Mark Richt had a really, really good weekend. Georgia Tech continues to give Virginia Tech problems. And is the ACC now guaranteed a College Football Playoff spot? Each week in this space we’ll take a look around the Atlantic Coast Conference football fields and examine the most important happenings.
ENJOY IT NOW: Good feelings tend not to last in college football. One week you’re up, the next it all crashes to the turf.
But for at least one Saturday, Miami coach Mark Richt had every reason to smile. Not only did his Hurricanes pass their biggest test to date with a thorough destruction of Notre Dame, his old school, Georgia, was blown out to put in even better position to make the College Football Playoff.
Richt is, by all accounts, a super nice guy who likely didn’t take much joy is seeing his former players take it on the chin against Auburn. But there has to be at least some small part of him that felt a bit vindicated after the program that ran him off fell from the ranks of the unbeaten while his Canes continue to make Miami a college football town again.
Miami now has a spot in the ACC Championship locked up. If the Canes keep winning they are in the final four. The players, coaches and fans are riding high right now, as they should be. It is now impossible to dismiss Miami as a serious national title contender.
Longtime fans of The U know those feelings can fade with time. But right now, nobody should feel better than Richt.
BUT WHAT COMES NEXT?: Now, with Clemson and Miami locked into the ACC title game, most are counting on at least the winner of that game advancing to the playoff. But neither team can get too comfortable quite yet.
Miami certainly should finish the regular season undefeated as the Canes will likely be double-digit favorites against Virginia and Pitt. But after playing two of the program’s biggest games in years the past two weeks, they can’t afford a let down against Virginia, which has looked very good at times this season, but closer to mediocre at others.
Clemson still has a significant test on the road at rival South Carolina and a loss to the Gamecocks would set up a nightmare situation for the league. What if a two-loss Clemson beats Miami? Enough conference champs with one or fewer losses could put the ACC winner in a tough spot.
TECH WRECKERS: Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech have had an interesting rivalry since the Hokies joined the ACC with most of the games decided by 10 or fewer points. Lately, the Yellow Jackets have been a real problem for Virginia Tech, with GT winning three of the past four.
Part of that is Georgia Tech’s option offense presenting a challenge for Bud Foster’s defense to prepare for. But Saturday it was the Georgia Tech defense that stepped up to slow a talented Hokies offense.
A week after Virginia had three receivers rack up at least 67 yards, the Georgia Tech secondary limited Virginia Tech’s talented redshirt freshman quarterback Josh Jackson to 153 passing yards and shut down arguably the ACC’s best wide out, Cam Phillips, limiting him to two catches for eight yards.
Shane Mettlen is a veteran journalist who lives in Virginia and also writes for The ACC Sports Journal. Follow him on Twitter @ShaneMettlen