After a frustrating regular season, the ACC earned itself six bowl bids (plus another three if you want to count the incoming members), and will now try and avoid the dismal showing it’s put on for more than half a decade now. Since 2005, the conference (if you’re including Pitt and Syracuse) is 18-32 in the postseason, with just one BCS bowl win in that time frame (Virginia Tech beat Cincinnati in 2009).
But maybe 2012 changes things? I make no guarantees, and these won’t be predictions just yet (we’ll get to those once bowl season officially starts), but there’s always hope the conference can turn things around. Below, all nine games involving ACC squads are ranked, in (reverse) order of game quality, with some brief notes on each matchup. Feel differently about any of these? Feel free to share your thoughts below:
Tech’s defense didn’t look terrible against FSU in the ACC Championship Game, but this game could be a major black-eye for the Jackets and ACC as a whole. On paper, the Trojans have some of the country’s best offensive playmakers, and there’s a high potential for embarrassment here if Georgia Tech’s defense performs as it has for most of 2012.
While Louisville looked impressive in their final win over Rutgers, it’s hard to overlook their paltry schedule overall when trying to evaluate them against Florida. The Gators have tallied 11 wins against one of the nation’s toughest slates, and that defense will put a ton of pressure on QB Teddy Bridgewater from start to finish.
The ‘Dores have been on a roll, and are one victory away from tying the team record for a season (nine). NC State, on the other hand, has struggled for consistency all year, with a shaky defense and now, a departed head coach. Four of Vandy’s last five opponents haven’t come within two scores and their offense has been firing on all cylinders in the second half — both recipes for a potential win over the Pack.
After an up-and-down year, the Panthers end up in the BBVA Compass Bowl for the third straight season to face an underrated Rebels squad. While just 6-6, Ole Miss was competitive in nearly every SEC contest this season, and still managed to put up nearly 31 points per game.
On paper, this looks like a mismatch, but the Scarlet Knights have also lost two straight games. If Virginia Tech’s defense can regain its old form, this could very well be a slugfest, but the Hokies will need help from their offense too, if they hope to win. A low-scoring game will favor Rutgers, but if Tech can score 20 points or more, they’ll be much better off.
Florida State’s speedy defense should be able to sniff out the NIU offensive attack, but keep in mind that they did struggle at times to keep Georgia Tech’s run-game in check last weekend. The Huskies’ Jordan Lynch is a prolific running quarterback, and it’s not a given that the ‘Noles can just pressure him into poor decisions.
Clemson’s offense hit a rough patch to end the year, but it’ll have to move on if it hopes to beat LSU. The Bayou Bengals’ defense will apply pressure on Tajh Boyd in much the same way South Carolina did, so Clemson OC Chad Morris must be prepared to mix up the play-calling as necessary.
Don’t let Duke’s four-game losing streak to end the season fool you. This is still an exciting team, with a great story of redemption to go along with them. Plus, this Belk Bowl matchup really does give us a fan matchup of strengths: Duke’s powerful offense (31.3 points per game) against Cincinnati’s staunch defense (17.2 points per game allowed).
Call me a homer all you want, but this game has intrigue for everyone. Two high-powered passing offenses (both ranked among the top 21 in yards-per-game through the air), little secondary help on defense and a rivalry trophy potentially being contested in the game. What more could you ask for out of an exhibition game? Oh, the fact that it’s also taking place in the media epicenter of the country and promises to be a packed house with SU and WVU likely selling out the game weeks in advance. This should be a fun one.