With the season going down as a fail, still plenty to play for

By 2003alumgocanes

Barring a miracle, the team will fail to win the ACC Coastal division for the 6th year in a row and fail to win the ACC for the 7th year in a row.  Ultimately, this failure came down to 3 things:

  1. An unacceptable no show against a mediocre FSU team.
  2. A flat start to the UVA game. Yes, you can point to the fact that Jacory Harris got injured and justifiably conclude that we would have won had he not gotten injured, but without the slow start the game would have been over at the time he got knocked out.  Several dropped passes short circuited drives, and ultimately left UVA in the game.
  3. The decision to play Spencer Whipple.

In year’s past, with the Chick-fil-a, Gator and Champs Sports bowls on tap, the rest of the season wouldn’t really make that much of a difference.  But, bowl realignment has changed that.  The ACC’s bowl lineup is now dramatically different.

  1. Orange Bowl vs. BCS at-large
  2. Chick-fil-a vs. SEC#5
  3. Champs Sports vs. Big East #2 or Notre Dame
  4. Sun Bowl vs. PAC 10 #4
  5. Meineke Car Care Bowl vs. Big East #3
  6. Music City Bowl vs. SEC #7
  7. Independence Bowl vs. MWC #3
  8. Eagle Bank Bowl vs. C-USA #4

The 1-game rule does apply.  Evidently, the ACC did not explicitly specify it in previous contracts, allowing the Gator Bowl to select FSU last year.  That is no longer the case, so you cannot be selected in front of a team that is more than a game ahead in the standings.  This could only possibly become an issue for us if we lose to VT and then they lose the ACC Championship game.  And, looking at the ACC teams, there are really only 2 teams that could be selected in front of Miami:  Virginia Tech and Florida State.  Anyone else would not make sense. The Sun Bowl is the “fail safe” selection for the ACC Championship game runner-up, meaning that if the ACC Championship game runner-up is available, they have to be selected there.  Again, that shouldn’t effect us, because VT would either be the ACC Champion or runner-up, and either VT and FSU were already selected (after NC State or Maryland won the ACC) or we will have already been selected.  In short, by the time the Sun Bowl gets selected either the ACC Champions has already been selected or we have.

And this is why it is imperative for us to win out.  Doing so will most certainly result in us finishing as the highest ranked ACC team available for selection.  It will also almost certainly prevent us from falling below the Champs Sports Bowl.

But there is a disaster scenario.  If VT or FSU does NOT win the ACC, we could conceivably fall to the Sun Bowl, although you figure if we beat VT and they lose the ACC Championship Game, we will get selected in front of them.  But you never know.

In either event, even with a loss to VT, it’s hard to imagine us falling pass the Sun Bowl.  But the real intriguing part comes when you look at the potential bowl opponents.

Chick-fil-a Bowl

This will be against the 5th place SEC team (if you are wondering why the ACC sends their runner-up to the same game as the ACC’s 5th team, the reason is two-fold.  1)  the SEC is a better conference.  2)  Money.  The ACC gets over a million dollars more for the Chick-fil-a Bowl than the SEC.)  Unfortunately, the SEC will have 2 teams in the BCS, so this is in really the 6th place SEC team.  And the bowl pecking order would be one of the 2 scenarios (at this moment):

  1. SEC Champ – Auburn (Sugar or NC game)
  2. At-large BCS – LSU
  3. Capitol One Bowl – Alabama

Now this is where it gets interesting.  The 4/5 selection here is split between the Outback Bowl and the Cotton Bowl.  The Outback bowl gets dibs on an SEC East team, while the Cotton gets dibs on an SEC West team.  They don’t have to take a team from that division, but the other bowl can’t take a team from that division first.  In this case, I would think it would play out as UF going to the Outback Bowl (local pressure) and Arkansas to the Cotton Bowl.  That leaves South Carolina for the Chick-fil-a Bowl.  Not a bad matchup.  The other scenario is one where South Carolina wins the SEC Championship.  This would obviously shuffle everything, but I think the net result is that the Cotton would take whichever of LSU/Auburn/Alabama is left, and the Outback will be left with UF or Arkansas, and make the local pick again. In that case, Arkansas would be left to the Chick-fil-a Bowl.

