Virginia Tech Hokies

ANN ARBOR, MI - OCTOBER 22: Head coach Jim Harbaugh of the Michigan Wolverines leads the team onto the field prior to playing the Illinois Fighting Illini on October 22, 2016 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Michigan won the game 41-8. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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Coaches Poll: Michigan takes Ohio State’s spot behind Alabama as Buckeyes drop


After slipping on the road against Penn State, Ohio State took a slight fall in the coaches poll this week. The Buckeyes dropped from second in the poll behind top-ranked Alabama to eighth. Adding salt to the wound, Michigan took over the second spot in the poll previously occupied by Ohio State. Clemson remained at third in the poll and Washington moved into the top four.

Arkansas and Ole Miss dropped out of the rankings this week, making room for Colorado and Virginia Tech. Houston, despite a blowout loss at SMU, remained in the top 25 at No. 24.

Here is this week’s coaches poll, with first-place votes noted:

  1. Alabama (63)
  2. Michigan
  3. Clemson (1)
  4. Washington
  5. Louisville
  6. Nebraska
  7. Baylor
  8. Ohio State
  9. West Virginia
  10. Texas A&M
  11. Wisconsin
  12. Florida
  13. Boise State
  14. Florida State
  15. Oklahoma
  16. Utah
  17. Auburn
  18. Tennessee
  19. LSU
  20. North Carolina
  21. Western Michigan
  22. Navy
  23. Colorado
  24. Houston
  25. Virginia Tech

Power Five conference races beginning to come into focus

BATON ROUGE, LA - OCTOBER 17:  College Football Playoff National Championship Trophy presented by Dr Pepper is seen at Tiger Stadium on October 17, 2015 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
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As we get set to embark on Week 8 of the 2016 college football season, we’re officially beyond the halfway point and closer to championship weekend than we are to opening weekend. And, with that, the Power Five conference races are starting to come into focus — but are far from finished.

This weekend, though, there are a handful of key matchups that could offer further clarity across the major conferences, although most, if not all, are still weeks away from being decided.

That said, here’s a look at where the Power Five conferences and, in four of the five cases, how their respective divisions stand before the eighth weekend of the regular season kicks off.

At 4-0, Clemson currently controls its own destiny in the division courtesy of the Oct. 1 win over 3-1 Louisville.  The U of L will be desperately rooting for Florida State, at 2-2 with one of those league losses coming at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium in the middle of last month, to knock off Clemson next Saturday as well as the Tigers tripping up in one of their other three remaining conference games (Syracuse, Pitt, at Wake Forest) while also holding serve through the remainder of their slate.  FSU, with league losses to the U of L and North Carolina, will need a minor miracle to get back to the conference championship game.

Technically, 2-2 Wake Forest remains in contention, and still has games against Clemson and Louisville.  Then again, they’re Wake.

In all likelihood, the Coastal will come down to a three-team race: 3-1 North Carolina, 3-1 Virginia Tech and 2-1 Pittsburgh.  Tech has already beaten UNC, and will face Pitt next weekend.  The Tar Heels, meanwhile, own a win over the Panthers to go along with the loss to the Hokies.  Simply put, if Tech wins out (at Pitt, at Duke, Georgia Tech, Virginia), they will claim the division and represent the Coastal against their Atlantic counterparts.

As you know, though, this division very rarely plays to the form it presents halfway through the conference season.

With all due respect to 2-1 Penn State, 3-0 Michigan and 3-0 Ohio State are on a collision course for an epic edition of the greatest rivalry in all of college football that will likely not only impact the division and the conference race but the College Football Playoff as well.  PSU could make me eat my words almost immediately as they play host to OSU in the always-dangerous white-out game later tonight; that said, if the Buckeyes can get past the Nittany Lions, they’ll have to traverse home games against Northwestern and Nebraska as well as road trips to Maryland and an abruptly vulnerable Michigan State before hosting UM.  The Wolverines get to host Illinois, Maryland and Indiana along with visits to rival Michigan State and Iowa before The Game.

