The toughest call, with North Carolina on a bye, is who should win the Friday night game in Blacksburg. On one hand, a second conference loss for Virginia Tech puts you two games clear in the Coastal standings and likely eliminates a competitor for a Pool I bowl game. On the other hand, NC State is also very much a Pool I competitor, and without the Wolfpack on the schedule, losses are going to have to come from other teams. Cutcliffe has hit North Carolina hard on the recruiting trail, so another loss to slow down the NC State hype-machine can’t hurt, and neither can a couple more years of Frank Beamer. Go Hokies.
The other games are more simple … Clemson and Florida State need to win to keep the Tigers in the playoff hunt and to give Miami a conference loss. A Virginia win would be nice but not necessary with both Pitt and UVA remaining on the schedule. Nationally, the USC loss helped as they’ll drop out of the Top 25, and a strong showing against Army could move the Blue Devils into the polls heading into the bye week.
The Heels are in a great spot sitting at home this week with nothing to do but to cheer against conference rivals. UNC shares the same stakes as Duke in the Clemson and FSU games, so you’ll be cheering for the Tigers and Noles as well. Like Duke, Clemson and/or FSU in the playoff picture gives you a chance to move into a New Years Six slot, or more likely, the Russell Athletic Bowl.
A Duke loss doesn’t help in the standings, but it helps in perception. An NC State loss is always preferred, even though a Virginia Tech loss, coupled with Florida State beating Miami, could mean that you’re hosting the Coastal Championship Game on November 7th when Duke comes to town. As a team carried by the offense, Duke and Pitt worry you the most in the Coastal, so a Virginia win would be extremely helpful.
North Carolina State
On the opposite end of the spectrum, NC State would love the two Coastal teams, Georgia Tech and Miami, to pull off wins against their Atlantic opponents, Clemson and FSU, respectively. Assuming a Wolfpack win on Friday night, losses by FSU and Clemson would create a legitimate case of Atlantic Anarchy (trademarked) and almost entirely eliminate last week’s disappointing loss to Louisville. Those two upsets would put State back in the mix for the division.
Wake and Boston College play, but both are 0-2 in the league already, and neither pose a serious threat to jump up into the Pool I bowl picture. A Wake win may give the Deacs some confidence heading into next Saturday’s game with UNC, so this probably gives Wake the nod. Syracuse plays out of conference, so no reason to care.
Wake is in full “hate” mode at this point, just pretty much wanting the world to burn. You’ll definitely want to cheer against Duke because they’re on the verge of moving from private school upstart like you were a few short years ago into “Stanford of the East” status. This is critical for national, regional, and local perception because Wake and Duke go head-to-head on the recruiting trail quite a bit. Pretty much by rule, you should want Duke to lose every game. Just to be safe, cheer against Virginia too.
Within the division, losses by NC State and Syracuse help the cause to climb out of the Atlantic basement, which would help with bowl selection if the Deacs can somehow find four more wins. At the very least, finishing ahead of someone else in the division would be great motivation over the off-season as a tangible sign of improvement. It’s a stretch, but Florida State and Clemson wins promote the visibility of the league, which does trickle down throughout the conference. So go Noles and Tigers.