How Georgia Tech can still win the ACC Coastal

2:33 p.m Monday, Oct. 30, 2017 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
CLEMSON, SC - OCTOBER 28: TaQuon Marshall #16 of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets signals to his team against the Clemson Tigers during their game at Memorial Stadium on October 28, 2017 in Clemson, South Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Despite a dispiriting loss to Clemson Saturday night, Georgia Tech is still in the chase for the ACC Coastal title. One path, if not terribly likely, is at least plausible.

It would require Georgia Tech to run the table in ACC play to finish at 6-2 in the league and then get some help to create a three-way tie for first. Here’s how it could happen.

Georgia Tech beats Virginia, Virginia Tech and Duke to finish at 6-2. Wins over Virginia and Duke seem manageable. Both teams are sliding, although both have typically given the Yellow Jackets trouble. The monster is Virginia Tech, whose defense appears to be even stronger than usual. The Hokies are second nationally in scoring defense at 11.5 points per game.

According to ESPN’s Power Football Index, the probability of that 3-0 finish is 22 percent.

Next, Miami, which is 5-0 in ACC play and 7-0 overall, would have to drop two of its final three league games, against Virginia Tech, Virginia and Pittsburgh. While a Virginia Tech win over the Hurricanes seems entirely possible, Miami also losing to either Virginia or Pitt seems less so. Still, Miami barely beat a hapless North Carolina team on Saturday and has won its past four games by a combined 18 points (including the one-point win over Georgia Tech). Pitt seems to be improving and will be at home against the Hurricanes.

ESPN’s probability for Miami losses to Virginia Tech and Virginia or Pitt: 13 percent.

The last piece requires the Hokies (3-1 in the ACC), as noted above, to beat Miami, then lose to Georgia Tech and beat Pitt and Virginia. (Georgia Tech needs Virginia Tech to finish 6-2 to avoid a two-way tie with Miami.) Again, a win over Miami, even on the road, doesn’t seem outlandish. Virginia Tech will be the best team that Miami has faced. Indeed, the Hokies are favored by a field goal, despite being the visiting team.

ESPN’s probability for Virginia Tech to finish 3-1, with the one loss to Georgia Tech: 15 percent.

Should all three teams finish at 6-2 in this manner, they’ll have to go to the second tiebreaker, as the three teams would be 1-1 in head-to-head competition. The next tiebreaker would be division record, which would eliminate Miami at 4-2, as both Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech would be 5-1.

Then Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech would revert to head to head, and in this scenario, the Yellow Jackets would head to Charlotte, N.C., by virtue of its win over the Hokies. 

The probability of all of these games unfolding in this manner, according to ESPN’s metrics: 2.3 percent.

Those hoping for the results to fall this way might take encouragement in the Jackets’ having overcome similar odds previously. In last year’s Tech-Georgia game, ESPN gave Tech a two percent chance of winning before it staged its two-touchdown rally to beat the Bulldogs.

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