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A bottom-to-top assessment of the F.B.S. landscape heading into the 2012 season.

P.S.R. Op-Ed

Should the A.C.C. Pull for F.S.U.?

Sit down, take a deep breath and compose yourself. The news isn’t all bad, A.C.C.: Florida State could — very well might — represent the Atlantic division in the conference title game, which would give you a Virginia Tech-F.S.U. matchup on a national stage. That’s good; it’s good for ratings and for prestige, with the latter of equal importance for the most maligned B.C.S. conference this side of the woeful Big East. There does remain the chance, however, that Maryland trumps the Seminoles, coasts past N.C. State and steals an Atlantic title… this  might not be terrible, but it wouldn’t be good.

See, Maryland controls its own destiny. It begins on Saturday, when the Terps host F.S.U. in prime time: this will be the A.C.C. finale for the Seminoles, who hold a 5-2 mark in conference play. Maryland’s currently standing at 4-2, with Saturday’s game and another home date, one against N.C. State, still to play.

Two wins gives Maryland the Atlantic division. One win of the pair, however, likely doesn’t. Beat F.S.U. and lose to N.C. State, for instance, and the final Atlantic standings look like this: N.C. State, Maryland, Florida State. That’s due to the head-to-head tiebreakers, which would give the Wolfpack the edge over the Seminoles and the Terps and Maryland the edge over the Seminoles. That’s how I understand it, at least.

Lose to Florida State and beat N.C. State? The final Atlantic standings would then be Seminoles, then Terrapins, then Wolfpack. In this case, F.S.U. would top the division simply because of its final record: F.S.U. would be 6-2, Maryland 5-3 and N.C. State either 5-3 or 4-4, depending on how the Wolfpack fare this Saturday at rival North Carolina.

It seems convoluted. It is. To me, at least. Simply put, however, only two teams control their own destiny: Maryland, as noted, and N.C. State. Thanks to a win over Florida State, the Wolfpack take the Atlantic division with back-to-back wins. Most importantly, there remains a significant chance that the unexpected might occur: 6-1 through Oct. 16, F.S.U. might finish as low as third in its own division.

This was nearly unfathomable back in mid-October; some — including myself, I must admit — were imagining an 11-1 regular season for the Seminoles in Jimbo Fisher’s debut season. Those hopes ended with back-to-back losses to the Wolfpack and U.N.C., neither by more than four points. The latter defeat was made more painful by a pair of kicking miscues in the final quarter, though Dustin Hopkins made up for those gaffes with the game-winning field goal against Clemson last Saturday.

Now, the big question: does the A.C.C. need F.S.U. to win the Atlantic division? Need might be a strong word; the conference doesn’t need F.S.U. to do anything, of course, seeing that it sends a team to the B.C.S. regardless. Yet for a conference lacking in a national title contender, having the Seminoles face Virginia Tech in the conference title game might lend this woebegone league some credibility.

Perhaps I’m reading too much into it. The A.C.C.’s not the Big East, after all, and doesn’t face the specter of sending a team like Pittsburgh — or worse — to the slaughter against a stronger team in the Fiesta Bowl, for instance. Nevertheless, the A.C.C. must have some concerns. What if Maryland knocks off F.S.U. and N.C. State? That’s not terrible, as noted. But what if the Terps beat Virginia Tech in Charlotte?

What then? If that happens, the A.C.C. will be bombarded with negativity on a national scale: like the Big East, the A.C.C. will be derided for sending a weak team to the B.C.S. That Maryland wouldn’t be such a weak team — having potentially beaten three very good teams in succession — will be ignored.

In that case, for the good of the conference, the A.C.C. should be pulling for F.S.U. to knock off Maryland, take the Atlantic crown and represent the division in the conference championship game.

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  1. Matt Rob says:

    Taking this a step further, do you think it would be of further benefit to the ACC for Florida State to then beat Virginia Tech — so that the ACC isn’t derided for its champion being good enough to sweep the ACC but bad enough to lose to James Madison?

  2. FSU’s best ACC record since division play began (2005) is 5-3. With a win Saturday FSU will have its best conference record since expansion

  3. Year W L
    2005 5 3
    2006 3 5
    2007 4 4
    2008 5 3
    2009 4 4
    2010 5 2… could FSU see 6-2?

  4. Matt Rob says:

    I just have to interject with, go Terps!

    But seriously, I think Florida State has a great future ahead of them with their head coach.

  5. George says:

    Virginia Tech could finish the year at 12-2, which I would say is a pretty good record, JMU or no JMU. Geez, can you give that a rest? Nobody else ever had a bad day at the office, I guess.

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