Is Virginia Tech talented enough to be an ACC title contender?
The ACC Atlantic is head and shoulders better than the Coastal. Six of those seven teams posted winning records in 2017, and the other, Syracuse, was the only to beat Clemson in the regular season. The Coastal set just four of its teams to bowl games, and only three finished the season with a winning record: Miami, Virginia Tech and Duke.
We know things can change in an instant in college football, but at this point in the preseason, it appears only the Hurricanes and Hokies are legitimate contenders to win the division in 2018. Miami is the higher ranked team in our early estimation, and the Canes’ success in 2017 and the experience returning on the roster makes Miami the likely favorite. But we shouldn’t count the Hokies out.
Quarterback Josh Jackson showed flashes of dual-threat playmaking ability as a freshman, and he has several playmakers back that should help Virginia Tech continue to improve on offense. The defense lost some important players, most notably leading tackler and NFL Combine star Tremaine Edmunds, but the Hokies have a rich history of success under coordinator Bud Foster.
Virginia Tech ranked in the top 10 in defensive S&P+ last season, and though it flew under the radar on a national level, the Hokies had one of the best defensive lines in college football last season. What’s even more remarkable is the fact Tech had to completely rebuilt the front four after 2016. Diving into some of the D-Line-specific analytic statistics, Virginia Tech ranked in the top six nationally in adjusted line yards (124.1, No. 6), standard downs line yards (2.21, No. 5), power success rate (44.8 percent, No. 1) and stuff rate (27.2 percent, No. 3). The defense also ranked No. 13 in pass efficiency defense, so it was a balanced unit.
Nose tackle Tim Settle joined Edmunds (and his brother Terrell) in declaring early for the NFL Draft, but three starting defensive linemen return, as do three of the top five defensive backs. If Jackson can keep the offense trending upward, Foster’s defense should be solid once again. Perhaps a top 10 unit, and the best in the Coastal, if not the ACC altogether.