Virginia Tech looks to clinch ACC Coastal title
Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer understands the reality.
He's choosing not to accept it yet.
Yes, the 14th-ranked Hokies - written off after an 0-2 start - are in the Atlantic Coast Conference's most enviable position. They've gone 8-0 since that miserable beginning, matching the school's longest winning streak since 1999, and need only to win one of their final two games to secure a spot in the ACC title game on Dec. 4.
''All our attention right now is not on two games,'' Beamer said. ''It's on one game.''
With that, his mindset is clear: Virginia Tech (8-2, 6-0) is coming to No. 24 Miami (7-3, 5-2) on Saturday to clinch the Coastal Division title, something he doesn't want left to chance in a rivalry game against Virginia next weekend. The Hokies have owned Miami like no other team in the nation since 1995, winning 10 of 15 meetings with the Hurricanes in that span.
And this weekend, the Hokies can deal Miami another fierce blow by celebrating a title on the Hurricanes' home field.
''Honestly, man, we've got a lot more to fight for,'' Miami cornerback Ryan Hill said. ''Everything's at stake. ... We still have faith. We still have a future, if we can just play hard and do what we have to do.''
The Hurricanes can still win the Coastal, but only if they beat Virginia Tech on Saturday, then have the Hokies fall to Virginia next week. If Miami hadn't lost at Virginia on Oct. 30, then this game would have decided the Coastal Division title and possibly been enough to send the Hurricanes to the ACC title game for the first time.
Instead, they have to win this week - then hope.
''We just have to play our game,'' running back Lamar Miller said. ''We can only control what we can control, so we're just working hard, working hard in practice, putting it all on this game.''
They're putting it all on quarterback Stephen Morris again, too.
Morris will make his third straight start; not only did Miami win its first two under Morris, but they racked up back-to-back 500-yard offensive efforts for the first time in nearly eight years. Beating Maryland and Georgia Tech, though, won't measure up as the sort of challenge that Virginia Tech will bring, especially with a championship up for grabs.
Virginia Tech's Jayron Hosley entered the week tied for the national lead with seven interceptions, and his assignment on Saturday will be to give Miami's true freshman quarterback fits.
''Definitely, this is a game I've been looking forward to,'' said Hosley, a South Florida native who was recruited by Miami - a school he said he never rooted for as a kid. ''I'm ready to get after them.''
With that, it sounds like Beamer's message is getting through to his team. The Hokies, who rolled past Miami 31-7 in Blacksburg last season, don't want to wait another week for their title.
''It's like another rivalry game, as well as Georgia Tech and (Virginia). We look at it just like that,'' Hokies cornerback Rashad Carmichael said. ''And we came out and had a big game against them last year, so we know they're going to bring their A-game out against us this year. With the championship on the line, it makes it even better.''
After starting the season with losses to powerful Boise State and less-than-powerful James Madison, Virginia Tech has won eight straight, outscoring opponents 304-137. The defense is clicking, with nine sacks and eight interceptions in the last three games alone. And on offense, quarterback Tyrod Taylor is having a senior season to remember.
Taylor's career numbers against Miami are far from impressive: 11 of 23, 178 yards, one touchdown in parts of three games. But he's been part of two wins already in his career against the Hurricanes, and Miami coach Randy Shannon has nothing but the highest praise for Virginia Tech's leader.
''Right now, he's the best offensive player in the conference,'' Shannon said.
Taylor's numbers back up Shannon. In six ACC games, he's completed 62 percent of his passes for 1,318 yards, 12 touchdowns and just three interceptions.
''The media wants to see Miami and Florida State play for the ACC championship every year,'' Taylor said. ''But things just don't float out that way.''
And with a win Saturday, the Hokies could doom Miami's hopes again.
''It's going to be a big challenge for us as a football team to make sure that we come up with our best game,'' Shannon said.