Bowl Outlook: Team-by-Team Postseason Forecast

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Who’s in, who’s out and who still needs a win or two to become postseason-eligible? It’s November, that time of the year when programs across the college football landscape begin the final push to not only reach the requisite six wins, but also impress various bowl committees. The next three weekends will be crucial for those schools on the fence, as well as the league itself, which hopes to fill as many automatic bowl bids as possible.

Now that Notre Dame has lost for the second time, it’s likely out of the New Year’s Six bowl discussion and into the Russell Athletic Bowl, which would have otherwise selected an ACC member.

ACC Bowl Quick Selection Order
The ACC is in the first year of six-year contracts with its current bowl partners. The current College Football Playoff format is a 12-year agreement. 

College Football Playoff (four teams)
If the ACC Champion is not in one of the semifinal games it will appear in the Orange Bowl, or, if the Orange Bowl is a semifinal or national championship site, one of the Playoff “host” bowls, either the Fiesta of Chick-fil-A Peach. There is no limit on how many teams the College Football Playoff may choose from a particular conference.

Capital One Orange
Opponent will be a team from the SEC, Big Ten or Notre Dame. If ACC Champion is in the College Football Playoff, the next highest-ranked ACC team will take its place in the Orange Bowl.

Buffalo Wing Wings Citrus
Only if the ACC opponent in the Orange Bowl, in a non-semifinal year is a team from the Big Ten, a maximum of three times in six years.

Tier One Bowls
All have equal selection status
Belk /Hyundai Sun/New Era Pinstripe/Franklin American Mortgage Music City or TaxSlayer

Tier Two Bowls
Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman/Duck Commander Independence/Quick Lane

Bitcoin St. Petersburg
After the 2014 and 2016 seasons; all others as conditional selection if not filled by Conference USA or American Athletic.

Conditional all years if not filled by SEC or American Athletic Conference


1. Florida State (9-0)
The Seminoles’ formula is simple. Just keeping winning to remain in contention for a playoff semifinal game, either the Sugar Bowl or the Rose Bowl. If Florida State stumbles along the way, it’s still heavily favored to win the ACC and punch a ticket to the Capital One Orange Bowl. What happens if FSU drops a regular-season game to Miami, BC or Florida, yet still nabs the league title? Based on the team’s perception right now, it might have a difficult time remaining inside the top four.

2. Duke (8-1)
The only thing that’s on Duke’s mind right now is closing out a second straight Coastal Division title, and then winning an ACC championship on Dec. 6. Short of that, the Blue Devils could be an option for the Orange Bowl, and would be appealing to the tier one bowl, particularly the Belk Bowl in Charlotte. They’ll also be a candidate for the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl or the TaxSlayer Bowl, which are choosing between ACC and Big Ten programs this season.

3. Clemson (7-2)
The Capital One Orange Bowl would love to host the Tigers and their precocious true freshman QB Deshaun Watson. But Clemson must first clear two significant hurdles, this Saturday’s game at Georgia Tech and the always-challenging bout with South Carolina two weeks from now. If the Tigers are 10-2, they’ll probably close the year at Sun Life Stadium, provided Florida State is in the playoff. If either team stumbles, Clemson will end up in a tier one game.

4. Georgia Tech (8-2)
While the Yellow Jackets are in second place in the Coastal Division, they’ll need help because of an Oct. 11 loss to first-place Duke. No matter what the Blue Devils do, Tech can still greatly enhance its postseason resume in its final two games. If the Jackets can defeat Clemson this week and nemesis Georgia on Nov. 29, they could land a Capital One Orange Bowl berth if Florida State is in the playoff. At 10-2, Tech would have a compelling case for playing in January.

5. Miami (6-3)
The ‘Canes are locked into the postseason, courtesy of three routs in a row. Where they end, though, is very much up in the air. Miami can still win the Coastal Division, sitting just a game behind first-place Duke, an opponent it’s already defeated. And this week’s showcase visit from unbeaten Florida State presents Al Golden’s team with an epic opportunity to bolster its resume. The Hurricanes shouldn’t do any worse than a tier one bowl game, with the ceiling reaching as high as the Capital One Orange Bowl.

