Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
ATLANTA -- The only thing left for Georgia Tech to beat in the ACC is the odds.
Stranger things have happened, and defensive tackle Darryl Richard knows it. After all, he plays in this league.
"Who knows, in this conference, I'm telling you, the way they play hot potato with the trophy, don't be surprised if somebody gives it up on Saturday and we get to sit there and watch them do it," Richard said, grinning after his team's 41-23 throttling of Miami. "It's great to just sit back and watch. That's what we're going to do, sit back and watch."
And Richard knows exactly what needs to happen this weekend for the Yellow Jackets (8-3, 5-3 ACC) to sneak into the ACC Championship Game despite its 2-3 record against Coastal Division opponents.
"We need NC State to handle North Carolina, if Clemson wants to play in a bowl game this year they're going to take care of Virginia, and hopefully Virginia gets something done in Blacksburg," he said without taking a breath, knowing there are currently five teams in the Coastal Division with three losses.
He laughed. Everyone laughed.
"I don't think it's all that hard," he said.
Considering what Georgia Tech has pulled off in Paul Johnson's first season -- eight wins despite a new offense, a new defense and a young, injury-laden roster -- watching the chaos should be much easier. Georgia Tech was picked to finish fourth in the Coastal Division behind Miami. Instead, they're sitting atop the division standings.
"Everybody pretty much laughed at us when we were killing ourselves in the offseason," Richard said. "Look at me now. Who has the last laugh?"
There's no question King Richard was holding court after his senior night win, one in which the defense played its best in recent weeks. Asked if Johnson should be named coach of the year, Richard didn't hesitate, and made several good points.
"How many people thought he was going to get it done?" Richard asked. "I mean, not only are we bowl eligible, but now we really have a chance to play in the championship game by a guy who came in and changed the offense from a pro style to an option-based spread. Let's be honest, if you can show me a better candidate, I would like to hear it, and I would definitely refute a lot of the facts people might put up, but he's done a hell of a job here."
It's hard to argue against the 6-foot-4, 290-pound grad student.
Johnson is just happy with the position his team put itself in.
"It's like I told our guys, when we wake up in the morning, we'll be in first place, because we finished our games," he said. "We're 5-3 and the best anybody else can do is 5-3. Who knows how it's going to work out with all the tiebreakers and with everything involved.
"But I know this: At the end of the year, we'll at least be co-champs, tri-champs, quad-champs, we'll be something. Nobody's going to have a better record. We might lose the tiebreaker, but we'll have a piece of the championship in our division."
Miami coach Randy Shannon, whose Hurricanes -- at least for a few days -- had sole possession of first place agreed this game was yet further evidence of how crazy and unpredictable the ACC can be.
"That's why I made the statement earlier in the season that in this conference, you never know who's going to win," he said. "Each week somebody may knock somebody off. Somebody may gain ground, lose ground. Every week you have to show up. This week, we didn't do a good job of showing up."
Next week, you can bet Richard will sit back and watch to see if they do it again.