Welcome to the first installment of HoosPlace's 2018 bowl projections. Kendall and I are back from last year. And we'd like to welcome MaizeAndBlueWahoo for agreeing to participate in this thankless exercise. Kendall and I are a bit superstitious in that we don't like to mention the B word or make projections about them until win number 6 is in the bank.
Before jumping into our first projections for 2018, be sure to check out the 2018 ACC Bowl Primer.
College Football Playoff
Cotton Bowl: 1 Alabama vs. 4 UCF (yeah, I think they make it in!)
Orange Bowl: 2 Clemson vs. 3 Notre Dame (major windfall for the ACC!)
It’s strictly eyeball test for me. Alabama is Alabama, now complete with an elite-level QB. Clemson is a juggernaut now with Trevor Lawrence clicking with the offense (major kudos to Dabo for being ballsy enough to make the switch from pop-gun Kelly Bryant). Notre Dame is set to run the table without too much resistance (Syracuse could be a banana peel). And I think an undefeated UCF HAS TO make it in over LSU / Michigan / Georgia / Oklahoma / Ohio State teams with multiple losses (I look for each of those five teams to lose at least once down the stretch.)
Cotton Bowl: 1 Alabama vs 4 Michigan
Orange Bowl: 2 Clemson vs 3 Notre Dame
Bama is a machine this season, especially on offense.
Clemson is rounding into form as the well oiled machine it’s become as Trevor Lawrence gets more comfortable on the field. And their D Line is the stuff dreams are made of for programs not named Alabama.
Notre Dame seems to be on a roll and earning their lofty ranking for once. Minefields lurk in their remaining schedule but this Irish team seems to have figured out how to win close games.
I honestly thought that Michigan was trash after the Notre Dame game. But they’ve rebounded nicely against a mediocre B1G. It’s not inconceivable that they win out, especially if they beat Penn State this weekend. The regular season finale against Ohio State looms larger but both Penn State and Ohio State appear overrated this year.
Orange Bowl: #1 Alabama vs. #4 Notre Dame
Cotton Bowl: #2 Michigan vs. #3 Clemson
If Michigan runs the table, the gauntlet in front of them leapfrogs them past all the early-season contenders; Penn State and Ohio State combine for the toughest two-team test that any playoff contender faces. Oklahoma is most likely to benefit if Michigan stumbles against one or both of these teams. In this bracket, the committee will do what’s best for Alabama first and Michigan second; the distance to the two bowls is essentially a wash for Alabama, but sending Michigan to Florida to face an ACC team wouldn’t be that much of a high-seed advantage.
New Year's Six
Sugar Bowl: Kentucky vs Oklahoma
Rose Bowl: Ohio State vs Washington State
Fiesta Bowl: Georgia vs Penn State
Peach Bowl: UCF vs LSU
I appreciate Kendall’s enthusiasm for UCF but nothing about the NCAA or a group affiliated / aligned with them says to me that they’re going to do the right thing. So UCF gets dumped into the New Year’s Six instead of the CFP. I did decide to throw them a bone and give them a bigger name brand team in LSU in the Peach Bowl instead of Kentucky.
And that means Kentucky gets to hit Bourbon Street. Checking their hoops schedule shows a gap between playing Louisville on December 29 and Alabama on January 5, so Big Blue Nation can celebrate the new year in New Orleans with a side of college football. The winner of the Big 12 is the most likely opponent here and I like Oklahoma over West Virginia.
The Fiesta Bowl happily snaps up Georgia and Penn State even if a team like Utah ends up as more deserving than the Nittany Lions.
And with Michigan in the CFP, Ohio State is a natural for the Rose Bowl. Washington State looks to be a good bet to win the PAC 12. A matchup against the Buckeyes in Pasadena would be a great stage to introduce the nation to the Cougars’ QB Gardner Minshew.
Sugar Bowl: LSU vs. Oklahoma
Rose Bowl: Ohio State vs. Washington State
Fiesta Bowl: Kentucky vs. Utah
Peach Bowl: Georgia vs. Michigan
With Clemson AND Notre Dame in the playoff, these marquee bowls are forced to look away from the ACC for their at-larges. My total NY6 tally is one G5, one Big XII, two Pac-12, two B1G, two ACC (including Notre Dame), and FOUR from the SEC. Yeah, I’m drinking Kentucky’s bluegrass kool-aid this season, and I think Utah’s 10-3 trumps NC State’s 10-2 and Texas’ sputtering 8-win campaign.