6. Louisville (7-3)
It’s been a solid, though at times frustrating, ACC debut for the Cardinals. While they’ve been assured of a bowl game since mid-October, all three of their losses to Virginia, Clemson and Florida State could have been wins. Now, Louisville wants to play after Christmas in a tier one bowl game, like the Hyundai Sun, Franklin American Mortgage Music City or New Era Pinstripe Bowl. The Cards can help their case with season-ending wins over Notre Dame and in-state rival Kentucky.

7. Boston College (6-4)
For the second consecutive year, Steve Addazio has his Eagles headed to the postseason. Where BC winds up depends on how it finishes the regular season. In all likelihood, Boston College will fill one of the league’s Tier Two affiliations, the Military, Duck Commander Independence Bowl or Quick Lane. Shock Florida State in Tallahassee next weekend, and the Eagles could move up the pecking, possibly to the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl or the New Era Pinstripe Bowl in the Bronx.

Still In The Hunt

1. NC State (5-5)
One win needed. Two remaining chances. While the Pack has had a rough second half, there’s no overstating the importance of a bowl game and the additional practices that come with it. Second-year coach Dave Doeren needs as much time as possible with his young squad before shutting things down for the offseason. NC State must capitalize on this Saturday’s visit from Wake Forest, because it’ll be much tougher beating Carolina in Chapel Hill two weeks from now.

2. North Carolina (4-5)
The Heels know a little something about second-half rallies, finishing 5-1 in 2013 to cop a Belk Bowl berth. They’ll need another solid November to continue playing in December, including two wins in games with Pittsburgh, Duke and NC State, to attract the interest of the Quick Lane, Duck Commander Independence Bowl or Bitcoin St. Petersburg. The encouraging news for Carolina is that it won’t leave the state this month, and it’s coming off a reconstructive week without contact.

3. Pittsburgh (4-5)
After just three games, the Panthers were halfway to the six-win threshold. Since then, though, they’ve fallen on hard times, with just a single win over Virginia Tech in the last six games. There’s still time to rally for a spot in Tier Two bowl, such as the Quick Lane or Duck Commander Independence Bowl, beginning with this weekend’s pivotal trip to Chapel Hill to face one of the league’s other 4-5 teams, Carolina.

4. Virginia Tech (4-5)
It’s been 22 years since the Hokies were not a part of the postseason. But that impressive streak comes to an end if they’re unable to win two of the remaining three games. Virginia Tech, which last won on Oct. 4, will travel to Durham and Winston-Salem the next two weeks before closing the regular season with a visit from in-state rival Virginia. The bowl season without the Hokies is almost like Thanksgiving sans the turkey on the table.

5. Virginia (4-6)
A four-game losing streak has put the Cavaliers on the brink of postseason elimination, meaning there’s no longer any margin for error. When Virginia returns to action on Nov. 22, it needs to upset Miami before beating rival Virginia Tech for the first time in a decade. The ‘Hoos, which have bowled just once under fifth-year head coach Mike London, desperately need to still be playing on Dec. 26 at either the Quick Lane Bowl or the Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl.

Wait ‘Til Next Year

1. Syracuse (3-7)
With a few breaks or completed drives, the Orange might have still been in the postseason chase. But injured QB Terrel Hunt has been sorely missed, and an inability to finish strong has hamstrung this team. Syracuse was within three points of Clemson, NC State and Duke in the second half of recent games, yet just fell short against each opponent. 

2. Wake Forest (2-7)
It was no mystery that this was a rebuilding year for rookie head coach Dave Clawson, whose Deacons were mathematically eliminated with last Thursday’s loss to Clemson. Wake Forest will use the next three weeks to get even more snaps for the young kids, while hopefully capturing a tailwind that can be taken into the 2015 season.