Around the ACC: Bowl Season is Here

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ACC Bowl season starts later today and runs through the Orange Bowl on January 4. Eight teams will be in action, and for the first time in conference history, two programs will be taking part in BCS bowls.

The ACC (and Virginia Tech) has taken a lot of heat for getting two teams into the BCS. There’s no better way to quiet the doubters than by winning football games, and that begins this afternoon in Shreveport.

AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl

The North Carolina Tar Heels (7-5, 3-5) will take on the Missouri Tigers (7-5, 5-4) this afternoon at 5pm on ESPN2 in the Independence Bowl. UNC will be playing their final game with Everett Withers as the interim head coach. After the bowl game, Larry Fedora will take charge of the program with NCAA sanctions looming.

The Tar Heels are a talented football team, as usual, but they probably underachieved a bit considering their overall talent level. They’ll face a very consistent Missouri program led by head coach Gary Pinkel, who has the Tigers in their seventh straight bowl game.

Missouri won their final three games to become bowl eligible. As usual, they feature an offense that puts up big numbers, averaging 472.4 yards and 32.2 points per game. James Franklin is the most prolific quarterback you’ve never heard of, passing for over 2,700 yards and 20 touchdowns will adding 839 yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground. Tailback Henry Josey ran for 1,168 yards while averaging an amazing 8.1 yards per carry.

The UNC defense is very talented, but this game will probably come down to how many points the Tar Heels can score on a very average Missouri defense, which yielded 382.2 yards and 23.5 points per game.

Belk Bowl

NC State (7-5, 4-4) takes on Louisville (7-5, 5-2) on December 27 at 8pm on ESPN. With the game being played in Charlotte, the Wolfpack will basically have a homefield advantage. Louisville nearly won the Big East, and they’ll be looking to close their season on a strong note.

NC State is not a balanced offense. They struggled to run the football at times, but they did get a big season from quarterback Mike Glennon. Glennon threw for 2,790 yards with 28 touchdowns and 11 interceptions despite playing behind a poor offensive line that allowed 32 sacks on the season.

Meanwhile, Louisville starts true freshman Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback. The Cardinals took awhile to get going with such a young quarterback, but their defense was strong all year, and Bridgewater completed 66% of his passes with 12 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He originally committed to Miami, but changed his mind when Randy Shannon was fired.

With this game being played in the heart of ACC country, this is a game NC State should win. Of course, you could say the same thing last year, but Clemson lost to South Florida in this game.

Champs Sports Bowl

On December 29 at 5:30pm on ESPN, Florida State (8-4, 5-3) and Notre Dame (8-4) square off in what should be an entertaining Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando. FSU starting tailback Jermaine Thomas is academically ineligible, but he had a down year because of injuries, and the Noles might be better off without him.

Unfortunately for FSU, they beat just one team all season who finished with a winning record: NC State. The Noles have inconsistent quarterback play, despite the hype that E.J. Manuel received before the season began.

They’ll be facing a Notre Dame team that played their usual tough schedule. The Irish beat a good Michigan State team this season, and three of their four losses came to very good teams: Michigan, USC and Stanford.

Notre Dame has been the most consistent team, and they’ll have the best player on the field in wide receiver Michael Floyd. Overall, you probably have to give the Irish the edge in this game.

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl

Wake Forest (6-6, 5-3) takes on Mississippi State (6-6, 2-6) in the Music City Bowl, and the loser of this game will finish the season with a losing record. The Demon Deacons were better than expected this season, though they did close the season poorly. Mississippi State was not as good as expected, though they lost some very tough, very close SEC games.

The Bulldogs are held back because of poor quarterback play, while the Demon Deacons don’t have that problem. Tanner Price had a very good season for Wake Forest, but the Deacons still aren’t good enough up front. Mississippi State tailback Vick Ballard rushed for over 1,000 yards this year, despite having no threat of a passing game around him.

This is possibly the least compelling of all the ACC bowl games. Though Wake Forest has superior quarterback play, will that be enough to overcome Mississippi State’s edge up front? We’ll find out on December 30 at 6:40. ESPN will carry the game.

