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Georgia Tech and Virginia Emerge as Unlikely Frontrunners in Coastal Division

Paul Johnson

Paul Johnson

Preseason predictions are never an exact science, but the Coastal Division was perhaps the Power 5 league with the most uncertainty and overall difficulty when trying to sort out the projections.

Six weeks into the season, the Coastal Division might have clarity in the form of Georgia Tech and Virginia.

Yes, that’s right. Georgia Tech and Virginia.

In most preseason predictions, the Yellow Jackets and Cavaliers were projected to finish near the bottom of the Coastal. Six weeks into 2014, Georgia Tech and Virginia are two of the three unbeaten (Florida State is the other) teams in the ACC.

There’s a long way to go, so who knows if either team can maintain its start or remain at the top of the Coastal.

However, with the overall unpredictability of the division, should we really be surprised?

The Cavaliers went 2-10 last year but still had one of the ACC’s most-talented rosters. Coach Mike London has signed four consecutive top 35 recruiting classes, and two five-star prospects in tackle Andrew Brown and safety Quin Blanding headlined the haul for 2014.

Quarterback play has been a primary culprit in Virginia’s offensive struggles, but the Cavaliers have nine touchdown passes through six games, which ties the mark this team posted in 2013.

There’s also progress on defense, as Virginia is allowing just 4.8 yards per play. That’s an improvement from the 5.7 mark the Cavaliers gave up in 2013.

For Georgia Tech, coach Paul Johnson ended 2013 on the hot seat after a 1-3 finish and a 7-6 record.

But Johnson has guided the Yellow Jackets back on track, and with wins over Miami and Virginia Tech, this team could be the favorite in the Coastal.

Quarterback Justin Thomas is a perfect fit for Georgia Tech’s option attack, and the turnover margin has been in this team’s favor (+5) after a negative mark (-4) last year.

In a division full of teams with flaws, it’s important to note both Georgia Tech and Virginia lead the ACC in turnover margin.

And with both teams getting better play from the quarterback position, it’s easy to see why Georgia Tech and Virginia have emerged as Coastal Division title contenders.

That’s right: Georgia Tech and Virginia. Coastal Division contenders. That’s not something most expected in the preseason, but the Coastal Division is up for grabs, and there’s not a dominant among the seven programs this year.

Miami and North Carolina are struggling on defense. Virginia Tech’s offense has struggled with turnovers. Pittsburgh needs to develop playmakers other than Tyler Boyd and James Conner. Does Duke have the necessary pieces on defense to repeat as Coastal champs?

Again, Georgia Tech and Virginia are far from perfect. But when you win the turnover margin and get better play from your quarterbacks, you start to see why the Yellow Jackets and Cavaliers are poised to easily exceed preseason expectations. 

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