Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets an Early Dark Horse to Win Coastal Division

Mark CarrollContributor IIISeptember 23, 2013

COLLEGE PARK, MD - NOVEMBER 03: Head coach Paul Johnson talks to quarterback Vad Lee #2 of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets during the second half of the Yellow Jackets 33-13 win over the Maryland Terrapins at Byrd Stadium on November 3, 2012 in College Park, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

Four weeks into the 2013 college football season, most headlines coming out the of ACC highlight Clemson's quest for a national title or the incredible play of Florida State freshman phenom Jameis Winston.

Miami's early triumphs have caught the eyes of fans across the country, and rightfully so, but another Coastal Division contender has also made strides worth acknowledging.

The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets have kicked off the season with three straight wins, including two victories within the division. They opened the year with a 70-0 Week 1 blowout over Elon before defeating Duke on the road and picking up an impressive home win over North Carolina.

Not too shabby for a team that was predicted to finish fourth in the Coastal.

Vad Lee has proven to be an overall upgrade at the quarterback position, displaying his ability to hurt opponents both on the ground and through the air. Despite some first-quarter struggles against the Tar Heels, Lee helped rally the Jackets in a 21-point swing and currently holds the third-highest passer rating in the conference (minimum of 20 attempts). Having thrown for seven scores this year, he is already just one away from tying the 2012 season total of last year's starter, Tevin Washington.

The offensive backfield has also received valuable production from B-Back David Sims and A-Back Robert Godhigh. The two runners have combined for 385 rushing yards and three touchdowns, while Sims has found the end zone three times. Lee has also been a key to the running game, accumulating nearly 200 yards so far this year.

Defensively, Georgia Tech has only allowed 11.3 points per game. Shutouts against FCS opponents help make that stat a bit more attractive in a small sample size, but with two ACC games out of the way and Alabama A&M still remaining on the schedule, this group will likely keep that number low throughout the year.

ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 21:  Running back Robert Godhigh #25 of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets is pursued by members of the North Carolina Tar Heels defense during the game at Bobby Dodd Stadium at Historic Grant Field on September 21, 2013 in Atlanta, G
Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images

Standing in the Yellow Jackets' way of an undefeated record through September are the Virginia Tech Hokies, who will travel to Atlanta for a nationally televised showdown on Thursday night. From there, the only real challenges Paul Johnson's team will face come on Oct. 5 at Miami and Nov. 14 at Clemson.

Through four games, Virginia Tech appears to have one of the best defenses in the country, but shaky quarterback play makes the Hokies a beatable team. If Georgia Tech can escape Week 5 with a 4-0 record, the Ramblin' Wreck will be in the race for the division through November.  

Even with a loss this week, a split with Miami and Clemson could be enough to keep them alive in the Coastal, especially considering they played for an ACC championship last year with only a 5-3 record in conference. It's also important to keep in mind that Johnson's squad knocked off an undefeated Clemson team just two years ago late in the season.

Thursday's showdown is crucial, but if Tech extends this winning streak, look for the Yellow Jackets to have their own share of ACC storylines.