Florida State’s 41-14 thrashing of Miami last week kept the Seminoles push for the national championship on track, and kept them established as head-and-shoulders above the rest of the ACC. The conference still has a good race going on for the various bowl games they’re tied to, so with four weeks to go in the regular season, let’s take a look at some ACC bowl projections.
The league has nine bids to fill, including the automatic spot in the BCS, which is the Orange Bowl, unless the champion (presumably Florida State) ends up in the national title game. If the ACC should get an at-large selection to the BCS, everyone moves up one rung on the bowl ladder and that means the conference needs ten teams to fill out its commitments.
Getting to ten isn’t a lock yet, but the ACC looks in pretty good shape to wrap that up. Six teams are already eligible (Florida State, Clemson, Miami, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, Duke), and Maryland only needs one more win. The Terps have home games with Syracuse and Boston College and a road trip to N.C. State. None will be easy, but you have to think Maryland at least sneaks out with one win.
That leaves three more spots to fill, and three teams are sitting on 4-4 with big games ahead of them. Boston College is one of them and plays New Mexico State this week, a game the Eagles should certainly win and they also have a home date with N.C. State.
Syracuse needs two wins themselves and while they have to deal with Florida State, the Orange’s games against BC and Pitt are in the Carrier Dome and the road trip to Maryland is at least doable. It’s not a sure thing, but I’d cautiously lean toward Syracuse making it in.
Pitt is the team that’s going to have to fight. They have home games with Notre Dame and Miami, and another with improving North Carolina. The Panthers have the aforementioned road game at Syracuse. It hurts me to say, because I like Pittsburgh and their coach Paul Chryst, but the odds are against them winning two of these games.
Wake Forest, N.C. State and North Carolina have lost five games and have only one more loss to give. The deck is stacked against the Wolfpack, and the Demon Deacons don’t have an easy road–a game with Florida State on Saturday will wipe out their cushion.
North Carolina, at 3-5, is the team that can make a late run to bowl eligibility. The Tar Heels have home games with Virginia and Old Dominion. If UNC sweeps those games, then they just need to split a home game with Duke and a road trip to Pittsburgh. Carolina has been playing good football of late, but they also lost quarterback Bryn Renner to a shoulder injury for the rest of the year. Larry Fedora is an excellent head coach and we’ll see if his system can keep churning without Renner.
THE BCS LANDSCAPE
If the ACC is going to get two teams into the BCS, there are three scenarios.
*The most basic is that Florida State rolls on through to the conference title, while Clemson–currently ranked #7 in the BCS standings also wins out, and takes the at-large bid.
*The second is that the winner of Saturday’s Miami/Virginia Tech game that will likely determine the Coastal Division champ, goes up to Charlotte on December 7 and upsets Florida State. The Seminoles will be in strong enough position to still get an at-large spot, while the conference champ will go automatically.
*The more convoluted scenario–and as anyone who’s ever watched college football in November knows, we have to take this seriously–is that Virginia Tech upsets Miami, wins the division, but is rolled by Florida State. In the meantime, Clemson loses its regular season finale to South Carolina. Meanwhile, Miami quietly wins the rest of its games, ends up 10-2, and isn’t encumbered by the poll drop that comes with losing your last game.
Under that scenario, the ‘Canes might take an at-large spot. That’s especially true if Florida State plays for the national title and the Orange Bowl has to pick a replacement team. The hometown Hurricanes would be an attractive choice.
Whatever the scenario, I think the safest bet is that the ACC will produce two teams for the BCS, and that means ten teams are necessary to fill up their commitments.
ACC BOWL PROJECTIONS
The first three bids after the BCS is done picking are the marquee spots. The teams chosen get the chance to play pretty good teams from the SEC and Pac-12, along with the runner-up in the American Athletic Conference race, which right now stands to be Louisville. After that, the quality of the opponents drops off to either midmajor teams or the low-ranking teams from the SEC.
Here’s how TheSportsNotebook projects the ACC, as we get set to begin Week 11.
BCS Automatic: Florida State (BCS National Championship)
BCS At-Large: Clemson (Orange)
Chick-Fil-A: Miami (vs. Georgia)
Russell Athletic: Georgia Tech (vs. Louisville)
Sun: Duke (vs. Arizona)
Belk: Virginia Tech (vs. Houston)
Music City: Maryland (vs. Ole Miss)
Advocare V100: Boston College (vs. Mississippi State)
Military: Syracuse (vs. Middle Tennessee)
New Orleans: North Carolina (vs. UL-Lafayette)