Fit to Be Tied
By creating a three-way logjam in the ACC, Florida State got a chad up on a BCS bid
Maryland, one of five top 15 teams to have its unbeaten record spoiled last Saturday, will really regret its 52-31 loss at Florida State once it gets a load of the ACC three-way tiebreaker. If Maryland (5-1), Florida State (4-1) and North Carolina (4-1 going into Thursday night's game against Georgia Tech) tie for the conference crown, the ACC berth in the BCS will be decided by averaging the standings of the teams in the AP (media) and USA Today/ ESPN (coaches) polls.
This week Florida State is 14th in each poll, Maryland is ranked 15th by AP and 16th by USA Today/ ESPN, and North Carolina is rated 22nd and 26th, respectively. If the teams were to end the season ranked like that, the Seminoles would get the league's automatic bid—helped no doubt by a Bobby Bowden vote for the Seminoles in the coaches' poll. Ralph Friedgen of Maryland also has a vote, but John Bunting of North Carolina doesn't Bunting won't like the two-way tiebreaker, either. If, in an average of the two polls, the loser of the game between the two teams is ranked at least five spots ahead of the winner, then the ranking supersedes the game result.
That could also be known as the Florida State Rule because the league first adopted a similar tiebreaker in 1996, for the then Bowl Alliance, to ensure that its highest-ranked team (i.e., the Seminoles, who have finished in the top five of both polls in each of the last 14 seasons) would get the league's best bowl berth. Before that, the ACC allowed a bowl to pick between co-champions. In 1995, for example, Florida State and Virginia tied for the tide after the Cavaliers upset the Seminoles 33-28. Florida State, 9-2 and No. 8 at the close of the season, was chosen by the Orange Bowl over Virginia, 8-4 and No. 18, which went to the Peach Bowl.
This season, if the current rankings were to stand, the Seminoles would be invited to a BCS bowl instead of the Tar Heels, who humiliated Florida State 41-9 on Sept. 22. If Florida State loses one of its last four games, including a Nov. 17 match at No. 4 Florida, the Seminoles will finish 8-3; if North Carolina wins out, it will finish 9-3. So the ACC representative in the BCS could come down to how far Florida State falls in the polls.
Complicating matters is the fact that Clemson coach Tommy Bowden, whose Tigers lost 38-3 to North Carolina on Oct. 20, has a vote too. "Until John Bunting puts me in his will," says Tommy, a son of Bobby, "the vote will go to Florida State."
Seven Up for the Orangemen
After quarterback Donovan McNabb graduated from Syracuse following the 1998 season, Syracuse went 13-10 in the ensuing two years and lost its seat alongside Miami and Virginia Tech in the Big East oligarchy. When the Orangemen started this fall 0-2, the criticism of coach Paul Pasqualoni, which had first been voiced a year ago, intensified. After Syracuse won its seventh straight game, 22-14 over No. 5 and previously undefeated Virginia Tech last Saturday, Pasqualoni said, "The hottest fire makes the strongest steel."
His reference was to early-season losses to Georgia Tech and Tennessee, No. 10 and No. 8, respectively, at the time. Besides, Pasqualoni is too courtly to wave the victory in the face of critics. One of his best friends, offensive coordinator George DeLeone, showed no such restraint. "For a team to become successful after no one gave it a chance," DeLeone said, "that's one of the great moments I've had in coaching."
Of the 31 teams mat stumbled to an 0-2 start this year, only 19th-ranked Syracuse and Miami of Ohio have gone undefeated since. ( North Carolina, ranked 22nd, started 0-3 and has gone 5-0.) Granted, three of the Orangemen's victories were over Big East weaklings Rutgers, Pittsburgh and Temple (6-15 combined), and two more have come against Central Florida (4-4) and East Carolina (4-3), but give Syracuse credit for knocking off Auburn and Virginia Tech.