DURHAM, N.C. (AP) — Nobody saw this coming: Either Duke or Georgia Tech could still win the ACC's Coastal Division title.
The Yellow Jackets became afterthoughts following their 2-4 start. And not much is ever expected from a Duke football program that hasn't had a winning season since 1994 — and already has been blown out four times.
But they'll play this weekend in Atlanta in a game that's surprisingly significant in the muddy division race.
"Nobody probably pictured us being in the position we are now," Duke defensive end Dezmond Johnson said Tuesday. "Especially having a chance to play in the championship, I would think there were probably slim to none, people thinking we were going to be able to play this (meaningful) game or even be in (the chase)."
Yet here both teams are, still alive and hoping to face the Atlantic winner on Dec. 1 in Charlotte with an Orange Bowl berth on the line.
Duke (6-4, 3-3) will win the division if it beats both Georgia Tech (5-5, 4-3) and fellow Coastal contender Miami. North Carolina also can climb to 5-3 in the league, and while the Tar Heels are ineligible due to NCAA sanctions, they can factor into the standings and tiebreaker scenarios.
Meanwhile, the Yellow Jackets will clinch a share of the title with a victory, but they'll some help to claim a third title-game berth since 2006.
Left for dead after losing four of their first six games — including a humbling 49-28 nonconference loss to Middle Tennessee State — Georgia Tech has thrust itself back into the title conversation by winning three of four, each by at least two touchdowns. That includes a 68-50 win over North Carolina in the highest-scoring game in ACC history.
"With the start we got off to this year, especially in the conference, we dug (ourselves) a huge hole," coach Paul Johnson said. "With all the things that have happened and the balance in the league, especially in our division, we've been able to come back."
Each of Duke's four losses has come by least 21 points — including back-to-back drubbings from the two Atlantic Division powers. No. 10 Florida State beat the Blue Devils 48-7 before No. 11 Clemson thumped them 56-20.