The ACC has an NCAA-record 11 teams participating in bowl season besting its own record of 10 teams back in 2008. Here is a quick look at all 11 games:
Pittsburgh vs. Bowling Green, Little Caesars Pizza Bowl: Defensive lineman Aaron Donald needed a huge suitcase for the end of season award ceremony. Donald took home the Nagurski, Bednarik and Lombardi awards and the Outland Trophy, and it was certainly well deserved for the 6-foot, 285-pound future NFL pro. Still, Bowling Green had a spectacular end of the season, denying Northern Illinois a spot in a BCS game in a 47-27 win in the MAC championship. The Falcons defense has given up just 14.8 points per game and finished the season on a five-game win streak.
Maryland vs. Marshall, Military Bowl: Maryland’s ACC swan song comes against Marshall in nearby Annapolis. It’ll be essentially a home game, and should be an exciting one at that. Both teams average more than 250 yards through the air and the Thundering Herd average 43 points per game. College football betting odds make Marshall a 2.5 point favorite.
Syracuse vs. Minnesota, Texas Bowl: The two teams are stylistically similar. Both teams have strong running games, and stout run defenses. The Golden Gophers boast a strong rushing attack averaging over 200 yards a game, while their pass attack posts a much more modest 142 yards per game. Look for a score in the 30s — that is, if you combine the two team’s scores.
North Carolina vs. Cincinnati, Belk Bowl: UNC and Cincinnati took similar paths to bowl eligibility. Both struggled early on before making changes at quarterback. The change spurred a winning streak that allowed them to reach the postseason. The Tar Heels have appeared three previous times in the Belk Bowl, but have never won it.
Miami vs. Louisville, Russell Athletic Bowl: Louisville rolled through most of its conference schedule with the only hiccup coming against eventual AAC champ Central Florida. But in there lies the problem. The Cardinals’ non-conference schedule wasn’t particularly impressive (which included a closer-than-it-should’ve-been game against Kentucky) and the American wasn’t exactly elite competition. Miami will probably be the most talented team they’ve played all year, so this game could be interesting.
Georgia Tech vs. Mississippi, Music City: There’s significantly less pressure on Paul Johnson’s club this season after last year’s 21-7 bowl win over USC. It snapped the Jackets’ seven-game bowl losing streak, with its last win coming against Syracuse in the 2004 Champ Sports Bowl (Paul Pasqualoni’s final game as head coach of the Orange). Meanwhile, Ole Miss has had the opposite luck in bowl games, winning nine of their last 10, and five straight. The Rebels may have a tough time containing the Georgia Tech triple option, as their defense gave up 188.4 yards on the ground against major conference opponents.
Boston College vs. Arizona, AdvoCare V100 Bowl: You really only need to know two names for this one. Ka’Deem Carey rushed for 1,716 yards and 17 touchdowns for the Wildcats. As for Boston College, Andre Williams rushed for an NCAA high 2,102 yards and 17 scores. So expect a lot of running.
Virginia Tech vs. UCLA, Sun Bowl: What happens when an unstoppable force (UCLA’s high-powered offense) meets an unmovable object (Tech’s staunch defense)? Tech seems to be on the wrong side of that equation, especially against the No. 17 Bruins. The Hokies haven’t beaten a ranked team in a postseason game since 2008 and lost three of five to close the season.
Duke vs. Texas A&M, Chick-Fil-A Bowl: Duke may become a footnote for playing in this game, because it is more than likely former Heisman winner Johnny Manziel’s final collegiate game. Neither team possesses a staunch defense, so there is likely to be plenty of points on the board. The Blue Devils may struggle to keep up, though.
Clemson vs. Ohio State, Discover Orange Bowl: Speaking of elite running games, Ohio State has not one, but two 1,000 yard rushers on their roster. QB Braxton Miller threw for 1860 yards and 22 touchdowns, and rushed for another 10 scores and 1,033 yards on the ground. Ohio State still found time to hand off to Carlos Hyde, who amassed 1408 yards and 14 touchdowns on 7.7 (!) yards per rush. As a result, the Buckeyes were third in the NCAA in rushing at 317.5 yards a game. What the Tigers lacked in the running game (Roderick McDowell was 44 yards shy of 1,000 yards on the ground), they made up for in the air, with Tajh Boyd’s 329.3 yards through the air good to place him 12th in the NCAA.
Florida State vs. Auburn, VIZIO BCS National Championship: The Seminoles have played like a No. 1 team all season, dispatching teams by a minimum of at least two scores, but how can you bet against Auburn after the Iron Bowl? Auburn has been bowling over defenses with its running game, going for nearly 300 yards against ‘Bama and a ridiculous 545 yards against Mizzou in the SEC Championship. Still, Heisman winner Jameis Winston leads the No. 2 offense (53.0 ppg) and the FSU defense is tops in the NCAA with just 10.7 points allowed per game.
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