TSL Roundtable: Who’s the Biggest Threat to Virginia Tech in the Coastal?

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Justin Fuente has his eyes on the Coastal Division championship again this year. Which other Coastal teams have the most potential to get in the way? (photo by Ivan Morozov)

Q: Which Coastal Division teams are the biggest threats to VT in the Coastal in 2017?

Tafkam Hokie: Make no mistake, VT has some question marks going into 2017. But so does just about every other Coastal team, which is why VT is generally listed among the frontrunners for the division. No one team is conspicuously better than everyone else. I honestly expect the division winner to have two, and possibly even three losses, with the winner decided by the second or third tiebreaker. I think the division will be won by the team who can avoid the one ugly loss.

I think we can safely rule out Virginia as a threat. I think they might steal a game from one of the contenders (which would be the ugly loss the contenders need to avoid), but that is about it. David Cutcliffe is a good coach, but I don’t think Duke has the pieces in place to challenge for the division. That leaves us with GT, Pitt, UNC, and Miami.

Each of those four has at least as many issues as VT. No one from that group has to play Clemson AND Florida State, so I can’t rule any of the teams out just because they will be starting with 2 conference losses. As much as I’d like to rule out Pitt and UNC, they play neither Clemson nor Florida State, so they are kinda starting with a leg up on everyone else. Every way I look at VT plus those four teams, you can almost start pulling them out of hat to project the order they will finish.

Paul Johnson Georgia Tech
Paul Johnson (photo by Ivan Morozov)

I generally like the Bud Foster vs. Paul Johnson matchup, and GT is usually good for a maddening loss somewhere along the way that keeps them from winning the division. UNC’s question marks seem to be almost identical to VT’s, but I’m inclined to give the nod to the home team (VT) in that one. No matter how good Miami is supposed to be, I am firmly entrenched in the camp they need to prove it on the field instead of just talking about it.

I guess by elimination, I’m left with Pitt. Plus, from a purely emotional perspective, no game on the schedule makes me pucker up more that Pitt.

Hokie CPA: Well, let’s start with the obvious: Duke and UVA are not going to win the Coastal Division this year or any year in the near future. They’re both works in progress at best. At worst, they are complete dumpster fires. I’ll leave it to you to decide which is which.

Next, you have to consider Georgia Tech and Pitt.

Pitt plays tough and they have the ability to really be a thorn in the side of any contender in this division. They also have a stubborn coach who doubled down on a failing strategy last year and ruined his defense. The question is whether Pat Narduzzi is smart enough to learn from last year’s mistakes and implement corrections to keep it from happening again. Maybe he did. His issue isn’t so much the Xs and Os, but the Jimmys and Joes. Did Pitt get some players in the secondary during the offseason? Probably not. Even if they did, I don’t know whether it makes a difference this year. Pitt isn’t going to win the Coastal.

Just when you think Coach Paul Johnson has just about managed to coach himself out of a job, he manages to win nine or ten games and cool his seat down a little bit. Is Georgia Tech going to be good this year? Maybe. Of course, they might suck out loud. One thing I do know, they are always a tough out. That said, I’m fairly confident they’re not going to win the division this year. As good (and as frustrating) as GT can be, there are some teams that are just going to do better, and there’s nothing the Jackets can do about it. Their biggest problem is that Bud Foster has figured out that offense and owns ‘em for now.

That leaves Carolina and Miami. These are, in my opinion, the biggest threats to VT in the Coastal. And not only by default. These guys are, as always, legit threats. Mark Richt and Larry Fedora are a couple of the better Big Whistles in the ACC. These teams will be ready to play.

Larry Fedora North Carolina UNC
Larry Fedora, pictured here in 2012. (photo by Ivan Morozov)

While UNC has lost Trubisky and Switzer, the other nine offensive starters are all back and you can bet Fedora will plug in a couple of guys and keep on chuggin’. His offenses are typically pretty good, regardless of who is taking the snaps. Where Carolina is likely to come up short is on the stop unit. Gene Chizik has pulled an Urban Meyer and stepped down from his job as defensive coordinator to spend time with his family. What kind of DC is John Papuchis? He was DC at Nebraska for a couple of years under Bo Pelini, where his defenses weren’t up to Blackshirts expectations. Carolina already had a suspect defense when they called in Chizik to turn it around. I believe the Heels are more likely to relapse than improve on defense this year.

I ain’t sayin’ Miami is back. That cliché is about as tired as it gets. But they’re better now than they’ve been in a decade and Richt is going to keep them improving. Will Richt be the guy to get them into the ACC Championship Game? I can’t say, but he most certainly could. He may not have been good enough for Georgia, but he’s still a darn good football coach and he’s going back to Miami basics…. recruiting and signing kids from all over South Florida to bring some pride back to a program only 16 years removed from their last national championship.

Baltimore Hokie: This has an ‘us’ component and a ‘them’ component. For our part, I think a big question mark is: can we get past the slow starts on offense? We weren’t able to overcome them in the SU and GT games, and we lost two games we had no business losing. If we can figure out how to avoid the slow starts and come out firing on all cylinders from the first quarter, it will greatly improve our chances of a repeat appearance in the ACCCG.

Even with that fix, though, there are three teams I think can derail us. The first is GT, just because. Of all Coastal Division teams they have proven the most perplexing over the years – one or two seasons we clearly dominate, the next we fall on our faces. Last year we had the slow start on offense compounded with defense that allowed a second team QB to run roughshod. I’m extremely hopeful that it won’t happen this year, though, because GT hasn’t been able to notch back to back victories, yet.

