10 Reasons Why the Virginia Cavaliers Will Win ACC Coastal
Clemson has wrapped up the ACC Atlantic Division title with its victory at home over Wake Forest.
As for the Coastal, most experts believe that division is wrapped up too. The Virginia Tech Hokies have only one loss to that same Clemson team but currently control their destiny en route to another potential ACC Championship.
Oh yeah, that other team from Virginia is still alive too.
The Cavaliers, a program that needed overtime to beat Idaho and lost to North Carolina State at home, control their destiny. If they win out, Virginia has a chance to compete for only their third-ever ACC football championship.
Well, before we get ahead of ourselves, Virginia would have to defeat Florida State on the road and Virginia Tech at home. This would be a tall task for anyone, but definitely for a program that has only one in the Sunshine State twice in its history and has not defeated the Hokies since 2003.
Still, despite all the reasons they cannot, here are the reasons they can. Here is why Virginia will shock everyone and become the Coastal champions for the first time since the conference expanded to 12 teams.
1. Perry Jones
There's a reason he is known as Superman.
Speedy running back Perry Jones has done everything for this team. He can run, catch and even throw for a touchdown. Last week he showed off his moves in a punt return that featured multiple missed tackles.
In fact, even with only one punt return to his credit, Jones has the second longest return all season for Virginia.
The junior has been helped tremendously by the additions of running backs Kevin Parks and Clifton Richardson in the backfield. By giving him some rest, it allows Jones to be used in multiple sets and in different positions.
Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor has made Jones like a Virginia version of Reggie Bush, making his versatility something that defenses must account for on every play.
While he may not get the publicity of Virginia Tech's David Wilson, he is just as important to his squad, if not more.
Jones has been a spark plug for the offense, rallying it whenever adversity struck. His touchdown reception against Miami when the Hurricanes were rallying shifted the momentum back, and he can do it again. He followed that up by converting a 4th-and-goal against Maryland to take an eight-point lead and a big second effort run against Duke to keep the chains moving.
Jones has grown each and every week and has been the difference-maker this season.
2. North Carolina
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Although Virginia's road to the title may be rough, Virginia Tech's is not perfectly smooth either.
Are the Tar Heels disappointing again this year at 2-4 in the ACC? Yes.
Do they have enough talent to pull off a big upset this Thursday? You bet.
North Carolina still has the third best rushing defense in the ACC, allowing fewer rushing touchdowns and a yard per carry average less than the Hokies.
The last time the Tar Heels played in Lane Stadium, they escaped with a 20-17 victory. While Virginia Tech continues to win, they are not nearly as dominant as they have been in other years.
If Carolina can force turnovers like Duke did in their near-loss to Virginia Tech, history could certainly repeat itself.
If so, Virginia's game with Florida State becomes obsolete and a rivalry game will decide it all.
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Yes, the Hokies are used to success, but all that success comes with expectations.
If these two Virginia teams play with everything on the line, the Hokies are the ones that will feel the pressure.
Virginia Tech is supposed to win this game; they have done it every time since 2003.
That streak will not last forever, but no team wants to be the one to lose it.
That pressure combined with the Coastal Division on the line could be too much. This is not an overly experienced team. Some of the veteran leaders are hurt, and although the Hokies have brought in talented replacements, they are young.
Could the situation be too much for them now that the harsh spotlight of the media will finally be on them for the biggest part this season?
4. The First Quarter
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The Cavaliers have outscored their opponents 68-10 in the first quarter this season.
Virginia has led in every single game they have played this season, and in two big games down the stretch a hot start is important.
The Cavaliers need confidence against a team they have not beat since 2003, and the Hokies have kept opponents in game early.
Virginia Tech has scored 16 points in their six ACC games so far this season, and only had one lead in double digits by the half.
The Hokies kept Boston College in the game at home for one half and led Marshall by three at halftime.
Giving Virginia that kind of confidence could be a costly mistake. Virginia Tech does not want to give this team an opportunity to keep it close with their running game; they may not get the ball back in time to do anything with it.
5. The Miami Hurricanes
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The Miami Hurricanes are the cause of many Virginia fans hopes and dreams.
One, it was Miami that gave Virginia this new-found confidence when they defeated the Hurricanes before a national audience on Thursday night football.
It was the first Thursday night game for the Cavaliers since 2006 and they made the most of it. Since then they have reeled off two more wins against Maryland and Duke, two teams that may not be that good but are certainly noteworthy given Virgina's struggles earlier in the year to knock off inferior competiton.
Miami also works because they have provided the perfect trap game for Florida State. After defeating their rival in Coral Gables, Florida State must prepare for a big rivalry showdown against the Florida Gators Thanksgiving weekend.
