On Monday, SI.com's Stewart Mandel published his 2011-12 college football bowl predictions for this season, placing the Eagles in the Military Bowl opposite Navy. But that wasn't the biggest surprise in Mandel's bowl predictions as it relates to the ACC. This was:
Mandel is predicting that the ACC will land its first ACC at-large bid since expansion, with Florida State earning an at-large bid to the Sugar Bowl. For the ACC Championship Game, Mandel is going with Virginia Tech over Florida State, with the Hokies headed to the Orange Bowl and the Seminoles headed to the Sugar Bowl. This isn't all that far-fetched when you consider how stacked Florida State is this year and the cake schedule that the Hokies have.
If the ACC does earn its first BCS at-large bid, that creates an opportunity for the rest of the bowl-eligible conference teams. Here's how Mandel sees it shaking out:
Dec. 31 Chick-fil-A: Maryland (ACC No. 2) vs. Mississippi State (SEC No. 5)
Dec. 29 Champs Sports: West Virginia (Big East No. 2) vs. Miami (ACC No. 3)
Dec. 31 Sun: Clemson (ACC No. 4) vs. Utah (Pac-12 No. 4)
Dec. 27 Belk: Pittsburgh (Big East No. 3) vs. North Carolina (ACC No. 5)
Dec. 30 Music City: Georgia Tech (ACC No. 6) vs. Auburn (SEC No. 7)
Dec. 26 Independence: TCU (MWC No. 3) vs. N.C. State (ACC No. 7)
Dec. 28 Military: Boston College (ACC No. 8) vs. Navy (Navy)
Two quick thoughts. That is BY FAR the most optimistic bowl projection I've ever seen for Maryland this year. Frankly, I just can't see the Terps landing in Atlanta. If Clemson, Miami or North Carolina are within a game of Maryland in the ACC standings, there's no way the Peach Bowl selects the Terps over any one of those three programs. I mean, the Terps men's basketball program does host Samford that day.
Second, Mandel still seems awfully high on a Hurricane team that heads into the season with a ton of question marks. Miami could win 9-10 games this year or they could limp to a middling ACC finish and barely be bowl eligible. The Champs Sports Bowl and the ACC's third selection seems too high for the U this year.
What do you think? Where do the Eagles end up playing this postseason?