As we come into the home stretch of the football season, it’s becoming increasingly obvious that the ACC won’t have 10 bowl teams again. Down to the last three or four games of the season, we thought we’d use this week’s roundup to look at where each team stands with its bowl chances.
Overall records are in parentheses. Teams with an asterisk have to win seven games to become bowl eligible because they played two non-I-A teams. Perhaps not coincidentally, all three of those teams have some work to do to get to a bowl game.
With that explanation out of the way, away we go:
Boston College (6-3): Bowl eligible for the 10th consecutive season with Saturday’s win over Central Michigan. The Eagles also have a shot to play in their third straight ACC championship game if they can win a game or two on the road and get some help from someone else against Clemson.
Clemson (5-3): Bowl eligible with one more win. The bowl bid seems almost assured at this point. The bigger issue for the Tigers is whether they can get to Tampa for the ACC title game by running the table in their last three conference games, all of which are winnable.
Florida State (4-4): Has to split two of four. The Seminoles are in a much better position than they were going into their bye week. Still, they should be the underdog at Clemson next week and forget about beating Florida as long as this guy is still standing. That leaves Wake Forest and Maryland as FSU’s best path to six wins.
Wake Forest (4-5): Need to take two of three. The Demon Deacons cane up just short against Miami on Saturday, which has been the story of their season. With games left against Georgia Tech, suddenly resurgent Florida State and Duke, those last two wins could be hard to come by.
N.C. State* (3-5): Must win out. As Wolfpack fans, we’d say were ready for basketball season, but we’re not.
Maryland (2-6): Also must win out. At least Terrapin fans can look forward to watching Greivis Vasquez on the court.
Georgia Tech (8-1): Orange or Chick-fil-A? That’s pretty much the only mystery left in the Yellow Jackets’ bowl picture. Tech seems all but assured of playing in the ACC championship game, so we won’t get an answer until then. Bet on the Jackets enjoying some time on South Beach instead of eating mor chikin.
Duke* (5-3): Has to split their last four. Each week, the Blue Devils’ season-opening loss to I-AA Richmond looks more like an outlier each week, but it also becomes a bigger drag on their bowl chances. With games left against Georgia Tech and Miami, Duke almost has to win against North Carolina and Wake Forest.
Miami (6-2): Bowl eligible after coming back to beat Wake Forest 28-27 on Saturday. The Hurricanes will be favored to win their last four games and crack the 10-win mark, but any shot they had an at-large BCS berth disappeared with last week’s overtime loss to Clemson.
Virginia Tech (5-3): Should become bowl eligible against East Carolina on Thursday. The key word there is “should.” The Hokies looked like a national title contender two games ago but lost to Georgia Tech and inexplicably fell to North Carolina.
North Carolina* (5-3): Must win at least twice more. Carolina and Duke are in a similar position. The Tar Heels have two games left they’re not going to be expected to win — vs. Miami and at Boston College. Next week’s game with the Blue Devils is going to go a long way toward determining both teams’ bowl fates.
Virginia (3-5): Needs to win three out of four. That’s going to be tough to do with road games against Miami and Clemson and a home date against archrival Virginia Tech.
Bottom line: Georgia Tech, Miami and Boston College will be going somewhere for the holidays, and Virginia Tech and Clemson can probably start packing before much longer. Of the rest, Florida State probably has the best shot to go to a bowl. Duke and North Carolina are likely playing an elimination game next Saturday. Wake Forest still has a shot but will need to win a game it won’t be favored in. N.C. State, Maryland and Virginia — better luck next year.
Game of the week
North Carolina 20, Virginia Tech 17. VT running back Ryan Williams made his first major mistake of the season, and it was very costly. After recovering a Williams fumble at the VT 24, the Heels ate 20 yards and the remaining 2:52 on the game clock to set up Casey Barth’s game-winning field goal. Gone was the Hokies’ shot at the conference title game. Gone, the outside-outside-outside shot at a BCS game. Gone, a large chunk of whatever respect the ACC had gained this season. Nothing looks worse for a conference than seeing a winless team beat one of the elites late in the season.
Player of the week
Jonathan Dwyer, Georgia Tech. Dwyer’s two third-quarter touchdown runs turned a 3-point deficit into an 11-point cushion for the Yellow Jackets. Dwyer finished with 186 rushing yards and three touchdowns, possibly getting back into the conference player of the year race. Biggest impediments for Dwyer in that contest: he may be only the second-most-effective runner on his team, behind quarterback Josh Nesbitt.
Team on the rise
Duke. With a 28-17 win Saturday over Virginia, Duke took its third straight conference game. The Blue Devils technically control their own destiny for the conference title game; win out, and they’re in. But it’s hard to imagine Duke escaping the rest of the schedule with only two or three losses, much less undefeated. Here’s the closing stretch: at a suddenly frisky North Carolina, home for Georgia Tech, at Miami, home against Wake Forest to close the season.
Team on the decline
Virginia Tech. Once a chic pick for the national title game, the Hokies are looking like a solid bet for the Chick-Fil-A Bowl. It’s been a quick slide.