Which now brings up the question: Can the 2014 Cavs actually be in contention in the ACC Coastal Division?
The answer is a qualified yes.
I say qualified because you have to start out by saying that everybody is in contention in the ACC Coastal. The two teams with losses in conference play right now are Miami and Virginia Tech, who happen to be the two teams picked by the writers to finish 1-2 in the Coastal in the preseason.
The UVA-Pitt game on Oct. 4 wasn’t made a prime-time TV game for no reason. The ‘Hoos and Panthers are both 1-0 in the ACC on the young season, meaning the winner leaves Scott Stadium that night no worse than tied for first.
Looking specifically at Virginia, a win for the Cavs that would put them at 2-0 means a .500 finish in the second half of the season finishes them out at 5-3 in the ACC. A 5-3 record might be enough to advance to Charlotte, given the parity, or mediocrity, depending on your perspective, in the Coastal.
It’s probably more mediocrity at this stage. Miami and Virginia Tech already have two losses each, the ‘Canes losing to Louisville and Nebraska, the Hokies dropping games at home to ECU and Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets, for their part, had to rally late to knock off Georgia Southern at home after leading 35-10 at the half.
Pitt slogged past Florida International before losing to Iowa last week. Duke has literally not played anybody worth mentioning in its 4-0 start. North Carolina, ranked in the Top 25 in the preseason, just gave up 70 to ECU.
No world-beaters in that group, and Virginia has yet to play any of the other six in the Coastal. A disadvantage for Virginia is the presence of Florida State on its schedule as its other opponent from the Atlantic Division, and as if that couldn’t get tougher, it’s in Tallahassee. Though you have to wonder about how the ‘Noles season is going to go right now, with the uncertainty around the status of Heisman-winning quarterback Jameis Winston, and how mighty FSU looked quite pedestrian in its 23-17 overtime win over Clemson this past weekend.
Assuming the L at Florida State, Virginia will have to run through the Coastal with a 4-2 mark to get to 5-3 overall in the ACC, which means holding serve at home and stealing one on the road at either Georgia Tech, Duke or Virginia Tech.
From what we’ve seen so far, with the ‘Hoos hanging with the likes of UCLA and BYU, both of which are looked at as contenders for the four-team national playoff at the end of the season, and the win over Louisville, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Virginia could play its way in to Charlotte in December.
Who woulda thunk that?
– Column by Chris Graham