Oct 5, 2013; Blacksburg, VA, USA; Virginia Tech Hokies linebacker Chase Williams (36) reacts with cornerback Donovan Riley (2) and tight end Darius Redman (33) after recovering a fumble in the fourth quarter. The Hokies defeated the Tar Heels 27-17 at Lane Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

ACC Coastal Race Is Already Down To Two

Oct 5, 2013; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Hurricanes defensive back Kacy Rodgers (22) reacts during the first quarter against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Sun Life Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

With the Miami Hurricanes deluging Georgia Tech in the second half Saturday, and Virginia Tech out-grinding North Carolina, the ACC Coastal race is down to two teams.

Before 2013 kicked off, the Coastal appeared to be among the most difficult divisions to pick. Last season ended with a three-team tie atop the division. Each of the co-champions–Georgia Tech, Miami and North Carolina–returned enough key pieces to warrant a nod. Of course, Frank Beamer-coached Virginia Tech teams can never be discounted from the league title competition, either.

And yet here we are, just six weeks into the season and five days into October, and the Hurricanes and Hokies both sport leads as close to insurmountable as possible this early into the slate.

Miami’s 21-point fourth quarter put away visiting Georgia Tech, relegating the Yellow Jackets to 1-2 in ACC play. Tech had its shot at each of the Coastal’s other preseason contenders, beating only North Carolina.

The Jackets must now hope for both Miami and Virginia Tech to lose three conference games; not likely.

North Carolina’s 27-17 loss at Virginia Tech today dropped the sputtering Tar Heels to 0-2 in the ACC. Larry Fedora’s team gets Miami at home in Week 8, but UNC is plagued with questions.

It’s still a month away, but the ante for the Nov. 9 Virginia Tech-Miami game is upped significantly.

The Hokies and Hurricanes have taken two very different paths to their strong conference starts.

Since surrendering 35 points to No. 1 Alabama in the season opener, Virginia Tech has held opponents to 3, 10 twice and today’s 17-point output from North Carolina. Marshall’s 21 points is the high watermark, which was only reached after three overtimes.

Defensive coordinator Bud Foster has led numerous outstanding units in his time in Blacksburg, and this year’s is certainly ranking among the best. Perhaps most impressive is that the Hokies have been so stingy without star defensive back Antone Exum.

Stepping up in his stead, Kyshoen Jarrett and Kyle Fuller each intercepted passes Saturday. The Hokies also got 22 combined tackles from Tariq Edwards and Jack Tyler. The fifth-year senior Tyler is fast establishing himself as one of the conference’s premier, run-stop linebackers.

Conversely, Miami added 45 points Saturday to totals of 34, 77 and 49 in its 5-0 start. The Hurricanes’ low 21 were scored against an outstanding Florida Gators defense that has held the rest of its opponents below the 20-point threshold.

First-year Hurricane offensive coordinator James Coley has unlocked Miami’s offensive potential with a balanced approach. To wit, quarterback Stephen Morris–playing on an injured ankle–passed for 324 yards and three touchdowns.

Duke Johnson’s 184 yards rushing powered Miami to 227 total, and Dallas Crawford added a pair of touchdowns.

Five weeks remain until these teams meet, and Miami must travel to Florida State the week prior to Virginia Tech’s visit. Still, the stage is set for a divisional champion-crowning showdown–and an intriguing styles clash.

Tags: Football Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets Miami Hurricanes North Carolina Tar Heels Virginia Tech Hokies

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