Sugar Bowl: LSU vs Texas/West Va Winner
Rose Bowl: Ohio State vs Washington State
Peach Bowl: Georgia vs. UCF
Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma vs. Kentucky
The Rose Bowl isn’t a CFP bowl this year, so they’ll get their proper traditional matchup, which will feature OSU against the Pac-12 champ, which….shrug emoji…..Wazzu, I guess? LSU and Georgia are tailor-made for the Sugar and Peach, respectively, and the Peach will also be pleased to have the relatively local UCF. UK and Florida are pretty similar, resume-wise, except for what happened in their actual game. Look out for Texas-WVU this weekend - the winner has a huge leg up for an NY6 game, probably the Sugar or Fiesta, or possibly Peach if the committee decides to send UCF to New Orleans.
Camping World Bowl
(ACC vs. Big XII), Orlando FL, Dec. 28
First Pick Among Remaining ACC Teams
Virginia vs Iowa State
Kool-Aid chugging contest: GO. If UVA wins out in the regular season, this is the near-certain destination. A matchup with Texas or WVU would be awfully fun, but this bowl only gets second pick of non-NY6 bowl teams, so the loser of that game this Saturday is likely ticketed for the Alamo Bowl.
NC State vs West Virginia
It’s no surprise that a bowl grabs the larger fan bases that will presumably travel better as well. As a bonus, the bowl allows the Wolfpack and Mountaineers to play their cancelled September 15th game. The fans here also feel like the camper buying demographic.
Virginia Tech vs West Virginia
I’m sorry guys, I‘m the biggest Bronco fan you’ll find, but I’ll believe we can beat Tech in Blacksburg only after we actually do beat Tech in Blacksburg. So they squeak by us on Black Friday, they win the Coastal, they get woodshedded by Clemson in Charlotte, then they get annihilated by West Virginia in Orlando. Suck it, Hokies. Your death spiral is real, even if you do beat us in our neophyte college football power phase, this season. But rest easy, Hokiefans… Fuente’s buyout is only $15 million! HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!
TIER ONE ACC BOWLS
TaxSlayer Gator Bowl / Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl
(ACC vs SEC), Jacksonville, FL, Dec. 31 or (ACC vs SEC), Nashville, TN, Dec. 28
NC State vs Mississippi State (Music City Bowl)
Music City hasn’t hosted an ACC team since 2015, so I think they’ll insist on grabbing one this season and letting the Taxslayer go the free agent route. In fact, I think a 10-win NC State (yeah, I’m looking for them to run the table from here on out) is going to be a hot commodity in the bowl selection process, once they’ve been snubbed by the NY6. That leaves four 8-win ACC teams -- Boston College, Syracuse, Virginia, and Miami -- for the three other Tier 1 bowls. Stay tuned to see who makes the cut and who drops down to Tier 2!
Boston College vs Mississippi State (Music City Bowl)
Music City hasn’t had an ACC team since…...what Kendall said. Nashville is one of the easier trips for the off-in-a-corner Boston fans.
Boston College vs Mississippi State (Music City Bowl)
BC is having a nice season and deserves some sort of acknowledgement from the conference and bowl partners. I agree with Maize about the travel angle to Nashville. That's the tip of the cap from the league instead of a trip to El Paso, Shreveport, etc. The SEC's bowl slotting is going to be quite the quzzle with all the teams projected into the CFP and other NY6 games. Ole Miss is a possibililty here too (Note: No, they aren't. They have a bowl ban in place. Nice job, Karl!) but they play at Vandy in November. A second trip to Nashville doesn't make a ton of sense for them no matter how fun the city.
(ACC vs SEC), Charlotte, NC, Dec. 29
Virginia vs South Carolina
South Carolina is going to need a little help to get from 4 to 6 wins to finish the season. But if they hit the mark, the Belk Bowl cashes in and fills Bank of America Stadium with this matchup. The Belk Bowl is an ideal destination for Virginia fans. And this will be an attractive matchup for the fans as well. As a bonus, the two teams will have played in hoops ten days earlier.
Miami vs South Carolina
The Belk likes to go local with its ACC picks, so a 7-win Duke might have a chance to leapfrog the four 8-win squads, and probably would if not for the presence of Miami. Instead, the bowl goes local with the Gamecocks and forms a really intriguing regional draw. This one hurts me, as Charlotte is my “dream” draw for Virginia this bowl season.
NC State vs South Carolina
The Pack have made trips to Charlotte one out of every three bowl visits since 2005, like clockwork. Why break up the pattern now?
Hyundai Sun Bowl
(ACC vs PAC 12), El Paso, TX, Dec. 31
Virginia Tech vs Oregon
Miami is another possibility here, but Canes fans don’t travel well because they’re already in Miami. (I don’t think Miami is that great of a paradise, but they do.) Tech fans, on the other hand, can vacation in beautiful Ciudad Juarez and consider it an upgrade.