Like the ACC Coastal, this division’s winner will very (?) likely come from a trio of teams: 3-0 Nebraska, 3-1 Iowa, 2-1 Northwestern.  The Cornhuskers already have a win over the Wildcats, while the Wildcats beat the Hawkeyes on the road the first weekend of this month.  Nebraska will close out the season against Iowa, while the latter has one sizable advantage over the other two as they avoid Ohio State completely while the others will face the Buckeyes in Weeks 9 (Wildcats) and 10 (Cornhuskers).  Both of those games, incidentally, are in Columbus.

There’s a potential wrench that could be tossed into the race, it should be noted, as 1-2 Wisconsin still has games remaining against all three of the West teams mentioned above.  Sweep those and get a little additional help, and the Badgers could be right back in the discussion by the end of the regular season.

BIG 12
Next season, this conference’s champion will be decided by a league title game.  This season, the standard round-robin format will determine the champion, and, because of that and the way the schedule is constructed, this league is as convoluted as any in the sport.

Three members are undefeated at the moment in Baylor and Oklahoma at 3-0, West Virginia at 2-0.  Two others are 2-1 — Oklahoma State and TCU.  How convoluted is the current state of the Big 12 race?  Just two games have been played between those five teams thus far: Baylor beating Oklahoma State and Oklahoma beating TCU.  A third will be played this weekend as the Horned Frogs will travel to Morgantown to face the Mountaineers in a contest that will allow a little — little — clarity when it comes to the conference race.

This could be the most simplistic of all the P5 divisions: barring something extraordinary taking place, the winner of this division will be decided in the Apple Cup between a 3-0 Washington and a 3-0 Washington State.  Or, at the very least, the winner will play in that rivalry game.  And, of all the developments thus far this season, that may be the most stunning.  To put a finer point on this divisional race, the team currently in third place at 2-2, 2015 Pac-12 champion Stanford, lost to both UW and Wazzu by a combined score of 86-22.

Utah and Colorado are tied atop this division at 3-1, with 3-2 USC still in the same neighborhood.  The Utes own a win over the Trojans, while the Trojans own one over the Buffs.  Utah and USC still have Washington on their schedule, while Colorado, which avoids UW, has to play a Washington State team that won’t face either of the other.  One date to circle on the calendar: Nov. 26, with the Utes traveling to Boulder to square off with the Buffs in the regular season finale.

A lot like the Big 12, this race likely won’t be decided until we get deep into November.

Despite its loss to 2-2 Tennessee, 3-1 Florida controls its own destiny in this division.  Win out, and the Gators will earn their second consecutive berth in the SEC championship game.  Their remaining league schedule?  The annual World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party grudge match with Georgia in Jacksonville, and road trips to No. 17 Arkansas and No. 25 LSU sandwiched around a home game against South Carolina.  UT, though, could easily win out as their lone remaining games consist of South Carolina, Kentucky, Missouri and Vanderbilt.  While the Gators are currently in control, their path to Atlanta is much steeper than that of the Vols despite currently sitting in the driver’s seat — and knowing full well that that come-from-ahead loss to UT is riding shotgun.

This might be the most fun division in all of college football.  Again.  Alabama and Texas A&M both sit at 4-0, while Auburn and LSU are at 2-1.  The really, really fun part?  Only A&M and Auburn have met already this year, a Sept. 17 win for the Aggies on The Plains.  The Tide and Aggies meet in a critical matchup this afternoon, but several more critical contests await the division in the coming weeks.

In other words, grab your popcorn.  This thing is far from decided — a sentiment that’s far from the exclusive property of this division.

Stingy defense and fullback Sam Rogers help Virginia Tech top Miami

BLACKSBURG, VA - OCTOBER 20: Running back Joseph Yearby #2 of the Miami Hurricanes is wrapped up by defensive back Chuck Clark #19 and defensive end Houshun Gaines #11 of the Virginia Tech Hokies in the first half at Lane Stadium on October 20, 2016 in Blacksburg, Virginia. (Photo by Michael Shroyer/Getty Images)
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Virginia Tech turned up the pressure on defense and made an underutilized offensive weapon into the star of the show on Thursday night as they blasted Miami 37-16 to keep pace in the ACC Coastal race.

Fullback Sam Rogers had a huge game from out of nowhere to get the Hokies’ offense going with several big plays. His first came halfway through the second quarter when he snuck out of the backfield and rumbled 52 yards just short of the goal line to set up the first touchdown of the night.

He saved his best for the second half however as he actually threw a touchdown to all but seal the victory on a bit of trickeration, rolling right before finding fellow fullback Steven Peoples on a wheel route.

