The Virginia Tech Hokies were, as usual during Frank Beamer‘s tenure, the preseason favorite to win the ACC Coastal division. With shocking early season losses to Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, and a division upset at the hands of North Carolina, Virginia Tech isn’t even bowl eligible yet, but the ACC title game is still well within the Hokies’ reach.
Virginia Tech (4-4 overall, 2-2 ACC) is currently fourth out six teams in the Coastal Division, behind Duke, North Carolina, and Miami. All three of those teams are 3-2 in conference play, so VT isn’t far behind.
Duke’s last three games are against Clemson, Georgia Tech, and Miami. The Blue Devils could reasonably lose to the Tigers and win the next two, but they could just as easily lose all three and finish 3-5 in conference. Virginia Tech beat Duke, 41-20, in mid-October, so if the two teams end up tied at the top of the division, the Hokies own the tiebreaker.
Virginia Tech also owns the tiebreaker against Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets are sitting just behind VT in the current ACC Coastal standings with a 2-3 conference record, but they could conceivably win the remainder of their ACC games against Maryland, North Carolina, and Duke to end up 5-3. Of course, winning the rest of their ACC games still won’t get them a spot in the title game if Virginia Tech can do the same.
North Carolina is, so far, the only Coastal team with a win over Virginia Tech, but the Tar Heels are ineligible for postseason play. Even if UNC finishes tied with, or ahead of, VT, it won’t impact the Hokies’ chances of representing the division in the conference championship game.
That leaves Miami.
If Virginia Tech continues its Thursday night domination – the Hokies are 19-5 all-time in nationally televised Thursday night games – and beats the Hurricanes, the team will still have the upper hand in the ACC Coastal Division.
To come back from South Florida victorious, the Hokies will have to snap a rare six-game road losing streak that dates back to last December, when they lost to Clemson in the ACC Championship Game. They certainly have a shot to do it. Miami is on a three-game losing streak of its own and hasn’t won since September 29.
It’ll be a good opportunity for Virginia Tech to finally find a rhythm on offense. Quarterback Logan Thomas, who announced earlier this week that he will return for his senior year, has been inconsistent, completing just 53.6% of his passes and throwing 13 touchdowns but ten interceptions.
Thomas has been key to the Hokies’ ground game, scoring a team-high five rushing touchdowns. Beamer has attributed some of the team’s struggles to establish the run to the four-man running back rotation, which he plans to narrow down this weekend. Freshman J.C. Coleman and junior Tony Gregory are expected to get the majority of the carries, and they should have plenty of time to get their feet under them as they go up against Miami’s run defense, which is second-to-last in the nation.
The Hurricanes’ offense is only slightly better, thanks mostly to the 26th-ranked passing attack led by quarterback Stephen Morris, who is averaging 277 passing yards per game. Miami’s run game is only 93rd in the nation and could fall even further this weekend if freshman running back and return specialist Duke Johnson, who is third in the ACC in all-purpose yards, is limited after leaving the Hurricanes’ last game with a foot injury.
The fact that either team, currently sitting at 4-4, can still win the division, as well as the conference, is a testament to the weak showings on this side of the ACC in 2012.
The game looks to be a close match between two middling teams who could still claim the ACC’s Coastal Division, and it’ll be a big win for whichever team comes out on top.
As Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster said this week, the game “is as big as any of them we’ve had when we were 11-1 or 10-2.”