ACC Bowl Watch

This week we unveil a new "Bowl Watch" feature at Inside Carolina, covering the possible bowl destinations for ACC member schools. We will continue this feature until the bowl pairings are announced.

There is a lot left to play for in the ACC for many ACC teams: bowl eligibility, division titles, and bowl position. A lot can change, but here is a first look:

ACC TITLE GAME
Boston College vs. Miami

It is crazy task to predict the ACC race this year, but I see the season-ending game between Maryland and Boston College being played with the Atlantic Division title on the line. The Eagles defense will prove too much for the Terrapins and for the second straight year Boston College will emerge as the winner of the Atlantic Division. To get there, they have to beat Wake Forest on the road, but the Deacons seem to be struggling down the stretch, going 2-3 in their last five games. If Chris Crane limits his INTs, the Eagles will take the backdoor into the title game.

I pick Miami in the Coastal because they are the only team that controls its own destiny and because the 'Canes haven't lost a game since losing to North Carolina on Oct. 4. On the other hand, they have to play at Georgia Tech this Saturday and the Yellow Jackets have had a bye week to heal, rest, and prepare.

ORANGE BOWL
Boston College vs. Cincinnati

The Orange Bowl takes the ACC champion unless the champion plays in the national title game, which isn't going to happen this year.

If the ACC title race is between Boston College and Miami, I look for the Eagles to upset the ‘Canes in Tampa. I think the match-up favors the Eagles because the Hurricanes, facing the best pass efficiency defense in the ACC, won't be able to throw the ball – at all.

The conventional wisdom for the opponent would go with the winner of next week's Cincinnati/Pittsburgh match-up, the probable winner of the Big East. The Orange Bowl committee is likely praying for a better match-up, and more attractive ones could emerge if there are some shake-ups in the division title races.

One wild card might be to invite an undefeated non-BCS school, like Boise State or Utah. I am not sure how many of their alumni would travel to Atlanta, however, and any other BCS venue – the Fiesta, Sugar, etc. – would be better for Boise State or Utah.

CHICK-FIL-A BOWL
North Carolina vs. Ole Miss

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Ole Miss, in its first year under Houston Nutt, is bowl eligible and hasn't gone bowling since 2003. There will be a lot of pent up demand in Mississippi for a bowl trip, and Atlanta is about a five hour drive from Oxford. Alternatively, Kentucky is another good SEC opponent, though the Ole Miss folks would probably travel in larger numbers.

The bowl selection process requires the eventual ACC team to be within one win of the team with the best available conference record. That means the bowl committee will be able to select from among just about any of the bowl-eligible ACC teams. North Carolina would be an attractive selection for the Chick-fil-A. The Tar Heels haven't been bowling since 2004, but that was a day-trip bowl to Charlotte. Atlanta has a large UNC alumni population and would be a popular bowl choice for Tar Heel alums.

GATOR BOWL
Florida State vs. Notre Dame

The potential of this match-up likely has Gator Bowl officials salivating. FSU is still a big draw in the Sunshine State, and Notre Dame fans would be happy to travel to Jacksonville – they've been there before. The Gator Bowl might pass over higher-ranked teams like North Carolina, but so long as FSU is within one conference victory of the second-place team, it can take any ACC team they want. If that is the case, the committee would be very tempted to tap the Seminoles out of the ACC.

CHAMPS BOWL
Miami vs. Minnesota

Neither Miami nor Minnesota went to a bowl game last year under first-year head coaches Randy Shannon and Tim Brewster, respectively. Miami, and probably the Orange Bowl committee, is likely hoping for the Orange Bowl, but if the ‘Canes slip and don't win the Coastal Division or lose in the conference title game, they likely wind up here.

Minnesota would jump at the chance to play in Orlando, as it helps Tim Brewster mine fertile Florida recruiting turf.

The bowl selection process again requires the Champs Bowl to select an ACC team that is within one victory of the team with the best available record. Again, that covers several ACC schools.

MUSIC CITY BOWL
Maryland vs. Kentucky

I'd pick Wake Forest and Vandy here, but unless the bowl committee members wants to create a rematch of the season-ending game between the Deacons and the Commodores - and I don't see why they would - they could do worse than Maryland and Kentucky as their match-up. Nashville would be very accessible to Kentucky, and reasonably so to College Park.

Note: If the Music City, Meineke, and Emerald Bowls can agree to each take a different choice and the teams chosen agree to the choices, then their picks stand. If not, then the bowls will choose in the following order and must choose a team within one win of the team with the best available Conference record:
1. Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl
2. Meineke Car Care Bowl
3. Emerald Bowl

MEINEKE CAR CARE BOWL
Virginia Tech vs. Pittsburgh

The Meineke Bowl has the next ACC selection and has typically taken ACC schools close by – North Carolina, North Carolina State, and Wake Forest have all played in that bowl. This year, I look for them to break out of that mold and select Virginia Tech.

I like Pittsburgh as the Big East opponent in this match-up, though West Virginia could easily wind up here. In either case, it would generate an "Old Big East" vibe if Virginia Tech were involved.

EMERALD BOWL
Wake Forest vs. California

This Bay Area bowl game would be well-served if Cal winds up being the selection here, as appears entirely possible. Wake Forest fans are dedicated, but few in number. Having the Cal fans in close proximity would help bowl attendance.

HUMANITARIAN BOWL
Georgia Tech vs. Boise State

I hate to see an undefeated Boise State team fall this far in bowl consideration, but unless a BCS bowl taps Boise State, the Broncos could end up here. This might seem a tough bowl selection for the Yellow Jackets, who traveled to Boise last year, but they'll fare better if they beat Miami this week.

CONGRESSIONAL BOWL
Virginia vs. Navy

The Congressional Bowl committee would be very happy if the Cavaliers win one of their two remaining games - Clemson at home or Virginia Tech on the road - and become bowl eligible. With the the last ACC bowl selection, this committee would be thrilled with a Virginia/Navy match-up.

On the other hand, a Georgia Tech match-up would present its own intrigue, pitching Paul Johnson against his former team. If N.C. State and/or Duke win out, either would be contenders for this spot as well.


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