Clarifying the Coastal, kind of

October, 19, 2009
10/19/09
11:00
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

 
  AP Photo/J Pat Carter
  Coach Randy Shannon and the Miami Hurricanes are in the driver’s seat in the ACC’s Coastal Division.
Both of my colleagues, Bruce Feldman and Mark Schlabach, have Miami playing in this year's FedEx Orange Bowl, and right this second, that would be my pick, too. If it ended today, Miami would represent the Coastal Division in Tampa because of rule No. 7 in the ACC tiebreaker scenario -- the top-ranked team in the BCS Standings is the division winner, unless the second of the tied teams (in this case Georgia Tech) is ranked within five or fewer places. Miami is No. 10, and Georgia Tech is No. 12, but the Canes would win the head-to-head tiebreaker.

Now you see just how devastating the Hokies' loss to Georgia Tech was on Saturday. Not only did it affect their chances at the national championship, but by dropping to No. 14 in the BCS Standings, it also hurt them in the ACC's tiebreaker scenario.

What does Miami have to do to play in the ACC championship game? It's simple, really -- just keep winning.

We can't overlook Virginia in all of this, though. The Cavaliers deserve credit for winning three straight games and entering this week the only undefeated team remaining in conference play at 2-0. But with wins over North Carolina and Maryland -- two struggling teams -- they have yet to earn that marquee win that legitimizes them as a true player in this race. If Virginia pulled an upset over Georgia Tech this weekend, then any lingering doubts about the Cavaliers would be erased.

Since this is the question you all continue to ask, let's say Miami, Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech all finished with 7-1 records in conference play. Then the ACC would revert to the BCS Standings tiebreaker scenario I mentioned above. A word of caution, though: The standings could still fluctuate because of the human element involved.

What if Miami wins out but beats South Florida by one point, while Georgia Tech rolls over Georgia and Virginia Tech convincingly beats Virginia? Might some voters drop the Canes in their polls and move the other two up? If Miami continues to win, but wins close games or in overtime against games they're favored in, will that be reflected in the polls? It all plays a factor and a lot could happen, but here are the easiest, most direct routes to Tampa for each team currently in contention in the Coastal Division:

MIAMI: Win out and stay more than five places ahead of Virginia Tech in the BCS Standings OR have all three teams win out and have GT and Miami finish as the ACC's two highest rated teams so the Canes win the head-to-head battle.

GEORGIA TECH: Win out AND have Miami lose again.

VIRGINIA TECH: Win out AND have Georgia Tech lose again.

VIRGINIA: Win out.

Considering how unpredictable the ACC has been this year, though, the odds of one team winning out -- let alone three -- seem pretty slim.

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