One game left, and one win needed in order to get to 6-6 and qualify for a bowl game. That’s what Carolina has on the line as they travel down I-40 and play in Raleigh this weekend. Before going any further, let it be said that getting to that number and going to any bowl game absolutely makes this a successful season, and in a lot of ways puts the Heels ahead of where people thought they’d be going into 2019.
But which bowl if they can qualify?
Last week, I outlined where things stood going into the weekend slate of games, and I’ve also outlined which bowl games the ACC teams can go to and their pecking order. Chad and I also did a podcast last week where we did a mock bowl selection and it’s absolutely worth a listen to hear how the very likely scenario plays out for Carolina.
So, where do we stand going into the weekend?
Clemson (11-0), @ South Carolina
Notre Dame (9-2), @ Stanford, (Considered ACC for bowl games after the NY6)
Virginia (8-3), vs Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech (8-3), @ Virginia
Wake Forest (8-3), @ Syracuse
Pittsburgh, (7-4), vs Boston College
Louisville (7-4), @ Kentucky
Florida State (6-5), @ Florida
Miami (6-5), @ Duke
Needs to win this weekend
UNC (5-6), @ NC State
Boston College (5-6), @ Pitt
Most Likely Eliminated
NC State (4-7), vs. UNC
Syracuse (4-7), vs Wake Forest
Duke (4-7), vs. Miami
Georgia Tech (3-8), vs Georgia
The delineation between “most likely” and “completely” is important, because if there aren’t enough teams at 6-6 or better to fill all of the bowl slots, a 5-7 team can go if their academic record is high. Of the three in the “most likely” category, Duke would likely get to go if they managed to beat the Hurricanes this weekend.
How many ACC teams can go bowling?
If you do the count above is it possible the ACC gets thirteen plus Notre Dame? Sure, but in reality you’re looking more like an absolute maximum of twelve, and that’s only if UNC, BC, and Duke all win and Duke gets in because of academics. It’s also possible the the ones who have already qualified will be the only ones to go. In that scenario, one of the ACC contracted partners would likely be looking at a vacant spot.
Where does UNC Stand?
First and foremost, as you can see from above, if Carolina gets to 6-6, they won't be scrambling for a bowl slot. Of the teams in Carolina’s “class” they are one of the more attractive for a myriad of factors, so if they win, they will play a game during the holiday season.
What about scratching into that Tier 1 level? It’s an uphill climb, for sure, for a lot of reasons. Notre Dame having a disappointing season hurts because they likely aren’t going to the NY6, meaning they will take a bowl spot that will likely the Camping World Bowl. The good news is that Clemson is likely going to make the CFP, opening up a spot for another ACC team to go to the Orange Bowl, likely the Virginia/Virginia Tech winner. From there, the math just isn’t in Carolina’s favor. An 8-4 team can’t be passed by for a 6-6 team, and even if you take out Clemson, Notre Dame, and one of Virginia or Virginia Tech, you still have two teams at minimum with eight wins. If Louisville and Pittsburgh win, that gives you four, which is exactly how many Tier 1 bowls you have.
What do I need to root for this weekend (Besides UNC to win)?
- UNC to win (sorry, I think that deserves extra emphasis).
- Clemson to win-you need them to stay in CFP position to create the extra spot.
- Notre Dame to beat Stanford so they can keep creeping up the CFP rankings, maybe they slip into the Cotton Bowl and won’t take up an ACC spot.
- Boston College to beat Pitt and Kentucky to beat Louisville. It’ll mean the ACC will only have two teams with eight wins once you get to the Tier 1 level.
- Florida State and Miami to lose. They’ll both be 6-6 and look less attractive in the pool with the other 7-5 teams.
- Georgia to beat Georgia Tech, Ohio State to beat Michigan, Alabama to beat Auburn, and Minnesota to beat Wisconsin. This is all about making it to where the SEC gets two teams in the CFP and one in the Sugar Bowl. This makes it more likely that the Orange Bowl would take either Notre Dame or a Big Ten team as the ACC opponent. Either way, it opens up a spot for the ACC, because if Notre Dame is the Orange Bowl opponent, they aren’t going to the Camping World Bowl. Should the Orange takes a Big 10 opponent, the Citrus Bowl has to take an ACC team, and they likely take Notre Dame, which opens up the Camping World Bowl.
As you can see, the road to a Tier 1 is steep. Had they managed to be on the right side of any of their other games this year, a Tier 1 would almost be a lock, instead, you have to hope for things to break just right. As it is, the most likely location for Carolina would either be Detroit in the Quick Lane Bowl or Shreveport for the Independence Bowl.
One thing is for sure: the team on the other side of the ball will in effect by playing their bowl game, so all they should focus on is winning their game and let whatever happens happen. At least by the time the ball is in the air Saturday Night you should know if a Tier 1 is even possible.