College Sports

ACC power rankings: Explaining the bowl options for NC State, Boston College, Syracuse

NC State takes the field before game against Florida State

Watch as coach Dave Doeren leads the NC State football team onto the field before the Wolfpack's game against Florida State at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh, N.C., Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018.
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Watch as coach Dave Doeren leads the NC State football team onto the field before the Wolfpack's game against Florida State at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh, N.C., Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018.

N.C. State, Syracuse and Boston College picked the wrong year to be good.

The three Atlantic Division teams, who have had their share of struggles this decade, could all turn in banner seasons but the bowl reward might not match their record.

The ACC does have a sweet deal with the Orange Bowl. Two out of three years, the ACC has a guaranteed landing spot in one of college football’s great bowl games. This just happens to be the one year it does not.

That means the Wolfpack (6-2), Orange (7-2) and Eagles (7-2) are likely to spend December in New York, Orlando, Charlotte, Nashville or El Paso, Texas. Or in other words, they’re going to end up in the usual mid-level bowl spots they would have been in at 8-4, even if they finish 10-2.


As with all bowl explanations, it’s complicated. The Orange is one of the two games in the College Football Playoff semifinals this season. That means if Clemson (9-0) wins the ACC again and makes the CFP, there’s no guaranteed spot for the second-highest rated ACC team in a “New Year’s 6” game.

Last season, there was for Miami (No. 10 in the final CFP poll) in the Orange and in 2016 there was for Florida State (No. 11) in the Orange.

There’s also a clause with the Orange that when a Big Ten team is the opponent, the ACC gets a spot in the Citrus Bowl in Orlando.

This happened for the ACC in 2017 and ‘16 (with Notre Dame getting the Citrus spot last season). In 2016, the ACC was able to get a team into the Orange (9-3 Florida State) and the Citrus (9-3 Louisville).

This season, since there’s no access to the Orange, so there’s no chance at the Citrus. That leaves the Camping World Bowl in Orlando (on Dec. 28) as the best guaranteed spot for the ACC’s second-best team.

There’s still a way for the Wolfpack, Orange or Eagles to get into one of the “NY6” games. There are three open spots in the Peach (Dec. 29, Atlanta) and the Fiesta (Jan. 1, Glendale, Ariz.).

Those three at-large spots will be selected by the CFP selection committee based on their rankings. Let me repeat that for emphasis: The teams will be selected by the committee based on the rankings -- head-to-head results or potential ticket sales are not a factor.

In the 2015 season, Florida State finished No. 9 in the final CFP rankings (one spot ahead of North Carolina) and played (and lost) in the Peach Bowl.

Syracuse (No. 19), N.C. State (No. 21) and Boston College (No. 22) will all move up in the CFP rankings when they are released on Tuesday. Five of the seven teams directly in front of N.C. State lost this week.

How far can the ACC teams jump? We’ll find out. Syracuse and BC still need to play each other. The Eagles also host Clemson this Saturday and the Orange have a Nov. 17 date with Notre Dame.

So there’s still a chance one could end up in a major bowl (something N.C. State has never done), certainly if Syracuse or BC win out, but there’s a better chance the SEC (Georgia, Kentucky) or Big 12 (Oklahoma, West Virginia, Texas) will wind up with those at-large spots.

On to the “Only* ACC Power Rankings That Matter:”

1. Clemson

Record: 9-0 (6-0 ACC)

Last game: vs. Louisville (W, 77-16)

Next game: Saturday, at Boston College

It’s a wrap when the coach’s son (a walk-on) is dotting you with a fourth-quarter touchdown.

2. Syracuse

Record: 7-2 (4-2 ACC)

Last game: at Wake Forest (W, 41-24)

Next game: Friday, vs. Louisville

The “Lamar Jackson Leap” game (a 62-28 Louisville laugher) was two years ago. Look at these two teams now.

3. Boston College

Record: 7-2 (4-1 ACC)

Last game: at Virginia Tech (W, 31-21)

Next game: Saturday, vs. Clemson

Safe to say the Eagles would have won the Coastal Division.

4. N.C. State

Record: 6-2 (3-2 ACC)

Last game: vs. Florida State (W, 47-28)

Next game: Thursday, vs. Wake Forest

Of all the losses from 2017, the one at Wake Forest hurt the Wolfpack the most.

NC State coach Dave Doeren talks about the Wolfpack's victory over Florida State at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh, N.C., Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018.

5. Pittsburgh

Record: 5-4 (4-1 ACC)

Last game: at Virginia (W, 23-13)

Next game: Saturday, vs. Virginia Tech

This was all a plot by UCF to make the ACC (non-Clemson division) look awful.

6. Georgia Tech

Record: 5-4 (3-3 ACC)

Last game: at UNC (W, 38-28)

Next game: Saturday, vs. Miami

Not sure why quarterback Tobias Oliver didn’t start at UNC, guessing that won’t be an issue going forward.

7. Virginia

Record: 6-3 (4-2 ACC)

Last game: vs. Pittsburgh (L, 23-13)

Next game: Saturday, vs. Liberty

Water always finds its level. The Wahoos can still pull this thing into the barn at 8-4, which would be tremendous.

8. Duke

Record: 6-3 (2-3 ACC)

Last game: at Miami (W, 20-12)

Next game: Saturday, vs. UNC

Great win at Miami, now the Blue Devils will try to keep the Victory Bell.

9. Miami

Record: 5-4 (2-3 ACC)

Last game: vs. Duke (L, 20-12)

Next game: Saturday, at Georgia Tech

Disappointment with a capital “D.”

10. Virginia Tech

Record: 4-4 (3-2 ACC)

Last game: vs. Boston College (L, 31-21)

Next game: Saturday, at Pittsburgh

Knew the Hokies were in for a step back this season but their bowl streak (25 years) is now in jeopardy.

11. Florida State

Record: 4-5 (2-5 ACC)

Last game: at N.C. State (L, 47-28)

Next game: Saturday, at Notre Dame

Officially, the worst FSU team of the ACC era (post 1991).

12. Wake Forest

Record: 4-5 (1-4 ACC)

Last game: vs. Syracuse (L, 41-24)

Next game: Thursday, at N.C. State

Can’t catch a break with injuries, promising freshman quarterback Sam Hartman the latest to go down.

13. UNC

Record: 1-7 (1-5 ACC)

Last game: vs. Georgia Tech (L, 38-28)

Next game: Saturday, at Duke

The Tar Heels are still fighting for coach Larry Fedora. Will their “Super Bowl” come against Duke this week or against N.C. State on Nov. 24?

14. Louisville

Record: 2-7 (0-6 ACC)

Last game: at Clemson (L, 77-16)

Next game: Friday, at Syracuse

Some coaches are so well-respected, the opponent won’t run the score up on them. Then there’s Bobby Petrino.

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