1. Georgia Tech doesn’t need added incentive for Saturday’s game against Georgia. But if it wants it, here it is. The Yellow Jackets are likely destined for a repeat trip to the Sun Bowl if they fall to Georgia Saturday and then to Florida State in the ACC title game.
Should the Jackets beat Florida State, they’ll head to the Orange Bowl. But if they lose both, they’ll fall to 6-7 and probably be passed up by the two bowls that pick first and second after the BCS bowls in the ACC’s selection order, the Chick-fil-A Bowl and the Russell Athletic Bowl (formerly the Champs Sports Bowl).
The Sun Bowl, where the Jackets lost to Utah last year, is contractually obligated to select the ACC runner-up if it’s available. Tech players and coaches enjoyed the trip to El Paso, Texas, but likely would prefer a different destination.
At 6-7, the Jackets would first require a bowl-eligibility waiver from the NCAA to be considered as a team with a sub-.500 record, a matter that school, ACC and bowl officials don’t expect to be a problem. Regardless, they have far greater appeal at 7-6 with a win over Georgia than they do at 6-7.
“I do think the Georgia game is big just because of the overall record,” Florida Citrus Sports CEO Steve Hogan, who oversees the Russell Athletic Bowl, held in Orlando. “It’s hard to ignore that.”
Chick-fil-A Bowl president Gary Stokan passed on the opportunity to comment on the candidacy of a 6-7 Tech team.
“I try not to get too far ahead and kind of let them play their season out,” he said.
Clemson will be a factor, as it could be selected as an at-large BCS team. In that case, that would leave the Chick-fil-A Bowl, which chooses first, likely choosing N.C. State if it can win its final game against Boston College to reach 7-5.
2. Stokan’s other choices, officially, are Duke (6-5, playing Miami) and possibly Wake Forest (5-6, playing Vanderbilt) and Virginia Tech (5-6, playing Virginia). If Clemson is not taken by a BCS bowl, it will automatically go to the Chick-fil-A because of its conference record being more than one game better than any other candidate.
Here’s how I see this playing out.
Scenario 1 – Tech wins ACC Championship game and goes to Orange Bowl.
Projected opponent: Rutgers or Louisville. That’d be a ratings block preserver.
Scenario 2 – Tech beats Georgia and loses to Florida State – I’d think Tech goes to the Chick-fil-A Bowl, so long as Clemson goes to a BCS bowl (or, as bowl officials say, “stays up.”) Tech would have a better league record than N.C. State and a win at Georgia would compare favorably with the Wolfpack’s win over Florida State. Plus, Tech would be finishing strongly (last game excepted) while N.C. State would have lost three of its last five and also was just in Atlanta for the Chick-fil-A Kickoff game.
But Tech fans have to pull for Clemson to beat South Carolina, otherwise the Tigers automatically go to the Chick-fil-A.
If Clemson stays up, so long as Tech doesn’t get blown out by the Seminoles, I’d think the Russell Athletic would take the Jackets. If Tech does get drilled, then it may be the Sun Bowl.
Projected opponent: South Carolina in the Chick-fil-A, Louisville or Rutgers in the Russell Athletic.
Scenario 3 – Tech loses to Georgia and loses to Florida State – Looks like the Sun Bowl. I don’t think the Russell Athletic Bowl wants any part of a team with a losing record, even though, obviously, Tech’s extra loss would have come from being in the championship game. I’d think perception is no small matter here.
Projected opponent: USC, Washington or Arizona.
As much as players and coaches enjoyed their stay in El Paso last year, as did I, I don’t know how much enthusiasm there’d be for that. You can only eat so much Mexican food.
3. Question: Would the good folks at Russell Athletic make their feelings known about having a team they outfit in their bowl?
Answer: They might, but it probably wouldn’t mean much.
“We don’t make decisions based on a sponsor’s choice,” said Steve Hogan, Florida Citrus Sports CEO and also a new father. “I don’t mean we don’t care; we do very much. (But) we try always to do the best thing, the right thing, by the players on the field.”
