Bowl season is finally upon us, and that means we are getting that much closer to the conclusion of an action-packed season chock full of upsets, marquee individual performances from Heisman candidates across the country and meteoric ascensions for some big names set to headline the first round of the NFL Draft in April.
That being said, 11 of the 15 ACC teams in the conference are in bowl games this year. They lead the country and tie the SEC in conference teams making Bowl game appearances. The number of ACC teams competing during this time of year is up from last year’s amount of 10 games as well. Bowl season’s official kickoff is tomorrow afternoon – Saturday, December 15 – and competition for ACC teams begin a week later on Saturday, December 22.
Below are games that ACC teams are playing in, ranked in importance from “required attention” to “just another game on TV”.
ACC Postseason Schedule
11. Quick Lane Bowl: Minnesota vs. Georgia Tech – Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2018, 5:15 p.m. ET
The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, who finished with a 7-5 record, are playing their last game with Paul Johnson, their head coach fired at the end of the season, as the Jackets have hired Geoff Collins from Temple to do the job starting next year. Though they finished the season with 5 losses, Georgia Tech led the country in rushing. The Golden Gophers finished their season at 6-6 and their defense, who let up an average of almost 224 yards a game this season, are looking to play upset and stop the most dangerous rushing attack in the country.
10. Independence Bowl: Temple vs. Duke – Friday, Dec. 27, 2018, 1:30 p.m. ET
The Blue Devils are feening to get their offensive mojo back. The offense, conducted by potential first-round QB Daniel Jones, has been humbled in the past two weeks, to say the least. With back-to-back losses from Wake Forest and Clemson, they need the offense to get it going once more against this Temple Owls team, who have won five of its last six games and average over 422 yards of total offense per game.
9. Military Bowl: Cincinnati vs. Virginia Tech, Monday, Dec. 31, 2018, Noon ET
Saying that the Hokies have taken the less fortunate path this season would be an understatement. They started the year going 3-1, lost their QB Josh Jackson to a broken leg during what is still considered to be the upset of the year in the loss against Old Dominion. From that point on, they went on to complete their year with a 6-6 record, regaining some confidence with two straight victories against in-state rivals Virginia and Marshall. For the Bearcats, Head Coach Luke Fickell is planning to add to an already impressive resume’ complete with wins against UCLA and Temple with a significant win against an ACC-brand name.
8. Belk Bowl: South Carolina vs. Virginia, Saturday, Dec. 29, 2018, Noon ET
The Cavaliers’ offense will be put up to their greatest test yet this year, with a showdown against the South Carolina Gamecocks. Wins over Miami and North Carolina have garnered some attention to the Hoos, getting them to a 7-5 record. Will Muschamp’s Gamecocks has had their fair share of losses on the year, and some close ones at that. A last-minute collapse against Florida and a steamrolling from Clemson, to name a few. South Carolina wants to end the year on a good note, and if they don’t, expect Muschamp’s seat to get a little warm.
7. Sun Bowl: Pitt vs. Stanford, Monday, Dec. 31, 2018, 2 p.m. ET
Sure, the Pitt Panthers were stomped by the powerhouse Clemson Tigers in the ACC Championship, but hey, at least they got there, right? Pitt has been a marvel to watch in the past five weeks leading up to the conference championship win, with wins bolstering their record against the likes of Virginia Tech and Virginia. However, facing David Shaw’s Stanford Cardinal is no walk in the park. If Pitt isn’t able to put up the same kind of offensive stats on the 8-4 Cardinal, it could be another long day for them.
6. Pinstripe Bowl: Miami vs. Wisconsin, Thursday, Dec. 27, 2018, 5:15 p.m. ET
A disappointing and straight-up dismal season for the “Turnover Chain” donning Miami Hurricanes, who many people depicted as locks to enter the College Football Playoff and National Title picture. A season-opening blowout at the hands of LSU leading up to three straight losses after that to only get their first W of the year against Virginia Tech. With virtually no effective passing game in a year where they’ve seen the starting QB position change hands multiple times just to try and figure something out, they’ll have their work cut out for them in the cold weather of the Bronx inside Yankees Stadium against Wisconsin, their bowl game foes for the second year in a row.
5. SERVPRO First Responder Bowl: Boston College vs. Boise State, Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2018, 1:30 p.m. ET
It was all good just a couple weeks ago for the Boston College Golden Eagles, who hosted ESPN’s College Gameday for a primetime matchup against No. 2 Clemson. After a humbling double-digit loss, the Eagles went on to lose three straight and with a bowl game loss, this season could end up being a total failure for Steve Addazio. The question remains though: can their talented defense and blistering-fast pass rush challenge Boise State QB Brett Rypien and find a way to stop the Boise State backfield who averaged over 150 rushing yards a game this year?
4. Birmingham Bowl: Memphis vs. Wake Forest, Saturday, Dec. 22, 2018, Noon ET
All you need to know is that this is going to be a shootout, Chiefs-Rams style. Probably better. Both offenses can score over 40+ points if they choose to do so, and since both defenses are not as trustworthy to get off the field on third down, expect Memphis Running Back Darrell Henderson to eclipse over 2,000 yards on the season in this game, as well as Demon Deacons QB Sam Hartman to put on a show, since he’s thrown for more than 1,900 yards this year and 16 touchdowns as an addition.
3. Camping World Bowl: West Virginia vs. Syracuse, Friday, December 28, 2018, 5:15 p.m. ET
The college football world would be remiss to admit that they were unaware of Dino Babers’s rise to stardom as his Syracuse Orange took the country by storm, beginning from last year’s upset against Clemson in the Carrier Dome. An undefeated start to their season had a lot of experts and fans alike rethinking their picks to take the underdog pick of Cuse in the games like those against Clemson and Notre Dame.
Humbled surely by these two as well as an astonishing L from Pitt, QB Eric Dungey could mark this season off as a step in the right direction by putting up a good fight against a Big 12 passing machine in West Virginia, led by future first-round pick QB Will Grier.
2. Gator Bowl: NC State vs. Texas A&M, Monday, December 31, 2018, 7:30 p.m. ET
The opportunity to win 10 games in a rebuilding year for the NC State Wolfpack lies in the hands of two people: Head Coach Dave Doeren, and future NFL Quarterback Ryan Finley. Sure, they dropped four straight losses in the ACC after a 5-0 start but do not sell this Wolfpack team short.
This defense can still get a stop when it is time to step up but in order to stop the Aggies and Jimbo Fisher, who, just about a couple of weeks ago, coached the highest-scoring game in the history of D1 College Football, they will need just about every ounce of Finley’s prowess to claw out a win.
1. Cotton Bowl (CFP) Clemson vs. Notre Dame, Saturday, Dec. 29, 2018, 4 p.m. ET
Much of the talk about Notre Dame, and criticism rather, has to do with their schedule as an independent team. They didn’t have to play a conference title game, unlike their cohorts sitting at the #1, #2 and #4 slots. Yet with wins against viable conference contenders like Michigan and Northwestern from the B1G, Pitt in the ACC, and USC in the Pac 12, they have some credibility. Did I mention they were undefeated? The sudden rise of ND QB Ian Book and star tailback Dexter Williams offer some difficulty to the Tigers, but not too much they can handle.
Perhaps the most dominant team not named Alabama, 11 of Clemson’s wins this year were crushing blowouts and their defense hasn’t let up more than 16 points a game since they played South Carolina back in November. The main stars of this offense – RB Travis Etienne and QB Trevor Lawrence – will look to get their vocal Head Coach Dabo Swinney the third ticket to a National Title game in four years.