Projected opponent: South Carolina OR Arkansas

Champs Sports Bowl

Well, what looked like a disaster now might be great.  This bowl officially sucks now.  Playing the runner-up in the Big East is pretty awful.  And right now, that would either be Pitt, West Virginia, Connecticut, Syracuse or South Florida.  The only game there that wouldn’t be completely vomit inducing is West Virginia, and that’s just because of the stories that Sir El Camino of George can tell.

But something big time happened yesterday.  When Notre Dame blew out Utah at home, they moved to 5-5.  1 win from bowl eligibility.  With 2 games left vs. Army and USC, you figure 1-1 is reasonable.  The Champs Sports Bowl, as part of their Big East agreement, can select Notre Dame once every 4 years.  And if both Miami and Notre Dame are available, the chances of them passing on that possibility are slim to none (only exception being VT and FSU both not winning the conference, VT getting the Chick-fil-a bowl selection, and FSU swindling their way into another bowl game in front of us).

Projected opponent: Notre Dame or West Virginia

Sun Bowl

The location sucks.  But at least there is an opportunity to play a quality opponent from the PAC 10.  Or maybe not.  Because there is a huge problem with the PAC 10.  They only have 3 bowl eligible teams. USC lies 3rd in the conference, but is ineligible.  As of now, Oregon, Stanford, and Arizona are the only bowl eligible teams.  So, there won’t be a 4th eligible team.  This could be further complicated if Stanford earns a BCS birth (which could happen if Boise State or TCU loses, and will definitely happen if both lose).  That would leave 1 at-large PAC 10 team, with that team going to the Alamo Bowl.  3 teams could possibly play themselves into bowl contention…

  1. Cal is 5-5 with games against Stanford and Washington at home.  A split gets them a bowl spot, in the Sun Bowl, or the Holiday Bowl if Stanford makes the BCS.  Ironically, they have a better chance of playing in a better bowl game by losing to Stanford and beating Washington than by beating both.
  2. UCLA is 4-5 with games @Washington, @Arizona State and USC.  They need 2 wins, I don’t like their chances.
  3. Oregon State is 4-5 with games against USC, @Stanford and Oregon.  No chance.  They are looking like finishing 4-8.

So, what happens in the event that no PAC 10 teams are left to be selected.  A free agent is selected.  And that is a disaster.  Because it will be a team that was not selected ahead of anyone else.  They can’t just take the 5th place Big East team, for example, because they are tied in somewhere else.  In short, the opponent will be as bad as humanly possible.

Projected opponent: Cal or complete dogshit.

And that is why these next 2 games are critically important.  The difference between a ranked SEC team, a possible ND matchup, and then a best case scenario of playing a .500 Cal team in El Paso are enormous.  Also, some other things to keep in mind and look for:

  • UF losing to FSU can be good and bad.  If UF loses again, maybe, just maybe (although unlikely), the Outback Bowl would select South Carolina instead.  Obviously, FSU winning that game increases their stature and increases the likelihood of them being selected in front of us.  Of course, if FSU beats UF and it causes UF to fall to the Chick-fil-a Bowl, they would avoid a rematch and select us to set up Miami-UF.  I don’t think it is likely at all that the Outback passes on UF, so that could all be a moot point.  And it’s especially unlikely that the local pressure from UF doesn’t grow to a cataclysmic roar if the result of the Outback Bowl passing on UF is that UF has to play us, a team they avoid playing like ACC Refs avoid accurate calls.  Such a string of events could cause Urban Meyer to fake retire again.  It’s better if UF just wins.
  • We need some good vibes from TexasTerp20 this week.  If Maryland beats FSU, it not only eliminates FSU from the ACC title, but drops them below us in the pecking order, most definitively.  If FSU loses out, a 7-5 FSU team would not be an intriguing pick for the Chick-fil-a Bowl.
  • Virginia Tech needs to win the ACC Championship game.  If you eliminate them from the at-large pool, we won’t fall below the Champs Sports Bowl.
  • Cheer, cheer for Old Notre Dame.  Yes, they suck.  But if they lose out, the Champs Sports Bowl goes from an intriguing matchup against a shitty team to a snooze fest against a shitty team.

While this season will ultimately go down as a failure, there is still a reason to win these games. In addition to playing in a much better bowl game against a much better opponent, the team can finish with 10 wins and possibly as the highest ranked team in the ACC.

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