With all of the bowl match-ups announced, here’s a look at where ACC teams are headed, based on the order of their selection, and why the selections played out the way they did.
When: Thursday, December 31st, 4PM vs. Oklahoma
Why: With a 13-0 record capped off by an ACC Championship Game win over North Carolina, the Tigers were wire-to-wire #1 in the College Football Playoff polls.
Who: Florida State
When: Thursday, December 31st, Noon vs. Houston
Why: Despite losing to the Coastal’s last place team in Georgia Tech, a quality schedule and a convincing win over Florida in the season finale pushed the Noles ahead of North Carolina and up to 9th in the CFP Poll. Plus, of course, Florida State remains one of the biggest draws in college football.
Russell Athletic Bowl
Who: North Carolina
When: Tuesday, December 29th, 5:30 vs. vs. Baylor
Why: A historic 11-win season had the Heels on the verge of the New Years Six, and while the committee will tell you about that bad loss to South Carolina or a less-than-difficult non-conference schedule, UNC football is here because they’re UNC football. When the New Years Six has a shot at Notre Dame and Ohio State, they’re going to take it.
When: Saturday, December 26th, 3:30 vs. Indiana
Why: While the Blue Devils aren’t known for packing Wallace Wade Stadium, they’re gaining a reputation for being a program that will pack a bowl game (or more specifically, the club level at bowl games). Especially when that bowl game is in one of Duke’s top alumni hubs like New York or Atlanta, they become a surprisingly attractive draw. Without that buying power, 7-win Duke is in Annapolis or Shreveport.
Music City Bowl
When: Wednesday, December 30th, 7PM vs. Texas A&M
Why: Being a successful program with a fairly large fanbase is a solid bargaining chip, but it’s even more powerful when you’re three hours away from a Pool 1 bowl site. Resume wise, Louisville probably should have been picked lower, but you don’t turn down a chance to sell tickets to Louisville fans who will surely drive down for the mid-week game.
When: Saturday, December 26th, 2PM, vs. Washington State
Why: The Sun Bowl is one of the most unique games in college football because they don’t HAVE to sell tickets. El Paso is nearly impossible to get to unless you’re willing to fly elsewhere and rent a car, but the city embraces the game like no other. The concern with Miami, unless they’re in a New Years six game, will always be attendance. Without having that concern, the Sun Bowl will gladly take a well-known program and the TV ratings that will likely follow.
Who: NC State
When: Wednesday, December 30th, 3:30 PM vs. Mississippi State
Why: It’s no secret that the Belk Bowl wanted Virginia Tech in Frank Beamer’s last game. The only problem … a guideline that’s not even listed in the pre-season guide that prohibits a bowl from passing over an 8 win team for a 6 win team. Because the Pinstripe Bowl and Music City Bowl picked two 7-win teams, the Belk Bowl was left with two choices … NC State or Pitt. At 3:30 on a Wednesday, the in-state school is the obvious choice unless there’s a program out there that’s just too high-profile not to take. Pitt has one of the best histories in the ACC, but Pitt is not on that “can’t pass” level.
Who: Virginia Tech
When: Saturday, December 26th, 5:45 PM vs. Tulsa
Why: As covered above, Virginia Tech was locked into the next tier of bowls, and essentially had their choice between Annapolis and Shreveport. As David Teel from the Daily Press outlined, Frank Beamer’s sense of nostalgia drove him towards the Independence Bowl, the home of his first bowl game as the Hokies’ head coach.
When: Monday, December 28th, 2:30 PM vs. Navy
Why: Pitt is here because they weren’t a take for the Pinstripe, Sun, or Music City Bowls, and the Belk Bowl preferred the in-state team with a large, local fan base. With an impressive 8-4 record, it’s understandable that Pitt fans are upset about being passed over, but such is life as a program without a large following or a particularly compelling reason to select them. It’s an even more bitter pill to swallow when a win, which would have been their 9th, in that final game versus Miami would have locked them into a Pool 1 bowl.