Here's this week's look at the ever-changing bowl picture for ACC teams. Bear in mind that these are just our projections at this point, and will likely change again after next weekend's games.
We have heard that "proximity" is the watch word of all the bowls this year. The closer a bowl eligible team is to a bowl, the better its odds of getting there, within obvious restrictions.
ACC TITLE GAME
Boston College vs. Virginia Tech
The Maryland and Boston College game will decide the Atlantic Division title this Saturday. If Boston College wins, they win the division. Despite starting a reserve quarterback, I think 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.
I picked Miami in the Coastal last week because they controlled their own destiny, but they laid an egg in Atlanta. Virginia Tech gets the nod now, as a win against Virginia is all they need to win the Coastal yet again.
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.
The Orange Bowl committee is still likely praying for a better match-up, but this is looking more and more likely. Even though Virginia Tech could very easily beat BC in the title game, I like the Eagles to win even with back up quarterback Dominique Davis. The difference? BC has Steve Logan at OC, VT has Brian Stinespring.
One wild card is still to invite an undefeated non-BCS school, like Boise State or Utah. I am not sure how many of their alumni would travel to Miami, however, and any other BCS venue – the Fiesta, Sugar, etc. – would be better for Boise State or Utah than South Florida.
Virginia Tech vs. Ole Miss
Ole Miss, in its first year under Houston Nutt, is bowl eligible after not going 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 for the Peach, 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. It is still possible UNC could back door into this game, because it is known that the Chick-Fil-A people would love to invite the Heels, but I look for Virginia Tech, as the ACC runner-up, to wind up here. Hokie fans are known to travel well.
Florida State vs. Nebraska
The Gator Bowl would love to reprise this match-up that would have been a hot ticket in the 1990's. Both teams are hot right now and both are putting up some nice offensive numbers (particularly Nebraska). Proximity will bring the Seminole fans while the Cornhuskers would probably love this trip even in this economy.
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. 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, but Miami's proximity helps.
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North Carolina vs. Kentucky
I'd pick Wake Forest and Vandy here, but unless this bowl committee wants to be a little freaky and 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 North Carolina and Kentucky as their match-up.
Nashville would be very accessible to Kentucky and North Carolina fans, and their basketball feuds over the years might help attendance. These two fan bases do not like each other.
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
Wake Forest 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. I look for Wake Forest to get the nod again this year. North Carolina could wind up here as well if they lose this Saturday.
I like Pittsburgh as the Big East opponent in this match-up, though West Virginia could easily wind up here.
Georgia Tech vs. California
This Bay area bowl game would be well-served if Cal winds up being the selection here, as appears entirely possible. The Cal fans in close proximity would help bowl attendance.
Maryland vs. Boise State
I hate to see an undefeated Broncos team fall this far in bowl consideration, but unless a BCS bowls taps Boise State, they could end up here.
N.C. State vs. Navy
The Congressional Bowl committee would be very happy if N.C. State gets bowl qualified. N.C. State would have to beat Miami, but have them in Raleigh and while the Pack is hot, the Canes are not.
N.C. State Tom O'Brien would be playing against Navy, where he both played and coached.
If neither N.C. State or Virginia become bowl qualified, the inaugural Congressional Bowl will have to look outside the ACC for an opponent for Navy.