Hyundai Sun Bowl

Georgia Tech (8-4, 5-3) will travel to El Paso to take on Utah (7-5, 4-5) in the Sun Bowl on December 31 at 2pm on ESPN. Georgia Tech is one of the ACC’s better teams, and they’ll take on a Utah program that just completed their first season in the Pac-12 conference.

The Utes went 7-5 and won four of their final five games this season to qualify for a bowl game. However, Utah doesn’t have a great win to hang their hat on, and like Mississippi State, they have suffered through a season of poor quarterback play. John White was a 1,400 yard rusher for the Utes, and he’ll get to face a Georgia Tech defense that is known to struggle against the run.

The Utah defense was decent this season, and they will have had a full month to get ready for the Georgia Tech triple option attack. In the past, Georgia Tech has struggled in bowl games because the opposition has extra time to prepare their defense against such a unique offense.

Chick-fil-A Bowl

As a result of Virginia Tech being selected to the Sugar Bowl, the Virginia Cavaliers (8-4, 5-3) were taken by the Chick-fil-A Bowl to face the Auburn Tigers (7-5, 4-4), the defending National Champions. The game will be played on New Year’s Eve at 7:30pm on ESPN.

Auburn is quite a different team this season. They managed to beat South Carolina in October, but they didn’t beat any other SEC team with a winning record. In fact, they were hammered in all of their losses: Clemson (38-24), Arkansas (38-14), LSU (45-10), Georgia (45-7) and Alabama (42-14).

UVA was building a lot of momentum until they were squashed on their own home field 38-0 by Virginia Tech with the Coastal Division Championship on the line. How is Virginia’s mental state after suffering through such a loss?

This is Virginia’s biggest bowl game in a long time, and Auburn tailback Michael Dyer is suspended. The Hoos should have a decent chance to win if they can show up and establish the run against a very questionable Auburn defense that allowed over 400 yards per game this season.

Allstate Sugar Bowl

Virginia Tech (11-2, 7-1) is the first ACC team ever selected as an at-large by the BCS. They’ll take on tradition-rich Michigan (10-2, 6-2) in the Superdome on January 3 at 8:30pm on ESPN. It will be the only college football game played that day, so there will be a lot of people watching, many of which don’t believe the Hokies belong in the BCS.

Michigan will be a tough opponent. The Wolverines are led by dynamic quarterback Denard Robinson, who threw for 2,056 yards and 18 touchdowns while also rushing for 1,163 yards and 16 touchdowns. While probably had a better season in 2010 than in 2011, he is a great player who can change the course of a game in one play.

Michigan also has Fitzgerald Toussaint, a 1,000 yard rusher, at the tailback position. They are very experienced on the offensive line, while their front seven is big and physical. They have been susceptible to the pass and to outside runs this season, so this appears to be a decent matchup for the Virginia Tech offense.

The Tech defense, young and inexperienced up front, have a big challenge with Denard Robinson. Many people are expecting a high scoring game, and on paper this is a very good matchup.

If the Hokies can win, it will be a big victory for the program and the ACC.

Discover Orange Bowl

As a result of their ACC Championship Game win over Virginia Tech, the Clemson Tigers (10-3, 7-2) will take on the West Virginia Mountaineers (9-3, 5-2) in the Orange Bowl. The game will be played on January 4 at 8:30pm on ESPN, and it will be one of two chances the ACC will receive to showcase itself in the BCS.

Again, this is another BCS Bowl that has a chance to be exciting. The West Virginia defense has struggled against the good offenses they have face, and Clemson will take a very dynamic offense with a lot of star power down to Miami. West Virginia features prolific quarterback Geno Smith, though they aren’t a particularly good running team, and it has been the running game that has given the Clemson defense the most trouble this season.

On paper, this is a game that Clemson should win. However, as Virginia Tech fans know all to well, you never know exactly which Clemson team is going to show up. Is it going to be the team that beat Virginia Tech twice, or is it going to be the team that barely beat Wake Forest and was blown out by NC State?

To their credit, West Virginia has played well in their recent BCS games, beating Georgia and Oklahoma. This appears to be anybody’s game.

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