CHAPEL HILL — In a three-way tie for second place in the loss column in the ACC's Coastal Division, North Carolina has done a little scoreboard watching.
Even though it's barely November and the Tar Heels are about to enter a stretch of playing three ranked teams in as many weeks, they are keeping track of what is happening in the division.
Miami's surprising loss at Virginia on Saturday gave UNC (5-3, 2-2 ACC) an opening in the division race, one it thought was closed after Miami's 33-10 win over the Heels the previous Saturday.
"It raises some eyebrows and gives us a little bit of hope," senior quarterback T.J. Yates said. "Nobody usually knows until the last week of this conference, especially in the Coastal, because everybody is beating everybody."
Miami's loss to Virginia, previously winless in the ACC, knocked the Hurricanes down to a tie with Georgia Tech at 3-2 in the conference. Virginia Tech (4-0) sits alone atop the division but has to play the three two-loss teams in successive weeks.
UNC on Saturday travels to No. 24 Florida State, tied in the loss column with N.C. State and Maryland for the Atlantic Division lead, and then the Heels host No. 20 Virginia Tech and No. 23 N.C. State in consecutive weeks.
"We definitely look at the scenarios and see that we still got a fight in it," UNC senior cornerback Kendric Burney said.
The Heels will need to win, and they'll need help to get to Charlotte for the ACC title game on Dec. 4.
Under the conference tiebreaker rules, which start with head-to-head results and "group" records, they would need to avoid any scenario in which they are tied with Miami and Georgia Tech, because they lost to both teams.
The Heels' best, and perhaps only, path to Charlotte would be to win out and finish in a first-place tie with Virginia Tech and only Virginia Tech. (Again, they won't win many tiebreaker scenarios involving Georgia Tech or Miami.)
Yates said the best thing UNC can do is win, starting with Saturday's trip to Tallahassee, Fla., where UNC has never won (0-8-1).
"We can't get caught up in the looking at the future and the outcomes because a lot of stuff still has to happen," Yates said. "Every single ACC game is extremely important."
UNC hasn't been to FSU since 2004, the year before the ACC expanded to 12 teams, and last year's loss in Chapel Hill, 30-27 on a Thursday night, was the first game against the Seminoles for the Heels under coach Butch Davis.
Davis was more worried about his team, after a close call against William & Mary, than the division race.
"You want to control your own destiny," Davis said. "You don't want to leave it in the hands of other teams to beat other people."
Note: Freshman cornerback Terry Shankle will miss the rest of the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. UNC had been using Shankle, a reserve defensive back, in "dime" situations.
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