Things can change quickly in college football. After the 34-3 loss to Virginia Tech, North Carolina was in a pretty big hole in the Coastal Division race. They were a game behind in the loss column to a team that had the head-to-head edge over them. Fast forward a week, UNC still needs some help to win the division, but the Tar Heels are in a much better place.
The Hokies’ loss to Syracuse gave UNC an opening in the Coastal Division race. The next three weeks may be key to whether the Tar Heels can win the division, and only part of it is in their control.
Due to Virginia Tech’s win over UNC, the Hokies hold the tiebreaker should the two teams finish in a two-way tie atop the division. In order to definitely finish ahead of Tech, Carolina needs the Hokies to drop at least one more conference game. Virginia Tech’s two most drop-able games come in the next two weeks.
This coming Thursday, Tech hosts Miami. The Hurricanes’ losses in the past two weeks have taken the sheen off Miami’s 4-0 start. However, Miami needs a win not only to get back on track, but also to keep their own Coastal Division hopes alive. Dropping to 1-3 would in all likelihood eliminate the Hurricanes.
The following week, Virginia Tech also plays a big game with Coastal implications. Following their loss to UNC, Pitt has won three straight games, including two in conference. The Panthers still have a tough conference road ahead of them after Virginia Tech, but they also may be capable of knocking off the Hokies.
After that, there is also a Pitt-Miami game on November 5th. Should neither of them beat Tech, then that game’s significance drops off. If one of them or both beats the Hokies, than that game will also be important in the Coastal.
If Virginia Tech drops another game, then UNC is in control of their own destiny. However, if one of Tech’s losses comes to Miami or Pitt, then it also opens the door to UNC losing a second conference game and still having a chance.
Should UNC, Virginia Tech, and Miami/Pitt finish in a three-way tie at 6-2. It will probably mean they went 1-1 against each other, which would get into the interesting portion of the ACC’s tiebreakers. At this point in this season, it’s too early to get too in depth about the scenarios in a multi-way tie, but at this point, UNC can take a second conference loss and not be totally out of it. It would be really bad if they did, especially to another Coastal team, but they still could lose and have a shot.
Of course all of this could become moot if UNC stumbles down the stretch. At this point, the easiest way for the Tar Heels to get back to the ACC Championship Game is to win out and hope they get some help. Unless things go south in a hurry, UNC will likely be favorite in all their remaining games. They definitely have a good shot at the division. Whether or not they get the help they need will likely be decided in the next three weeks.