The Coastal Division of the ACC is the worst division in Power 5 football this season. None of the seven Coastal teams are ranked and whoever emerges from this collection of mediocrity will have at least two conference losses, likely more.
Despite this division’s deplorable on-field performance, it’s put Virginia Tech in an advantageous position. The Hokies, who still have a negative point differential vs. ACC opponents, control their own fate. If Virginia Tech wins out, the Hokies will travel to Charlotte as Coastal Division champions.
But Tech isn’t the only team who can still win the Coastal. In fact, just about everyone in the division except Georgia Tech has a somewhat reasonable chance. Let’s roll through the remaining teams inside the conference and handicap this division the Hokies call home.
Virginia 6-3 (4-2)
Remaining conference games: vs. Georgia Tech, vs. Virginia Tech
It’s hard to not peg the Cavaliers as the favorites in the Coastal Division. The up-and-down ‘Hoos have just two ACC games left on the schedule, including one against the lowly Yellow Jackets. Both of those conference games are at home and in between are a bye week and a home game vs. Liberty. Virginia couldn’t have set this up any better.
Even though they are the favorites, Virginia is just as a flawed as everyone else in the division. Their offensive line has eroded throughout the season, leaving Bryce Perkins to try and create magic on nearly every possession. The ‘Hoos defense has been the unit that’s done most of the work this year, but they did allow 31 points vs. North Carolina last Saturday.
Pittsburgh 6-3 (3-2)
Remaining conference games: vs. North Carolina, at Virginia Tech, vs. Boston College
Pittsburgh not only needs to win out, they need the ‘Hoos to drop a game as well. Pitt lost at home by 16 to Virginia to start the season and that loss is coming back to bite them in the rear. The Panthers looked like a team on a mission after upsetting Central Florida in September, but they’ve since beaten Delaware by three, Syracuse by seven, Georgia Tech by 10 and lost to Miami. Pittsburgh is in contention for the division crown almost by default.
Miami 5-4 (3-3)
Remaining conference games: vs. Louisville, at Duke
The perennially disappointing Hurricanes have won two straight, knocking off Pittsburgh and Florida State. Neither win is that impressive, especially since the Seminoles are now looking for a new head coach.
The ‘Canes quarterback issues have been well documented and redshirt freshman Jarren Williams, who collapsed against Virginia Tech, seems to have regained the starting role. Miami is clearly the most talented team in the division, but when has that ever meant anything? They could easily lose to Louisville this week.
North Carolina 4-5 (3-3)
Remaining conference games: at Pittsburgh, at NC State
North Carolina thrust themselves into contention at the outset, starting the season off 2-0 with a win vs. Miami. But it’s been a roller coaster since then, including four conference losses by seven points or less. Sam Howell has been solid this season as a true freshman, but the Tar Heels’ defense has held the team back all season long.
Carolina also needs help, but has two very winnable games left on the schedule. Losing to Virginia severely hurt their chances however, and Carolina will need more happen than just two wins vs. Pitt and NC State.
Virginia Tech 5-3 (2-2)
Remaining conference games: vs. Wake Forest, at Georgia Tech, vs. Pittsburgh, at Virginia
Thanks to a scheduling quirk, Tech is the only team in the Coastal with four conference games remaining. This Saturday vs. Wake Forest is likely the hardest game left on the Hokies’ schedule.
If Tech loses vs. Wake, they still control their own destiny. The Hokies will have three losses and if they win out, Tech will lead the three-loss teams thanks to head-to-head tiebreakers. So even though Saturday’s game is a critical test vs. one of the best offenses in the country, the game means little in terms of the standings.
Ultimately, Virginia Tech will need to knock off both Pitt and Virginia. That’s a tall feat, but a possible one.
Duke 4-4 (2-3)
Remaining conference games: vs. Syracuse, at Wake Forest, vs. Miami
Somehow, Duke is still in contention for this thing. The rebuilding Blue Devils can win their three remaining games and eek this out, which is incredible. But Duke is going to drop at least one of those contests. Duke shouldn’t be considered a serious contender at this point, but their game vs. Miami might mean something.
Georgia Tech 2-6 (1-4)
Remaining conference games: at Virginia, vs. Virginia Tech, vs. NC State
Georgia Tech isn’t going to win the Coastal, but they could play a serious role in how the division plays out. A win either against the ‘Hoos and Hokies would rock the division standings and create even more havoc. Perhaps the bigger question is — can the Yellow Jackets win another conference game vs. NC State in a few weeks?