Since both remain ACC title contenders, either could earn the conference’s automatic BCS berth in the Orange Bowl. 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 Georgia Tech: the Orange or Chick-fil-A.
Most likely bowl for Virginia (7-3) after its victory over Duke: 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, Miami): Winner of the Clemson-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 Big East champ or an undefeated Houston from Conference USA.
* Chick-fil-A (Dec. 31, Atlanta): The Clemson-Virginia Tech loser, or Florida State. The Chick-fil-A’s choice might hinge on which Southeastern Conference team it selects. For example, a Clemson-Auburn or Florida State-Florida 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 Notre Dame. 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 Wake Forest. 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 Pacific 12 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 West Virginia or Pittsburgh.
* 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 Vanderbilt. 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 Independence Bowl. But I doubt they fall this low. Better bet is Miami or North Carolina to face either Wyoming, San Diego State or Air Force from the Mountain West.
* 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 Maryland’s Ralph Friedgen last.
All the above blown up if/when North Carolina beats Virginia Tech, Virginia upsets Florida State, North Carolina State stuns Clemson, and Wake Forest stumbles against Maryland.
So stay tuned.
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