The often chaotic ACC Coastal Division frequently can spawn several dozen permutations that could determine its champion well into November.
This does not appear to be a year when the trend will hold.
North Carolina (8-1, 5-0 ACC) can clinch the Coastal as early as this week if it receives some help, and as early as next week if it doesn’t. That’s the benefit of defeating Pittsburgh and Duke in back-to-back weeks.
The Tar Heels would lock up their first trip to the ACC title game with a victory over Miami (6-3, 3-2) and if Pittsburgh (6-3, 4-1) falls at Duke (6-3, 3-2) on Saturday. That would place Larry Fedora’s team two games ahead with the tiebreaker edge over the two remaining two-loss teams (Duke and Pittsburgh). North Carolina also seals the Coastal with two victories in its last three games.
The path to clinching a division is quite a bit tougher for Duke, Miami and Pittsburgh, all of which still have some hope of making it to Charlotte. Here are the easiest (but not necessarily only) ways for those schools to claim the Coastal.
▪ Duke: The Blue Devils will need to win out while North Carolina loses out and Miami falls to either Georgia Tech or Pittsburgh. With losses already against Miami and North Carolina, the tiebreakers are not kind to David Cutcliffe’s team.
▪ Miami: Miami can earn a rematch with Clemson (which drubbed the Hurricanes 58-0 last month) with three wins in a row and a North Carolina loss to either Virginia Tech or N.C. State. That would give the Hurricanes a perfect Coastal record (and thus a tiebreaker over every school) and ensure every team in the division owns at least two losses.
▪ Pittsburgh: There’s a few more permutations here, but the simplest way for the Panthers to secure the Coastal is to win their last three and for North Carolina to lose twice. Pittsburgh won’t win a head-to-head tiebreaker with the Tar Heels.
Both Virginia and Virginia Tech could still (mathematically, anyway) tie for a division title, but neither has the ability to claim a tiebreaker.
The Cavaliers (3-6, 2-3) have already lost to Miami, North Carolina and Pittsburgh, and at least two of them would have to also be 5-3 if the Tar Heels lost out (Miami would have a fourth league victory by beating North Carolina, and Miami and Pittsburgh play the last weekend of the season, ensuring another five-win team).
Virginia Tech (4-5, 2-3) would go deeper into a tiebreaker if it gets a three-way tie with North Carolina and Pittsburgh. In this scenario the Panthers lose to Duke and Louisville but beat Miami, while Miami also loses to Georgia Tech and Duke falls to either Virginia or Wake Forest. The three tied teams would have split their games with each other. But the next tiebreaker is division record, and the Hokies would be just 3-3 in the Coastal if this permutation played out while North Carolina and Pittsburgh would be 4-2.
N.C. State, which visits Florida State on Saturday, owns two road victories (2001 and 2005) against the Seminoles since they joined the ACC in 1992. What other ACC schools have multiple league victories over Florida State in Tallahassee in that span?
Select company for Williams?
North Carolina quarterback Marquise Williams set a school record with 494 passing yards in Saturday’s 66-31 victory over Duke. That figure ranks as the largest total of the season in the ACC (eclipsing Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson’s 420-yard effort against Boston College) and checks in at No. 10 on the conference’s all-time single-game list.
Saturday’s date with Miami provides Williams the opportunity to do something even rarer. Only three players in conference history have authored consecutive 450-yard games. Wake Forest’s Rusty LaRue did it in back-to-back-to-back games to close out the 1995 season, throwing for 478 yards against Duke, 501 yards against Georgia Tech and 545 yards against N.C. State.
In the midst of his Heisman Trophy-winning campaign in 2000, Florida State’s Chris Weinke had 496 yards in a loss to Miami and followed it up in the next game with a 536-yard showing against Duke. Maryland’s Scott Milanovich was the first ACC player to post back-to-back 450-yard games, doing so in 1993 in losses to West Virginia (451) and Virginia Tech (498).
The league’s single-game record holder, Miami’s Stephen Morris, nearly made the list. A week before blistering N.C. State for 566 yards in 2012, he threw for 436 yards against Georgia Tech.
In addition to N.C. State, Boston College (2006 and 2008), Miami (2007 and 2009) and Wake Forest (2006 and 2008) also own two ACC victories over Florida State in Tallahassee.