If Miami, Georgia Tech and UNC tied atop the division at 5-3, the ACC would treat it as a three-way tie rather than simply breaking the deadlock based on the Hurricanes' head-to-head victory over the Yellow Jackets.
In that case, the three teams would be 1-1 against one another. Miami and GT also would be 3-2 each within the division.
The next tie-breaker would be record against the fourth-place team, fifth-place and so on. If Virginia finished ahead of Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech would win a tie-breaker over Miami because the Yellow Jackets defeated the Cavaliers, while the Hurricanes lost to them.
It's improbable, to say the least. But with the ACC Coastal this season, nothing is beyond the realm.
The ACC Coastal Division’s season-long cluster became more indecipherable Saturday when Virginia defeated Miami, and Georgia Tech embarrassed North Carolina. So with two weeks remaining in the regular season, here are the scenarios for each team to reach the conference championship game Dec. 1 in Charlotte, N.C.
Let’s start with the easy part, presuming Miami does NOT self-impose a postseason ban for the second consecutive year.
DUKE (6-4, 3-3): David Cutcliffe’s overachievers head to Charlotte only if they win at Georgia Tech on Saturday and defeat Miami.
MIAMI (5-5, 4-3 ACC): Despite their 41-40 loss at Virginia, if the Hurricanes win at Duke in the regular-season finale Nov. 24, they're in great shape. A loss to the Blue Devils would eliminate Miami, which plays a non-conference game this week against South Florida.
GEORGIA TECH (5-5, 4-3): The Yellow Jackets’ 68-50 victory at Carolina puts them in the mix. They need to beat Duke and then have the Blue Devils topple Miami.
NORTH CAROLINA (6-4, 3-3): The Tar Heels are ineligible due to NCAA sanctions.
Where it gets completely haywire is if Miami self-imposes to mitigate impending NCAA sanctions for the Nevin Shapiro scandal.
Such a move makes no sense to me – full explanation here – but if university president Donna Shalala elects that path, the Hurricanes are ineligible for the ACC championship game. Here’s how the race then would look:
GEORGIA TECH: Beat Duke and qualify for the title game.
DUKE: Beat Georgia Tech and Miami. If the Blue Devils defeated Georgia Tech and lost to Miami, they could still reach the title game if Virginia Tech lost one of its final two games: at Boston College and home against Virginia.
VIRGINIA TECH (4-6, 2-4): Yes, were Miami to self-impose, the Hokies would have a slim chance. They’d have to beat Boston College and Virginia – the Hokies haven’t won consecutive games against Bowl Subdivision teams this season – and have Duke defeat Georgia Tech but lose to Miami.
That would leave Virginia Tech, Duke and Georgia Tech at 4-4, and the Hokies would win the tie-breaker by virtue of victories over the Blue Devils and Yellow Jackets.
No matter who represents the Coastal, they will be serious underdogs against presumed Atlantic Division champion Florida State (9-1, 6-1). All the Seminoles need do is defeat punchless Maryland on Saturday to secure their spot in the game. FSU then concludes the refular season at home against Florida.
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