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Week 8 ACC Bowl Projections — Syracuse in Strong Position

After its thrilling win over North Carolina State last Saturday, the Syracuse Orange have qualified for a bowl game for the first time since 2018. With a breakthrough 6-0 start and Top 25 ranking however, the Orange are not just scraping by to get to a bowl game — they're shattering expectations and setting themselves up for a great postseason opportunity, similar to the program's win in the 2018 Camping World Bowl.

The Orange head into this week's matchup against Clemson with first place in the ACC Atlantic on the line. Yet, regardless of the result, Syracuse finds itself in a truly solid position to finish among the top of the ACC teams come bowling time. The ACC has at least nine, iron-clad bowl affiliations, with potential for more destinations if need be, including the College Football Playoff and ReliaQuest Bowl. Linked here is a list of the bowls affiliated with the ACC this year. The way I've decided to weigh whether an ACC team makes a bowl or not will rely on ESPN's FPI projections.

Clemson

Projected record: 12-1

Result: College Football Playoff — Peach Bowl vs. Georgia

Reasoning: The Tigers, even if they lose to the Orange on Saturday, still would have nearly a 45% chance to make the ACC Championship game. On the flip side, there'd be a 45% chance they don't make the game to begin with. But there's a reason the Tigers are the odds-on favorite to win the ACC. Despite some challenges this season, Clemson has still proven to be the cream of the crop in the conference. As long as the Tigers win the ACC Championship Game — even with one loss somewhere along the way — they'll still have a better than 50% chance to make the CFP.

Syracuse

Projected record: 9-3

Result: Holiday Bowl vs. Utah

Reasoning: This is a game that would be a likely ranked-vs-ranked matchup between the Orange and the Utes, who are coming off an upset win against USC. While I do think both the Orange and Utes will finish strong to end the season, I don't think either will likely compete for their respective conference championships, which is why I place them here.

Wake Forest

Projected record: 9-3

Result: Orange Bowl vs. Ole Miss

Reasoning: I think there's a good chance the Demon Deacons actually finish above their projections and win 10 or 11 games. Wake's offense is one of the best in the country and I expect them to continue to put up points at a high rate. This is the one team that is standing in the way of Syracuse's Orange Bowl chances, in my opinion. The Demon Deacons will be home when they face the Orange later this season, a game in which Wake will likely be favored. For now, I think the Demon Deacons win that game and ultimately own the head-to-head tiebreaker against the Orange.

North Carolina

Projected record: 9-4

Result: Cheez-It Bowl vs. Texas

Reasoning: The current projection for the Tar Heels is that this team will win the Coastal Division and lose in the ACC Championship Game to Clemson. The Cheez-It Bowl is what used to be the Camping World Bowl, this game features the second pick from the ACC following the New Year's Six selections against the third pick from the Big 12. With two, huge brand name programs, this game would be one to watch for a lot of college football fans — especially with Mack Brown going up against his former Longhorns.

North Carolina State

Projected record: 8-4

Result: Duke's Mayo Bowl vs. Maryland

Reasoning: The Wolfpack get to play a de facto home game in Charlotte and can draw in plenty of fans for this game. Despite losing quarterback Devin Leary for the season, this NC State team still has a stout defense and should have no problem reaching a bowl game. However, they are no likely to reach higher than fourth in the ACC Atlantic division.

Florida State

Projected record: 7-5

Result: Gator Bowl vs. Kentucky

Reasoning: The Seminoles started out strong this season, but have since lost three straight games. However, this team still has premium talent and has shown enough improvements that indicate they should be able to get back to a bowl game. The Gator Bowl, played in Jacksonville, would be another sort of de facto home game for the ACC against a formidable SEC opponent in the Wildcats.

Notre Dame

Projected record: 7-5

Result: Pinstripe Bowl vs. Minnesota

Reasoning: Notre Dame, while not technically an ACC member in football, has a unique relationship via bowl game tie-ins. Essentially, the Fighting Irish can 'steal' a bowl game bid from another ACC team if they are within one game of them respectively. In this scenario, the 7-5 Fighting Irish could steal any 8-4 ACC team's bowl game bid. The reason why I have Notre Dame projected to the Pinstripe Bowl is because the Fighting Irish are extremely popular in the New York City area and this would be a good game against Big Ten competition for them. Notre Dame has largely underperformed this season and with games against ranked opponents Syracuse, Clemson and USC on the schedule, it would not surprise me if the Fighting Irish finish 6-6 and unable to qualify for a higher-tier bowl.

Pittsburgh

Projected record: 7-5

Result: Fenway Bowl vs. UCF

Reasoning: The Panthers have an outside shot to challenge for the Coastal Division title, but have a few challenging road games and a home game against Syracuse remaining on the schedule. If FPI projections hold, I could see Notre Dame stealing a Pinstripe Bowl bid from the Panthers. Still, in this scenario, Pittsburgh stays in the Northeast for this Boston-based bowl against a team they've had recent history against.

Miami

Projected record: 6-6

Result: Sun Bowl vs. Washington

Reasoning: The Hurricanes have had issues on offense through the whole season, but still have enough talent to qualify for a bowl game. And of course, Miami is still a brand college football name, so they should still make a Tier 1 ACC bowl game and attract an audience, especially against a Power Five opponent.

Duke

Projected record: 6-6

Result: Military Bowl vs. East Carolina

Reasoning: The Blue Devils started out 3-0 but have hit a bit of a skid, going 1-3 in their last four games. But FPI still gives Duke a 75 percent chance to finish with six wins. This game against an in-state opponent should draw a decent crowd and give the Blue Devils an opportunity to earn a bowl win for the first time since 2018.

Louisville

Projected record: 6-6

Result: Gasparilla Bowl vs. Memphis

Reasoning: The Cardinals are just barely projected to finish with six wins, at 61 percent, but they have little room for error. All of Louisville's remaining opponents have not lost more than two games each, and the remaining schedule includes four currently ranked teams — Clemson, Wake Forest, NC State and Kentucky. It's been a disappointing season for the Cardinals program and they could very well miss a bowl game this season.

Teams projected to miss bowl games: Virginia, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Boston College