Will The Coastal Chaos Cost Seminoles?
By Eric Russell
C'mon, no college football fan really expected the final season of the BCS to go on without a reminder of how flawed the system is, did they?
However, this season, not only does the BCS get the negative spotlight, conference alignment shares some of the blame in the potential conundrum which will arrive in early December. If all of the unbeaten teams continue to win, two unbeaten conference champions will be left out of the national championship game. Four major-conference unbeaten teams the year before the college football turns to a four-team playoff. Ironic?
The protagonist in this year's drama is the ACC, in particular the Coastal Division. The ACC highlights the problems with the BCS, problems that were patched in 2004, but ultimately brought the system to demise.
After Georgia Tech's loss on Thursday, Duke, Virginia Tech and Miami have the best shot at claiming the Coastal Division's slot in the ACC championship against Florida State, which already earned a spot in the ACC title game. Duke is in the driver's seat heading into the game against Miami. However, the Seminoles could end up facing a Coastal opponent ranked in the 20s or even unranked if the drama continues.
With Florida State potentially fending off other unbeaten teams for a spot in the national championship game, the question becomes how will the Coastal Division log jam affect the Seminoles, if at all? Perhaps the answer can be found by looking at Michigan State. The Spartans are currently on top of the Big Ten Legends Division, meaning they are on a collision course with Ohio State should both teams win out.
The Spartans — already ranked No. 16 in the BCS — could be in the Top 10 by the Big Ten championship game. Would a Buckeyes victory over a Top-10 team in a give Urban Meyer's team BCS leverage over Florida State if the Seminoles beat Duke or Virginia Tech? Florida State did create some separation from Ohio State in the latest rankings and have looked more impressive in its victories. The Seminoles also boast two wins over Top-10 teams.
Meyer said his team is "invested" this season and that there's a lot of football to play so he's not focused on the BCS. The Ohio State coach knows all too well that there's nothing he can do to control the BCS polls — unless you're Mack Brown — other than win. After all it was Meyer who once got left out with an undefeated team (Utah in 2004).
But the Florida State, Ohio State dynamic is only part of the equation. Baylor also could end up unbeaten. The Bears don't have much chance to boost their credibility with a because of the current state of the Big 12. Instead, Baylor will have to hope Texas remains unbeaten so the season finale is a meaningful, de facto Big 12 championship. The departures of Missouri, Texas A&M and Nebraska sting a bit more this season. The Big 12 would be in the argument for best conference in the nation with those teams added. Perhaps the ACC should've poached some of the Big 12 schools so that they could have a formidable opponent for Florida State.
Only one of the top contenders in the Coastal, Miami, currently is ranked in the Harris or Coaches poll. The Hurricanes are No. 23 in both. Duke and Virginia Tech both received votes in the Harris poll.
This week's round of games will clear the picture some. Virginia Tech has the easiest path to six conference wins, with Maryland and Virginia left on the schedule. At the same time, the Hokies' season has been a bit of a roller-coaster ride. Maryland is no slouch either. Although they've been down the last few weeks the team is fighting to become bowl eligible.
Duke will role out its two-quarterback attack against Miami on Saturday, as Anthony Boone and Brandon Connette are both expected to see major playing time. Miami will be looking to bounce back from a two-game losing streak.
In a season that saw two Top-10 conference battles, it interesting that the ACC's biggest game of the year may be between No. 23 Miami and an unranked Duke.