Quarterback Jerod Evans threw for 259 yards and two scores while rushing for 98 and a touchdown on the ground as well. Sophomore tailback Travon McMillian also chipped in 131 yards on the night for a lofty 7.3 yards a carry.

The story of the night for Miami was just how under siege the offense was as Bud Foster’s defense pressured quarterback Brad Kaaya on nearly every dropback and wound up with eight sacks. The Hurricanes signal-caller did throw for over 300 yards and two scores while tossing a few NFL-caliber passes but it just wasn’t enough with the game resting squarely on his shoulders. The ground game never got going as they rushed for under two yards a carry.

The win allows Virginia Tech to keep pace in the ACC Coastal as they pull even with North Carolina at 3-1 in the conference but take first place in the division on account of their head-to-head win. The Hokies remain in the driver’s seat for an ACC title game berth as they take on Pitt next week.

For Miami, the loss was their third straight on the year after dropping a heartbreaker to Florida State earlier in the month. The Hurricanes continue to deal with injures and lost several more players on Thursday as they head back to South Florida looking to regroup after a rough outing against the Hokies.

Virginia Tech holds 16-9 halftime lead over Miami thanks to defense and big plays

BLACKSBURG, VA - SEPTEMBER 24: Running back Shai McKenzie #28 of the Virginia Tech Hokies warms up prior to the game against the East Carolina Pirates at Lane Stadium on September 24, 2016 in Blacksburg, Virginia. (Photo by Michael Shroyer/Getty Images)
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Miami and Virginia Tech got together for a big ACC Coastal clash and each squad’s defense stepped up with numerous big plays on Thursday night as the Hokies held onto a 16-9 halftime lead.

The biggest play of the first half came from a surprising source: senior fullback Sam Rogers, who was wide open on a pass over the middle of the field and rumbled 52 yards to set up the Hokies’ only touchdown. That score came one play later as quarterback Jerod Evans found Bucky Hodges in the end zone from seven yards out.

Evans eventually finished the half with 147 yards on 12-of-19 passing and chipped in another 36 rushing.

Virginia Tech’s defense was able to come up with some big plays of their own to limit the normally productive Miami offense. QB Brad Kaaya was pressured on nearly every snap but finished the half with 201 yards through the air. In addition to throwing an interception into triple coverage, he was also sacked three times. The UM ground game also couldn’t get going either, averaging less than a yard per carry.

The game’s momentum seemed to change completely for the Hurricanes when Kaaya hit  David Njoku for a big gain on a coverage bust but the speedy tight end was tackled by the Lane Stadium turf monster despite a wide open path to a touchdown. Miami eventually kicked a field goal on the drive but couldn’t get going at all until entering their hurry up offense with just over a minute left in the second quarter, scoring a late touchdown but missing the extra point to keep it a seven point game.

It should make for a fun second half if the visitors from South Florida can back into things like they did just before halftime as each team needs a win badly if they want to win the division.

‘Canes down three defensive starters for Thursday night game vs. Hokies

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - OCTOBER 17: Brenden Motley #9 of the Virginia Tech Hokies escapes a tackle from Chad Thomas #9 of the Miami Hurricanes during a game  at Sun Life Stadium on October 17, 2015 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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When Miami takes the field Thursday night against Virginia Tech, the Hurricanes will do so with a significantly depleted defense.

On The U’s official injury report, starting defensive end Chad Thomas is listed as questionable with an upper extremity injury.  However, both Susan Miller Degnan of the Miami Herald and Matt Porter of the Palm Beach Post are reporting that Thomas did not travel to Blacksburg with the team and will not play in the prime-time game against the Hokies.

Thomas suffered the injury in last Saturday’s loss to North Carolina.

Additionally, fellow starting end Demetrius Jackson and starting cornerback Sheldrick Redwine have been ruled out as well.  Jackson is nursing an injured knee, while Redwine was not listed on The U’s injury report and the reason for his absence — he didn’t make the trip, either — is unknown.

Thomas, who has started all six games this season, currently leads the ‘Canes in tackles for loss with eight, while Jackson is tied for second with 5.5.  Jackson has started five of the six games.

Redwine has started the last five games for the Hurricanes, the first starts of his collegiate career.