ATLANTA — There's no other way to say it: The ACC's Coastal Division is a mess.
A month is left in the season, and — for better or worse — the race remains wide open.
The preseason favorite is having its worst season in two decades. Last week's leader absorbed a 41-point beating from the first-place team in the other division. What could be the division's most complete team isn't allowed to win it.
And the struggles in the Coastal — and the rest of the league, really — aren't helping the ACC's two best teams in the BCS rankings.
No. 9 Florida State and No. 10 Clemson, both in the Atlantic Division, are in the top 10 of the human polls used by the BCS. But they each have an average computer ranking of No. 21 and are considered longshots to climb back into the national championship picture, in large part due to the mediocrity of their conference mates.
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney isn't worried that the rest of the ACC is dragging down his team's ranking.
"When it's all said and done, we will be where we need to be," Swinney said.
But there's no escaping this: The team that advances out of the Atlantic Division and reaches the ACC championship game won't get much of a strength-of-schedule boost from their opponent in Charlotte. Not when the Coastal has nobody in the Top 25 and four two-loss teams topping the standings.
Yet the coaches don't see that as a negative — but a positive, because for the most part, everyone still has a shot.
"I'm glad it's a muddled mess that we're muddling in it," Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. "That's a good thing. That's November and meaningful games."