Forget the College World Series. N.C. State, in full desperation mode, needs to steal a page out of Peyton Mannings playbook and call an audible just to make the ACC tournament in Greensboro.
Its clearly third-and-forever for the Wolfpack. Ten teams will make the tournament. The Pack enters Fridays pivotal series against Georgia Tech tied for 11th and running out of time and timely hits.
Nationally ranked Florida State, Virginia and Miami will reach Greensboro. Bottom-feeders Boston College and Notre Dame will not. What remains are nine tightly bunched teams racing toward a moving target, likely 14 league wins, in hopes of securing a spot in the field.
Win, win. We just have to win, UNC coach Mike Fox said Tuesday night, specifically addressing his team but summing up the mood for plenty of others. We have nine games left, three series, and we have to play well and get some wins in those nine games.
None of the Triangle schools is a lock, though at least one is assured of making it.
Duke is tied for fifth with Wake Forest, but trouble potentially awaits if the Blue Devils dont win their weekend series at Winston-Salem.
North Carolina is in eighth place, but like Duke, the Tar Heels close the season against national powers FSU and Miami.
And then there is N.C. State, which opened the season proclaiming Omaha or bust but finds itself two games out of the final spot to reach Greensboro.
With three series remaining, heres a look at each contenders condition:
4. Clemson 12-8 ACC
• Whats left: Miami (16-5), at Notre Dame (4-17), Boston College (5-16).
• Postseason party/pity party: Party. The soft ending will have the No. 22-ranked Tigers safely in the field.
T5. Duke 12-9
• Whats left: at Wake Forest (12-9), Miami (16-5), at FSU (16-5).
• Postseason party/pity party: Party. Ignore the No. 90 RPI. The final two series are daunting, but realistically, the Blue Devils did enough early that they can go 3-6 and feel very safe. Winning this weekends series at Wake would provide a little breathing room, and the goal is to earn a top-six seed. Seeds 7 through 10 play a single-game elimination to get into pool play.
T5. Wake Forest 12-9
• Whats left: Duke (12-9), at N.C. State (7-14), Virginia (16-5).
• Postseason party/pity party: Party. Similar situation as Duke. The team that wins this weekends series is in excellent shape to make the tourney. Wake Forest could have a chance to eliminate N.C. State next week.
7. Ga. Tech 11-10
• Whats left: at N.C. State (7-14), Virginia Tech (7-14), at Virginia (16-5).
• Postseason party/pity party: Party. The Yellow Jackets can essentially eliminate N.C. State with a sweep this weekend, but their goal is securing a top-six seed.
8. UNC 10-11
• Whats left: Virginia Tech (7-14), FSU (16-5) at Miami (16-5).
• Postseason party/pity party: Party. In the race to 14 wins, the Tar Heels have the toughest road. Unless they sweep the Hokies, theyll have to win a series against No. 4-ranked FSU or No. 15 Miami. But thats assuming N.C. State and Virginia Tech make a run, which is far from a given. N.C. State and UNC wont play a conference game against each other, but they could end up battling for the 10th and final spot.
9. Maryland 9-11
• Whats left: at Boston College (5-16), Notre Dame (4-17), at Pitt (9-12).
• Postseason party/pity party: Party. With a No. 19 RPI, the Terps are better than their ACC record suggests. The soft schedule will allow them a proper good-bye in Greensboro.
10. Pitt 9-12
• Whats left: at Boston College (5-16), Maryland (9-11), at Notre Dame (4-17).
• Postseason party/pity party: Reserve the hotel, but make sure you can cancel. Pitts path is easier than the only two teams with a realistic shot of passing them for the 10th and final spot. But the Panthers are No. 116 in RPI for a reason, so a collapse is possible.
T11. N.C. State 7-14
• Whats left: Georgia Tech (11-10), Wake Forest (12-9), at Virginia Tech (7-14).
• Postseason party/pity party: Pity party. Even a 6-3 finish, as unlikely as that seems given the way theyre playing and who they still play, probably wouldnt be enough to extend Carlos Rodons and Trea Turners college careers. Theres always the draft day party.
T11. Virginia Tech 7-14
• Whats left: at UNC (10-11), at Ga. Tech (11-10), N.C. State (7-14).
• Postseason party/pity party: Pity party. If the Hokies scramble out of this mess, they will have earned it. They have three contenders remaining and likely need to go 7-2 to keep playing.
Brian Haines contributed to this report.