March to Miami: Breaking Down the ACC Race
After Thursday night, however, there are 27 more conference games that will decide the ACC's representative in the Orange Bowl—or in one's team's case, a possible slot in the BCS Championship Game.
With five weeks to go in the regular season, let's see where each team stands.
Duke and North Carolina State
These two teams have played themselves out of contention for a conference title, but each has the opportunity to play spoiler and keep someone else on the outside looking in.
Chance of winning ACC: 0 percent
A 1-3 conference start has all but eliminated the Seminoles. With games against Boston College and Maryland still to come, four conference wins in a row would give the Seminoles a 5-3 record in the ACC.
Winning the conference would require Boston College to lose three more games and Wake Forest to lose twice. Don't count on it.
Chance of winning ACC: less than 1 percent
Maryland and North Carolina
Each of these squads are 1-2 in the conference, but they each get to play their respective division leaders. By running the table, a 6-2 division record would merit the use of a tiebreaker.
These two play each other November 3rd, in what will be the elimination game for the loser. Neither team really can expect to contend for a conference title.
Chance of winning ACC: 1 percent
The Jackets are the only ACC team so far to have played five conference games, going 2-3. Like Florida State, they would need to beat their remaining conference opponents (Virginia Tech, Duke, and North Carolina)—a difficult but not impossible task.
They would still need Virginia to lose at least three of its remaining games for a shot at the ACC crown.
Chance of winning ACC: 2 percent
The Tigers and Canes sit at 2-2 in conference play, and neither can afford a third conference loss.
Both have very difficult schedules down the stretch. Clemson has to play Maryland, Wake Forest, and Boston College, while the Canes do battle with Virginia, Virginia Tech, and Boston College.
Clemson is the better team, with a bit of an easier ride, but not by much. These two teams will likely be jockeying for a better bowl position, not a trip to Jacksonville.
Chance of winning ACC: 3 percent
The Deacons are 3-1 in ACC play, with big victories over Maryland and Florida State. They also avoid Virginia Tech and Miami on the schedule.
Wake has a chance to run the table—games against Virginia and Clemson will be tough but winnable—but they need Boston College to lose twice for a shot at the title (not outside the realm of possibility, but by no means a certainty).
While Wake is likely to be on the outside looking in, continued good play will see the Deacons land in a decent bowl game.
Chance of winning ACC: 5 percent
The Wahoos are living proof that it doesn't matter how you win them, just that you win them.
A 4-0 conference start is promising, but their remaining schedule is tough. Wake Forest, Miami, and Virginia Tech all will prove challenging.
The hot start gives UVA margin for error. If Virginia beats NC State this weekend, Al Groh's team will only need to beat either Wake or Miami and Virginia Tech to win the division.
We're about to find out what this team is made of.
Chance of winning ACC: 10 percent
The Hokies are 3-0, but have recorded wins over Duke and North Carolina. Over the next five weeks, the Hokies have to run the gauntlet of BC, Georgia Tech, Florida State, Miami, and Virginia.
The offense has been inconsistent and a quarterback controversy is brewing. Like UVA, Tech can afford a loss—as long as they beat Virginia on the last week of the season.
Chance of winning ACC: 15 percent
The No. 2 Eagles haven't played a conference game in over a month, and will play five conference games in five weeks, starting with Virginia Tech on Thursday night.
The Eagles then have to face FSU, Maryland, Clemson, and Miami. Matt Ryan's skill and leadership will certainly be put to the test.
The good news for the Eagles is that they have room for error.
At worst, they can afford to lose a game while maintaining their division lead. If Wake Forest stumbles, the margin increases.
BC is still the clear favorite to play in Jacksonville.
Chance of winning ACC: 60 percent
With these possibilities in mind, anything can happen. It starts in Blacksburg on Thursday—and will be certainly be a ride worth taking.
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