At the midway point of the college football season, the races for conference titles are beginning to take shape. In the ACC, a pair of top-five heavyweights square off this weekend when the Clemson Tigers host the Florida State Seminoles in a game that will likely decide the fate of the Atlantic Division in the conference. But on the other side, it’s the Virginia Tech Hokies who have positioned themselves as the frontrunner for the other spot in the ACC title game as the champion of the Coastal Division.
Through seven games, Virginia Tech has posted a 6-1 record with their only loss coming at the hands of the defending national champion and No. 1 team in the country, the Alabama Crimson Tide, in the season opener. Since then, the Hokies have found success behind an extremely stingy defense. They rank No. 1 in the ACC in total defenses, allowing just 256 yards per game, and No. 2 in scoring defense, giving up just 15 points per game. Their offense won’t be turning any heads (No. 13 in ACC in total offense, No. 12 in scoring), but they’ve done just enough to win six straight games.
Looking at the team’s final five games of the regular season, there’s no reason that formula can’t continue to work wonders for VT. They face just one team ranked in the top 25, No. 10 Miami Hurricanes, down the stretch though they will have to go on the road three times. First, they travel to take on the Boston College Eagles (who hung tough with both FSU and Clemson this season) before heading to Miami the following week and then squaring off with the rival Virginia Cavaliers two weeks later in the regular season finale.
The defense of VT has been good enough to handle those challenges, however. Miami struggled when they played an elite defense earlier in the season, gaining just 212 total yards (well-below their season average of 488.6) against the Florida Gators. Miami needed five turnovers from the Gators to escape with a 21-16 win so Virginia Tech can give themselves an excellent shot of winning with a strong defensive showing and maintaining ball security on offense. If they can do that, they’ll have a major advantage over the biggest challenge remaining on their schedule.
But the biggest reason Virginia Tech has the inside track at the Coastal Division title is who they don’t have to play this season. Namely, no Clemson and no Florida State on the Hokies schedule in 2013 gives them a decided advantage in a division race that should come down to the wire. For now, they hold the inside track to a date with one of the ACC heavyweights from the Atlantic Division in the ACC title game. Can the Hokies hold on and seal the deal?