Week 6 is in the books with the Hoos finally getting a bye week, while the rest of the Coastal went to war. Time to recap the road to date and reevaluate both the coming week and remaining road ahead:
Quick Hit Thoughts from the Game
No UVA game to dissect this week so I think we'll instead just talk about the first six weeks of the season and how UVA's fitting into the larger ACC and college football landscape.
The Coastal is just a giant blob right now. Yes Georgia Tech is the down-to-the-studs gut job everyone thought it would be, and is likely to go 0-8 in league play. Beyond that?
As of this moment, the transitive property of matchups holds. Just 2 or 3 games into ACC play for everyone, and there are no circular patterns of wins. UVA beat Pitt who beat Duke who beat VT who beat Miami. UNC beat Miami and GT. All the other conference results are cross-divisional. For the moment it establishes some semblance of a heirarchy.
But digging in to how teams are winning and losing, how they look when doing so, or how they fare week over week, and it's a little sloppier.
Virginia Tech had a bye week to prepare for Duke, yet lost over 30 points. Miami had a bye week to prepare for VT and went down four touchdowns before their backup led them to the cusp of a comeback win. Duke went down over 20 points at home vs Pitt before nearly pulling off their own comeback. North Carolina takes Clemson to the wire but loses to Appalaichan State. Pitt can score a road win at Duke but has to survive a second-half collapse to do so; in previous weeks they barely beat Delaware and Ohio yet played thrillers vs ranked Penn State and UCF teams.
Every team in this division, save GT, is showing glimpses of being really good. And then at other times they're looking unprepared or slow or undisciplined or under-talented. And while the win patterns so far help establish a semblance of a pecking order, I don't have a ton of confidence in any one particular team to hold their position. For better or for worse.
Virginia is obviously the front runner by virtue of their half-game lead on everyone else and the tiebreaker over Pitt. But by no means should Hoos consider the path forward to be a gimme. The O-Line struggles are real, and it's going to take some creative play calling or a major in-season progression for the Hoos offense not to prove a liability at some point over the next 7 games.
I'd say any one of the top 6 teams in the Coastal is capable of beating any other on a given day. And while that should make for a wild ride the rest of the season, one with plenty of drama, a few surprises, it's also going to prove stressful for a Hoo club with very real aspirations for the division crown. It likely won't be decided until the week of Thanksgiving.
Bye week, not applicable.
Depth Chart Moves
First things first, no Brennan Armstrong yet back on the roster. He'd been spotted in practice, but per Bronco in the Monday presser he's still recovering from his toe injury. Second, the O-Line looks very similar to listings prior, but there are a couple of "OR's" showing up at both guard spots, with Bissinger and Hubbard technically being listed as co-starters, and Tyler Fannin absent. Fannin is out for the year with a foot injury. TBD how that manifests in the game. Defense and special teams hold pretty steady, but Robert Snyder has been lost for the year to surgery. Heskin Smith also recovering from injury.
Coastal Power Rankings
1. Virginia (Prev: 1) - 4-1 (2-0) - Huge opportunity to cement their top spot against a backs-to-the-wall Canes team this week, and with a bye week to prepare the Hoos have little excuse. A loss would drop them right back into the pack.
2. North Carolina (Prev: 3) - 3-3 (2-1) - Not much to take away from a casual win over Georgia Tech this week, though it does help put the sting from the narrow Clemson loss in the rearview mirror. They get a bye before heading to Blacksburg to kick off a stretch of three Coastal games in consecutive weekends.
3. Pitt (Prev: 4) - 4-2 (1-1) - The win at Duke was huge, establishing Pitt as a major player going forward. They get a bye before heading to Syracuse. The Hoos should feel glad that the Pitt win is in the rearview mirror; they're improving rapidly as their offense gets command of new OC Mark Whipple's system.
4. Duke (Prev: 2) - 3-2 (1-1) - What a disappointing loss for the Devils, who briefly looked like a major Coastal threat after trashing the Hokies the week prior. They get to right their ship vs GT this weekend before a huge trip to Charlottesville. The Devils did rally for a big second half in the Pitt loss, so signs of life to build upon.
