Breaking Down the Coastal and Atlantic Races

With five weeks left in the regular season, let’s break down the Coastal and Atlantic races in ACC football.

For purposes of discussion, we’ll eliminate any team that is currently two or more games down in the loss column to the division leader, so that leaves three contenders in the Coastal — Duke, Miami and Virginia Tech — and four in the Atlantic — Florida State, NC State, Clemson, and Maryland. UNC, of course, is not eligible for the ACC Championship Game.

No matter how you slice it, it’s going to be an exciting five weeks of ACC football. Let’s start with the Coastal Division.

Coastal Division

  • Duke (3-1 ACC): Wins over Wake, Virginia, UNC; loss to VT. Schedule: @FSU, Clemson, @GT, Miami
  • Miami: (3-2): Wins over BC, GT, NC State; losses to UNC, FSU. Schedule: VT, @Virginia, @Duke
  • VT (2-2): Wins over GT, Duke; losses to UNC, Clemson. Schedule: @Miami, FSU, @BC, Virginia

What makes the Coastal so wide open is that the top three teams haven’t played each other, with the exception of Duke’s loss to Virginia Tech. Duke and Miami control their own destinies; Virginia Tech does not. Here’s how it breaks down for each team.

Duke: To win the division, Duke must stay right where they are: one game ahead of Virginia Tech. If they end up tied with VT, then the Hokies will win the tiebreaker, due to head-to-head. Of course, it’s more complicated than that; the Blue Devils step outside the division in their next two games, which could — and probably will — knock them back into the thick of things with Miami and VT. As surprising as Duke’s season has been, it will be remarkable if they go 2-2 or better against their remaining schedule. Duke’s future is murky, but the exciting thing is that they will go bowling this season, for the first time since 1994.

Miami: The Canes have a great shot at going 6-2, which would give them the division crown. They could also finish 3-5 in the conference. You just never know with the Hurricanes, who are young, athletic, and wildly inconsistent. It’s pretty simple, though: if Miami beats VT and Duke, they’re all but assured of the Coastal title. A win over VT at home on Nov. 1st is a huge first stepping stone to Charlotte for the Canes.

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Virginia Tech: As disappointing as the season has been for the Hokies, they can still win the division by beating Miami, BC, and Virginia — as long as Duke loses two out of their last four, which we think is likely. The Hokies’ path to Charlotte is clear: take care of business against struggling BC and Virginia, and win in Coral Gables, and the Hokies are there … unless the Hokies lose to FSU and Duke does something shocking and goes 3-1 in their last four games.

Our Prediction: The winner of the VT-Miami game on Nov. 1st will represent the Coastal Division in Charlotte. No … we’re not going to predict that game. Not yet. Keep reading.

The  Atlantic Division is much more complicated.

The Atlantic Division

  • FSU (4-1): Wins over Wake, Clemson, BC, Miami; loss to NC State. Schedule: Duke, @VT, @Maryland.
  • Clemson (3-1): Wins over BC, GT, VT; loss to FSU. Schedule: @Wake, @Duke, Maryland, NC State.
  • NC State (2-1): Wins over FSU, Maryland; loss to Miami. Schedule: @UNC, Virginia, Wake, @Clemson.
  • Maryland (2-1): Wins over Wake, Virginia; loss to NC State. Schedule: GT, @Clemson, FSU, @UNC.

Florida State: FSU’s prospects for going 7-1 are very, very good, so you have to love that if you’re a Noles fan. But they still do not control their own destiny. NC State must lose for the Seminoles to win the division. But with that Noles defense, 7-1 is a strong possibility, and that will almost assuredly mean a trip to Charlotte.

Clemson: The win over VT was huge for the Tigers. Talent-wise, they should overwhelm their next three opponents, setting up a big showdown with NC State on Nov. 17th at home. Clemson’s prospects for going 7-1 are good, but they could go 11-1 overall, 7-1 in the ACC … and still not even go to Charlotte. Like FSU, the Tigers do not control their own destiny. They need to hope for a Florida State loss. Take note: the game against Wake is this Thursday … on the road … five days after playing Virginia Tech. Hmmm….

NC State: Ah, here’s the team that controls their own destiny. Let’s assume the Pack will beat Virginia and Wake Forest at home. That means they’ve got a two-game season for the Atlantic title: get past UNC next Saturday on the road — no easy task — and that sets up a road game at Clemson Nov. 17th with the Atlantic Division title on the line.

Maryland:  Kudos to Randy Edsall and the Terps for what they’ve done so far this season (4-3, 2-1), and they’ve got winnable games @BC and vs. GT next on the docket. But the Terps close @Clemson, vs. FSU, and @UNC. After the heartbreaking loss to NC State Saturday, bowl eligibility will be tough, and the Atlantic crown is unlikely.

Our Atlantic Prediction: The Seminoles will win the Atlantic. We think NC State is going to be oh-so-close, but it’s hard to see anything other than FSU going 7-1 and NC State dropping a game somewhere along the way.

Our Title Prediction: Here’s where we pick the VT-Miami (and Coastal winner): it will be the Hurricanes. Virginia Tech is 0-4 away from Lane Stadium, by an average score of 37-23. A win at Miami would be an unprecedented feat for the 2012 Hokies.

Yes, the ACC will finally have their FSU-Miami title game, in the ACC Championship Game’s eighth year. And the Seminoles will win it.

Yeah … we’re really going out on a limb here.

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