BOSTON (AP) The Southeastern Conference has two schools in the state of Mississippi – and almost an entire division, in fact – stalking a berth in the new college football playoff. The Big Ten, often maligned, has Michigan State on a course for the national semifinals and a couple of other ranked, one-loss schools standing by if the Spartans falter. The Big 12 and Pac-12 each have a handful of teams in the polls, too.
The Atlantic Coast Conference has only Florida State.
The defending NCAA champions have cruised to a 6-0 record and a comfortable spot near the top of the Top 25. But as the second-ranked Seminoles (6-0) head into this weekend’s game against No. 5 Notre Dame, they are carrying not only their own title hopes but those of their whole conference.
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”You want the league to do good; you want the league to do good nationally, no doubt about it,” said North Carolina coach Larry Fedora, who like many of his colleagues added that he was mostly worried about his own team, for now.
Fedora’s Tar Heels lost 50-43 to the Fighting Irish last week and are now back in the conference getting ready for Georgia Tech, which was ranked 22nd before falling to Duke on Saturday and dropping out of the rankings. Clemson is now the only ACC team in the Top 25 other than Florida State – but with two losses already and a No. 24 ranking, probably too far to climb into playoff contention.
That means the Seminoles are the conference’s best – and perhaps only – hope of getting an ACC team into a four-team playoff that will leave out at least one power conference champion. If the Seminoles lose this weekend to the last currently ranked team on their schedule, the ACC could lose out on a postseason berth, the $6 million payday that goes along with it and bear the stigma of being the worst of the Big Five leagues.
”It would be big if we get an ACC team into the playoff,” said Boston College quarterback Tyler Murphy, who as a Florida transfer has more trouble than most rooting for the Seminoles. ”And, as a competitor, you hope FSU will be undefeated when they come into our game.”
Conferences have their rivalries, but most teams are able to put that behind them when it comes to nonconference games. So finding a favorite in this weekend’s game between the Seminoles and Irish isn’t too difficult for most ACC players and coaches.
But that only goes so far.
”You don’t want to root for your enemy, but the enemy of your enemy is your friend,” BC lineman Bobby Vardaro said, mindful of the fact that the Eagles and Seminoles will meet on Nov. 22. ”Then it just looks a lot better when we beat them.”
North Carolina quarterback Marquise Williams doesn’t have any divided loyalties.
The Tar Heels don’t play the Seminoles this season, so he won’t have to worry about trying to beat Jameis Winston, a friend he talks to frequently, or the damage that a Florida State loss could do to their conference.
”If they make it to the national championship, all ACC schools would pull for them,” Williams said. ”We don’t want an SEC school because ACC schools don’t get enough credit. That’s how we feel. So if Florida State was to make it a national championship, I’m pretty sure we would root for them, because that’s the ACC.”
For sure, the other conferences have their own problems.
The Big Ten was largely written off after Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State all lost nonconference games on the same early season weekend. The SEC is thought to be so deep and so strong, with four schools in the West Division in the top 10, that its conference champion could wind up with two losses. The Pac-12 has no unbeaten teams remaining.
Asked about the possibility of the ACC being left out, Boston College coach Steve Addazio made the case for his conference, noting that last year it produced the national champion along with the winners of the Heisman Trophy winner (Winston), the Doak Walker Award (BC’s Andre Williams), and Outland Trophy winner (Pittsburgh’s Aaron Donald).
”I’m worried about BC No. 1, obviously. Then I can worry about the conference,” Addazio said.
”Now, when the season’s over, I’m carrying the banner, and I’m going to wave it just like this,” he said, putting two hands on an imaginary flagpole and swaying them back and forth. ”I’m waving the banner. And believing it.
”I’m interested to see how this is going to roll.”
AP Sports Writers Aaron Beard, Hank Kurz, John Kekis and Charles Odum and AP College Football Writer Ralph Russo contributed to this story.