By making the ACC Championship game, Georgia Tech’s bowl options have probably been reduced to four.
The ACC’s contracts with its partner bowls stipulate that the ACC championship game loser can fall no farther than the Sun Bowl, which sits third in the selection order for ACC teams after the BCS bowl games.
Tech is likely to be a candidate even if it loses to Georgia Saturday and then to Florida State in the title game, which would drop the Yellow Jackets to 6-7. Last year, UCLA received a waiver from the NCAA to participate in a bowl with a 6-7 record. The Bruins entered the Pac-12 title game with a 6-6 record and fell below .500 – the standard for bowl eligibility with a loss to Oregon.
If Tech beats Florida State in the ACC championship, it will go to the Orange Bowl.
If it loses, the Yellow Jackets can be selected by the Chick-fil-A Bowl, the Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando (formerly the Champs Sports Bowl) and the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Tech’s destination last season.
At this point, the ACC bowl-eligible teams are Florida State, Clemson, Tech, Duke and N.C. State. Virginia Tech and Wake Forest could gain bowl eligibility with wins Saturday over Virginia and Vanderbilt, respectively.
Should Clemson beat South Carolina, the Tigers would be a strong possibility to be selected as an at-large team for a BCS bowl, as was the case with Virginia Tech last season. Clemson is ranked No. 11 in the BCS standings released Sunday.
If Clemson isn’t chosen for a BCS game, the Tigers would be an overwhelming favorite to be taken by the Chick-fil-A Bowl as they would be the only ranked team besides Florida State in the ACC.
Tech’s candidacy will be influenced by its performance against Georgia. In 2008, Tech received a Chick-fil-A Bowl invitation despite not making the ACC title game in part because of its win over the Bulldogs.
“I think the thing that Tech needs to do is keep winning,” Chick-fil-A Bowl scout Gary Floyd, who attended Tech’s win over Duke. “If they keep winning, they’re playing themselves into a pretty good bowl.”
The other ACC candidates:
N.C. State – 6-5 after losing to Clemson. The Wolfpack finish with Boston College, which grants them a pretty good shot at ending at 7-5. However, fans appear to be lukewarm on the season in general and coach Tom O’Brien in particular.
Duke – 6-5 after losing to Tech. The Blue Devils haven’t been bowling since 1994, so they have some novelty, but they’ve lost four of their past five and have given up 40-plus in all four.
Wake Forest – 5-6 after losing to Notre Dame. Demon Deacons don’t have much of a résumé – their best win was over North Carolina in the second game of the season. They’ll need to beat Vanderbilt to gain eligibility, which is anything but a sure thing.
Virginia Tech – 5-6 after beating Boston College in overtime. It’s the Hokies’ worst season since 1992. It’s hard to imagine much bowl-trip enthusiasm for fans this year. Their best win? Possibly the season-opening win over Tech.