If you watched any of the ACC games this weekend, you heard a lot of chatter from the network talking heads about the Coastal Division. Unfortunately the talk wasn’t about the Coastal as the standard bearer for quality college football. It was all about the Chaos in the Coastal and the fact that the Coastal could end the season in a 7-way tie with a full division of 4-loss teams. Wouldn’t that be fitting for the nuttiest of the power conference divisions? Of course we correctly called-out Coastal Chaos weeks ago and look forward to the final weeks of the Coastal race, if nothing else, just to see what might happen.
Contributing to the Coastal Chaos, Duke is in the driver’s seat to win the division, yet no one knows if Duke is a very good football team. A combination of “scheduling for success” and a favorable draw in the ACC schedule left the Blue Devils with the easiest schedule in the ACC. Duke only has two real tests on their 2014 schedule, both of which they failed. Duke lost convincingly to Miami on the road and then again to Pitt this past weekend. Fortunately for Duke, Pitt was not comfortable winning what has become the annual track meet with Duke. The Pitt coaching staff inexplicably forced their maligned kicker to attempt a 24-yard, game winning field goal from the right hash versus the center of the field on a gusty day in Hines Field. (Have I mentioned how much I detest college games in NFL stadiums?) The result was the shank-of-the-season and an overtime win for Duke that raised still more doubts about their worthiness as the sacrificial offering from the Coastal Division in the ACC Championship game.
If a team is struggling on offense, a game against the UNC defense will get things back on track. Similarly, if a defense is struggling, a matchup with the Virginia offense will likely produce favorable results. In case anyone had forgotten that the UNC defense was the worst in the ACC, Miami reminded us with a 47 point/500 yard performance that was every bit as dominating as it sounds. Duke Johnson had another first team all-ACC performance and the Miami defense was surprisingly effective against Marquise Williams and the normally potent UNC offense. UNC was never in this game. Maybe UNC athletes are spending time in class for a change, to the detriment of their on-field performance.
To the north in Atlanta, the Georgia Tech defense, which has been ineffective at best in 2014, shut down an impotent Virginia offense in a dominating 35-10 win. Georgia Tech was effective in both the passing and running games as Virginia gave up 3rd and long with regularity in the first half. I don’t know what kind of offensive adjustments Virginia makes at halftime. They might want to consider rock-paper-scissors to map out their changes because the current strategy isn’t getting it done. For the 4th game in a row Virginia failed to score a touchdown in the second half. Virginia has scored a grand total of 6 second-half points in their last 4 games. Bottom line, if the ‘Hoos don’t have enough points to win by halftime, they aren’t going to win. That’s not a recipe for success. Georgia Tech’s offense was impressive early and then coasted the rest of the way as Virginia imploded with dropped passes, obtuse play-calling, and poor game management.
At least Virginia Tech laid different kind of egg this week, but they laid an egg nonetheless. Quarterback Michael Brewer was effective against a determined Boston College defense. His performance should have quelled calls for his replacement, but it didn’t. The Virginia Tech running game was ineffective once again, which generally spells trouble for the Hokies. The real culprit however, in the loss to BC was the Hokie defense which broke down repeatedly, giving up long runs at inopportune times throughout the game. While Virginia fans would love to see a 50K+ crowd at Scott Stadium, it is apparent that the Hokie-nation has seen about enough of the 2014 edition of Virginia Tech football. The VT crowd this week was the smallest of the season and the smallest in recent memory. Long runs against the Hokie defense and empty seats in Lane Stadium used to the very uncommon in Blacksburg. Not so much in 2014. Virginia Tech gets a week off to gather themselves before a trip to Durham on the 15th. If Duke manages to beat Syracuse, the Hokies will likely travel to Duke as underdogs. If I were betting on the game, I’d take Virginia Tech and the points as I expect VT to get their act together and win in Durham.
The coming week’s Coastal schedule is light with only 3 teams in action. I am certainly not predicting all of these outcomes, but with the track record of the Coastal I would be only mildly surprised if Syracuse beat Duke, NC State beat Georgia Tech, or in the doozie of them all if UVa beat Florida State. I will predict that one of these upsets will post next weekend, and don’t be shocked to see two. It’s only fitting for the most chaotic of the FBS divisions.