After Virginia Tech’s dramatic 17-14 victory over Virginia Saturday, we know for sure the Hokies will end their season in a bowl game for the 20th-straight season. Which one, though, remains a mystery, given the wealth of mediocre bowl-eligible teams in the ACC this year.
The ACC’s bowl picture cleared up a bit late Saturday night when Clemson lost to South Carolina, a defeat that likely means the Tigers won’t be selected with an at-large bid to one of the BCS bowls. If heavily favored Florida State beats Georgia Tech in this weekend’s ACC championship game and earns the conference’s automatic berth to the Orange Bowl, it would mean Clemson is likely headed to the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
But Georgia Tech’s 6-6 record makes things more complicated with the lower-tier ACC bowls. If the Yellow Jackets lose to the Seminoles, the NCAA would have to approve a waiver for them to go to a bowl with a 6-7 record. UCLA did exactly that last year when it lost the Pacific-12 championship game and ended the season with a 6-7 record.
Regardless, that leaves four potential landing spots for Virginia Tech since both North Carolina and Miami are not eligible for postseason play this year. Let’s take a look at the options, even though we won’t know for sure until after Saturday’s championship game results:
Russell Athletic Bowl, Dec. 28 in Orlando
This is the old Champs Sports Bowl and it pits the ACC’s No. 3 selection against the Big East’s No. 2 selection. The Russell Athletic Bowl tweeted Sunday that if Florida State beats Georgia Tech, it would decide between the Yellow Jackets, North Carolina State and Virginia Tech. How many fans and a desirable matchup will be the primary factors in its decision. The Big East representative will likely be the loser of Thursday’s Louisville-Rutgers game.
Sun Bowl, Dec. 31 in El Paso, Texas
The destination isn’t ideal for beat writers, but going to the Sun Bowl could present Virginia Tech with its most intriguing opponent. The Sun Bowl pits the No. 4 ACC selection against the No. 4 Pac-12 selection. Sun Bowl Executive Director Bernie Olivas said in an interview with KTSM-TV in El Paso Sunday night that its Pac-12 choice will come down to Washington, Southern California, Arizona and Arizona State.
The ACC side of things is even more complicated, given Georgia Tech’s situation. There is a provision in the ACC’s contract with the Sun Bowl that states the league’s championship game loser can’t fall further than the Sun Bowl. It’s unclear, however, if that clause is still relevant should the Yellow Jackets have to apply for a waiver to be bowl eligible at 6-7. Georgia Tech also went to the Sun Bowl last year, and Olivas said Sunday those two factors “might give us the opportunity to skip on Georgia Tech and move on possibly to Virginia Tech, North Carolina State or even Duke.”
Belk Bowl, Dec. 27 in Charlotte
This would likely be the most convenient bowl game for Hokies fans, and organizers might be inclined to select Virginia Tech if it’s still available given how many supporters have flocked to Charlotte for the past two ACC championship games. But many expect this game, which pits the No. 5 ACC selection against the No. 3 Big East selection, to be the landing spot for Duke and its limited fan base. There’s also a good chance Cincinnati ends up being the Big East representative, and bowl organizers usually shy away from regular-season rematches. The Bearcats beat Virginia Tech, 27-24, at FedEx Field back in September.
Music City Bowl, Dec. 31 in Nashville
This is as far as Virginia Tech can fall in the bowl pecking order, as there are just six bowl-eligible teams in the ACC this year. And if Florida State manages to lose to Georgia Tech and misses out on an at-large bid to a BCS game, there’s a good chance this is where the Hokies end up. Perfect for beat writers who have never been to Nashville, the Music City Bowl pits the No. 6 ACC selection against the No. 7 SEC selection. Many have speculated Vanderbilt will stay local and play in this game.