Before the season began I wrote a series of articles previewing each ACC team’s season. At the time I said that the Atlantic Division would be a three horse race between Clemson, Florida State and dark horse North Carolina State. Up until this point in the season I was slightly off with my predictions simply because I didn’t believe that Maryland was that good and could make it a race between four teams for the first eight weeks of the season.
That being said Maryland has lost two quarterbacks to season ending injuries in the last week and will be starting their fifth string (that’s right I said fifth) quarterback. So it is perfectly reasonable to expect the Terrapins to fall off the table, leaving the aforementioned three teams to fight it out.
All three of them have a single loss in conference play. Adding to the parity is the fact that both FSU and Clemson have lost to one of these three teams. Clemson lost to Florida State earlier in the season and Florida State lost to NC State a couple of weeks ago. The Wolfpack’s lone loss in conference was to Miami.
So now that the race is down to three the question is simple: who will stand alone atop the Atlantic Division come seasons end?
The answer may come down to a single game in the second to last week of the season. In that match-up NC State will travel to Death Valley to take on Clemson. If all three of these teams can win out until that point in the season then the NC State-Clemson match-up will be huge. However, that scenario has yet to play out.
Clemson is the only team of the three that does not have a single shred of control when it comes to winning the division. When the Tigers lost to the Seminoles they almost totally blew their chances at winning the Atlantic. Both Clemson and FSU are currently 4-1 in ACC play, but because Clemson lost the head-to-head match-up they are stuck behind the Seminoles for good unless FSU loses another game.
Dark horse contender NC State is the only team in this division that has total control over their destiny. The Pack is currently 2-1 in conference play and if they win out they will win the division. It’s just that simple. On Saturday NC State will take on rival North Carolina. If the Pack can get past the Tar Heels, then they will likely run the table up until that Clemson match-up. If that does occur and State can beat Clemson on the road then they would win the Atlantic. However, I do believe that Clemson is a better team and should be able to win that game, which brings us to Florida State.
When the Seminoles lost to NC State they said goodbye to their preseason National Title hopes. However, because they beat Clemson, their ACC title hopes are still alive and well. FSU’s toughest remaining ACC game this year is on the road against Virginia Tech. While the Hokies have been down this year the Seminoles cannot overlook them. FSU must win out if they are to have any reasonable chance at winning the division.
Here is the scenario that I think will play out. Florida State will win out, and NC State and Clemson will win out until they play each other. In that monster match-up Clemson will win, which will give the Atlantic Division to the Seminoles. Crazy things happen in the ACC every week and this entire scenario could fly out the window, but assuming there aren’t any more wild upsets on the horizon then the Atlantic Division will wind up in the hands of Florida State.