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Coastastrophe Watch: One Punt Return from Disaster Edition

Grant Halverson

When three teams from the Coastal Division have the week off, you'd figure the disaster could be contained. After all, the mere fact Virginia didn't take the field made for a stronger division. Instead, we got two blowouts and a game that, incredible as it was for UNC fans, put Florida State one step closer to the ACC Championship game. Pity the 4-4 team that joins them in Charlotte... it's time for Coastastrophe Watch!

Conference Standings
Team Conf. Overall
Duke 3-2 6-3
North Carolina 3-2 6-3
Miami 3-2 4-4
Virginia Tech 2-2 4-4
Georgia Tech 2-3 3-5
Virginia 0-4 2-6

First, the good news. Duke is no longer in sole possession of first place in the Coastal Division. North Carolina has joined them in breaking the six-win barrier, a feat that would have meaning were the Tar Heels ineligible to participate in the postseason. Duke remains tied with not yet bowl eligible Miami, which could set up a barnburner of season finale when the two teams meet. You know, if we didn't expect both of them to lose a couple of times in the interim.

Total Coastastrophe!
Team Conf. Overall
North Carolina 6-2 9-3
Virginia Tech 4-4 6-6
Miami 4-4 5-7
Duke 3-5 6-6
Georgia Tech 3-5 4-8
Virginia 2-6 4-8

As we'll see, there's no change from last week's worst case scenario since both Coastal teams who are postseason eligible lost, in humiliating fashion. Georgia Tech and Duke were outscored by their opponents 89-24. Even Virginia, who had the week off, managed to lose ground, as their Atlantic counterpart Boston College won against Maryland, leaving the Cavaliers has the lone ACC team winless in conference play.

But the fact that the Coastal Division is bad is no longer news. The question is, will they achieve the level of bowl-ineligible failure we're all rooting for? Here's the four games facing our brave little band of incompetents this coming week, and how we should be rooting:

We'll start with Duke. Fresh off of being stomped into the ground down in Tallahassee, the Blue Devils return home to meet the other ranked ACC team, Clemson. The Tigers have one loss, to FSU; they've scored 37 points or more in each of their last seven games. Duke's defense shouldn't have much luck stopping them, and this is almost certainly their last week atop the division. Odds of Furthering the Coastastrophe: 95%

Also a near certainty is Virginia, who travels to N.C. State. I'l be honest; the toughest order in achieving a full and total Coastastophe is that the Cavaliers will have to beat both Virginia Tech and Miami in November. Virginia might not win a game the rest of the season. They may forget how to find their own stadium. Bt they will certainly lose to N.C. State, even if Tom O'Brien plays for a tie for the full sixty minutes. Odds of Furthering the Coastastrophe: 99%.

Then there's Georgia Tech, the team who gave up 41 points after firing their defensive coordinator Al Groh. The Yellow Jackets are dancing close to train wreck status, having lst four of their last five. And yet the still have the only Coastal double-digit win over an Atlantic team, a 37-17 drubbing over Boston College. (Second biggest win? UNC over N.C. State. Third? Duke over Wake Forest. After that, nothing.) Luckily for Tech, they face a team so cursed I'm surprised they haven't been offered membership in this division - Maryland, a team with four losses and four quarterbacks with season-ending injuries.

Yes, you read that right. After losing Caleb Rowe to a torn ACL in the closing minutes of a game with Boston College, the Terps will turn to freshman linebacker Shawn Petty to lead the team from under center. Rowe was only playing in his second game, having originally been redshirted for the season. Maryland was forced to burn said redshirt against N.C. State after losing their second and third-string quarterbacks - the preseasons starter, C.J. Brown was injured during a non-contact drill before the season even started. In a normal year, there's very little chance of Tech losing this game; in this season, anything's possible. After all, Maryland's defense is slightly less horrible than much of the conference. Odds of Furthering the Coastastrophe: 35%.

And finally, there's the Thursday night game, Virginia Tech at Miami. The two teams most likely to be playing in Charlotte come early December - sorry, Duke - meet and provide an interesting conundrum for folks rooting for a Coastastrophe. A win by Virginia Tech brings us closer to the desired endgame, where only two teams qualify for a bowl and no one finishes with a record above .500. It also puts Tech squarely in control of their own destiny in the division, restoring the long-term lease the Hokies appear to have on the conference championship game. And let's be honest, Tech has the best chance (outside of UNC) of getting to seven wins, as their schedule after this consists of FSU, Boston College and Virginia. Miami has Virginia, USF, and Duke, and suffer the tendency of losing the occasional game in an inexplicable, well, Miami-like fashion. So you can really root for either team to lose, and justify the result in the Coastastrophe Firmament after the fact. Me, I'll stick with the belief that a Miami loss will be slightly worse for the Coastal. Nobody's coming out of this smelling like a rose, however. Odds of Furthering the Coastastrophe: 45%.