Coach of the Year: The Mid-Season Frontrunners


Photo: Head coach Paul Johnson yells to his team during the game against the Virginia Tech Hokies at Lane Stadium. Courtesy of Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

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The mid-point of the 2014 season brings the usual twists and turns to the ACC Coach of the Year race. And a new leader as well, Georgia Tech’s Paul Johnson. There’s a ton of football still left to be played, with each remaining weekend being profoundly important in the eyes of the voting members of the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association.

5. Dabo Swinney , Clemson
With a 41-0 whitewash of NC State, which almost capsized Florida State a week earlier, Swinney zooms into the five-hole ahead of the Pack's Dave Doeren and Miami’s Al Golden. Sure, the Tigers lost a pair to Georgia and the 'Noles. But Swinney and his staff have retooled on the fly around a precocious passing attack and coordinator Brent Venables' D. By shutting out an NC State team that had scored at least 41 points in four straight games, Clemson sent a strong statement about its second-half ceiling.
Signature Moment: Blanking NC State last Saturday

4. Bobby Petrino , Louisville
Petrino moves up a notch to No. 4, with an opportunity to elevate higher by Sunday morning. His Cards travel to Clemson for a key Atlantic Division showdown. With a fourth win in a row, Louisville will move back into the Top 25, while remaining in Florida State's hip pocket in the division. Petrino has lost just once in his return to the school, a two-point stumble at Virginia. And he's deftly navigated key injuries to his quarterback, Will Gardner, and his top outside playmaker, DeVante Parker.
Signature Moment: Defeating Miami in the opener

3. Jimbo Fisher , Florida State
For the first time ever, five of the top eight programs in the AP poll lost on the same weekend. The 'Noles weren't one of the victims. Maybe Fisher will finally get the attaboys for the job he's doing this year in Tallahassee. Maybe. Florida State ran its winning streak to 21 games by disposing of Wake Forest, 43-3, last week. The Seminoles travel to the Carrier this Saturday, before starting a pivotal second-half stretch that’ll begin with a high-profile visit from Notre Dame.
Signature Moment: Beating Clemson without Jameis Winston

2. Mike London , Virginia
One week at a time, the Cavaliers are shifting expectations and eliminating stereotypes in Charlottesville. This is no longer the middling program that won just six times over the last two seasons. No, this is a bona fide Coastal Division contender. UVa’s only losses have come against ranked non-conference opponents, UCLA and BYU. And by handling Pitt on Saturday, 24-19, in one of the biggest games of London’s career, Virginia entered its bye week with as much confidence as it's had in the past three years.
Signature Moment: Upsetting Louisville in Week 3

1. Paul Johnson , Georgia Tech
Ten FBS teams have gotten this deep into the season without a loss. The Yellow Jackets are one of them. With an upset of Virginia Tech and last weekend's 28-17 win over Miami, the Ramblin' Wreck has also emerged as the early favorite in the hotly contested Coastal Division. In all five games, the opponent was within a touchdown at some point in the second-half. And Georgia Tech pulled out each one, the sign of a mature, well-coached squad.
Signature Moment: Beating Virginia Tech and Miami in consecutive games