Before the season, I thought the Miami Hurricanes would be bad enough to go 2-10 or good enough to go 6-6, and settled on an expected 4-8. I shudder just thinking of that. Pretty far fall for a proud program. But here they are, at 4-4, and hosting Virginia Tech on Thursday night with a chance to control their own destiny.
If Miami beats Virginia Tech, Al Golden’s team would only need to defeat Duke (6-3, 3-2) on the road in the regular-season finale to secure the program’s first division title. The Virginia game would become meaningless, and USF is a non-conference affair.
Heck, if the Canes beat the Hokies and the Cavaliers, and Duke loses to Clemson and Georgia Tech, Miami would clinch a week early!
Why is the Coastal so wide open? Well, I’d say that is a 2-part answer.
1. Virginia Tech, North Carolina, Georgia Tech, and Virginia have all performed below expectations.
2. Duke has performed above them.
The Canes are probably on course, wildly swinging from great to bad within the season, within games, within quarters, and heck, within possessions. It is the kind of inconsistency you would expect from a young team.
My preseason pick was North Carolina. They are ineligible for the ACC Title game, but I thought they’d be the top team in the division. They’ve looked the part at times, but have opened the door for others because upset, last second losses at Wake Forest and Duke. They still could win the division, but it really doesn’t matter because they can’t advance to Charlotte.
As for the others:
If the Hokies (4-4, 2-2) beat the Hurricanes (4-4, 3-2), they could still lose to FSU a week later and win the Coastal at 5-3 by closing the regular season with victories over Boston College and Virginia.
Conversely, if Miami beats Virginia Tech, Duke would claim the Coastal with victories over the Hurricanes, and a win over either Clemson or Georgia Tech.
The Yellow Jackets can win the Coastal with wins @ Maryland, @ UNC, and versus Duke, along with two losses each from Miami and Virginia Tech.
Virginia is already eliminated.
There are other scenarios of course, but if you want to play that game, figure it out on your own with the tiebreakers.
Odds would favor tonight’s winner, especially the Hokies, to be the team to beat in the Coastal. If you would have told any Canes fan that in August they probably would have laughed at you, and then realized you were being serious, and quickly sign up for that thinking they were somehow stealing.
Uneven divisions are just a part of sports. Wisconsin won’t have to apologize this year if they finish 3rd behind two ineligible teams and UCLA didn’t have to say sorry last year when 6-6 got them to the Pac-12 title game because USC was ineligible. Neither the Canes or Hokies feel particularly proud of their teams, but someone will feel much better about theirs after tonight.
Miami comes in losers of three straight games, but defensive changes have resulted in better, although still not great, efforts in losses to UNC and FSU. Virginia Tech’s offense has struggled all season with only three returning starters off last season’s Coastal division champion returning. Some problems may have been predicted, but a defense with 9 back was supposed to ease that transition, not to mention Beamer-ball (special teams). It has not. The Hokies have been far below standard in each area, and their nation-long streak of ten win seasons will end unless they win out (including an ACC title and an Orange Bowl win).
Both teams are coming off bye weeks and should be ready. Va Tech is a slight favorite on the road. Who would have thought the worst (?) team Miami has fielded since joining the ACC could be the one to finally advance to an ACC Title game?