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Thursday, September 27, 2012
ACC Coastal Division wide open

By Heather Dinich

There is nothing impressive about Virginia’s 2-2 start -- unless it’s compared to a year ago.

Much like 2011, Virginia has started the season with a 2-2 record that includes a loss to a Coastal Division opponent. Last year, the Hoos lost to North Carolina in the third game. This year, they lost to Georgia Tech in Week 3.

It doesn’t matter. Not in September, and Virginia is living proof.

The Cavaliers turned their average 2011 start into an extraordinary finish and wound up playing rival Virginia Tech for the Coastal Division title in November. While Miami and Virginia Tech have taken early leads in the standings because they have yet to lose to a league opponent, those within the division agree it’s still far too early to count anyone out just yet. It’s also too soon to decipher which team in the division actually looks the best.

“We’re really right where we want to be,” said Virginia quarterback Michael Rocco. “We want to win every game we play, but we’re still in a position to do the same thing we did last year in the hunt for the ACC Coastal Division champion and we’re just going to take it one game at a time. This week is Louisiana Tech and we’re going to start our winning streak off Saturday.”

UNC has only played one league game, Duke is playing its first conference game of the season on Saturday at Wake Forest, and Virginia Tech has only faced one ACC opponent in Georgia Tech. The preseason frontrunners -- Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech -- have both struggled early, opening the race wide open. The Hokies fell out of The Associated Press Top 25 after their loss to Pitt, and the Jackets are on the outside looking in after overtime losses to Virginia Tech and Miami. Still, coach Paul Johnson said he and his players haven’t spent time dwelling on the division standings.

“We knew that the month was going to be important,” he said. “We dug ourselves a hole. Right now our goal is to try to beat Middle Tennessee State. We'll worry about all that stuff when it comes time if there is a reason to worry about it in November.”

Miami has been the biggest surprise with its 2-0 start, but the Canes have been a wildly unpredictable team, pulling off two road wins against ACC teams. The question is whether Al Golden’s young team is mature enough to find some consistency.

“What I’m trying to teach them is that process,” Golden said. “The only way you can win it is to have a process, and just go about your business every day and pay attention to detail. That’s the only way you defeat complacency, is attention to detail, just keep checking boxes. It’s way too early to even think about rankings or ratings.”