Syracuse's 34-31 victory over Boston College makes the Orange the 11th ACC bowl eligible team. From the ACC, a record 11 teams are now bowl eligible:
-- Florida St. Seminoles (12-0, 8-0 ACC)
-- Clemson Tigers (10-2, 7-1 ACC)
-- Duke Blue Devils (10-2, 6-2 ACC)
-- Miami Hurricanes (9-3, 5-3 ACC)
-- Virginia Tech Hokies (8-4, 5-3 ACC)
-- Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (7-5, 5-3 ACC)
-- Boston College Eagles (7-5, 4-4 ACC)
-- Maryland Terrapins (7-5, 3-5 ACC)
-- North Carolina Tar Heels (6-6, 4-4 ACC)
-- Syracuse Orange (6-6, 4-4 ACC)
-- Pittsburgh Panthers (6-6, 3-5 ACC)
Assumptions and Ground Rules
The machinations involving 11 bowl-eligible teams and eight conference bowl tie-ins make my head hurt. This thing could really break any number of ways. Here's what we do know:
-- If Florida State beats Duke this weekend, the Seminoles will be in the BCS National Championship Game. All the new #1 in the BCS has to do is beat Duke and the 'Noles are in the title game.
-- Even if Florida State loses to Duke, at 12-1, there's a chance that the Seminoles will become a BCS at-large. Florida State would then most likely get scooped up by the Sugar Bowl (with the Orange Bowl taking the American champ, UCF). Clemson would be the big loser here, falling out of the BCS to the Peach Bowl.
-- The Florida State / Duke ACC Championship Game loser can fall no further than the Sun Bowl (ACC no. 4). But really, that's probably Duke.
-- In the unlikely event that Duke beats Florida State, the Seminoles can fall no further than the Russell Athletic Bowl by virtue of the ACC's one-loss rule. Only Clemson (7-1) can hop Florida State (8-0) in the ACC's bowl pecking order.
-- Clemson, currently ranked #13 in the penultimate BCS standings, is in line to become Florida State's ACC replacement in the Orange Bowl. The Tigers have a decent-size lead over Northern Illinois (.0389), Central Florida (.1343), Oklahoma (.1393), Louisville (.2571) and Duke (.2949) -- the other teams immediately below Clemson that are in action this weekend. The Tigers need to hold onto a top 14 finish in the final BCS standings to become the Florida State replacement in the Orange Bowl. Clemson should be able to do just that. At the very worst, #17 Oklahoma springs the upset over Oklahoma State in Bedlam and jumps the Tigers. Don't really see how the others can jump Clemson in the final BCS standing.
-- Only Duke (6-2) can jump Clemson (7-1) in the ACC's bowl pecking order. Only Virginia Tech (5-3), Miami (5-3) and Georgia Tech (5-3) can jump Duke.
-- Maryland (3-5) and Pittsburgh (3-5) can't jump Florida State, Clemson, Duke, Virginia Tech, Miami or Georgia Tech. The ceiling for either program becomes the ACC's no. 6 selection, the Music City Bowl, assuming two teams make the BCS (likely with either ACC Championship Game outcome).
So what about Boston College?
The Eagles can't jump Florida State (8-0), Clemson (7-1) or Duke (6-2). Complicating matters is the fact that every other ACC program can technically jump Boston College by virtue of the one-loss rule. I don't think it will come to that. BC has two things going for itself:
a) An extra win. At 7-5, even if ACC bowls don't have to take BC, the program looks a bit more attractive than a 6-6 outfit. Particularly ones BC beat (i.e. Maryland) and/or other programs that are coming off season-ending losses (Pittsburgh, Georgia Tech and North Carolina). Despite the head-to-head result vs. Syracuse, BC may end up well ahead of the Orange in the bowl pecking order with the extra win as well (and the fact that one of SU's wins came against 38-scholarship Wagner).
b) Andre Williams. The nation's leading rusher won't be shut out of a bowl game and an opportunity to climb the NCAA's single-season rushing record list. Williams has become THE story of the season and if push comes to shove, BC will land in a bowl over other ACC programs partially because of Williams' record season.
Even if the ACC gets two teams in the BCS, the conference will have nine other programs for just seven bowl slots. A minimum of two programs will need to hope that other conferences won't be able to fulfill its bowl obligations and can slot into those games. The good news is that there are more than a couple bowls that we know will already be looking for replacement teams.
American. The American has six bowl tie-ins and just four eligible programs. Two -- Rutgers (5-6) and SMU (5-6) -- are within a win of bowl eligibility. A Rutgers win over USF (likely) and an SMU win over UCF (unlikely) takes both of the American's last two bowl games off the table. A win by just one of these programs would open up a spot in the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl in St. Petersburg (the American no. 6). Should both Rutgers and SMU lose this weekend, a slot in the BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham opens up. Every Pitt fan just cringed.
