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Week 13 ACC Bowl Projections — Syracuse Headed Toward Sunshine


With just one week left in the regular season, the postseason picture is largely clear in the ACC. Most conference teams in contention of qualifying for a bowl game already have, with only Miami (FL) fighting for its last shot at postseason eligibility, and Clemson will take on UNC in the ACC Championship Game next week in Charlotte. Syracuse, which started out the season hot at 6-0, has tumbled down to 6-5 and is in the middle of a very crowded group of ACC teams that should finish either 7-5 or 8-4.

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. I've also found handy conference ranking tie-in's via this Athletic projections article.

Clemson

Projected record: 12-1

Result: Orange Bowl vs. Alabama

Reasoning: This is the same projection as last week. Clemson notched two straight wins against Louisville and Miami following its loss to Notre Dame. The Tigers, currently No. 8 in the College Football Playoff rankings, still may have a chance to get into the playoff picture by winning out, but they'll have to hope for some help and see teams like Alabama, LSU and USC bow out ahead of them. The Tigers have about a 30 percent chance to reach the playoff, according to FPI projections.

North Carolina

Projected record: 10-3

Result: Holiday Bowl vs. Utah

Reasoning: This projection is switched up a little bit for the Tar Heels, who are coming off a shocking home loss to Georgia Tech. I'll have UNC heading to the west coast in what would be a battle between two of the stronger offenses in the country. Despite this projection, UNC still has a chance to win the ACC and head to the Orange Bowl instead if they can defeat Clemson.

Florida State

Projected record: 9-3

Result: Cheez-It Bowl vs. Oklahoma

Reasoning: This is the same bowl projection as last week for the Seminoles, but facing a different team. Florida State has been on fire over its last three games, blowing out Georgia Tech, Miami and Syracuse to grab hold of second place in the ACC Atlantic behind only Clemson. They'll stay in-state and draw a big crowd to Orlando following what's become a resurgent season for the program. While they won't make the ACC title game, Florida State has taken a huge step forward and looks like it could be on its way back to national prominence.

Notre Dame

Projected record: 8-4

Result: Gator Bowl vs. Florida

Reasoning: This is a bit of a different projection for The Fighting Irish, who will stay on the east coast following their game against USC. As noted, Notre Dame can 'steal' a bowl game bid from another ACC team if they are within one game of them respectively. In this situation, Notre Dame snags a spot in one of the ACC's top bowl tie-ins, and they head to Florida to take on one of the SEC's brand names in what can certainly be a winnable game against a Gators team that has struggled of late.

Duke

Projected record: 8-4

Result: Duke's Mayo Bowl vs. Maryland

Reasoning: The Blue Devils jump forward a bit in bowl projections despite their close loss to Pitt. Their game this weekend against Wake Forest in Durham will decide which team finishes with a better record and arguably a better bowl game placement. For now, I have Duke headed to an appropriately-named bowl game in their home state.

Wake Forest

Projected record: 8-4

Result: Military Bowl vs. Tulane

Reasoning: The Demon Deacons got back on track with a Senior Day win against Syracuse, as Sam Hartman diced the Orange defense to earn the victory. I have them playing against a high-powered Tulane team here, who may end up qualifying for the Cotton Bowl instead if they win the AAC Championship Game.

Pittsburgh

Projected record: 8-4

Result: Pinstripe Bowl vs. Purdue

Reasoning: This is the same projection as last week. The Panthers have come alive of late and look to finish the season strong with a win in Miami. In this projection, Pittsburgh will head to the Big Apple to take on Purdue, a team that's yet to play in this particular bowl game.

Louisville

Projected record: 8-4

Result: Sun Bowl vs. Oregon State

Reasoning: Louisville made a surprise jump into the bottom of the CFP Rankings this week, checking in at No. 25 before their season finale against rival Kentucky. If the Cardinals can win, I have them heading to El Paso to take on another currently ranked opponent in the Beavers.

North Carolina State

Projected record: 7-5

Result: Fenway Bowl vs. East Carolina

Reasoning: The Wolfpack, following a strong win against in-state rival Wake Forest, came back crashing down to Earth after a stunning home loss to Boston College and a road defeat against Louisville, kicking them out of the CFP Rankings. This is a bit of an odd placement — two North Carolina-based teams playing each other in Boston — but would be a repeat matchup of their tight Week 1 contest, which the Wolfpack won 21-20.

Syracuse

Projected record: 7-5

Result: Gasparilla Bowl vs. UAB

Reasoning: I'm projecting, for now, the Orange to head to Tampa for this bowl in a warm-weather environment as one of the extra ACC spots after all previous slots were filled. Riding a 5-game losing streak, it's tough to imagine Syracuse will be given much priority or that bowl organizers will be clamoring for the Orange to play in them. Syracuse could truly use their season finale against Boston College as a way to sort of flip the script and head into the postseason on a higher note, potentially to give the program a bit of a better chance at reaching a better bowl game opportunity.

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