2017 ACC Football: Three impact Coastal Division games in week 9

BLACKSBURG, VA - OCTOBER 21: Head coach of the Virginia Tech Hokies Justin Fuente shakes hands with head coach Larry Fedora of the North Carolina Tar Heels following the game at Lane Stadium on October 21, 2017 in Blacksburg, Virginia. (Photo by Michael Shroyer/Getty Images)
BLACKSBURG, VA - OCTOBER 21: Head coach of the Virginia Tech Hokies Justin Fuente shakes hands with head coach Larry Fedora of the North Carolina Tar Heels following the game at Lane Stadium on October 21, 2017 in Blacksburg, Virginia. (Photo by Michael Shroyer/Getty Images) /

Which ACC Coastal Division games are the biggest of the weekend?

Last week we entered with eight undefeated teams. Thanks to some timely byes and some big wins, college football exited last week with eight undefeated teams.

For the third-straight week none of those teams play each other, with Alabama on bye, so there is a good chance we have eight again next week.

However, five of those teams do play on the road, so upsets are also possible.

This week also brings a doozy of a slate with four ranked matchups.

The biggest being a top ten matchup between Penn State and Ohio State, followed by the top 15 showdown between NC State and Notre Dame.

Two Big 12 showdowns round out the grouping with Oklahoma State at West Virginia and TCU at Iowa State.

Oh and if that isn’t big enough, the CFP committee releases their first rankings on Tuesday.

So with all the national intrigue sorted out, let’s dive into the three impact games in the ACC Coastal, starting with the first of three interdivisional games this weekend.

Virginia at Pittsburgh (Saturday, October 21st @ 12:30 pm)

If you would have told me that one of these teams would be 5-2, one game away from bowl status, and the other 3-5 and needing to pretty much win out to make a bowl game, I probably would have said Pitt was the former and Virginia the latter.

Amazing how a season can change things.

Both teams need this game to have a chance at a bowl game as both seasons get really tough. Which one can get the win and pretty much eliminate their competition?

Things going for the Cavaliers: Kurt Benkert. The last time Benkert failed to throw for over 200 yards, as he did against Boston College, the senior quarterback came out the next game and threw for nearly 250 yards and two touchdowns.

Benkert also enjoys the benefit of going up against a Pitt defense that ranks 115th against the pass. Teams have completed nearly 58 percent of their passes against the Panthers while throwing for 16 touchdowns against seven interceptions.

Pitt also only has 11 sacks on 244 pass attempts, which is a sack once every 22 pass attempts. In other words, quarterbacks have time to get the ball to their receivers.

Things going for the Panthers: Darrin Hall. In his last game Hall rushed for 254 yards and three touchdowns on 24 carries. In the other six games this season, Hall had 108 yards and one score combined on 31 total carries.

Did Hall break out against Duke or did he have a fluke game against a faltering team? That’s a good question and one I am sure Pat Narduzzi intends to answer. Narduzzi likes running backs and may have finally found one in Hall.

If Hall can continue to produce numbers like he did against the Blue Devils, it might be the game changer Pitt has been looking for all season, especially with the erratic play the team has received from their quarterback.

Pitt enters this game coming off a comeback home win against Duke. Meanwhile, Virginia is coming off a blowout home loss to Boston College. This game would seem to favor the Panthers.

However, the Cavaliers are 2-0 on the road this season and last followed a loss with a four-game winning streak. This one could go either way and should be one heck of a contest.

Duke at Virginia Tech (Saturday, October 21st @ 7:20 pm)

On September 23rd, both these squads were 4-0 and seemed to be on a potential collision course with each other. The next weekend both schools lost and their seasons went into different directions.

Since those losses, Virginia Tech has not lost a game. Duke on the other hand has not won one.

Will this game be like two ships passing in the night or will the collision send shock waves through both program’s seasons?

Things going for the Blue Devils: Duke’s defense. Duke will be only the second team Virginia Tech has faced this season that ranks in the top 30 in yard per game allowed. The other team was Clemson, who beat the Hokies at home by 14.

Duke ranks in the top 40 defenses nationally against the run and the pass. They also have 14 turnovers this season to go with 24 sacks, which ranks second in the ACC.

BLACKSBURG, VA – OCTOBER 21: Defensive tackle Ricky Walker
BLACKSBURG, VA – OCTOBER 21: Defensive tackle Ricky Walker /

Things going for the Hokies: The Hokies Defense. I mentioned last week, one of the reasons Duke should beat Pitt is because their defense mirrored other defenses that the Blue Devils had won against. Virginia Tech’s defense does not.

As good as Duke’s defense has been, Virginia Tech’s has been better. The Hokies are allowing only 299 yards per game, which is 13th nationally. Duke’s best strength is rushing and the Hokies rank 16th against the run.

They also don’t give up a lot of points, allowing only 12.7 per game which is fifth nationally and best in the ACC. They also have forced 10 turnovers and recorded 18 sacks.

Toss that defense on top of a passing game that is averaging 276 yards a game and Virginia Tech should be able to beat Duke this weekend.

Miami at North Carolina (Saturday, October 21st @ 12:00 pm)

Miami is currently on a six-game winning streak. Meanwhile, North Carolina is currently on a five-game losing streak.

Will both teams continue their streaks or will an upset bring them both to an end?

Things going for the Hurricanes: Travis Homer. During North Carolina’s current losing streak teams have compiled 1261 rushing yards and eight touchdowns on 261 carries. That averages out to 253 yards per game and 4.9 yards per carry.

In three of those games UNC has allowed a back to rush for over 120 yards and in two of those games, they have allowed at least two players to rush for at least 100 yards.

They also have given up three rushing touchdowns in a game twice during that span as well.

Enter Travis Homer. Homer has 265 yards and two scores in his past two games since taking over for an injured Mark Walton. Sometimes and unstoppable force runs into a moveable object, which seems to be the case here.

Things going for the Tar Heels: Fedora’s track record. Since coming to UNC, Larry Fedora is 3-2 against the Miami Hurricanes. The Tar Heels have won the past two contests, including the last one at Chapel Hill 59-21.

Could it be that Larry Fedora just has Miami’s number? Some coaches seem to be able to do better against other squads than not. Miami has also played a couple of close contests the past three weeks and may be over due for a loss.

However, more likely than not, this game will officially end any hope of a Tar Heel’s bowl game (at 5-7 they could’ve snuck into one possibly). Still anything is possible, even a UNC upset.

One to keep an eye on: Georgia Tech at Clemson (Saturday, October 14th @ 12:00 pm)

Georgia Tech has lost two games this season by a combined two points. That’s a safety. An extra field goal’s worth of scoring and the Yellow Jackets are undefeated heading into Death Valley.

The problem is they still lost those two games.

They are now heading to South Carolina to play a team that is coming off a bye with their last contest being just their second loss in their past 22 games.

Will Georgia Tech lose another game by less than a safety? Or can the Yellow Jackets give the Tigers two consecutive losses for the first time since 2011?

Well that makes seven teams which is all there is in the ACC Coastal Division. So sit back and relax and enjoy the football season.