Upon their move to the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Miami Hurricanes were expected to contend for league championships on a yearly basis.
After four straight seasons with at least 11 wins and BCS bowl appearances each year as a member of the Big East, things weren't supposed to be how they have turned out. The Canes are still searching for their first ever ACC championship—let alone an official Coastal Division title.
But Saturday's game against Georgia Tech kicks off the 10th ACC campaign for Miami, and Al Golden's 2013 squad is arguably in the best position to win the Coastal of any ACC-affiliated Hurricanes team.
Each of the last four seasons, Miami has overcome the Yellow Jackets' triple-option attack, and the Canes need a fifth consecutive win to start their quest for a conference championship on the proper note.
Only Two Coastal Division Teams Have Zero ACC Losses
Other than Miami—a team that has not played a conference game—Virginia Tech is the only divisional opponent that has yet to lose an ACC tilt.
As has been the case practically every year, the Coastal Division is the weaker of the ACC's split. The Hokies beat Georgia Tech, but the Jackets defeated North Carolina. Virginia and Duke have both lost to first-year ACC member Pitt, but the Panthers were trounced by Florida State.
ESPN.com (as of Oct. 1, 2013)
With a win over Georgia Tech, Miami has a fantastic opportunity to distance itself from the middle group of the Coastal by giving another team its second conference loss.
Additionally, North Carolina and Virginia Tech square off this weekend, so every Coastal opponent could have one loss after this weekend. On the other hand, if both Miami and North Carolina emerge victorious, the Canes stand alone at the top of the division.
No matter how early it is, first place is always a great spot to be in, and to hold that position, Miami must do one thing.
Miami Must Prove It is a Contender
Though a 4-0 start to the 2013 season is fantastic, the competition has not been. The Hurricanes' 21-16 victory over Florida was a huge program win, but the Gators have really been Miami's only competition so far.
Florida Atlantic is 1-4, and the Owls' lone victory came over an abysmal 0-4 South Florida squad in the midst of an overhaul. And of course there is Savannah State, too, but let's not dwell on that shellacking.
Conversely, Georgia Tech scored the game's final 21 points to beat North Carolina—another team expected to be a Coastal contender—and escaped with a 28-20 win.
The Jackets did fall to Virginia Tech in less-than-impressive fashion, but Saturday is ultimately a must-win for Paul Johnson's team. Georgia Tech cannot afford another conference loss, especially to a team it would have to battle in case of a tiebreaker.
And so, the best way for the Hurricanes to eliminate the Jackets from having the upper hand in a tiebreak situation?
A 12-Day Layoff is More Enjoyable After a Win
Anyone who has played an organized sport has had the opportunity to feel the anxiousness that sets in as he or she waits for the next game. Losses are rarely "fun" per se, but the anticipation for a shot at redemption is oftentimes even worse.
Following the clash with Georgia Tech, Miami must wait 12 days until traveling to Chapel Hill, N.C., to face Larry Fedora's Tar Heels.
The three most recent times the Canes have played on a Saturday before playing two Thursdays later, Miami has lost on Saturday and won on Thursday.
Some trends are meant to be broken, right?
The Hurricanes have a golden opportunity to set the tone for their potential ACC championship run by defeating Georgia Tech; they just have to win.
That's it. Win.