The Coastal Division is still up for grabs, though a couple of teams are standing out, while another has taken themselves almost completely out of the race.
Here are the Coastal Division standings heading into this weekend…
1: Duke (4-1, 2-0)
2: UNC (4-1, 1-0)
3: Pitt (3-1, 1-0)
4: Miami (3-1, 0-0)
5: UVA (1-3, 0-0)
6: VT (2-3, 0-1)
7: GT (2-3, 0-2)
The two preseason favorites – Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech – are currently sitting at the bottom of the Coastal Division standings. The Carolina schools, along with Pitt, are at the top. Who would have thought this five years ago?
Let’s take a quick look at each team…
Duke (4-1, 2-0)
S&P+ Overall: #11
S&P+ Offense: #75
S&P+ Defense: #4
Thus far, the Blue Devils’ only blemish has come at the hands of unbeaten Northwestern in a close, hard fought football game (19-10). Duke is playing excellent defense, while their offense leaves a lot to be desired. That’s a little surprising because of David Cutcliffe’s background as an offensive coach.
Duke knocked off Coastal Division favorite Georgia Tech 34-20, then beat Boston College 9-7 in a battle of two of the most efficient defenses in college football. By having the tiebreaker over the Yellow Jackets, the Blue Devils are in a pretty good position.
Duke’s final non-conference game of the season is tomorrow against Army. Duke has an advantage in the Coastal Division race because they don’t have to play Clemson or Florida State, or even NC State, Syracuse or Louisville. They’ve already played Boston College, and their only other Atlantic Division opponent is annual crossover opponent Wake Forest.
North Carolina (4-1, 1-0)
S&P+ Overall: #68
S&P+ Offense: #41
S&P+ Defense: #84
Were in not for two Marquise Williams interceptions in the end zone against South Carolina, the Tar Heels would be unbeaten and probably ranked in the top 25. Since that disappointing loss, they have gone 4-0…
53-14 over North Carolina A&T
48-14 over Illinois
41-14 over Delaware
38-31 over Georgia Tech
Obviously that’s not the toughest schedule in college football, especially with two FCS opponents. However, UNC showed a lot of grit last week when they rallied from a 21-0 deficit to defeat Georgia Tech. It’s rare that a Paul Johnson team blows a big lead like that.
Like Duke, the Tar Heels also don’t play Florida State or Clemson. However, they do close the season with NC State. The head to head battle with the Blue Devils on November 7 could be critical.
Pitt (3-1, 1-0)
S&P+ Overall: #45
S&P+ Offense: #82
S&P+ Defense: #22
The Panthers are limited offensively. They don’t have a great quarterback, and they only have one legit wide receiver target in Tyler Boyd. However, Pat Narduzzi has a tough, aggressive defense that he hopes can carry the team throughout the course of the season.
Thus far, Pitt’s only loss was a three-point game at Iowa on a 57 yard field goal as time expired. If that kick didn’t go in, they might be unbeaten. They completely thrashed Virginia Tech in the trenches last weekend, and that was a confidence building win.
The Panthers don’t have to play Florida State or Clemson, but they do play Louisville and Syracuse, who both bring good defenses to the table. Their cross-divisional schedule is a bit more daunting than that of their Coastal rivals.
Miami (3-1, 0-0)
S&P+ Overall: #44
S&P+ Offense: #44
S&P+ Defense: #53
The Hurricanes are a balanced team. They have been fairly mediocre in all stages. They have looked good at times, and terrible at times. They looked great in getting off to a huge lead against Nebraska, but then nearly blew the game. Last week they lost to Cincinnati in a Thursday night contest.
It’s rumored that Al Golden could be out of a job by the end of the year. If he doesn’t get fired, he might be smart to actively pursue another job in the offseason, because a large portion of the Miami fan base is done with him. UVA is a rumored landing spot, but we’ve still got a long way to go.
Miami will always be at a disadvantage in the Coastal Division race because they have to play Florida State every season. They face the Seminoles this Saturday night. They also have to play Clemson this year. As a result, the Canes are a longshot to win the Coastal Division.
UVA (1-3, 0-0)
S&P+ Overall: #82
S&P+ Offense: #49
S&P+ Defense: #104
UVA has just one win, and that was a hard fought 35-29 victory over William & Mary. Both in-state schools are struggling right now. The sad fact of the matter is that James Madison has as many wins over FBS opponents as UVA and Virginia Tech combined.
At this point, it’s very unlikely that Mike London will be back for 2016. His players know that, which means the rest of the season could go south in a hurry. Coaches who are about to get fired tend to lose control because players know they’ll be gone very soon.
UVA doesn’t have to play Florida State or Clemson, but at this point it doesn’t really matter. It’s all over but the crying.
Virginia Tech (2-3, 0-1)
S&P+ Overall: #70
S&P+ Offense: #78
S&P+ Defense: #55
Virginia Tech is standing at a precipice. If they lose to NC State tonight, they’ll be 0-2 in the ACC. Not only would that finish them in the Coastal Division for all practical purposes, but it would also be the first time they started 0-2 in ACC play. It would be a new low.
The Hokies do have one advantage: they don’t play Florida State or Clemson, and they also don’t have to deal with that Louisville defense. However, they need to beat NC State tonight. If they start out 0-2, it would be very unlikely that they could run off six straight wins to go 6-2 and win the Coastal.
The return of Michael Brewer could potentially be a big help for an offense that is struggling with consistency.
Georgia Tech (2-3, 0-2)
S&P+ Overall: #35
S&P+ Offense: #39
S&P+ Defense: #35
Somehow Georgia Tech is still ranked in the top 40 in the advanced stats despite dropping three games in a row. The Yellow Jackets lost to Notre Dame and Duke, and then blew an early 21-0 lead against North Carolina to lose 38-31. Picked #1 by the media in the Coastal Division to start the season, it would take a miracle for the Jackets to win the division now.
Why would it take a miracle? At 0-2 in the ACC, Georgia Tech still has to play Florida State and Clemson. They face the Tigers tomorrow night in Death Valley. Even if they manage to win one of those two games, at best they will finish 5-3 in the ACC and they would lose head-to-head tiebreakers against Duke and UNC.
I never thought I’d say this, but at this point in the season it’s likely that one of the Carolina schools will represent the Coastal Division in the ACC Championship Game.