Virginia Tech doesn’t deserve to play for the ACC football title, and Hokies fans likely would boycott in droves. But Tech’s chances of reaching the championship game aren’t as grim as they appeared after Thursday’s defeat at Miami.
That’s because the Hurricanes, who control the ACC Coastal Division race, may self-impose a bowl ban for the second consecutive year. Such a ban, designed to lessen future NCAA sanctions from the Nevin Shapiro extra-benefits scandal, would render Miami ineligible for the conference title game.
Long-term implications notwithstanding, self-imposing this year makes no sense to me on two fronts.
One, unlike last year when they self-imposed, the Hurricanes (5-4, 4-2 ACC) are poised to reach the conference championship contest, this for the first time in their nine ACC seasons. All they need to do is win at Duke in the regular-season finale Nov. 24.
Two, denying this team the chance to compete for the ACC title might nudge second-year coach Al Golden toward one of the suitors bound to courting him this offseason.
As last year, the decision rests with university president Donna Shalala. But complicating this call is the school’s vacant athletic director’s chair – Shawn Eichorst recently bailed for more stability and money at Nebraska.
Interim AD Blake James told the AP that Miami will inform the ACC of its decision as soon as it becomes bowl-eligible. The Hurricanes need one more victory to qualify for postseason and play Saturday at Virginia, which is 4-2 against Miami in the last six years.
On the off chance the Hurricanes do self-impose, the Coastal race would come down to Virginia Tech (4-5, 2-3), Duke (6-4, 3-3) and Georgia Tech (4-5, 3-3). Since the Hokies defeated the Blue Devils and Yellow Jackets, they would own all tie-breakers.
If Virginia Tech loses Thursday to Florida State as most (all?) expect, it would then need to beat Boston College and Virginia -- neither a given -- and have Duke and Georgia Tech lose at least one more ACC game. The Blue Devils and Yellow Jackets clash Nov. 17 in Atlanta. Duke’s other remaining conference game is Nov. 24 at home against Miami; Georgia Tech’s is Saturday at North Carolina.
The Tar Heels (6-3, 3-2) are the class of the Coastal but are ineligible because of NCAA sanctions.
A 6-6 Hokies team in the ACC championship game would be similar to UCLA reaching the Pacific 12 title contest last season at 6-6 because of NCAA sanctions at Southern California. The Bruins lost to Oregon but were still granted bowl eligibility at 6-7.
Already chafed by this discouraging season, Virginia Tech fans aren’t about to pony up en masse for the ACC championship game or subsequent bowl. Given ticket prices, travel costs and the Hokies’ record, hard to blame them.
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