Big 12. The Big 12 finishes with just six bowl eligible teams for eight bowl games. With Northern Illinois poised to crash the BCS party once again, there's only a tiny window for the Big 12 to get a second team in the BCS. That opens up spots in the Pinstripe Bowl (Big 12 no. 7) and the Heart of Dallas Bowl (Big 12 no. 8).
Big Ten. The Big Ten only has seven bowl eligible teams for eight bowl slots. Should Ohio State hold on to a spot in the BCS National Championship Game and the Buckeyes get replaced by Michigan State in the Rose Bowl, that would leave two Big Ten bowl games needing replacement programs. The Heart of Dallas Bowl (Big Ten no. 7) and Little Caesars Pizza Bowl (Big Ten no. 8) would then both need replacement teams.
SEC. The SEC has the same number of bowl eligible teams (10) as bowl slots (10), but the conference will likely send two to the BCS (the Auburn/Missouri winner and Alabama). That frees up a spot in the SEC no. 10 bowl, the Independence Bowl. The problem is that the I-Bowl is already affiliated with the ACC, making an all-ACC matchup in this bowl unlikely.
Army. The Poinsettia Bowl had a tie-in with Army but the Black Knights won just three games this season.
Out of the power conferences, this leaves the ACC (two more bowl teams than bowl tie-ins) and the Pac-12 (two more bowl teams than bowl tie-ins) looking to fill replacement slots. If history is a guide, major conference teams will fill bowl vacancies well before teams from the Little 5 conferences.
The following bowls are likely looking for replacement teams:
-- Beef 'O' Brady's (St. Petersburg) - American 6 vs. C-USA 4
-- Heart of Dallas - Big Ten 7 vs. Big 12 8
-- Little Caesars (Detroit) - Big Ten 8 vs. MAC 1
-- Independence (Shreveport) - SEC 10 vs. ACC 7
-- Poinsettia (San Diego) - MWC 2 vs. Army
-- Pinstripe (Bronx) - Big 12 7 vs. American 4
Notre Dame is a near lock to fill the Big 12's no. 7 slot in the Pinstripe Bowl and the Independence Bowl is not likely to be an all-ACC affair (which actually improves the ACC's chances of facing a Pac-12 replacement team in this game). The San Diego-based Poinsettia Bowl is also likely to take the other, more local Pac-12 replacement team. This leaves the two odd ACC programs out looking at the Beef 'O' Brady's, Heart of Dallas and Little Caesars Bowl as the only hope to landing in a bowl game.
Bowl Projections after week 14
Florida State and Clemson land in the BCS. Miami (Peach), Virginia Tech (Russell Athletic) and Duke (Sun) round out the ACC's top four bowls. North Carolina lands in Charlotte while Georgia Tech -- with a rematch vs. Georgia now appearing unlikely -- grabs the Music City Bowl bid. The I-Bowl takes BC and pairs the Eagles with a replacement team from the Pac-12 (Washington State?). Maryland lands in Annapolis while Pitt (Pizza Bowl) and Syracuse (Beef Bowl) find games among the bowls needing to find replacement teams.
Andre Williams is on the mend and a big day rushing vs. a middling rush D puts the 2013 Doak Walker Award winner fourth on the NCAA's all-time career rushing list -- behind only USC's Marcus Allen (2,342 in 1981), UCF's Kevin Smith (2,567 in 2004) and Oklahoma State's Barry Sanders (2,628 in 1988).
|1/3/14||BCS National Championship Game (Pasadena)||BCS 1 vs. BCS 2||Florida State||13-0, 8-0 ACC|
|1/3/14||Orange (Miami)||ACC No. 1 vs. At-large No. 1||Clemson||10-2, 7-1 ACC|
|12/31/13||Peach (Atlanta)||ACC No. 2 vs. SEC No. 5||Miami||9-3, 5-3 ACC|
|12/28/13||Russell Athletic (Orlando)||ACC No. 3 vs. American No. 2||Virginia Tech||8-4, 5-3 ACC|
|12/31/13||Sun (El Paso)||ACC No. 4 vs. Pac-12 No. 4||Duke||10-3, 6-2 ACC|
|12/28/13||Belk (Charlotte)||ACC No. 5 vs. American No. 3||North Carolina||7-5, 5-3 ACC|
|12/30/13||Music City (Nashville)||ACC No. 6 vs. SEC No. 7||Georgia Tech||7-5, 5-3 ACC|
|12/31/13||Independence (Shreveport)||ACC No. 7 vs. SEC No. 10||Boston College||7-5, 4-4 ACC|
|12/27/13||Military (Annapolis)||ACC No. 8 vs. C-USA No. 5||Maryland||7-5, 3-5 ACC|
|12/26/13||Little Caesars (Detroit)||At-large (was Big Ten No. 8)||Pittsburgh||6-6, 3-5 ACC|
|12/23/13||Beef 'O' Brady's (St. Petersburg)||At-large (was American No. 6)||Syracuse||6-6, 4-4 ACC|