5. VT (Prev: 6) - 3-2 (1-2) - A new QB, a defense that won the turnover battle vs Miami 5-0, and the Hokies have some vital signs. They play FCS Rhode Island this weekend (won't count toward bowl eligibility), then have a critical game vs North Carolina to continue their desired rebound.
6. Miami (Prev: 5) - 2-3 (0-2) - Tons of talent, but the Canes look as inconsistent as ever. Starting QB Jarren Williams was pulled after a trio of INTs, and last year's part-time starter N'Kosi Perry almost led the comeback. Their game vs UVA is a must-win; what will the apparent quarterback controversy yield?
7. GT (Prev: 7) - 1-4 (0-2) - Some minor signs of life in a 16 point home loss to Carolina this week. Still a long way to go as they're about to play themselves out of bowl eligibility, but always possible they catch someone sleeping. Doubtful that starts with Duke this week though.
Non-UVA Games to Watch this Weekend
UVA plays Friday night, meaning your Saturday is wide open. Want to take a day off college football? Go for it. But if not, there's a great slate of both elite national matchups and relevant ACC matchups on tap all day long.
#6 Oklahoma vs #11 Texas - 12:00 PM Eastern - Fox: Not an ACC game, but college football purists always enjoy the Red River Rivalry, played annually at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. Stakes are extra high this year as both teams are highly ranked.
Georgia Tech at Duke - 12:30 PM Eastern - ACC Network Extra: The Devils get to lick their wounds after their tough loss to Pitt. Cutcliffe will likely have them ready, but some possibility there's a letdown performance coming.
#1 Alabama at #24 Texas A&M - 3:30 PM Eastern - CBS: Great SEC battle sees Bama go on the road to the always-tough Kyle field. Not a gimme for the Tide by any stretch.
FSU at #2 Clemson - 3:30 PM Eastern - ABC: The Noles look to be slowly righting the ship, and Clemson hasn't looked sharp in recent weeks. Could the Noles upend the ACC landscape?
Louisville at #19 Wake Forest - 7:30 PM Eastern - ACC Network: Our cross-division rivals are picking up steam, and upsetting the ranked Deacons would give them a ton of momentum before their visit from the Hoos.
#7 Florida at #5 LSU - 8:00 PM Eastern - ESPN: Our second SEC recommendation of the day, just a high level game between two hot Top 10 teams, Florida coming off their massive GameDay win over Auburn.
The Remaining Schedule
Friday, Oct 11 - at Miami: Win confidence 6.5 - Manny Diaz insisted that Jarren Williams is still his guy, despite Perry playing most of the last game. If Virginia's offense used the bye week effectively, then the Hoos should have the slight edge here.
Saturday, Oct 19 - Duke: Win confidence 6.5 - Pitt make Duke look far more mortal than the Devils did a week prior. Not that they're not still solid and capable, but UVA should be able to use home field advantage to catapault to the win here.
Saturday, Oct 26 - at Louisville: Win confidence 6.5 - The Cards quietly moved to 3-2 (1-1) with an exciting win over Boston College this week, and UVA will need to be sharp in this road trip. No longer the gimme it once seemed it would be, new coach Satterfield has the Cards playing hard.
Saturday, Nov 2 - at North Carolina: Win confidence 5.5- Carolina snapped a 3-game skid with a solid if unspectacular win in Atlanta. This is shaping up to be a great game.
Saturday, Nov 9 - Georgia Tech: Win confidence 9 - The Jackets will put up a fight, but I feel they're more dangerous at home for right now, and expecting them to win on the road is a couple years away. UVA defends the home field at Scott in this one.
Saturday, Nov 23 - Liberty: Win confidence 9 - The Flames are on a four game win streak after beating New Mexico State (a week after beating New Mexico). But this is still a team that was shut out by Syracuse and then lost to Louisiana-Lafayette to open the year. It's the Hoos' game to win unless they really get caught looking ahead.
Friday, Nov 29 - Virginia Tech: Win confidence 6 - Credit to the Hokies for going into Miami for the win. This team hasn't quit fighting, though even in the win some struggles were still evident. Still think UVA gets over the hump this year but it won't necessarily be pretty.
Predicted final record: 9-3 (6-2)