The quasi-round-robin tournament that stands to decide the ACC Coastal Division has just gotten underway, and already, No. 11 Miami is in prime position.
As is becoming a familiar storyline with these Hurricanes, it came via some late magic -- and for Georgia Tech, it was another gut-wrenching loss.
Facing 4th-and-10 from the Yellow Jackets 43-yard line Saturday, Darrell Langham caught a tipped pass for a 28-yard gain to set up Michael Badgley's game-winning field goal with four seconds remaining to give the Hurricanes a 25-24 victory.
That comes after a game-winning fourth-quarter drive in the prior week to take down Florida State 24-20, and the latest late drama moves Miami to 5-0 overall -- it stands as the ACC's only unbeaten after No. 2 Clemson's stunning loss at the hands of Syracuse -- and 3-0 in the division.
Virginia is also perfect in Coastal play after its 20-14 win over North Carolina yesterday and could have its say in who reps the division in the ACC Championship Game. But like No. 15 Virginia Tech, the Cavaliers will have to travel to Coral Gables to take on Miami. The Hurricanes host the Hokies on Nov. 4 and Virginia the 18th.
The Hurricanes' only league road games are at the Tar Heels, who are 1-6, and at Pitt, which after falling to NC State this weekend stumbled to 2-5.
Miami, which has yet to play for a title since joining the conference, would seem to have the division exactly where it wants it -- and in getting there, its latest win may have been the most impressive on the season.
Down Mark Walton and his 1,995 career yards after the running back underwent season-ending ankle surgery, backup Travis Homer was more than up to the task. He burned the Yellow Jackets defense -- which came in ranked sixth in the nation in total D and 14th against the rush -- for 170 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries.
Both were career highs.
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Meanwhile, the Hurricanes defense limited a Yellow Jackets' option offense that was averaging 396 yards a game on the ground, to a mere 54 in the second half and one first down on their final three possessions.
That just adds to the frustration for the the Yellow Jackets, who have now lost two games after blowing double-digit second-half leads.
Miami coach Mark Richt is, of course, all too familiar with Paul Johnson's offense, having now beaten the Jackets coach eight times in 10 meetings (six of which came when Richt was at Georgia).
This game may have been more about finding out how legit the Yellow Jackets are, given their defensive ranking despite not having faced an offense ranked better than 89th in the nation through their first four games. It was also a major upgrade in opposing defenses after seeing Ds that entered the weekend 62nd (Tennessee), 107th (Pitt) and 114th (North Carolina) among FBS opponents.
Considering four times in the past five seasons that the Coastal's winner has had at least two losses -- North Carolina at 8-0 in the division in 2015 being the lone exception -- the division has been a free for all.
We could still be headed down the road toward more Coastal chaos, and Georgia Tech (along with Virginia Tech and Virginia) can take solace in that.
But is this Hurricanes team making that seem likely? Tests are being passed, and if it seems like luck, magic or whatever you want to call it is part of the formula, the schedule (one sans Clemson and NC State out of the Atlantic) and confidence are making it seem like we're simply watching a storm building steam.