N.C. State finished its only double-digit win season in the Gator Bowl. There’s a good chance of history repeating for the Wolfpack.
It’s starting to look like the ACC’s bowl order will shake out with N.C. State (8-3) in Jacksonville, Fla., for the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl on Dec. 31.
Philip Rivers led N.C. State to a school-record 11 wins in 2002. That season was capped with a 28-6 win over Notre Dame in the Gator Bowl.
In a nice bit of symmetry, N.C. State has a chance at double-digit wins for only the second time in 127 seasons of college football.
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N.C. State needs to beat East Carolina (3-8) on Saturday and then would have a matchup with an SEC opponent in the Gator Bowl for the potential 10th win. LSU (9-3), Texas A&M (8-4) or South Carolina (6-5) are the primary possibilities on the SEC side.
N.C. State is still in play for the Camping World Bowl in Orlando on Dec. 28. The Camping World gets the first choice of ACC teams after the champion (Clemson, with a win on Saturday in the ACC title game, would be in the College Football Playoff).
Syracuse (9-3) has finished its regular season with a better ACC record (6-2 to 5-3) than N.C. State and head-to-head win over the Wolfpack (51-41 on Oct. 27).
The Camping World could still decide to take N.C. State over Syracuse. A potential matchup with West Virginia, pitting two of the country’s top quarterbacks, has an appeal.
The feeling, though, is Syracuse will move up in the CFP rankings this week (the Orange was No. 20 last week) and it will be the more attractive choice. Plus, there’s also an appeal to the renewal of an old Big East rivalry between the Orange and Mountaineers.
The four games in what the ACC’s Tier I bowls pick after the Camping World selection. This is where it gets tricky.
Miami (7-5), despite its disappointing season, is the preferred choice by both the Gator and the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas. There is no set order to how the Tier I teams select. The Sun, which is geared more towards television appeal (rather than ticket sales) wants the Hurricanes.
That means the Gator, which will pick an ACC team this year instead of the Music City Bowl, will take the Wolfpack.
Virginia is still the odds-on choice to land in Charlotte for the Belk Bowl on Dec. 29. The other Tier I game is the Pinstripe Bowl in New York on Dec. 27.
The ACC is putting pressure on the Pinstripe to take Pittsburgh (7-5), which faces Clemson on Saturday in the ACC title game. It would be a bad look for the league if the Coastal Division champions fell beyond the Tier I games.
There is no rule in place to specifically prevent Pitt from falling but there are league criteria and guidelines that help the Panthers’ cause.
Virginia Tech (5-6) with a win over Marshall will be the Military Bowl choice in the first Tier II game.
That leaves Boston College (7-5), Duke (7-5), Georgia Tech (7-5) and Wake Forest (6-6) for spots in the Independence (Shreveport, La.), Quick Lane (Detroit), Heart of Dallas and Gasparilla (Tampa) bowls.
Since the Gasparilla Bowl is Dec. 20, the ACC gives schools the option, for academic reasons, to bypass the game.
Duke has informed the ACC it will not be available to play in the Gasparilla Bowl. Since Duke went to Detroit last year, that leaves either the Independence of the Heart of Dallas bowl as options for the Blue Devils.