Out of Conference Games to Watch – Coastal Division

by JustinC on May 15, 2013 · 3 comments

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The ACC has often received flack for its inability to produce big wins in recent years. Of course, the conference took a needed step in the right direction last year when the top four bowl seeds all won. Florida State dispatched Northern Illinois for their first BCS bowl win since the Sugar… Ok, still too soon. Clemson defeated LSU in a thriller in Atlanta. The Hokies failed to out-suck the Scarlet Knights in a game only the true faithful could stomach. Lastly, Georgia Tech dispatched an unfocused USC team in the Sun Bowl.

Bowl season was a breath of fresh air for a conference that had become staler than an old bag of chips. But, the ACC, more specifically the Coastal Division, will need to continue the momentum built upon 2012’s bowl season early on here in 2013. Almost every division team plays at least one national power in their out of conference schedule.

Since the schedules were released a little over two months ago, I’ve never really broken down some of the key games to watch. Well, I’ll make up for some lost time today. Let’s look at who each team plays out of conference.

Duke Blue Devils

Naturally, I pimp the ACC’s out of conference schedule and then Duke ruins it by playing NOBODY. So, who would be Duke’s top out of conference foe this season? Navy. Respectable but not a game I’m going to mark on my calendar. Other than the Midshipmen, the Blue Devils will play @ Memphis, Troy, and North Carolina Central. Not exactly murderers row.

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

After winning the Coastal Division, the Yellow Jackets have bolstered their OOC schedule with the likes of Georgia (yearly rivalry game), a trip out to BYU, Elon, and Alabama A&M. The only game that will be truly important for the Yellow Jackets is the game against Georgia. The Bulldogs have owned the series of late and Georgia Tech needs to change that. Paul Johnson’s seat has to be a little warm with the lack of major success and the inability to takeover a weakened division. Eventually, he'll need to find a way to beat Mark Richt’s group up the road.

Miami Hurricanes

The Canes will stay in-state to play all four of their out of conference games. Their only trip outside of Miami will come against South Florida on September 28th. The other three games are at home. The Canes will battle Florida, Florida Atlantic, and Savannah State this season. Like Georgia Tech, a victory over Florida would be a major coup for not only Miami but for the ACC. That’s where the Canes will need to start if they ever want to be relevant in college football again.

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North Carolina Tar Heels

The Tar Heels will kickoff this college football season with an opening week game against South Carolina in Columbia. That will be a tough task for a team that isn’t battle tested yet. The rest of their OOC schedule consists of home games against Old Dominion, East Carolina, and Mid Tennessee State. On a side note, the Heel’s schedule is front-loaded with games against South Carolina, Georgia Tech (away), Virginia Tech (away), and Miami (home) all coming before October 17th. There’s a chance the Heels could be 2-4 to start the season and actually finish 8-4 with the relative ease of the 2nd half of their schedule.

Pittsburgh Panthers

The newcomers to this division play a fairly light OOC schedule with at least two winnable games. Old Dominion and New Mexico, both home games, should be victories for the Panthers. But, they’ll have to work for wins against Navy (away) and Notre Dame (home). A 2-2 record this year would be respectable for the Panthers as they’ll look to play spoiler in this Coastal Division race

Virginia Cavaliers

Of all seven Coastal Division teams, I think UVA will have the toughest time getting above .500. Their four matchups consist of home games against Oregon, BYU, VMI, and Ball State. With Ball State being a solid MAC team, there’s a good chance that Virginia goes 1-3 against those teams. With Clemson on the schedule as well, this is shaping up to be a rough year for the Hoos unless they can pull some upsets.

Virginia Tech Hokies

The Hokies will have the unfortunate task of facing the defending National Champions to start of the season. Tech and Alabama will meet in Atlanta at 5:30 on August 31st. Outside of that game, the Hokies should be able to escape non-conference play with a 3-1 record. Western Carolina shouldn’t be much of a problem if Tech shows up to play. A trip to Greenville, NC to play ECU will be tough but the Hokies have survived in previous years. Lastly, Marshall will bring an air-attack to Blacksburg but I don’t see the Herd having much success against our defense.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Chachi May 16, 2013 at 1:35 pm

Justin,
Couple of thoughts on your OOC review. First, the Hokies’ game at ECU has “TRAP” written all over it. If our offense does not show up (again) it could end up being another upset since ECU will have motivation to spare. They may not be WVU, but I know they love the idea of knocking off the Hokies.
Second, do you really see UVA going 1-3 OOC? If that happens, then I gotta think that London is done. If, however, the boohoos manage 2-2 or even 3-1 then I see the “757 Thief” hanging around at least one more year. I personally think 2-2 is likely, with a strong showing against at least one of the 2 respectable teams likely. UVA has some talent, and TOB being on the staff will help them, IMHO. Hate the boohoos, but they are fighting well for recruits, even if it did not translate to the field last year.
Third, I think you are underestimating Pitt, even with the off-season issues. I see them going 3-1 OOC, (Navy? Pitt wins) I can easily see Pitt getting 7 to 8 wins this year including over VT if we haven’t fixed the offense by then. Pitt knows they can beat us and they are not afraid of VT by any stretch. Starting to really dislike that program, much like WVU used to have a special place in my least favorite teams list.
Lastly, when GT loses to UGA again this year, do you see the “Paul Johsnon experiment” coming to an end in Atlanta? I am not sure, but I do not think that PJ has managed a win over UGA yet. I gotta think the GT fanbase is getting a little tired of his system, especially with all of the relatively successful history that the program has enjoyed. The win over USC in the bowl game may have smoothed the waters a bit, but how many losses in a row to the in-state rival on the field and in the recruiting wars have to happen to get rid of the King of cutback blocking? Can you tell that I would love to see PJ out of the ACC?
Thanks for the fun analysis, it is always a challenge to cheer for ACC teams in OOC play when you know their success can hurt VT recruiting. Nevertheless, the ACC needs some solid OOC wins in the coming years to change the “basketball conference” label a bit.

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JustinC May 17, 2013 at 8:04 am

I agree with most of your points. I don’t see ECU as much of a trap game just because they’re after our Western Carolina game. If history tells us anything it’s that the WCU game is the trap game. Luckily, they’re a bottom 30 FCS program so I don’t expect them to challenge us unless we play terrible. ECU runs that spread, similar to OK State and Texas Tech. Without a talented QB and some weapons at WR, I just don’t see ECU scoring much on our defense. It’s also a noon kick, which helps us since we’re the road team.

As for Pitt, Navy seems to be one of those teams that can give you trouble if you don’t show up to play. Their similar to GT only with less overall talent. I’m not sure how improved they’ll be this season but it’s always a game you have to worry about. Pitt can win but without Rushel Shell, I don’t know how much the Panthers can move the ball this year. Minus Street out wide, they’re going to have a lot of new pieces on offense.

Lastly, I would love to see GT go back to a more traditional offense with a new coach that can recruit. I think that has to be your focus if you make a coaching change. GT is in Atlanta, it’s a great school for engineering, and you can sell the history. The right coach could really turn GT into a power of a football program. But, you have to wonder if the administration is willing to invest the money to make GT a power.

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Josh May 16, 2013 at 6:36 pm

The only team that will hurt VT recruiting will be VT. Other teams doing will in the ACC helps the ACC. Rooting for the opponents in the ACC is a prerequisite in my opinion of being a true fan if you love your team. UVA is a mess with all the guys transferring from there.

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