In one of the worst weeks for the ACC ever, can we take solace in the fact that the Coastal Division isn't a complete fiasco?
We started this series of posts with one simple dream: to see the ACC Coastal Division collapse into chaos, with as few teams as possible becoming bowl eligible and North Carolina atop the standings, ineligible for the postseason. We got the chaos in spades, and a contagion that spread to the Atlantic; there are now two teams ineligbile for postseason play and yet the Coastal might still have more bowl teams than their opposing division, which has a member leaving the conference altogether. Come stand amongst the wreckage with us in this week's Coastastrophe Watch.
I'll admit, I was one of the steadfast few who thought there was no chance Miami would self-impose a bowl ban for the second year in a row. In part, that was based on what Miami fans were saying before the UNC game. But mostly it was because I couldn't imagine the NCAA treating it seriously. Last season, the Hurricanes opted out of a bowl suitable for a 6-6 team and called it a punishment; sure, they lose valuable practice time, but it was like sitting out the NIT in basketball. Now, they're passing up a chance to be ACC Coastal Champions and another middling bowl game. Speculation is the NCAA has something big in store, although it's not like the Hurricanes are self-docking scholarships or anything.
Either way, the Hurricanes' defection gives Georgia Tech the right to represent our sad little dumpster fire in Charlotte. The Hurricanes will try to tell themselves they are still the rightful champions should they beat Duke today, but thre's some self-delusion involved there. In fact, a Miami win would result in a three-way tie between the Yelow Jackets, Miami, and UNC, one which would require three steps in the tie-breaker to unwind. I think, should Virginia Tech beat Virginia today, the tie-breaker would go to UNC, but that's a very arcane discussion — would the results against similarly recorded Virginia Tech or Duke be the deciding factor? Either way, Miami has no more claim to a crown their ineligible to receive than the Tar Heels do.
So what's our new worst case scenario? Probably the one that puts the team with the most division titles, squarely at the bottom. This would involve Virginia beating Virginia Tech, a situation we'd all find it distasteful to root for, as well as eliminating any claim Carolina might have on a division title were they eligible to obtain one. A win over Maryland does, however, guarantee UNC the best overall record in the Coastal Division. (And let's face it, they'll probably take that honor anyway assuming Georgia routs their engineer brethren.) Duke beating Miami will also ensure that UNC is the only Coastal team above .500 for the season, while Virginia upsetting Virginia Tech will keep the number of bowl eligible teams in this division to an embarassing two.
That would still be only one less bowl-bound team than the Atlantic provides, should Wake fall to Vanderbilt. Yes, a conference with nine bowl slots to fill will provide teams for at most seven and possibly as few as five. Combine this with the first defection from the conference since South Carolina in 1971 and it's safe to say this is the worst month for the ACC since March 1979.
A Brief Digression On Just How Screwed Maryland Is
Maryland's departure from the ACC isn't based on any disagreement in policy or imagined slight, like that which drove South Carolina out in 1970. No, the Terps' athletic department needed money, plain and simple. Debbie Yow's tenure left them in tremendous debt, to the tune of nine non-revenue sports being cancelled. The Big Ten is their way out; standing in their way is the newly-instituted $50 million dollar exit fee.
Now Maryland Chancellor Loh appears convinced that won't be the cost to leave the ACC. John Swofford has every motivation to make sure the Terps pay full price, however, to ensure Florida State stays in the fold. So do the math. The Big Ten paid out $24 million per school versus $16 million from the ACC. If that trend holds, it will take six to seven years for this move to pay off. Will the televised sports money bubble burst in the next seven years? Ask yourself what the newspaper business looked like in 2005 versus now. The Terps could be the Countrywide mortgage of college football. If nothing else, the coming negotiations look to be... difficult, to say the least.
Now, onto today's games:
As of this writing, we're in the second quarter of Georgia-Georgia Tech, and the Yellow Jackets are already down by three touchdowns. There was never much of a chance of Tech outperforming their rival in this game to begin with, but the odds of avoiding embarassment are increasingly slim. Odds of Furthering the Coastastrophe: 80%.
Virginia vs. Virginia Tech is a tighter game. The Cavaliers seemed to have finally gotten it together this season before the second half Thursday night against the Heels, but they're still a bad team with multiple quarterbacks to choose from and no defense. The Hokies meanwhile are lost, but with an impressive streak against their rival they'd like to continue. And they probably will. Odds of Furthering the Coastastrophe: 30%.
Everyone's looking at UNC-Maryland as the first chance for the conference to abuse their newly-turncoat member. Brin has already previewed the game in detail; I'll just add that Maryland's defense, which looked impressive early, has been abused in the past few weeks, and UNC should be able to continue in that vein. Odds of Furthering the Coastastrophe: 20%.
And finally, there's Miami and Duke. The Hurricanes are playing for a conference championship no one but themselves wil recognize; the Blue Devils for their first finish above .500 since 1994. Your guess is as good as mine, frankly. Odds of Furthering the Coastastrophe: 50%.