The Coastal Division is up for grabs in 2013, as Virginia Tech, North Carolina, Georgia Tech and Miami all have a strong case to be picked No. 1 this preseason.
The Hokies regressed from one of the ACC’s top title contenders to a 7-6 team last year. Virginia Tech also won three of its games in overtime, including a 13-10 victory over Rutgers in the Russell Athletic Bowl.
After being a model of consistency in the ACC, are the Hokies ready to return to the top? Or is Virginia Tech on the decline?
The answer to that question might reside on the hire of Scot Loeffler as the team’s new offensive coordinator. Loeffler’s one-year stint at Auburn was a struggle, but he did not have the talent to run a pro-style attack. Is Loeffler the right answer at Virginia Tech? Only time well tell, but Loeffler’s assignment isn’t easy, especially since the Hokies have question marks at each level of the offense in 2013.
What will Virginia Tech's record at the end of the 2013 regular season? Athlon’s panel of experts debates:
Virginia Tech's 2013 Game-by-Game Predictions
8/31 Alabama (Atlanta)
9/7 Western Carolina
9/14 at East Carolina
9/26 at Georgia Tech
10/5 North Carolina
11/2 at Boston College
11/9 at Miami
11/30 at Virginia
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Was 2012 just a small speed bump for Virginia Tech or a sign of things to come? That’s the big question in Blacksburg this offseason, as the Hokies have won at least 10 games in eight out of the last nine years but struggled to get to a bowl game last season. With the return of nine starters on defense, a wide-open Coastal Division and no Florida State or Clemson on the schedule, Virginia Tech should be in the mix to play for the conference championship once again. For the Hokies to get back into ACC title contention, the offense has to show some signs of life. Was Scot Loeffler the right person to fix the offense and quarterback Logan Thomas? I’m not so sure. Although Thomas has to cut down on his interceptions, Virginia Tech needs to identify a couple of playmakers at receiver, find a No. 1 running back and stabilize the offensive line. Until the offense improves, expect the Hokies to lean prominently on the defense, especially in early-season matchups against Georgia Tech and North Carolina. I could see Virginia Tech finishing 8-4 with an upset loss at Virginia or even at home to North Carolina. However, I’m guessing the Hokies find just enough offense to finish 9-3 and push Miami for the Coastal title.
John Cassillo, (@JohnCassillo), Atlantic Coast Convos
The opener against Alabama could set a very bad tone for this season in Blacksburg, even with the rebound game against Western Carolina right after. Don't sleep on the back-to-back contests against Marshall and ECU, either -- the Herd and Pirates are two of the best teams in Conference USA and with powerful offenses, may simply be able to outscore the Hokies if the timing's right. Still, with that defense, Virginia Tech has ample opportunities to win all over this schedule. So long as the offense can score 25 (no guarantee), they should be in position to emerge victorious in most contests. But that's all up to Logan Thomas. Can he regain his 2011 form? We'll see.
Ryan Tice (@RyanTice), TheWolfpacker.com
My confidence in Virginia Tech is based on the track records of Frank Beamer and Bud Foster more than anything. The defense returns nine starters, has talent in the front seven and boasts a potentially great ACC cornerback duo in Antone Exum, provided he is able to get fully healthy, and Kyle Fuller. The defense will also be aided by the return of inside linebacker Tariq Edwards, a 2011 starter who missed all of last year, and the reported offseason turnaround from defensive end J.R. Collins, who was an All-ACC honorable mention in 2011. While I do give Beamer and Foster the benefit of the doubt, I never thought quarterback Logan Thomas deserved all of the hype he got last summer and he showed to be the singal caller I thought he was last year. He has even less help this season than 2012, when he threw for 2,976 yards, 18 touchdowns and 16 picks. It’s up to inexperienced playmakers to step forward on offense. Playing at East Carolina will be tougher than it appears on the surface and winning at Georgia Tech on a short week is no easy task.
Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Logan Thomas is simply too talented and the Bud Foster led defense is simply too salty for this team to be as bad in 2013 as it was in 2012. Will it rebound to win the division and return to the title game with road games at Georgia Tech and Miami? I say no. But missing both Florida State and Clemson in crossover play gives this team as good a chance of winning the division as any other. The hiring of Scott Loeffler to run the offense is one of the most important hires of the offseason nationally and will go a long way to saving Thomas' legacy and returning Frank Beamer to coaching prominence.
As disappointing a season as Virginia Tech had last year, the reality is the Hokies still went to (and won) a bowl game and have plenty of talent returning this fall. It will be up to quarterback Logan Thomas to bounce back in a new offensive system, but he can't do it all alone. The running game must be more consistent and playmakers need to step up and emerge in the passing attack.
Despite the many questions on offense, I still believe this team can win the ACC Coastal and contend for an ACC title because of its defense. A unit that finished in the top 20 nationally last season returns nine starters and adds some highly touted recruits to what will be without question the strength of this season's team. If the offense, led by Thomas, can even show marginal improvement, this team could win 10 games in the regular season.
Obviously opening up with defending national champion Alabama is a tough task, but it also could help prepare Frank Beamer's squad for the rest of its slate. In ACC play, the road games at Georgia Tech and Miami, along with the home dates with North Carolina and Pittsburgh appear to be the most important. This is especially the case considering last season the Hokies beat the Yellow Jackets by three points at home in overtime and lost to the Hurricanes, Tar Heels and Panthers by a combined 50 points.
David Fox (@DavidFox615)
It’s tough to see Virginia Tech going 7-6 again, so I suppose I’ve given Frank Beamer the benefit of the doubt. The Hokies had their problems last season: Logan Thomas regressed, and Tech had three-game stretch at Clemson, at Miami and against Florida State that would have been tough for anyone. That’s why I’m picking a rebound year of sorts. The Hokies won’t beat Alabama, and Miami’s going to have one of the few offensive teams that can give the Hokies defense trouble. And why Maryland? Every ACC team will lose a game that makes little sense (Virginia Tech did it against Pitt last year). Maryland’s going to be better, provided the Terrapins make it to November with their quarterbacks intact.
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