With a 7-0 record and tie-breaker edge over 6-1 Clemson, Florida State clinched the ACC Atlantic title last week. We know the Seminoles will be playing in Charlotte on December 7, but while the most interesting story line of the game could be FSU's national title hopes -- only Syracuse, Idaho and fading Florida stand between FSU and a 12-0 record -- it still might matter who the 'Noles play.
So ... who will Florida State play? The Coastal Division standings are a bit of a mess, and yes, David Cutcliffe's Duke Blue Devils are still in contention. But there is a clear favorite as we head down the stretch.
- Georgia Tech (5-2 in conference, 4-2 in division)
- Virginia Tech (4-2, 4-1)
- Miami (3-2, 2-1)
- Duke (3-2, 2-2)
- North Carolina (3-3, 1-3)
- Pittsburgh (2-3, 2-2)
- Virginia (0-6, 0-4)
Six of seven teams are within a game of the lead in the loss column, but thanks to wins over Georgia Tech, Miami, North Carolina, and Pittsburgh, Virginia Tech not only has the best overall division record, the Hokies also own a vast majority of the potential tie-breakers. And when you factor in that they are heavy favorites over each of their two remaining conference opponents (Maryland, Virginia), you find it will be pretty difficult for them to miss out on a trip to Charlotte.
Difficult, but not impossible.
The remaining schedules
For the simulation below (and the probabilities listed here), we will once again use win probabilities gleaned from the current F/+ rankings. Thanks to its elite defense, Virginia Tech still ranks 11th overall, while Georgia Tech comes in 27th, Miami 29th, Duke 37th, North Carolina 41st, and Pittsburgh 52nd. Duke and UNC are rising, and Miami is falling.
- Georgia Tech: at Clemson (31.1% chance of win)
- Virginia Tech: Maryland (99.0%), at Virginia (94.8%)
- Miami: at Duke (57.5%), Virginia (93.8%), at Pittsburgh (67.4%)
- Duke: Miami (42.5%), at Wake Forest (76.4%), at North Carolina (40.1%)
- North Carolina: at Pittsburgh (45.4%), Duke (59.9%)
- Pittsburgh: North Carolina (54.6%), at Syracuse (65.0%), Miami (32.6%)
(Why is Georgia Tech given a nearly one-in-three chance of beating Clemson? Because Clemson's not that great. The Tigers rank just 23rd overall, four spots ahead of the Yellow Jackets.)
Instead of simulating all remaining impact games 1,000 or 2,000 times, I took a different approach this time. There are 1,024 potential scenarios regarding the 10 remaining games these teams play. I found odds and a winner for each scenario. Here are the results.
- Virginia Tech 87.1% (414 of 1,024 scenarios)
- Duke 9.4% (86 of 1,024 scenarios)
- Miami 2.2% (132 of 1,024 scenarios)
- Georgia Tech 1.2% (392 of 1,024 scenarios)
If you are a fan of chaos, this is disappointing. But chaos probably requires Virginia Tech to lose to Virginia or Maryland, and the odds of that just aren't very good. If Duke wins out and Georgia Tech loses to Clemson, the Blue Devils are in ... but Duke only has about a 13 percent chance of winning out.
So yeah, go ahead and prepare for FSU-VT. Because of Virginia Tech's pass defense, this might be the most intriguing, challenging potential matchup for Florida State -- okay, there's no "might be" about it -- but if you're looking for Coastal drama in the coming weeks, you're probably going to be disappointed.
This week's impact
Obviously the odds aren't going to change much unless Maryland beats Virginia Tech, but let's take a look at the impact of each of this week's relevant games.
Georgia Tech at Clemson (Thursday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)
As strange as this may sound, Duke has the biggest stake in Georgia Tech-Clemson. Georgia Tech's odds are minimal no matter what, and they do fall down to basically 0 percent with a loss, but a Yellow Jacket win more or less eliminates Duke from contention because of tie-breakers. Duke lost to Georgia Tech and needs a tie with Virginia Tech to advance.
If Georgia Tech wins: Virginia Tech 94%, Georgia Tech 4%, Miami 2%
If Clemson wins: Virginia Tech 84%, Duke 14%, Miami 2%
North Carolina at Pittsburgh (Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, ACC Network)
This one only matters if a lot of other crazy things happen, and this becomes a tie-breaker issue.
If North Carolina wins: Virginia Tech 87%, Duke 9%, Miami 2%, Georgia Tech 1%
If Pittsburgh wins: Virginia Tech 87%, Duke 10%, Miami 2%, Georgia Tech 1%
Maryland at Virginia Tech (Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, ACC Network)
This one only matters if a banged-up Maryland squad pulls off an incredible upset. (And for what it's worth, Virginia Tech's offense is flaky enough that nothing is a guarantee.)
If Maryland wins: Miami 36%, Virginia Tech 27%, Georgia Tech 22%, Duke 15%
If Virginia Tech wins: Virginia Tech 88%, Duke 9%, Miami 2%, Georgia Tech 1%
Miami at Duke (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU)
When you combine likelihood and impact, this is the biggest game of the week. A Duke win won't make the Blue Devils the division favorite, but their odds would improve from basically one-in-11 to two-in-9. That's the difference between needing a 4 when you roll two dice and needing a 4 or a 6.
If Miami wins: Virginia Tech 95%, Miami 4%, Georgia Tech 1%
If Duke wins: Virginia Tech 76%, Duke 22%, Georgia Tech 2%