Now that Boston College is bowl eligible, are the Eagles a lock for the New Era Pinstripe Bowl?
A bunch of things broke in BC's favor that could more or less lock them into the Bronx-based bowl this past weekend.
-- Pitt and Syracuse dropped winnable games. It's no secret that the ACC added bowl tie-ins with the Pinstripe (Bronx), Quick Lanes / Detroit Lions (Detroit) and Military (Annapolis) to cater to the new northern tier of the conference--Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Boston College. Of those three, only BC is definitely bowl-bound this year, while Pitt and Syracuse have a lot of work left to do to even get to six wins. Pittsburgh (4-5, 2-3 ACC) still needs two more victories and has road games at Carolina and Miami to go. Meanwhile, Syracuse (3-6, 1-4 ACC) needs to win out to get back to a bowl game. With games against Duke and road games at Pitt and BC to end the year, things look pretty bleak for the Orange.
Had either Pitt or Syracuse taken care of business in winnable games against Duke and N.C. State, respectively, things might have looked a little different this week. But now with six wins looking pretty tenuous for BC's northern conference mates, it makes a lot of sense to slot the Eagles in here.
-- Florida State keeps winning. Not that the Seminoles are going to fall all the way to the Pinstripe Bowl, but keeping FSU out of the ACC's bowl lineup boosts every other conference members bowl prospects.
-- So does Notre Dame. Even if the Irish bottom out and finish the year 7-5, which (unfortunately) seems highly unlikely, ACC teams would need to finish with a 9-3 (or better) record to hold off the Irish in the conference's bowl pecking order. I have to think even a 2- or maybe 3-loss Irish team--depending on the losses--would be enough to get the Irish into the "New Year's Six" games as an at-large. At this point, a major bowl invite seems like a probable destination for Notre Dame, which keeps the Fighting Irish out of the ACC's bowl lineup.
-- The other Tier I bowls have natural fits. Have to think that Clemson will keep winning and likely win out to finish the year 11-1. That makes the Tigers an easy choice for the Orange Bowl; likely opposite Notre Dame. Miami looks like a completely different team over the last three weeks, and at 6-3, seems like an easy choice for the Russell Athletic Bowl as the ACC's #2 selection.
With Florida State, Clemson and Miami all claimed, that leaves BC (6-3) in a group with Duke (7-1), Georgia Tech (7-2), and Louisville (6-3) for the conference's tier I bowl games--the Belk (Charlotte), Sun (El Paso) and Pinstripe (Bronx) as well as a shared pick between the Music City (Nashville) and Gator (Jacksonville). The Belk probably takes Duke, while Louisville likely ends up in one of the shared pick bowls--Music City or Gator. That leaves the Sun and Pinstripe to choose between BC and Georgia Tech. In that scenario, geography will play well into the Eagles' favor when it comes to grabbing the Pinstripe Bowl nod (and sending Georgia Tech west).
-- Not sure many more teams get there. While it's still technically possible that all 14 ACC teams will become bowl eligible, two--Syracuse and Wake Forest--have to win out to do so. The dream of all 14 ACC teams bowl eligible also relies on things like Virginia winning 2 of final 3 against FSU, Miami and Virginia Tech, and Carolina winning 2 of 3 against Pitt, Duke and N.C. State. Which is probably not happening.
In the worst case scenario, all seven programs currently not bowl eligible finish 1-2 wins short of bowl eligibility. The conference then sends just seven programs to bowl games a year after sending a record 11.
As I said on Monday, I think N.C. State (6 wins), the Pitt / North Carolina winner (6 wins) and Virginia Tech (6 wins) all get there, but that seems like a best case, no crazy stuff scenario. And if this year's Coastal Division race tells us anything, doubtful that actually happens. What's more likely is the ACC only gets 1-2 more bowl eligible teams right at 6 wins, all while BC has three more shots at padding the win column and improving its bowl position.
It's very possible that with Florida State in the playoff and Notre Dame in a non-ACC bowl tie-in spot, the ACC will only have eight or so bowl-eligible teams for 10+ tie-ins. In that case, more than one bowl game in the "everything else" band of ACC-affiliated bowls would have to scramble to find a replacement team from another conference.
The Pinstripe Bowl feels like the best spot for BC. The Eagles boast the nation's best rushing quarterback--from nearby Connecticut--playing in his final collegiate game. There are plenty of alumni in the NYC metro area, with anywhere from 8-10k BC fans attending the game at Michie in 2012. The game is an afternoon kick on the Saturday after Christmas, as opposed to the day after Christmas like the Quick Lane Bowl. BC also backed out of its scheduled game vs. Army at Yankee Stadium this season--which was filled by UConn, and is this weekend--in an attempt to get back to having a seven-game home schedule (that game was replaced with a home game against Colorado State, which, yeah).
Even though down the road BC may face Pinstripe / Detroit / Military Bowl fatigue, have to think Bates is stumping hard to get the Eagles into this spot.
Here's where everyone has BC heading this week:
ESPN (McMurphy): Military Bowl vs. Temple (12/27)
ESPN (Schlabach): Military Bowl vs. Temple (12/27)
ESPN (David Hale): New Era Pinstripe Bowl (12/27)
National Football Post: Quick Lane Bowl vs. Temple* (12/26)
SB Nation: Quick Lane Bowl vs. Western Michigan* (12/26)
CBSSports: Military Bowl vs. Cincinnati (12/27)
Phil Steele: New Era Pinstripe Bowl vs. Rutgers (12/27)
Scout.com: New Era Pinstripe Bowl vs. Rutgers (12/27)
Syracuse Post-Standard / Patrick Stevens: New Era Pinstripe Bowl (12/27)
College Sports Madness: Quick Lane Bowl vs. Maryland (12/26)
The Sporting News: Sun Bowl vs. Utah (12/27)
Athlon: New Era Pinstripe Bowl vs. Penn State (12/27)
Sports Illustrated: New Era Pinstripe Bowl vs. Maryland (12/27)
Orlando Sentinel: New Era Pinstripe Bowl vs. Rutgers (12/27)
* replacement team