This past weekend was not a very pleasant one for the Coastal Division. The six teams went 2-4 in ACC play, with only Georgia Tech's victory over hapless Boston College keeping the division from the worst possible outcome. Only two Coastal teams, UNC and Duke, are above .500 for the season, and only Duke and Miami are above .500 in conference play. Throw in the fact that UNC is ineligible to win the Coastal, and folks on Twitter began to ask, "Could the Coastal Division champion have a record as bad as 4-4?"
In fact, in a normal year it's theoretically possible to produce a 3-5 division champion. It just requires all teams to go 0-3 against the Atlantic and then play one another to near draws, with three or more teams going 3-2. With UNC ineligible, it could have been worse, as a 2-6 team might have represented the division in the ACCC. (For that to happen, UNC would have to run the Coastal table, with the remaining five teams going 0-3 against the Atlantic and 2-2 amongst themselves.) These, of course, are edge cases, and there was practically no chance of such a scenario occurring even before UNC lost this weekend. Still, I'll admit to rooting for the Coastal to sink to depths heretofore unexplored in the ACC, because a) such failure will require UNC to win many football games and b) Duke currently tops the division standings, and I will not accept them making a championship game without the entire conference left in shambles because of it.
To that end, I'm starting a new weekly feature - Coastastrophe Watch, where we'll judge just how embarrassing the Coastal Division is each week, and plan out how it can get even worse. I will not rest until the entire championship-eligible lot is below .500 and Florida State as decamped to another conference in a snit. We can make this happen.
Let's start with the conference standings. The primary impetus for the Coastal Division ridicule is that name right there at the top, Duke. Yes Duke, who last had a winning season in 1994, is currently in control of their own destiny, topping the division because North Carolina CAN'T TACKLE OR SCORE IN THE RED ZONE AND OH GOD WHY DID WE LOSE TO DUKE OF ALL TEAMS.
Trailing Duke by half a game is Miami, loser of three straight and victims of two 35+ points blowouts against ranked teams. And the top half of the division is rounded out by the ineligible Tar Heels. It's no surprise that this is drawing ridicule, as it's a result that would be almost unimaginable at the start of the season.
Still, we can make this worse. Here's the worst-case scenario for the conference. Under optimal Coastastrophe conditions, Duke loses out — not an unreasonable assumption, in fact — Miami loses to VT, UVa, and out-of-conference South Florida and fails to qualify for a bowl, while Virginia Tech loses their last three games. To be honest, the biggest stretch in this scenario is Virginia winning a pair of games. Only the Hokies and the Blue Devils qualify for bowls, and the ACC as a whole gets to witness Virginia Tech destroyed in the conference championship game.
Now for next week's games. It's an inopportune week to start Coastastrophe Watch; half the division has a bye this week, with Virginia Tech, Miami, and Virginia all taking the week off. North Carolina, of course, has Atlantic rival N.C. State, but there are two competing philosophies on how Tar Heel wins effect the general perception of the division. Should UNC lose, it's another knock against the talent level of the Coastal teams. Should UNC win, and it becomes more likely that the Coastal representative to the conference championship won't be the best team. Let the pundits debate that; we're all rooting for a Carolina victory anyway. Odds of Furthering the Coastastrophe: Undeterminable
Georgia Tech has their homecoming game against BYU, and the chance of embarrassment is high. The Cougars are winless on the road this year, but gave much better Notre Dame a scare recently. Throw in BYU's 8th-ranked run defense and the Yellow Jackets' own defensive woes, and the chance of GT bringing further shame to the ACC is pretty high. Odds of Furthering the Coastastrophe: 60%
And then there's Coastal-leading Duke, traveling down to Tallahassee to meet their Atlantic counterparts Florida State. This looks to be a disaster; Duke is 1-2 on the road, has never beaten FSU in the ACC, and is given no chance to win this. It's not even clear if getting destroyed by the Seminoles would be any more embarrassing than the current status of Duke standing atop the division. Either way, I don't expect the Blue Devils to be looked favorably upon come this Sunday. Odds of Furthering the Coastastrophe: 95%