Sunday, July 29, 2012

Sports columnist Aaron McFarling: Opener could clinch Coastal

This week's Q&A-Mac is brought to you by the ACC Coastal Division championship game: Blink and you'll miss it.

Q: So the divisions have championship games this year?

A: Not formally, no. But you can count Virginia Tech's opener against Georgia Tech as one. Seven straight years, the winner of that game has won the division. Expect the same to be true this year.

Q: But the Yellow Jackets lost their big-play receiver and a good chunk of their defense from last year. What makes you think they can come into Lane Stadium and challenge the Hokies?

A: Two words: offensive line. The Yellow Jackets have one of the most formidable sets of grunts they've had in years. If you're looking for a good dark-horse pick, that's a good place to start. Nobody ever hypes those guys, but they matter - especially in an offense like Georgia Tech's.

Q: North Carolina has a great O-line, too, though. By your logic, shouldn't those guys be in the mix?

A: I think they will be. UNC has an outside chance to be a 9-3 team in Larry Fedora's first season as coach. Unfortunately for the Tar Heels, they won't be eligible for the ACC championship game this year even if they win the Coastal because of NCAA sanctions.

Q: Boy, wouldn't that be a disaster for the ACC if UNC had the best record in the Coastal?

A: John Swofford's nightmare. Especially if the Coastal Division "runner-up" were to beat the Atlantic Division champion and represent the league in the Orange Bowl.

Q: What about UVa? They have a solid O-line and were in the Coastal race until the final week last year, remember.

A: I think they're a year away from being that kind of factor again. Too many new faces on defense, highlighted by an overhauled secondary that will be tested in a league loaded with experienced quarterbacks.

Q: So you're saying we can just stop watching after the battle of the Techs goes final Sept. 3?

A: Hang around untilSept. 22, when Miami goes to Georgia Tech. If the Hurricanes somehow win that one, forget everything I said.

Q: We'll do that anyway. Moving on: Did you watch the opening ceremonies of the Olympics on Friday night?

A: No, I was covering a ballgame, but I felt like I was there through the magic of Twitter. Sounds like a lot of lights and countries were involved. Pretty amazing to get "live" updates on something shown on tape delay. Can't wait for the "instant" tweets on swimming events that ended five hours previously.

Q: Do I sense you're not an Olympics guy?

A: I can appreciate the men's and women's soccer and a few other events. Still a little bitter about them eliminating baseball and softball and leaving BMX in.

Q: Comment of the week on the blog?

A: Let's go with Trevor, discussing the Labor Day matchup: "The Bumble Bees may have one of the best offensive lines, but the Turkeys have one of the deepest defensive lines. In one sense, that sort of cancels each other out. I think it comes down to execution and, as Foster is so fond of saying, gap responsibility.

"I think every Turkeys fan should buy a can of Raid(TM), expunge it, cut the bottom of the can, fill it with marbles (or whatever they can find to make it rattle), and then on 3rd downs, shake the banshee out of the can. Yeah, I can see ESPN crew picking it up on TV."

Q: Sound like a plan?

A: Whatever works. This one's a biggie.

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