Virginia is six years into the morass of the Mike London era.
Georgia Tech lost five games in a row before its epic walk-off touchdown to stun Florida State Saturday night.
Virginia Tech is grappling with the stagnation of the Frank Beamer regime and how to gracefully handle an imminent retirement.
And Miami just suffered its worst loss in program history (a 58-0 demolition at the hands of Clemson) and summarily dismissed coach Al Golden.
Amidst all this turmoil in the ACC Coastal Division, the Tar Heels, Pitt and Duke are thriving and jockeying for position at the top of the standings. Each team is 6-1 overall and unbeaten in the ACC—Carolina and Duke with three wins each and Pitt with four.
Things get serious and really interesting this week as Carolina, off to its best start since 1997, travels to Pitt for a Thursday night ESPN game and then returns home the following Saturday to face Duke.
“I think everybody is really excited going into these next couple of games, because these are the games that are going to decide the Coastaland that are going to decide who goes to the ACC championship and all that,” Tar Heel tailback Elijah Hood said Saturday after the Tar Heels’ 26-13 win over Virginia.
It’s been 18 years since the Tar Heels were 3-0 in the league and had just one loss overall deep into late October as they have now. After a sour defeat to open the season against South Carolina, the Tar Heels have been brilliant at times on offense, have improved significantly on defense and have been stout in several areas of special teams (place-kicking, punt returns and all coverage units).
“I think we have a very good football team,” Tar Heel coach Larry Fedora said. “I really do. And I’ve said it before, I think the chemistry, the leadership, our locker room – I think that’s what’s driving this football team. And they’re a lot of fun to coach.”
The Panthers seem to have found new life and direction in the first year of coach Pat Narduzzi, who made a name for himself for a decade as Michigan State’s defensive coordinator. The Tar Heels will face a team at 7 p.m. Thursday that will reflect the city’s personality.
“We will play with a tough, blue-collar mentality—and how else would you want it in the city of Pittsburgh?” Narduzzi says. “When somebody plays the University of Pittsburgh, they’re going to know they were in a brawl.”