Ranking The ACC’s Bowl Matchups

11 of the ACC’s 14 football programs (plus Notre Dame) qualified for and earned selections to bowl games this season. Naturally the commissioner is quite pleased with that showing.

We’ll take this opportunity to run down the matchups and destinations ahead for all the ACC representatives. I’ll rank the games starting at the bottom because for some reason the Internet loves lists.

12. Quick Lane Bowl

North Carolina (6-6) vs. Rutgers (7-5)

Detroit has done absolutely nothing to deserve this. As if things weren’t dire enough in the Motor City, now they have this game to deal with the day after Christmas. It’s hard to believe that at one point this season UNC beat Georgia Tech. The Tar Heels gave up 38.9 PPG including a whopping 70 in a loss to East Carolina. Even inconsistent Rutgers quarterback Gary Nova has to be licking his chops to get a shot at this porous defense.

11. Military Bowl Presented By Northrup Grumman

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

The Hokies’ disastrous slide after the first two games wasn’t enough to keep Ohio State out of the College Football Playoff, but Tech took plenty of lumps and oddly vitriolic criticism throughout the selection process. The Bearcats posted a solid record but there were no standout wins against the weak competition of the American Athletic Conference.

10. Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl

Pittsburgh (6-6) vs. Houston (7-5)

Despite making a bowl game in two of his three seasons, Houston head coach Tony Levine was fired at the end of the regular season in favor of the always popular TBD. Running backs coach Dan Hammerschmidt will handle offensive play calling and head coaching duties for this game, which means he doesn’t have to scheme a way to stop ACC Player of the Year James Conner from rushing for touchdowns.

9. Duck Commander Independence Bowl

Miami (6-6) vs. South Carolina (6-6)

If you had picked this as a bowl matchup in the preseason, you might have assumed it would be played in the Orange Bowl. Things didn’t work out that way and we instead have two big-name programs with .500 records battling in Shreveport. I find it hilarious that the American bald eagle from the classic Independence Bowl logo has been replaced with a duck over camo. Quack! Quack! Quack! Mr. Ducksworth!

8. Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl

North Carolina State (7-5) vs. Central Florida (9-3)

I put this at eight, but tomorrow it could be ranked second. You just never know what the value of a Bitcoin Bowl is! Neither of these teams have particularly impressive wins on the resume but Jacoby Brissett for the Wolfpack and Justin Holman for UCF make for a compelling quarterback battle in a game that is otherwise generally kind of ho-hum. That is unless you find the idea of a December trip to sit inside in Florida appealing.

7. New Era Pinstripe Bowl

Boston College (7-5) vs. Penn State (6-6)

The Eagles are just seven points from having beaten three top 25 teams and completely destroying the playoff bracket after close losses to Clemson and Florida State. They’re a good team and Steve Addazio is doing a nice job in Chestnut Hill. Penn State also suffered a number of close losses including a double-overtime thriller against Ohio State. They’re still a year or two away from being “back” but a bowl game is a big step forward for that program and university.

6. Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl

Notre Dame (7-5) vs. No. 23 LSU (8-4)

Remember when Notre Dame was ranked fifth based on almost nothing and proceeded to lose to every good team on their schedule (and also Northwestern) down the stretch? Brian Kelly has reached that awkward point that all Irish coaches do where he will either have a great season next year or be fired and paid handsomely for the next decade. Les Miles on the other hand may be the only big-time coach who genuinely doesn’t pay attention to coaching rumors. He just wants to eat grass.

5. Hyundai Sun Bowl

Duke (9-3) vs. No. 15 Arizona State (9-3)

Duke beat Georgia Tech but managed to lose to three teams with 6-6 records. Even Duke folks aren’t smart enough to figure that one out. Arizona State had a strong season but still only finished third in the stacked South division of the Pac-12. Five of the six teams in the South finished the regular season ranked. I propose that the conference take after English Premier League Soccer and adopt a relegation policy so some teams can challenge Oregon in the North.

4. Russell Athletic Bowl

No. 17 Clemson (9-3) vs. Oklahoma (8-4)

With Chad Morris the new head coach at SMU, this game will mark the debut for co-offensive coordinators Tony Elliot and Jeff Scott. They will be guiding senior quarterback Cole Stoudt who has struggled at times but is really the only option for the Tigers.

This presents a great opportunity for “Big Game” Bob Stoops to pull the upset and get Oklahoma ranked to finish the season.

3. Belk Bowl

No. 21 Louisville (9-3) vs. No. 13 Georgia (9-3)

This is a huge matchup for the Belk Bowl and it features two head coaches in Mark Richt and Bobby Petrino who recruit extremely well despite generally looking like they want to be somewhere else.

It’s hard to say who has the advantage in this one, but there will definitely be a lot of red in Charlotte for this game. If everyone squints their eyes, they can pretend they’re playing for the national championship trophy of years past.

2. Orange Bowl

No. 12 Georgia Tech (10-3) vs. No. 7 Mississippi State (10-2)

This is a monumental game for the conference to prove teams other than the Seminoles can win bowl games against the SEC. Georgia Tech has proven themselves more than capable down the stretch knocking off Clemson and Georgia while nearly knocking off the ‘Noles in the ACC Championship game. The Bulldogs are probably a little bummed that they only made the Orange Bowl after being No. 1 and firmly in the playoff picture for a time. Their main concern currently appears to be working out a deal with Sun Life Stadium to allow their precious cowbells into the game. It’s become cliche, but you know what’s coming. You can’t have too much Walken (unless it’s Peter Pan related).

1. Rose Bowl, National Semifinal

No. 3 Florida State (13-0) vs. No. 2 Oregon (12-1)

There were a number of bizarre arguments that led to FSU being the No. 3 team in the inaugural playoff that amounted to, “They weren’t undefeated enough.” The Seminoles won all their games, but apparently people aren’t convinced that the defending national champions are still worthy of holding the top spot in the rankings, or even the second. For Oregon, they likely have this year’s Heisman winner in Marcus Mariota and he’ll battle last season’s winner Jameis Winston who I’m quite certain will create absolutely no controversy ahead of this game. Whether you like the playoff and the selection process or not, this is an awesome matchup that college football fans will be talking about for some time.

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