Three weeks and countless permutations separate us from finalizing this season’s bowl pairings, but the possible destinations for
narrowed after their recent victories.
Since both remain
title contenders, either could earn the conference’s automatic
berth in the
. Were they to lose the ACC championship game and enter postseason 11-2, the Hokies would have an outside chance at the league’s first BCS at-large bid.
Most likely bowl for Tech (9-1) thanks to its win at
: the Orange or Chick-fil-A.
Most likely bowl for Virginia (7-3) after its victory over
: Belk or Music City.
For the sake of argument, let’s say chalk prevails the next two weeks in the ACC, a dicey proposition at best. Here’s how the conference’s eight bowl arrangements might then fall:
* Orange (Jan. 4,
): Winner of the
-Virginia Tech rematch in the league championship game. Since the Orange Bowl selects last in the BCS rotation, the most probable opponents would be the
champ or an undefeated
* Chick-fil-A (Dec. 31, Atlanta): The Clemson-Virginia Tech loser, or
. The Chick-fil-A’s choice might hinge on which
team it selects. For example, a Clemson-
or Florida State-
regular-season rematch would be untenable.
* Champs Sports (Dec. 29, Orlando): The Champs would welcome whichever team the Chick-fil-A bypassed for a possible pairing with
. The Champs’ contract with the Big East allows it to select the Irish once in a four-year cycle, and this season they figure to be far more attractive than any Big East team, even if they lose their regular-season finale against Stanford. Since Virginia Tech has spent postseason in either Miami or Atlanta five years running, might fans enjoy a change of scenery in Orlando, especially if the opponent were Notre Dame?
* Sun (Dec. 31, El Paso, Texas): Geography makes this is the ACC’s wild card. Based on conference records, again presuming favorites win the next two weeks, the Sun would choose among Virginia, Miami, Georgia Tech and
. Since fans of those teams, or any ACC team for that matter, are unlikely to flock to El Paso, national television appeal will be in play. That element favors Miami, though the Hurricanes played in the Sun last year. If not Miami, then Georgia Tech, to play a
opponent that’s looking like UCLA or Utah.
* Belk (Dec. 27, Charlotte): If Virginia finishes the regular season 7-5, this would be the ideal bowl. Charlotte is a manageable drive for most fans, and the Cavaliers have a history here, having won bowls in Charlotte in 2002 and 2003. But the Belk could bow to its Carolina roots and select Wake Forest to face a Big East team such as
* Music City (Dec. 30, Nashville): If Virginia falls below the Belk, Nashville would be a soft landing spot. The Cavaliers won there in 2005 and they’d face a SEC opponent, perhaps hometown
. If the Music City were intent on the Commodores, that would preclude Wake Forest falling here since the teams play in the regular-season finale.
* Independence (Dec. 26, Shreveport, La.): The Cavaliers have done Shreveport, too, beating TCU in the 1994
. But I doubt they fall this low. Better bet is Miami or
to face either Wyoming, San Diego State or Air Force from the
* Military (Dec. 28, Washington, D.C.): If Navy defeats San Jose State and Army to become eligible, the Midshipmen will host an ACC team at RFK Stadium. North Carolina is the most likely ACC rep if the Tar Heels split their last two games to finish 3-5 in the conference. That would give the Military Bowl a lame-duck coach for the second consecutive year: North Carolina interim Everett Withers this season and
All the above blown up if/when North Carolina beats Virginia Tech, Virginia upsets Florida State,
stuns Clemson, and Wake Forest stumbles against Maryland.
So stay tuned.