Giglio: Duke can simplify division math with win against Miami

jgiglio@newsobserver.comNovember 15, 2013 

Three plus three equals Charlotte for Duke.

The Blue Devils can make the math in the Coastal Division that easy after Georgia Tech’s loss to Clemson on Thursday night. If Duke, 3-2 in the ACC headed into Saturday’s game with Miami, wins out, it will win the Coastal Division and play in the ACC title game in Charlotte on Dec. 7.

The Blue Devils, who haven’t lost since Sept. 21, finish with No. 24 Miami at home and then in-state road games against Wake Forest and North Carolina. A 6-2 finish can only be matched by Virginia Tech, which is 4-2 with games against Maryland and Virginia left.

Duke’s 13-10 win at Virginia Tech on Oct. 26 would stand as the tiebreaker between those two teams. The scenarios at 6-2 are as simple as the ones at 5-3 are complicated.

Bottom line, Duke can’t lose to Miami on Saturday and win the division, and UNC, even if it wins out to get to 5-3, can’t win the division. Duke can still win the division at 5-3 but not with a loss to Miami.

Got it?

Six of the seven Coastal teams can still finish 5-3. UNC is one of those teams, but there’s no way for the Tar Heels to win any of the tiebreakers because of its losses to Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and Miami.

The first tiebreaker with three or more teams is group record. The second tiebreaker is division record and the third is “best” win in the division (i.e. a win against the team highest in the standings after the group of teams that are tied for first).

When three or more teams cluster at the top, there’s no real uncomplicated solution but the ACC should immediately follow the Big Ten’s lead and use the division records, not conference records.

Miami crossed over with Florida State, and Duke crossed over with N.C. State – that’s not fair (just like it wasn’t fair to Duke last year that it played both FSU and Clemson from the Atlantic Division while UNC played neither).

The only fair way to do it is to use division records as the default. The Big Ten is the only major conference that does it the right way.

Nothing ever really goes easy in the Coastal Division. This is the same division that three teams (UNC, Georgia Tech and Miami) claim to have won in 2012.

For the record, UNC would have won the tiebreaker (by process of its “best-win” in division play over Virginia Tech) last year with Georgia Tech and Miami, if the Tar Heels had been eligible for the postseason.

We could be on a equally confusing path if either Duke or Virginia Tech doesn’t pull into the barn at 6-2. Duke could still win a 5-3 scrum if it ended up in a group tie with the right partners but that would require help.

Duke doesn’t need help if it can beat Miami at home. The Hurricanes – who have won five national titles 30 years – still have more talent than Duke, but the Devils are healthier and a more confident team.

The brand “Duke” has been devalued after decades of losing but Duke has more talent on this team than most people think. Against FBS opponents, only Florida State and Clemson have scored more points per game than Duke (32.0).

Receiver Jamison Crowder (67 catches, 903 yards) might be the most valuable position player in the ACC. Backup quarterback Brandon Connette (20 total touchdowns) has been a season saver.

The Devils have also undoubtedly had luck on their side. No shame there, every good team does. Miami comes to town without top player Duke Johnson and Wake Forest will be missing star receiver Michael Campanaro next week.

Those are part of the breaks. The Devils have made the most of theirs but they need to win three more games to have a division title to show for it.

Giglio: 919-829-8938

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