokies' hands: their defense will have an opportunity to shut down an offense that has averaged 12.3 points in its last three games. And their offense will have a chance to pile up some yards against one of the worst defenses in the country. And oh by the way, Virginia Tech has won seven of the last nine in the series, including three straight.
The Hokies should also be favored to win their final two games at Boston College and Virginia. That means its Thursday night showdown against Florida State on Nov. 8 could be a make-or-break game, should the Hokies beat Miami.
Florida State has yet to put a complete game together against top quality opponents this year. The last time the Seminoles left the state of Florida, they lost to NC State. And let's not forget the game is in Blacksburg and FSU has had its share of struggles in Thursday night games.
As for Coastal leader Duke, Virginia Tech owns the head-to-head win and the Blue Devils have the toughest remaining schedule (at FSU, Clemson, at Georgia Tech, Miami).
So given all this, I think Virginia Tech has the best chance to represent the Coastal Division in the ACC title game. Just the way we predicted in the preseason.