I Want Some of What Jerry Palm is Smoking

Warren Little

It's bowl projection season, which would also appear to be the season of inhaling for at least one "expert."

Despite North Carolina's 1-5 start and N.C. State sitting at 3-3 with a road trip to Tallahassee looming like a nuclear winter, CBS's Jerry Palm, who is presumably paid good money to keep track of these things, has both the Heels and the Pack projected as bowl teams. The winner of the Heels-Pack contest may well have a good shot at a bowl, but given both teams' slim margin for error at this point, the fact that they have a game remaining against each another just increases the absurd notion that both programs will reach a bowl.

The Heels have played a very difficult schedule and, despite their laughable record, should be no worse than a Vegas tossup in home games against Boston College and Duke and a road tilt at Pittsburgh. The Heels will be favorites against the Pack, Virginia, and FCS Old Dominion. They certainly could go 5-1 against the soft second half of their slate, but I am not sure what Palm has seen that inspires confidence that this will happen. Though UNC has taken a big step back offensively without the Italian Stallion Giovani Bernard, Bryn Renner and Eric Ebron remain dangerous. The bigger problem for the Heels is that they can't stop anybody. The Football Outsiders S&P metric paints them as the 73rd "best" defense in the country, and things are even bleaker according to the DFEI measure, which pegs the Heels at 85th. There are probably at least two teams left on the schedule that can take advantage of that defense and keep the Heels from bowling for a second straight season.

Despite being only three wins from eligibility, the road to a bowl is probably even more of an uphill battle for N.C. State, a team that is not likely to be favored in Vegas to win even one more game this season. The Pack have won seven of their last 15 against Florida State, a near split record in the series over the last decade and a half that must be the envy of the rest of the ACC, but the Noles appear better than they have been at nearly any point in that stretch while the Pack are plumbing the depths of injury-riddle, rebuilding futility. FSU is a 31.5 point favorite.

Assuming the Pack cannot spring another national-championship derailing upset in the series, they will fall to 3-4 and need to go at least 3-2 against UNC, @Duke, @Boston College, East Carolina, and Maryland to make a bowl. N.C. State is ranked at least 29 spots behind all of those programs in the S&P/FEI combined ratings and at least 23 spots behind all of them in the Sagarin ratings. The wildcard in the Pack's back pocket comes in the form of Brandon Mitchell, the team's soon-to-return starting quarterback. If Mitchell provides a significant upgrade over Pete Thomas, the Pack should be on par with all their opponents not named Florida State. Winning three of five then seems plausible, but expectations have to be tempered by the fact that Mitchell has attempted all of three passes this season. We really have no idea what we have here.

Here's a handy table showing UNC and N.C. State's remaining schedule with the Football Outsiders and Sagarin rankings for each opponent.

North Carolina (51st/67th)

N.C. State (93rd/90th)

vs. Boston College (59th/58th)

@ Florida State (2nd/2nd)

@ N.C. State (93rd/90th)

vs. North Carolina (51st/67th)

vs. Virginia (62nd/94th)

@ Duke (50th/57th)

@ Pittsburgh (56th/56th)

@ Boston College (59th/58th)

vs. Old Dominion (NA/132nd)

vs. East Carolina (35th/53rd)

vs. Duke (50th/57th)

vs. Maryland (64th/61st)

And, because tables are fun, here are bowl projections from Palm and other "BCS experts" that include the BCS bowls and all bowls with ACC tie-ins. The bowls are listed in (more or less) reverse order from when they will be played.

Bowl

Palm

Kirk

Schlabach

Edwards

BCS Natty

Alabama vs. Oregon

Alabama vs. Oregon

Alabama vs. FSU

Alabama vs. Oregon

Orange

Florida State vs. Wisconsin

Florida State vs. Wisconsin

Clemson vs. UCF

Florida State vs. Wisconsin

Sugar

Missouri vs. UCF

Missouri vs. UCF

Missouri vs. Stanford

Auburn vs. Clemson

Rose

Ohio State vs. Stanford

Ohio State vs. Stanford

Ohio State vs. Oregon

Ohio State vs. Stanford

Fiesta

Oklahoma State vs. Fresno State

Baylor vs. Fresno State

Baylor vs. Fresno State

Baylor vs. UCF

Chick-fil-a

Clemson vs. Ole Miss

Clemson vs. Ole Miss

Miami vs. South Carolina

Miami vs. Texas A&M

Independence

Vanderbilt vs. Georgia Tech

Vanderbilt vs. Boston College

Vanderbilt vs. Boston College

Vanderbilt vs. Duke

Sun

Virginia Tech vs. Washington

Virginia Tech vs. Oregon State

Georgia Tech vs. Arizona State

Georgia Tech vs. Oregon State

Music City

N.C. State vs. Auburn

Pittsburgh vs. South Carolina

Wake Forest vs. Ole Miss

Boston College vs. Ole Miss

Belk

Rutgers vs. Maryland

Houston vs. Georgia Tech

Houston vs. Pittsburgh

Houston vs. Maryland

Russell Athletic

Louisville vs. Miami

Louisville vs. Miami

Louisville vs. Virginia Tech

Louisville vs. Virginia Tech

Military

North Carolina vs. Tulsa

Duke vs. Rice

Maryland vs. Middle Tennessee

Pittsburgh vs. East Carolina

Apparently Palm did not share that dank indo with the other experts.

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