Duke vs Stanford
Send the nerds to El Paso. That will teach them.
Virginia vs California
I hate the potential trip to El Paso, but I love the potential matchup between marquee state institutions. Plan for ~$400 airfare, Hoofans. I’ll make the trip, will you?
New Era Pinstripe Bowl
(ACC vs B1G), Bronx, NY, Dec. 27
Syracuse vs Maryland
New Era would jump - JUMP! - at the chance to host Syracuse for the first time since 2012. And a really good Boston College team slides to the "Additional bowls"...
Syracuse vs Minnesota
Syracuse to the Pinstripe is as logical as UVA to the Military Bowl last year. You can lock it up now. I'd also love to see Purdue here because it would be a track meet. Maryland makes a ton of sense too. But screw the Terps. They still need a win for bowl eligibility. With all the negative karma building in that program, it's not out of the question that they lose out to finish the year and miss a bowl. So the Gophers get the spot by default.
Syracuse vs Michigan State
Probably the only thing preventing Syracuse from a trip to NYC is the fact that - even though it’s been six years since their last bowl trip there - it would put three of the Cuse’s last four bowl games in Yankee Stadium. Would they be OK with that? It might be more of an issue if they start going to consecutive games.
Additional Bowls (Formerly Tier Two)
These are listed in bowl selection order.
Military Bowl Presented By Northrop Grumman
(ACC vs AAC), Annapolis, MD, Dec. 31
Miami vs Temple
Miami doesn’t have a quarterback that anyone, particularly Miami fans, is interested in watching, so they’re snubbed out of the Tier I bowls. The Military snaps them up for the star power of the brand and adds Temple so that the beer vendors have someone to sell to.
Boston College vs Memphis
The Military Bowl uses their #1 pick among the 3/4/5 “Additional” ACC bowls to nab a really good 8-win BC team. Meanwhile, the AAC features a number of interesting clubs this season --- UCF is among the national elite, while Houston, Cincinnati, and USF have racked up gaudy win totals. Those four end up in more premier games, leaving the Military Bowl to choose between the AAC scraps Temple and Memphis for this slot. Temple played here in 2016, so Memphis is the choice… and Boston College wins big in a truly lopsided matchup.
Virginia Tech vs Memphis
This matchup is too good to be true. God help Justin Fuente if Memphis wins. The Hokie fans may stuff his ass in the cargo hold of the Memphis charter plane and send him back from where he came. And losing to Memphis wouldn't be out of the question for Virginia Tech. ODU, ODU, ODU, ODU!!!!
Walk-On's Independence Bowl
(ACC vs SEC/AAC/CUSA), Shreveport, LA, Dec. 27
Miami vs BYU
I'm having trouble finding a team from the SEC, AAC, or CUSA that's going to be eligible to fill this slot once other bowl affiliations are accounted for. Enter 4-4 BYU. As an independent, the Cougars are in take what you can get mode from the bowls. They have probable wins remaining against UMass and New Mexico State. The Independence Bowl might get some decent TV ratings with this matchup, so they and ESPN are happy.
Duke vs Memphis
Georgia Tech vs UAB
7-win Duke gets leapfrogged by 6-win GT as the Independence chases the more lively and voluminous fanbase and an attempt to forge a more regionally interesting matchup. (Now that the “new car smell” of Duke Football being somewhat good has worn off, I think we’ll begin seeing the Blue Devils get screwed more and more violently by the bowl selection process.
Quick Lane Bowl
(ACC vs B1G/MAC), Detroit, MI, Dec. 26
Duke vs Toledo
Back-to-back trips to Detroit for the no-longer-vogue-curiosity Duke Blue Devils. Cutcliffe needs to get to 8+ wins to prevent this kind of annual fate for his team, as I think the bowls generally have an ACC pecking order that places Duke at or very near the bottom of the list.
Pitt vs Toledo
HoosPlace is sending Maize to be an onsite correspondent. Hope he likes the matchup.
Pitt vs Purdue
Whether enough ACC teams get themselves bowl eligible to fill this slot is definitely up in the air.
And we're done! No one has any ACC teams eligible past this point. But Maize has a great comment regarding the Birmingham Bowl that was worth sharing.
This bowl has the coolest name falling right in its lap and the bowl organizers don’t use it. The Legion Bowl! How are you not calling your game, played at Legion Field, the Legion Bowl? You could have Romans as your logo and everything. Are you sure you’re fit to run a bowl game?
We hope that everyone enjoyed our first crack at this for 2018. I had forgotten what it was like to plumb the depths of minor conferences to figure out if an Akron or UTEP had a chace to hit the magical six win mark. Good times!