Making Sense of the ACC Football Coastal Division: No. 5 Virginia Tech Hokies

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When examining the apparent strengths and weaknesses of the 2014 Virginia Tech Hokies, there are a lot of, “Well, yeah, but…” moments. For every potential strength the Hokies might have, there seems to be some detail that undercuts it, and it’s the same for most of their potential weaknesses. But one thing is clear; the Hokies will have a lot of questions to answer when autumn arrives. Even though they have not lived up to their usual standard the past two years, Virginia Tech will still be one of the most intriguing teams in the ACC this season.

Why Virginia Tech could win the Coastal division:

Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer hasn’t named his starting quarterback yet. It should be an open competition in training camp, once freshman Chris Durkin and Texas Tech Red Raiders transfer Michael Brewer arrive. But whoever steps into Logan Thomas‘ shoes will have plenty of talent to work with. The Hokies return a veteran offensive line, a solid group of wide receivers and a couple of talented running backs, including rising talent Marshawn Williams.

The schedule also gives Virginia Tech decent shot, with cross-division games against the Boston College Eagles and the Wake Forest Demon Deacons. The Hokies have the potential to be pretty well this season, but they were fortunate to not draw a game against the Florida State Seminoles or the Clemson Tigers. A few other Atlantic division teams could have challenged the Hokies as well, but Wake Forest and Boston College should not give them much trouble.

Oh, and of course, there is also Bud Foster. Does anyone think that the Hokies won’t have a decent defense as long as Foster is around?

Why Virginia Tech could end up in last place:

Even with Thomas throwing the passes last season, the Hokies did not have a stellar offense. They bring back the majority of that offense from last season, so projecting that unit to improve relies on the assumptions that several players will take a few strides forward and that the Hokies will get quarterback play that is at least as good as what Thomas gave them last season. That’s not to say that they can’t improve dramatically. To an extent, this is how all projections work in football. It just means that this is a unit that has a lot to prove.

And while Foster has earned enough trust that it can almost be assumed that the Hokies’ defense will be decent, there are a lot of issues that need to be addressed there as well. Virginia Tech lost most of their starting front seven from last season. They should reload, but there is a chance that they could struggle early, particularly against the run. And they kick off ACC play against the worst possible opponent for a team with issues against the run, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, with their famous triple-option offense. The Hokies will have a few weeks to prepare for that matchup in Week 4, but there are no bye weeks and their Week 2 matchup with the Ohio State Buckeyes will demand most of their attention early on.

And while the friendly selection of cross-division games is a benefit, they also have to hit the road to play the North Carolina Tar Heels, the Pittsburgh Panthers and the Duke Blue Devils. Back when the Hokies were dominating the ACC Coastal division, that wouldn’t look like a problem. These days, they might be fortunate to win even one of those games. And while they do get the Miami Hurricanes in Blacksburg, they will most likely be the underdog in that one anyway.

Prediction:

The Hokies are never a team that you want to rule out when it comes to the Coastal division championship. Virginia Tech will probably go as far as their quarterback takes them. But there are so many unanswered questions that right now, it would be tough to pick them much higher than fifth.

Previous articles in this series:

No. 6 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

No. 7 Virginia Cavaliers

Dan Kelley covers college football for Rant Sports. You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

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