In the penultimate Bowl Projection Spotlight for BCS conferences, we look at the only remaining league with a true championship game: the Atlantic Coast Conference.
The ACC is tied with the SEC for most normal bowl tie-ins, as each have nine apiece. But while the latter will look for its fourth straight National Championship, the former is in the midst of a year of parity.
At the top is Georgia Tech, who survived a three-way Coastal Division war with Miami and Virginia Tech. They’ll play Clemson, who outlasted Boston College in the Atlantic Division, in the title tilt.
But Clemson was one of five teams that finished 8-4 or 9-3, proving that there really isn’t a dominant team in the conference. With Florida State falling off, Duke surprising everyone, and both Wake Forest and North Carolina State barely missing eligibility, it’s a year where anyone could go anywhere.
Realistically, the ACC is more notable for its coaching carousel. Florida State’s bowl game will be the final hurrah for Bobby Bowden, Al Groh has already been fired at Virginia, and Ralph Friedgen was on the hot seat until it was announced this week that he would be back.
Oh, and don’t forget David Cutcliffe, who might be on the verge of a lifetime extension after nearly getting Duke bowl eligible.
As I said, the ACC has nine tie-ins, but only seven teams are eligible—which means that their slots in the EagleBank and GMAC Bowls be forfeited and 6-6 Florida State can be selected by any bowl. That becomes important later.
The lucky seven going bowling from the ACC are:
Georgia Tech (10-2, Coastal Division Champions)
Clemson (8-4, Atlantic Division Champions)
Virginia Tech (9-3)
Boston College (8-4)
North Carolina (8-4)
Florida State (6-6)
The ACC's nine usual landing spots are as follows:
No. 1: BCS (Orange Bowl or BCS Championship Game)
No. 2: Chick-fil-A Bowl
No. 3: Gator Bowl
No. 4: Champs Sports Bowl
Nos. 5-7: Music City Bowl, Meineke Car Care Bowl, Emerald Bowl
No. 8*: EagleBank Bowl
No. 9*: GMAC Bowl
There are a few hiccups here as well.
Firstly, the loser of the ACC Championship Game is guaranteed to fall no lower than the Music City Bowl.
In slots five through seven, the three bowls work together to reach a mutual agreement on their selections. If they can’t, they select in the order listed—and, of course, if the title game loser is still available, the Music City has to take them.
The final two bowl slots are forfeited because of the lack of qualifying teams.
Projected Bowl selections:
No. 1: Orange Bowl—Georgia Tech
No. 2: Chick-fil-A Bowl—Virginia Tech
No. 3: Gator Bowl—Florida State
No. 4: Champs Sports Bowl—Miami
No. 5: Music City Bowl—Clemson
No. 6: Meineke Car Care Bowl—North Carolina
No. 7: Emerald Bowl—Boston College
I project that Georgia Tech wins the title game and goes to the contractual slot in the Orange.
Underneath, you will see how that parity comes into play.
Even though they didn’t make the title game, Virginia Tech is probably the second best team in the conference, so they will get scooped up by the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
Then the Gator Bowl will become the first bowl in the history of mankind to think with its heart instead of its wallet. As long as the ACC clears it (and by God, why wouldn't they?), Florida State is headed to Jacksonville.
Bobby Bowden is retiring, so Florida State’s bowl game will be his last. He’s said that he would like it to be a game in Florida, and how can you deny the second winningest coach in FBS history? They won't, and win or lose, you'll probably see a scene like that highly dated one to the above left.
With in-state rep Miami still left (and the "best" team available), the Champs Sports Bowl will snatch them up to play Northwestern.
Clemson is then guaranteed to go to the Music City Bowl, which means that even with the rules, the Meineke Car Care Bowl will get whoever they want. That’ll be North Carolina, who will make the short trip from Chapel Hill to Charlotte for a virtual home game.
Thus, by default, the 8-4 Boston College Eagles will fly to San Francisco for a likely Emerald Bowl date with Stanford.