By Will Vandervort / Photo by Kevin Vandervort.
Here is how the ACC stacks up as it heads into the bowl season. Obviously, Florida State is No. 1 and Georgia Tech proved it was a worthy opponent for the Seminoles in the ACC Championship Game. So how does the rest of the conference fall and who is going to what bowl game.
1. Florida State (13-0, 8-0 ACC), last week No. 1: The Seminoles are no doubt the best team in the ACC and I think they’re the best team in the country, too. They should, at the very least, be represented that way. How many teams have won 29 straight games and finished the regular season ranked No. 3 in the country, while being ranked behind two teams with one loss? The good news for FSU is it will get the chance to prove the Committee’s Poll wrong when it plays No. 2 Oregon in the semifinals with an opportunity to possibly play No. 1 Alabama in the National Championship Game.
2. Georgia Tech (10-3, 6-2 ACC), last week No. 2: Going to the Orange Bowl is not a bad consolation prize for finishing second in the ACC, especially when the Yellow Jackets were picked to finish fifth by the ACC Media back in July. The Jackets will play Mississippi State in the Orange Bowl. Head coach Paul John Johnson received a four-year contract extension just hours before the ACC Championship Game.
3. Clemson (9-3, 6-2 ACC), last week No. 3: The Tigers and the ACC perhaps got the worse deal of all when the selection committee jumped Mississippi State three spots from No. 10 to No. 7 in the rankings. They allowed the Bulldogs to move up to the Orange Bowl. Michigan State, who was No. 8 the last two weeks in the poll, fell to the Cotton Bowl and the Citrus Bowl was contractually obligated to take a team from the Big 10 if an SEC team was ranked higher and was selected for the Orange Bowl. The ACC had the next spot in the game had Michigan State went to the Orange. The Citrus Bowl pays its participants nearly $4.6 million apiece, while the Russell Athletic Bowl pays considerably less at nearly $2.3 million per school. The 17th-ranked Tigers will play Oklahoma in the Dec. 29 bowl game.
4. Louisville (9-3, 5-3 ACC), last week No. 4: With Clemson going to the Russell Athletic Bowl, the 21st-ranked Cardinals fell to the Belk Bowl where they will play No. 13 Georgia, where each team will be paid $1.7 million. You do the math, the playoff committee’s final rankings, roughly cost the ACC as a whole nearly $3 million. Remember, ACC schools share their bowl revenue with each other.
5. Duke (9-3, 5-3 ACC), last week No. 5: Duke is headed to Sun Bowl where the Blue Devils will face No. 15 Arizona State. This is Duke’s second consecutive bowl appearance. ASU hasn’t produced back-to-back 10-win seasons since the 1972 and ’73 seasons. Duke – which finished 10-4 last year – never has won 10 games in consecutive seasons.
6. Boston College (7-5, 4-4 ACC), last week No. 6: The Eagles will play The Big 10’s Penn State in the Pinstripe Bowl in New York. This is BC’s 14th bowl appearance in the last 16 years and its 24th overall. The Eagles have a 13-10 bowl record, fourth best in the ACC.
7. Pitt (6-6, 4-4 ACC), last week No. 7: Dubbed the youngest team in the country (53 sophomores and 28 freshmen), the Panthers will play Houston, who fired its head coach on Monday, in the Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth, Texas on Jan. 2. Paul Chryst has led the Panthers to bowls in each of his three seasons. He is the first Pitt coach to accomplish that feat since Jackie Sherrill led each of his five Panthers teams to bowls from 1977-81.
8. NC State (7-5, 3-5 ACC), last week No. 8: After a stretch where it was playing some of the worst football in the ACC, the Wolfpack bounced back to win three of their last four games. They will now play Central Florida in the St. Petersburg Bowl on Dec. 26.
9. Miami (6-6, 3-5 ACC), last week No. 9: The Hurricanes really tanked at the end of the year, losing three straight including disappointing efforts in losses at Virginia and to Pittsburgh at home. For those efforts they get shipped off to Shreveport, La., to play South Carolina in the Independence Bowl, another team that underachieved this season.
10. Virginia Tech (6-6, 3-5 ACC), last week No. 10: Do the Hokies deserve to be in a bowl game? I don’t think so. Virginia Tech will play 9-3 Cincinnati in the Military Bowl on Dec. 27. Head coach Frank Beamer underwent throat surgery last week but he will be able to coach in the bowl game.
11. North Carolina (6-6, 4-4 ACC), last week No. 11: What does a 35-7 loss to your rival get you? An all-expenses paid trip to Detroit. Who wants to go to Detroit? Can you imagine all those baby blue fans in the Motor City? Oh yeah, that’s right! They wouldn’t be. It’s basketball season. What was I thinking? The Tar Heels play Rutgers in the Quick Lane Bowl on Dec. 26.
12. Virginia (5-7, 3-5 ACC), last week No. 12: The season is over for the Cavaliers, but Mike London’s team showed enough improvement that he will return next season as head coach.
13. Syracuse (3-9, 1-7 ACC), last week No. 13: The Orange’s only win after the first month of the season was to Wake Forest. Like the Demon Deacons, Syracuse was a young team, but losing nine of its last 10 games is never acceptable at a proud program like Syracuse’s.
14. Wake Forest (3-9, 1-7 ACC), last week No. 14: It was not a good first year at Wake Forest from Dave Clawson, but look what he had to work with on offense. Though he had an experienced defense, he had no one really back on offense as he played eight redshirt and true freshmen on offense this year, which is why the Demon Deacons had the worst offense in the country this past season.