I talked to him for about 10 minutes and he must have mentioned the importance of a winning record four or five times. He wouldn’t directly say that they wouldn’t take Tech at 6-7, but he said just about everything besides that.
4. (Warning – this is about to become 10 times more cryptic than those ACC tiebreaker posts from last week.)
Hopefully you aren’t so versed on NCAA rules that you were aware of this, but in August the NCAA approved a new process for addressing situations in which there aren’t enough bowl eligible teams to fill the 35 bowls. (Link to useful story here) The NCAA created an order by which ineligible teams could be approved, starting with 6-6 teams with a win over an FCS team. Second is 6-6 teams with two FCS wins.
The third group in the list is teams that were 6-7 with a loss in the conference championship, which could conceivably include Tech.
As is often the case with NCAA legislation, there is some confusion over how this actually could apply to Tech. I should point out that the waiver petition that Tech would file next week if it lost to Georgia is a separate matter from the process created in August. UCLA filed a similar waiver last year when it went into the Pac-12 title game at 6-6. Conceivably, Tech could file a waiver if it had gone 0-12 if it wanted to.
However, this new protocol may affect the potential waiver, since there is now a rule that addresses how deserving a 6-7 team is in comparison with other teams that aren’t bowl eligible.
“There’s really no way to predict whether or not that would be viewed differently since we now have this protocol that we didn’t have last year that teams that aren’t eligible,” an NCAA spokesman told me Monday.
That said, as noted above, Tech, ACC and bowl officials were confident that the Jackets could get a waiver if necessary, as they could claim precedent with UCLA. There is the thought that once a team becomes eligible, it can’t become ineligible.
Said Stokan, “I don’t think Tech would have a problem.”
There are, if you’re wondering, 62 teams for the 70 bowl slots. I believe 13 teams could gain eligibility this weekend with a sixth win, and I believe seven are favored to win. Obviously, the number of ineligible teams – North Carolina, Miami, Ohio State and Penn State, for starters – has made this issue relevant.
One thing for sure is that at least one of the ACC’s seven bowls won’t get an ACC team. Only five teams are eligible right now, and at most seven teams will become eligible. At least one and possibly two could go to BCS bowls, which could mean as few as three teams (title-game loser, Duke, N.C. State) would be available for the ACC’s seven bowls. In that case, the other four would be free to choose whomever they wanted.
5. Speaking of which, sort of, Miami coach Al Golden gave Tech some affirmation on the ACC coaches teleconference: “It’s a credit to Coach (Paul) Johnson and his team and the adversity that they overcame and really how they played down the stretch. Obviously, we’re disappointed we don’t have the opportunity, but I think at the same time, Coach Johnson would tell you he’s proud of how the team has pulled together.”
6. So, back to the exciting world of FCS wins. You may remember how Tech had to scramble to rearrange its schedule when the ACC, back when it had 12 teams, and ESPN asked (demanded) that Tech play Virginia Tech in the Labor Day season opener. Tech was handcuffed, because it wanted to preserve its bye week for later in the season, so it was looking for an FCS team it could play on short rest.
However, then-athletic director Dan Radakovich and associate AD Ryan Bamford wanted to find an FCS team that would count as a win toward bowl eligibility, meaning an FCS team that gave out 90 percent of its maximum 63 scholarships over a rolling two-year period. Savannah State was interested in playing Tech, for instance, but it didn’t meet the threshold, so Tech passed.
Said Bamford, “We just didn’t want to take the risk if we didn’t have to.”
That’s partly how Tech ended up with Presbyterian. In the event Tech stays at six wins, it’ll be bowl eligible because of that decision. So if Tech ends up back in El Paso and Bamford gets left behind, you’ll know why.
7. I realize this may be perceived as a rather Debbie Downer post, as it’s mostly examining the possibility of Tech being 6-7. (Cue sad cornet noise) My response would be that a blog post examining the ramifications of Tech winning the ACC title game would be one sentence long.