Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets defensive end Emmanuel Dieke (93) tackles Pittsburgh Panthers offensive linesman Artie Rowell (57) after an illegal forward pass during the second quarter at Bobby Dodd Stadium. Tech won 21-10. (USA TODAY Sports: Kevin Liles)
Florida State is assured a spot in the ACC championship game. That seems so elementary at this point.
The Seminoles are really eyeing something much bigger. They have designs set on the national championship and they have a clear path to playing in the BCS title game.
Two days after Oregon’s loss to Stanford likely boosted Florida State’s stock, the Seminoles did their part by tearing apart Wake Forest in a 59-3 stomping. Don’t blame the Demon Deacons for looking so feeble, they were just next in Florida State’s path of destruction.
The directions are mostly simple at this stage for Florida State to put the ACC back on the national title map. The Seminoles have home games against Syracuse and Idaho and a trip to in-state rival Florida and then the matchup against a to-be-determined opponent in the ACC championship game.
The rest of the ACC seems to be playing for bowl positioning. At this point, there’s lots undetermined that that area.
A pretty good matchup looms next on the ACC schedule with Georgia Tech visiting Clemson for a nationally televised game Thursday night. Those are among the teams playing for second fiddle.
Georgia Tech will be the first Coastal Division team to finish its league schedule. An upset of Clemson would make the Yellow Jackets the front runners.
There’s talk about the ACC flooding the bowl scene for the postseason, but there are still some shaky issues out there.
So far, Florida State, Clemson, Duke, Virginia Tech and Miami are in the bowl scene. Georgia Tech needs seven victories to qualify because of two non-FBS teams on the slate, so the Yellow Jackets have tough matchups with Clemson and Georgia, but should be OK with Alabama A&M on the schedule, too.
The only team eliminated so far is Virginia, but North Carolina State needs a three-game winning streak in order to qualify and Wake Forest must win its last two games to extend its season.
Maryland has been sitting on the five-win mark for a month and it’s bound to get dicey for the Terrapins with two of their remaining three games on the road.
Still, there are a bunch of five-win teams that must play each other among some of their games. For instance, Syracuse plays Pittsburgh and Boston College; Boston College faces Maryland.
North Carolina can work its way into the bowl mix, too.
Here’s a midweek game that has all sorts of ramifications in the chase for the ACC championship, but there’s a Top 10 team that can’t figure into the title picture. That’s because Clemson already has been eliminated from the title hunt because Florida State will represent the Atlantic Division in the ACC championship game.
But Georgia Tech could still make it back to Charlotte, N.C., for the second year in a row.
That’s certainly an oddity within the ACC. There’s another one, too. This will mark Georgia Tech’s second consecutive trip to Clemson, which is a team it meets annually as its cross-division partner. That’s a scheduling quirk brought about by the conference expansion.
“It’s a fun place to play because the fans are always into it,” Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said of Clemson’s famed “Death Valley.”
Johnson said the crowd noise shouldn’t be a hindrance because the Yellow Jackets rotate players into the game with the play calls. But other elements of the atmosphere could come into play when it comes to snap counts.
Georgia Tech doesn’t control its own destiny in the division race, but the Yellow Jackets are the only team in the Coastal Division with five victories. Some teams will have three remaining league games after Georgia Tech is finished with its ACC slate in the Thursday night game.
There are countless mathematical possibilities involving just about every team except for Virginia.
“We’ve got more than enough to worry about going to Clemson,” Johnson said.
—The theme began a couple of weeks back and now it has come even more full circle for Coastal Division contender Duke.
The final four opponents for the Blue Devils are without arguably their top offensive player. This has the prospects of shaping up nicely for Duke.
The defeated North Carolina State, which was without injured WR Bryan Underwood (10 touchdowns in 2012), who suffered a broken collarbone two games earlier. Next is a visit from Miami, which no long has RB Duke Johnson available because of a season-ending injury. Then comes a trip to Wake Forest, which recently lost the ACC’s active receiving leader in WR Michael Campanaro to a broken collarbone. Then the Blue Devils wrap up the regular season at North Carolina, who lost one of the school’s all-time passing leaders in QB Bryn Renner, who had season-ending shoulder surgery.
If Clemson defeats Georgia Tech on Thursday night, then Duke controls its own destiny in the Coastal Division. The Blue Devils have never been to the ACC championship game, so even whiffing the top of the standings is an unusual place for Duke.
Duke sat out a few starters with nagging injuries against N.C. State. There was a purpose with that.
“We didn’t want to sacrifice one game that might cost us three,” Duke coach David Cutcliffe said, figuring extra rest could help those players return rather than have them re-injured and miss more time.