Way Too Early Bowl Projections

Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE

Could Pack-Vols Part Deux Offer a Shot at Redemption for Amerson and crew?

Bowl

College Football News

ESPN's Brad Edwards

ESPN's Mark Schlabach

Orange

Florida State vs. Rutgers

Florida State vs. Louisville

Florida State vs. Rutgers

Chic-Fil-A

Clemson vs. Georgia

Clemson vs. Mississippi St.

Clemson vs. Texas A & M

Russell Athletic

Miami vs. Louisville

N. C. State vs. Rutgers

N. C. State vs. Louisville

Sun

Virginia Tech vs. Arizona St.

Virginia Tech vs. Arizona St.

Duke vs. UCLA

Belk

Duke vs. Cincinnati

Miami vs. Cincinnati

Miami vs. Cincinnati

Music City

N. C. State vs. Tennessee

Ga. Tech vs. Texas A & M

Virginia Tech vs. Tennessee

Independence

Ga. Tech vs. SMU

Duke vs. Vanderbilt

Maryland vs. New Mexico

Military

Maryland vs. Air Force

Maryland vs. Iowa State

Utah State vs. LA-Lafayette

The above chart shows expert musings on where the ACC bowl eligible teams are likely to end up. With 5 weeks remaining in the regular season it is probably way too early to put much stock in the speculation, but it makes fun fodder for conversation around the virtual water cooler.

The thing that jumps out at me, aside for destiny-controlling N. C. State getting no love for the Orange Bowl, is Mark Schlabach's prognostications. Mr. Schlabach does not believe the ACC will be able to fill its allotment of 8 bowl spots. Since 1-6 Army will no doubt fall short of bowl eligibility, Schlabach anticipates a Military Bowl pitting traditional academy powers Utah State and Louisiana-Lafayette. What's that you say? The Aggies and Ragin' Cajuns are not academies? If this must-see bowl matchup indeed comes to fruition, both teams should be forced to run the triple option and wear alternate camouflage jerseys.

Wake Forest, which looks to have bowl potential at 4-3, is the glaring omission on everyone's bowl ballot. The Deacons have Boston College and Vanderbilt at home, so reaching 6 wins and earning a return trip to D. C. seems like a good possibility. Wake won the inaugural Military Bowl, 29-19 over Navy, in 2008. Wake also has Clemson at home and N. C. State and Notre Dame on the road as it searches for 6 wins.

Schlabach does not think 3-4 Georgia Tech will make it to 6 wins, and I would tend to side with him. The Yellow Jackets have two potentially tough home games against BYU and upstart Duke. The Cougars are only 4-4, but they nearly upset #5 Notre Dame last weekend and are 8th in the nation in scoring defense. The Yellow Jackets travel to Maryland, UNC, and Georgia. It's hard to find 3 wins in that group for Al Groh's Charles Kelly's much-maligned defense.

The Russell Athletic Bowl, which presumably is so named to pay homage to Russell Wilson's athletic ability, is the highest-ranking bowl in the ACC tier that the experts think the Pack can reach. Schlabach predicts a return engagement with Louisville for the Pack in the Dec. 28th tilt set for 5:30 in Orlando, but I cannot imagine that the bowl bigwigs will want a rematch of last year's Belk Bowl (which State won 31-24). But if Florida State and Clemson are off the board and Virginia Tech is too far down in the standings to get the nod, who else would you pick if you want to fill seats?

The most intriguing matchup comes from CFN, which forecasts an N. C. State-Tennessee rematch, something that I have been yearning for all year in the "How They Do?" feature. Obviously the Nashville-based bowl would love to have the Vols, but there is the sticky little issue of bowl eligibility. UT, which sits at 3-4, is 1-11 in its last 12 SEC games and will likely fall to 3-5 after another SEC loss to South Carolina this weekend, leaving little margin for error over the last 4 games for Tennessee to get to 6 wins. Can the reeling Vols win 3 of 4 with home games against Troy, Missouri, Kentucky, and a roadie at Vanderbilt remaining? Probably, but none of those games are gimmies. Troy nearly upset Mississippi State earlier in the season-in fact, the Trojans gave the Bulldogs a better game than UT did-and Kentucky, woeful as they are, beat Tennessee last year. Missou and Vanderbilt will also be fighting for 6 wins and bowl eligibility.

If N. C. State is indeed destined for another uninspiring matchup against a Big East opponent, I obviously hope it's an Orange Bowl matchup. Stumble in one of their last 5 games (and the Pack will be big underdogs in Chapel Hill and Death Valley), or even if they win out but lose the ACC championship (chicken people will take Clemson or FSU over us), and it is Russell Bowl or worse for the Pack. If the Orange isn't an option, I really don't care what bowl State goes to in terms of the tier hierarchy; I just want a sexy matchup, and I cannot think of anything sexier than redemption against Bray's Vols.

Your thoughts?

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