Cracking The Coastal Cluster

So who’s going to win the ACC Coastal Division? I spent/wasted a lot of time today trying to figure this out. 

When I coined the phrase “The Coastal Cluster” I had no idea how … accurate … it would be.

Heading into tonight’s Georgia Tech-Clemson game,  let’s try to decipher who has any shot at the Coastal Division crown.

(Note: I fully expect to get at least part of this wrong. This is the sports writing equivalent of explaining anti-matter. Feel free to leave a comment below gently correcting my mistakes, whatever they may be.)

Scenario 1: Georgia Tech wins tonight, Duke wins out and Virginia Tech loses once more.

If that happens, then the Jackets are headed back to Charlotte for the second straight year.  They would finish 6-2 in ACC play and have the head-to-head tiebreaker against Duke, thanks to their 38-14 win in Durham earlier this season. Of course that requires the Hokies to lose to either Maryland or Virginia.

Scenario 2:  Georgia Tech beats Clemson, Miami beats Duke but loses once more, Virginia Tech loses once more.

Another Yellow Jacket route to Charlotte. It would require Miami to lose to either UVa or Pitt, and again, for the Hokies to fall to either Maryland or UVa.

The point – Georgia Tech needs to get to 6-2. And if any other Coastal team reaches 6-2, the Yellow Jackets need it to be just be Duke.

Scenario 3: Georgia Tech, Duke and Virginia Tech all finish 6-2.

That would leave all three at 6-2 and all three at 1-1 against the other two. The next tiebreaker is record within the division. Georgia Tech would be 4-2, Virginia Tech 5-1 and Duke 4-2. So in that scenario, the Hokies advance.

Scenario 4: Georgia Tech, Miami and Virginia Tech all finish 6-2.

Again, Advantage Hokies. Virginia Tech wins that three-way tiebreaker as well, thanks to its 2-0 record against the other two teams.

Scenario 5: Georgia Tech and Miami finish 6-2, but Virginia Tech loses one more.

Our first pro-Miami scenario. The Hurricanes win that tiebreaker.

So five scenarios so far, with two benefiting Georgia Tech, two benefiting Virginia Tech and one helping the Hurricanes. But clearly a Georgia Tech win tonight against Clemson is a-ok with the Hokies, who would only have to win their last two games to win the division.


But what if Georgia Tech loses tonight?

Scenario 6: Georgia Tech loses to Clemson and Duke wins out.

If Clemson beats the Yellow Jackes, then Duke controls its destiny. If the Blue Devils win out, their 6-2 league record could only possibly be matched by Virginia Tech and Duke owns the head-to-head win there.  (Wow, it felt strange to type that paragraph.)

Scenario 7: Georgia Tech loses to Clemson, Duke loses to Miami, Virginia Tech wins out. 

The Hokies need only beat Maryland and Virginia to book their trip to Charlotte to face FSU.  They would own the head-to-head tiebreaker should Miami win out and also finish 6-2.

Scenario 8: Georgia Tech finishes 5-3, Miami wins out, Virginia Tech loses one more.

The Hurricanes win the division.

Scenario 9: Georgia Tech 5-3; Duke beats Miami and Wake then loses to UNC; Virginia Tech loses one more; UNC wins out; Miami then beats UVa and Pitt.

Oh boy. Here we go …

This scenario would put Georgia Tech, Duke, Miami, UNC and Virginia Tech all at 5-3 in the Coastal. Yep a FIVE-WAY TIE atop the Coastal. #goacc at its finest, folks!

Georgia Tech would be 2-2 against the other three. Duke would be 2-2. Miami would be 2-2. UNC would be 1-3. Virginia Tech would be 3-1. Virginia Tech wins the tiebreaker.

Scenario 10: Georgia Tech 5-3; Duke beats Miami and UNC, but loses to Wake; Virginia Tech loses one more; Pitt wins out, beating UNC, Syracuse and Miami.

Yep, Pitt could somehow sneak into a tie for first too! In this four-way tie, Georgia Tech is 2-1 against the others, Duke is 1-2, Virginia Tech is 2-1 and Pitt is 1-2. Duke and Pitt are eliminated then. Virginia Tech wins by virtue of its victory at Georgia Tech.

Scenario 11: Georgia Tech 5-3; Duke lose to Miami then wins out; Virginia Tech loses once; Miami loses to Pitt; Pitt wins out.

Five-way tie again! Georgia Tech is 2-2, Duke is 1-3; Virginia Tech is 3-1; Miami is 2-2; Pitt is 2-2. Virginia Tech wins again.

Scenario 12: Georgia Tech 5-3; Duke beats Miami and UNC but loses to Wake; Virginia Tech loses one more; Miami beats UVa and Pitt.

Four-way tie at 5-3. Georgia Tech is 1-2, Duke is 2-1, Virginia Tech is 2-1, Miami is 1-2. Duke wins the tie-breaker by virtue of its head-to-head win over the Hokies.


Okay, we’ve assumed to this point that Virginia Tech would either win out or have one loss. What if the Hokies lose out and fall out of the race entirely?

Scenario 13: Georgia Tech 5-3; Duke beats Miami and Wake but loses to UNC; Miami beats UVa and Pitt; UNC wins out.

Four-way tie: Georgia Tech 2-1, Duke 1-2, Miami 2-1, UNC 1-2. Duke and UNC drop out. Miami then wins tiebreaker over Georgia Tech by virtue of head-to-head win.

Scenario 14: Georgia Tech 5-3; Duke loses to Miami then wins out; Miami then loses to Pitt; Pitt wins out.

Four-way tie: Georgia Tech 2-1, Duke 0-3, Miami 2-1, Pitt 2-1. Duke is eliminated.

Now it’s down a three-team tie: Georgia Tech 1-1, Miami 1-1, Pitt 1-1.

On to the next step, divisional records. Georgia Tech 4-2, Miami 4-2, Pitt … drumroll … 4-2.

Okay let’s take it up a notch to level 3! This time it’s head-to-head records against the other members of the division, from top to bottom.

All three would have wins over 5-3 Duke.

What about 4-4 Virginia Tech? Nope, all three would have losses.

How about 3-5 UNC? Yep, all three have wins there.

How about 1-7 UVa? Again, all three have wins.

Wow. Now we’re on to level four – combined record against common non-divisional opponents. There … isn’t one for all three.

Level five – non-divisional record, period. Georgia Tech would be 1-1. Miami would be 1-1. Pitt would be … 1-1.

Level six – basically it’s step 3 but for common non-divisional opponents. Again, there isn’t one for all three. So …

Finally, level 7 – the final BCS rank for each team is the tie-breaker. As of today, Miami would win out, by virtue of its No. 23 ranking.


 Okay so tallying up what I have so far: 14 potential Coastal Division scenarios but I’m sure I’m missing a few. 

So what’s the takeaway? It looks it truly is down to Duke, Georgia Tech, Miami or Virginia Tech. I couldn’t come up with a scenario in which either Pitt or UNC could win the division. 

Virginia Tech is still your front-runner, with 5 of 14 scenarios favoring the Hokies. Four scenarios favor Miami. Duke and Georgia Tech each had two favorable scenarios.