Brian: Jeff, The Tennessean reports that Music City ticket sales will be down at least 25 percent from the last two years. Vanderbilt has sold about 12,342 tickets while the Eagles have sold about 2,000. But interestingly, The Tennessean isn't blaming the hometown favorite Vanderbilt Commodores. So who really is to blame?
Jeff: The real answer is probably nobody because they still sold over 50,000 tickets to the game. Ticket sales are down for this game relative to last year but in the past two years the SEC team has been Kentucky which has brought a ton of fans. Kentucky has a much larger fan base than Vanderbilt and is still located in fairly close proximity. When the bowl directors selected Vanderbilt and BC for this game they knew that it was 100% dependent on Vanderbilt fans to sell out this game. BC die hards just made a trip to Tampa and really don't have much motivation to travel to either the city of Nashville on December 31 or to travel to watch BC play a Vanderbilt team that got beat by both Wake Forest and Duke this year. Had the matchup been better, the Eagle fans certainly would've traveled at least a little better to this game. I think last night's Alamo Bowl is going to be a good representation of how BC fans would travel if BC got invited to either the Gator or Chick-fil-A Bowl (the only two ACC non-BCS bowls that BC fans might get excited about). Northwestern is a team ranked similarly to Boston College this year which probably has a similar fan base. The game is not expected to be close to a sellout and once Northwestern releases how many tickets they were able to sell to the game this year I think we'll know about how many tickets BC might sell to a bowl game that features a Top 25 opponent when BC is ranked themselves and is not the Orange Bowl.
Brian: You are correct in saying that the Music City has been spoiled the past few years, but the reason is not because of the back-to-back appearances by Kentucky. The Music City Bowl has been spoiled by its ACC representatives the last two years. This bowl has benefitted greatly from the struggles of programs like Florida State and Clemson - teams with much larger traveling fan bases - who have both landed here the last two years. Back in 2005, the Music City matchup between Minnesota and Virginia only drew a little over 40,000 (40,519). Virginia was replacing a SEC team that year. And when the Eagles last played in the Music City Bowl, the attendance was listed at 46,125. Not bad at all.
I'd also add that this bowl's relationship with the ACC and the SEC is still very young. This is only the third year that the ACC and the SEC have conference tie-ins to this bowl. The ACC replaced the Big Ten in 2006 and the Big Ten was preceeded by the Big East from 1998-2002. I would say 50,000+ for a bowl that has very little history in a struggling economy is pretty good. Perhaps as you suggest the SEC could have fielded a better team than a 6-6 Vanderbilt and ticket sales would be a bit better, but if The Tennessean wants to point fingers, I fail to see why the Commodores shouldn't shoulder at least some of the blame.
Jeff: After Florida State beat up on Wisconsin in the Champs Sports Bowl on Saturday, there is no doubt in my mind that FSU will be the preseason favorite in the Atlantic Division next year. I also think that with a win in the Chick-fil-A Bowl that Georgia Tech will be the preseason favorite in the Coastal. Florida State beat a completely unimpressive Wisconsin team and Georgia Tech would have beaten a struggling LSU team, but FSU is FSU and they will certainly get more press than BC next preseason. Meanwhile, Paul Johnson and his new offense will be the sexy coastal pick rather than picking VT again. Am I overestimating the press's love for Florida State and for Paul Johnson or am I right on the money?
Brian: Well, as you mentioned Jeff, Florida State's win was none too impressive. Wisconsin played terrible football in the second half of the season. And as Dr. Saturday observed, the Seminoles win will probably propel FSU into the 2009 ACC Championship picture early on. But as Florida State's most famous college football TV personality likes to say, "Not so fast my friend!" While a 9-4 season is a slight improvement on the 8-5 season of 2007, the schedule for FSU seems to toughen up in 09 compared to 2008. Florida State gets Georgia Tech, Maryland, Miami and NC State at home, but has four tough ACC games on the road in Boston College, Clemson, North Carolina and Wake Forest. Add to this a dicey proposition of going to Provo, Utah in September to play what will likely be a ranked BYU team, and have to go to the Swamp to receive their annual Gator beatdown. Not to mention they will most likely lose some serious talent on the defensive side of the ball (especially in the secondary where they will lose two safeties and a corner) to either graduation or the NFL draft. Finally, it will be interesting to see how the on-going soap opera that is Bobby Bowden's coaching contract plays out and what effect that will have on this year's recruiting class.
Now, of course, these are way too rational explanations to point to why Florida State might not be considered the preseason favorite, probably too rational for the media and the press. And a cursory glance around the division doesn't show many other national title / conference champ calibre teams out there. Wake will likely take a step back, Swinney will have to build back up Clemson, BC is a wild card, NC State should improve if they stay healthy, and you never know what you'll get with Maryland.
On the Coastal side, with a bowl win Georgia Tech will garner some 1st place votes next season, but isn't it always about Virginia Tech? Paul Johnson has the Yellow Jackets offense rolling, but he will have to replace all his big playmakers up front and a couple other defensive starters. If the Jackets are to win the Coastal, they will have to do a tremendous job reloading the defensive front. The schedule seems manageable in 2009, with the toughest ACC teams coming to Atlanta, but Georgia Tech will have to navigate a road trip to Tallahassee as well as 3 games against SEC opponents - Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, and Georgia - two of those three on the road. But like I said, since 2004, this conference always seems to come back to Virginia Tech. The Hokies don't lose much and will likely be the preseason favorite in the Coastal. I don't think you are far off though, and could be persuaded that the media takes up the Georgia Tech cause in the preseason if the Wramblin' Wreck blow out LSU (which, much like FSU, would get more credit than they deserve for their bowl win) and Virginia Tech again lays an egg in the Orange Bowl. If that happens, then I think you have both the Atlantic and Coastal preseason media picks for 2009.
Jeff: Virginia Tech should be the conference favorite every year until they lose but we know that mainstream media likes sexy, shiny things, and after a victory over LSU in one of the highest profile non-BCS bowl games, there will be a lot of talk about the Yellow Jackets next year before a down is played. Also, as you mentioned, Virginia Tech travels to Atlanta next year.
Brian: The ACC's worst nightmare is a repeat of Clemson's performance against Alabama in the Chick-fil-A College Kickoff Classic. If Virginia Tech is the ACC preseason media pick and they get embarrassed by the Tide, it will be another long year for ACC football.