Inside The ACC: First Look At ACC Bowl Matchups

Rose Bowl – January 1, 2015

#2 Oregon (12-1) vs. #3 Florida State (13-0)

On paper this should easily be the most exciting and competitive game of this years bowl season. The Pac-12 and ACC champions face off on New Years day for an opportunity to take on either Alabama or Ohio State on January 12th, with the winner claiming the first  National Championship under the new playoff format. There should be no shortage of offense or storylines when these two programs collide in the “Granddaddy of them all”.

The game will feature a battle between last years Heisman Trophy winner, Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston and this years likely winner, Oregon signal caller Marcus Mariota. The redshirt junior Mariota has carried his side similarly to how Winston did for the Seminoles last season, and the two are widely regarded as the nation’s top two quarterbacks.

Oregon enters the game as the proverbial bridesmaid, always thought of as “next years champion”, dating back to their days under then head coach Chip Kelly. Florida State is the defending champions, and haven’t lost since November 2012, but a certain lack of respect has hung over them in 2014, thanks to several unconvincing wins. Which team will take the next step towards this years top spot? We will find out in what could be one of the best Rose Bowl games in recent memory.

Orange Bowl – December 31st, 2014

#7 Mississippi State (10-2) vs. #12 Georgia Tech (10-3)

On November 15th Mississippi State was undefeated and the number one team in the nation, while Georgia Tech needed wins at home against Clemson, and a road win against rival Georgia to even dream of a such a bowl berth. The two teams are now set to square off in the Orange Bowl, while taking completely different paths to get there.

Mississippi State lost twice in their last three games, to Alabama and rival Ole Miss, tumbling out of the playoff picture in the process. Meanwhile Georgia Tech got those two wins they desperately needed, and fell two points short of beating Florida State in the ACC Championship.

Much of this Orange Bowl is likely to be won or lost with the team’s ground games. Georgia Tech boasts a third ranked rushing attack behind their triple-option offense, and Mississippi is 20th nationally, averaging 240 yards per game. Both teams have averaged 37 points per game in 2014, so while this will likely be a run heavy contest, it doesn’t mean it will be short on scoring or excitement.

Russell Athletic Bowl – December 29, 2014

#17 Clemson (9-3) vs. Oklahoma (8-4)

Dabo Swinney and the Clemson Tigers probably see their berth in the Russell Athletic Bowl as something on a consolation prize. They were on course for a second consecutive Orange Bowl appearance, but fell to Georgia Tech, who went onto play in the ACC Championship, and suddenly Clemson’s trip to Miami evaporated.

Still a trip to play a program like Oklahoma is nothing to sneeze at if you are Clemson. Oklahoma was thought of in the preseason as a team with a real shot at making the college football playoff in 2014, but fell to playoff afterthoughts Baylor and TCU, along with rivals Kansas State and Oklahoma State.

Swinney and Clemson are a program who seem to be ascending, while Bob Stoops and Oklahoma appear to be on their way down from being perennial Big-12 champs. Still, for a team on the rise, a signature bowl win against the Sooners goes a long way to gaining national attention.

Belk Bowl – December 30, 2014

#13 Georgia (9-3) vs. #21 Louisville (9-3)

Louisville’s first season in the ACC will conclude with a trip to Charlotte to take on the Georgia Bulldogs in the Belk Bowl. In the final week of the regular season the ACC shutout the SEC in their four head-to-head games, and both of these team’s played a role in that. Louisville held off an upset minded Kentucky at home 44-40, while Georgia fell to their instate rival Georgia Tech in overtime 30-24.

This should be a close contest between two evenly matched 9-3 schools, who both rank in the top 20 in total defense (Louisville 6th, Georgia 18th). Statistically Georgia appears to have a much more potent offense, but much of that was before Todd Gurley went down with a season ending ACL tear. This could be one of the more underrated, but competitive bowl games this year.

Sun Bowl – December 27

#15 Arizona State (9-3) vs. Duke (9-3)

Duke will try to become only the second ACC school to win the Sun Bowl in the conference’s last five attempts. The Blue Devils could have been in a position to represent the Coastal division in the ACC Championship, but late season losses to Virginia Tech and North Carolina derailed that hope.

Even though they sport identical records Arizona State appears to be the stronger side. They had meaningful wins this season against USC, Stanford and Notre Dame, and lost by only a touchdown to rival Arizona to end the regular season. Duke will have their hands full if they hope to join Georgia Tech as the only ACC school to win the Sun Bowl in recent memory.

Military Bowl – December 27

Virginia Tech (6-6) vs. Cincinnati (9-3)

Virginia Tech and Cincinnati have met frequently over the years, with this being the second time they have met in Maryland since 2012. This will also mark the third time these schools have met in a bowl game, and will be the first since 2009 when the Hokies beat the Bearcats in the 2009 Orange Bowl, 20-7. Frank Beamer and Virginia Tech will be making their 22nd consecutive bowl appearance by the narrowest of margins — beating rival Virginia in the season’s final week to get in. Cincinnati likely deserved a better bowl selection at 9-3, but don’t get the same national status being in the AAC. For those Hokies fan wondering, yes Beamer will coach the bowl game following a minor surgical procedure on his throat this past week.

Around the rest of the ACC

Notre Dame (7-5) meets LSU (8-4) in the Music City Bowl (Sorry — back to ACC schools with ACC Bowl Bids…) Penn State (6-6) will return to a bowl game for the first time since 2011 when they take on Boston College (7-5) in the Pinstripe Bowl on December 27th. Penn State was banned from bowl competition following the Jerry Sandusky scandal that rocked the school in 2012. Boston College lost in the Independence Bowl last season to Arizona 42-19…Miami (6-6) and South Carolina (6-6) will meet in this years Independence Bowl on December 27th. Miami and freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya exceeded preseason expectations, while South Carolina fell drastically short of theirsBoth North Carolina schools will be in action the day after Christmas when North Carolina (6-6) meets Rutgers (7-5) in the Quick Lane Bowland NC STATE (7-5) will take on UCF (9-3) in the Bitcoin Bowl…Pittsburgh (6-6) is the final bowl eligible ACC school and will tangle with Houston (7-5) in the Armed Forces Bowl on January 2nd.

Stay with InsideTheACC for coverage of all of these bowl games and follow me on Twitter @GQuintero_84

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