The ACC Coastal has always been one of the weirdest elements of college football. Ever since the days of Virginia Tech rule during the late 2000s, the division seems to be perpetually up-for-grabs. Some recent examples include:
- In 2012, 6-6 Georgia Tech represented the Coastal in ACC Championship game due to North Carolina and Miami both suffering through bowl bans.
- 2013 saw historic doormat Duke win the Coastal outright for the first time ever
- North Carolina went undefeated in conference during the 2015 season, and almost upset Clemson in the title game
- In 2017, Miami won the Coastal for the first time since joining the ACC in 2005
The Coastal is in constant chaos every year; a continual bastion of what is great and stupid in college football. Any team, no matter how good the program is, can win every year. That includes this year, where Pitt; not Miami, not Virginia Tech, not even Georgia Tech, but Pitt; is the frontrunner.
This isn’t to hate on the Panthers. Pittsburgh does have a historically good football program, claiming a grand total of NINE national championships (although only two of those are unanimous). This isn’t a program that doesn’t have good football history, they just haven’t had much recent success. Pitt has averaged between five and eight wins since the 2012 season, and haven’t had any taste of conference success since winning a Big East co-championship with Connecticut in 2010. This is all to say that, aside from success in the early 2000s with a few BCS Bowl berths, the Panthers have been largely irrelavent on the national scene since the 1970s.
All of a sudden, that might change.
The Coastal Leader is WHO?
Pitt has come out of nowhere to take the lead in the Coastal, and controls their own destiny to the conference title game. Once again, the division is infused with chaos; up until last week, every team except North Carolina was mathematically still in the race. Now with just two weeks left, it’s just Pitt and Virginia with a chance at the crown, and all the Panthers have to do win-out with games against Miami and Wake Forest on-deck.
So how did the Panthers get here? After a rocky start that included huge losses to Penn State and defending national champion UCF, Pitt won their next four conference games, which included a last-second victory over a seven-win Duke team and a 52-22 drubbing of Virginia Tech.
Two-headed running back monster Darrin Hall and Quadree Ollison have combined for almost 2,000 yards rushing this season, following an offensive line paving the way for the Panthers’ success. While quarterback Kenny Pickett has been nowhere-near remarkable, the sophomore hasn’t turned the ball over and done just enough to lead Pitt to a 6-4 record.
Now, Pitt’s defense is nothing special, but their offense is one of the best in the country, even after facing top defenses in Notre Dame and Penn State. While a 6-4 record is nothing to laugh at, it is remarkable that tea with four losses could win a division. Now, those losses are to three ranked teams out-of-conference, so they are understandable. But the fourth one?
Pitt would be undefeated in conference play, but for the second straight year, they lost to a dreadful North Carolina team.
Yes, the ACC Coastal leaders have one conference loss, and that loss is to 1-8 North Carolina. If Pitt wins out, and then, somehow, upsets Clemson in the ACC Title game, UNC will have a transitive win over Clemson.
None of this makes any sense. Welcome to the Coastal.