Monday, September 17, 2012
Hokies' loss opens door for new ACC leader
By Heather Dinich
Virginia Tech’s loss to Pitt might have been the best thing to happen to the ACC in Week 3.
Hear me out.
The Hokies are 1-5 in BCS bowls under coach Frank Beamer. The highlight (a term I use loosely) was an Orange Bowl win over Cincinnati.
It’s time for somebody else to get a turn. The Hokies' shoulders are tired from carrying the ACC banner since joining the league.
Virginia Tech fans are passionate, and they love their team -- as they should -- but I’m willing to guess that even some of the most loyal Hokies have grown weary of watching their team trip up before the calendar even turns to October. Virginia Tech has now lost at least once in the first five games of the season for the fifth time in six years. If there’s one thing Beamer and his staff have taught us, it’s to never count them out -- a lesson learned in 2010, when they started out 0-2 only to make an improbable run back to the Orange Bowl. With the way the Hokies played against a mediocre Pitt team on Saturday, though, they threw the door wide open for a changing of the guard in the Coastal Division race -- and in the entire ACC.
Virginia Tech won the head-to-head battle against Georgia Tech in the season opener, but it was a narrow 20-17 overtime win decided by a field goal. The majority of the game was a punting contest, and against its toughest opponents to date -- Georgia Tech and Pitt -- Virginia Tech was held to fewer than 100 yards rushing. It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, considering Virginia Tech had to replace eight starters on offense, but the Hokies’ defense struggled equally against what should have been an inferior Pitt team.
The question is whether they’ll lose again. With Florida State and Clemson still remaining on the schedule, there’s a good chance, and that’s all Georgia Tech needs to leapfrog the Hokies in the standings. Of course, there’s no guarantee Georgia Tech won’t stumble at Clemson, or even at North Carolina. The Tar Heels flipped a switch in the second half against Louisville on Saturday, but it wasn’t enough to dig out of a 36-7 halftime hole. If UNC plays the way it did in the second half, the postseason-ineligible Heels could play the role of spoiler.
If Georgia Tech continues to play the way it did against Virginia, though, the Jackets should win the division.
While Florida State and Clemson have established themselves as the league’s premier teams so far, the Coastal Division race is far more muddled after the Hokies’ loss to Pitt. It wasn’t a league loss, so it didn’t impact the standings, but it did affect perception. And right now, the unranked Hokies aren’t looking too good.
Maybe it’s time somebody else entered the picture.