Virginia falls in between these two important state rivalry games and could help the Cavaliers sneak in under the radar. After all, the Seminoles have already lost any opportunity to win the ACC Atlantic and therefore do not have much to play for in this game except a better bowl and pride.
Could the Cavaliers actually have more incentive since the Seminoles will be riding high off a win?
6. Ball Control
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Virginia has found success in pounding the rock.
Thanks to Virginia's corps of experienced linemen, the Cavaliers boast the third best rushing offense in the ACC.
They also dominate possession of the ball.
Against Maryland, Virginia had the ball for nearly 10 minutes longer than the Terrapins. In their biggest win against Georgia Tech, Virginia had nearly 11 of the final 15 minutes of the fourth quarter.
If the Cavaliers can keep it close, their running game can play keep away and milk the clock away.
Only the Clemson Tigers have more first downs than Virginia. They can use that efficiency to wear down teams and really make a statement in these final two weeks.
7. Florida State's Offensive Line
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Florida State on paper is a very tough challenge for Virginia.
Being so highly ranked in rush defense and passing offense is enough to give any team fits but particularly the Cavaliers.
Fortunately, Florida State has one big Achilles heel: its offensive line.
No ACC team has given up more quarterback sacks than the Seminoles, and the big defensive line of Virginia must be licking their lips at the opportunity to take down E.J. Manuel.
If Virginia can create havoc in the backfield, then that allows their secondary led by cornerback Chase Minnifield to pick off some passes. Linebacker Cam Johnson already is fourth in the ACC in tackles for loss, and Steve Greer has been a solid tackler as well.
Manuel had six interceptions in the first four games but has cleaned it up in Florida State's winning streak.
Will Manuel have a slip up late in November and give the opportunistic Cavaliers a chance to pounce?
If there is any chance, it will be thanks to the line.
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All teams have injuries but the Hokies defense has had to deal with a multitude of defensive issues.
Bruce Taylor is out for the year, Jayron Hosley is not at full strength and other depth issues have made the Hokies more vulnerable on defense than in most years. The leadership gap is even more telling.
Virginia Tech has worked hard under defensive coordinator Bud Foster to keep the Hokie defense staunch, but will that talent be able to handle a "winner takes all" elimination game in November?
The Hokies have had some break downs and miscommunication, and if Virginia can keep it close, then just one or two could be a big difference-maker in the contest.
After all, rivalry games on the road can lead to these problems and breakdowns. While Virginia Tech's defense is statistically superb, the injuries give Virginia hope that this year can be different.
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Football is not always about what takes place between the lines but between the ears.
Virginia had a tough loss to Southern Mississippi, but the reason behind it was even more frustrating.
The Golden Eagles were simply more tough, more physical than the Cavaliers. A defense that is used to playing against the spread pounded Virginia's offensive line, and they spent the rest of the time jawing to their opponent.
Southern Mississippi was trying to get into Virginia's heads, and it worked. They got away from their game plan, they lost their composure and ultimately the game.
The loss hurt, but the lesson was learned. This past week against Duke, the Blue Devils used a similar strategy.
After three straight wins against Virginia they were puffing their chest, talking up the Virginia players and trying to start a fist-fight instead of a football game.
The Cavaliers kept their composure and won 31-21.
Against Virginia Tech, their futility has led to frustration and a rivalry game will always bring out tempers. The Hokies have weathered the storm better, and Virginia can use their experiences this season to calm themselves as well.
If Virginia can keep their cool, they have a strategy that can be effective.
Anger and Experience of Eight Long Years
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Let's face it, losing is horrible.
Losing to your arch-rival makes the loss sting more.
A losing streak stemming back eight years cannot cushion the blow either.
Virginia is tired of losing to Virginia Tech. They know that they will never be taken seriously as an ACC contender if they cannot defeat the Hokies.
Despite the losing streak, Virginia has played some good games in this rivalry.
In 2008, Virginia actually led at the half in Blacksburg before losing by three.
In 2004, Virginia lost by a touchdown.
In 2005 and 2007, if Virginia had won then they would have ultimately won the ACC Coastal. The Hokies have had some blowouts certainly, but the Cavaliers have shown competitiveness.
This team has the talent to challenge Virginia Tech and at least make the game interesting. The streak has to end eventually and this may be one of their better chances. The Hokies are young, they are on the road and they have everything to lose potentially if the chips fall a certain way this weekend.
Virginia has learned valuable lessons over the year to put them in this position. For once, it is their turn to make the most of their opportunity.
What may have seemed like a long-shot at the beginning of the season is now a possibility.
No, the odds are not in their favor. There are millions of reasons Virginia will not win the Coastal but sometimes sports defy numbers and logic.
You have to let them play the game, and this year Virginia is finally a player.
Doubt them if you must, but coach Mike London will not rest until he makes everyone believe. He seems to be on his way.