The second is UNC, because of their returning talent. I sincerely hope Hokie fans won’t look at the results of last year’s game and try to extrapolate. We capitalized on UNC’s many bad-weather mistakes — rewatch the game, we didn’t look so hot on offense in the bad weather, either. This year all bets are off. If it comes down to their O vs our D, I think we can pull it out with a solid offensive performance.

Mark Richt Miami Hurricanes
Mark Richt (photo by Ivan Morozov

The third is Miami. I’ve said a lot about Mark Richt in relation to his tenure at UGA. But success in the SEC is defined a bit differently than success in the ACC. Regardless of whether or not he could beat UF or Bama at their peak, he was still able to field multiple Top 10 teams at UGA — and he did so early in his coaching tenure. It’s just that this wasn’t enough in the long run. If he fields a Top 10 team at Miami — and he certainly has access to the talent to do so — he will likely win the Coastal along the way. We can take consolation, though, in the fact he doesn’t have a reputation for great defenses, and Miami has relied on great defenses in their ‘back’ periods.

And way at the back of my mind is Pitt, for the same reason as GT – since 2012 they’ve been a thorn in the side…

Nova Hokie 95: I’m gonna go all esoteric on you here and say that the team that’s the biggest threat to Virginia Tech in the Coastal is … Virginia Tech.

Let’s be honest with ourselves; the ACC’s Coastal Division is not exactly a murderer’s row of high-quality teams. You’re not facing top-level competition week in and week out; you’re not battling the cream of the crop here. What it is, though, is a collection of solid teams — above-average, good-to-pretty-good teams (minus, as others have said, UVA and Dook). Pitt and GT are probably closer to the “good” level, with UNC and Miami closer to the “pretty good” level.

Where’s Virginia Tech, though? That’s why I say we’re our own biggest threat in the Coastal. Our development this summer and fall will determine where we wind up on that “good to pretty good” scale. We could be anywhere from each of those four teams giving us trouble to none of them. We just don’t know at this point.

I suppose my basic qualifications of our divisional rivals means that technically my answer to this week’s question is “UNC and Miami,” but at least right now neither of those teams really scare me. I don’t know if we’ll win the Coastal again this year, but I’m pretty confident that if we do it’ll be because we showed ourselves to be the best “pretty good” team in the division. Still worth celebrating, of course, and a great second season for Coach Fuente — and a very positive sign that in the coming years we’ll take more steps forward to compete nationally against the cream of the crop once more.

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28 Responses You are logged in as Test

    1. Glad I wasn’t the only one. I actually got sidetracked and started researching it, because to me, “pretty good” is like fairly good, middling, not quite as good.

  1. This Hokies team is good enough to win all of their games, but last year turnovers were issues; if this team turns the ball over 3 times anyone can beat us. Biggest threat in the Coastal is UNC. If that talented QB plays well, their defense should be improved with the best depth they have had in last 3 years on D. Miami is not back but are talented and can beat anyone. VT offense will take a step back unless a young RB is All ACC caliber, so I would not expect the comebacks we had last year. Hope the D can be dominant starting with WVU.

  2. I feel better about VT’s chances in the coastal than I have in five or more years.

    I do think that Miami is the biggest threat because of Richt and their location. That university is in every way Dook except reverse the two major revenue sports and lighten the coaching legacy.

    1. Just read an article on the upcoming ACC basketball season. Had Miami number 1 in the conference. They’re getting 5 star talent now for the bball team too.

  3. Don’t underestimate Duke. I think they will have a big say in who wins the Coastal. Their QB is good enough to win them some games. I am not saying that they we will the Coastal but I am saying they could play spoiler.

    1. 2 terrific talents at RB, QB, 3 productive receivers and one of the best returners not named Devin Hester. Significant Tarheel offensive firepower was lost, Hokies lost a lot of production as well.

  4. Miami is the only team that really concerns me. If VT is playing their A or B-level game against everyone else, they should win. Miami is the only team that can out-talent VT, so long as they play as a team. Which they havent been able to do in over a decade. If I had to pick a Coastal winner today, I’d pick Miami. But I honestly think it’s VTs to lose as long as the team can come together under Fuente the same way they did last year. I think Fuente is an A+ level coach and most don’t realize it yet. I think we’ll find that out in the next year or two.

    1. Most talented Miami team EVER almost lost in Lane to a VT team QB’d by Grant Noel. We may not beat them every year but we’ll still win our fair share.

      They’ll concern me once they win ONE division title

      1. With the talent Miami is bringing in now under Richt (2018 #1 class) they are going to start winning the coastal. Not that they didn’t have talent b4, but it’s getting even better, Richt is the best hire they could have made, and I can see them starting to sustain their top 5 recruiting classes and consistently challenging for the ACC every year. Good thing is I think we’re on an upward trajectory as well. The Miami/VT games are going to be awesome w/possible national implications for years to come.

    2. ACC is stacked with great coaches. if Fuente is already A+, then Richt, Fedora, Cutcliffe and PJ have all shown A+ seasons on their resume.

      1. Easier schedule. Duke at home and BC at home. It’s just a prediction.
        Last year I predicted VT would beat Tenn, SU and GT and lose at UNC and at ND. I was 0-5 on those 🙂

        1. If Nova is going to the penalty box for “unnecessary optimism” I’m going with him.
          Liked his part of the article the best.

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