Picks at the wire: ACC bowl games

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Georgia Tech held up as an ACC title game pick.

So that was good.

Now there’s just seven games involving ACC teams remaining in the season. None happen to feature Maryland.

No matter. The picks at the wire is an ACC-based feature, so it will make this one last appearance this year. And with the bowl slate set to start this weekend, there’s no better time to trot out the final picks than now.

Onward …

* North Carolina vs. Pittsburgh (Meineke Car Care Bowl, Dec. 26, 4:30, ESPN): Tar Heels 27-24. Just love it when two teams you don’t trust run into each other in the postseason. Someone’s going to walk away feeling good about themselves, and both teams probably feel like they deserved better than dropping a rung or two in their respective leagues’ pecking order. While Butch Davis lost to Tom O’Brien (again) in the season finale, it’s important to remember they pay the other guys, too. With that in mind, the power of Wannstedt compels me to give a slight nod to Carolina.

* Boston College vs. Southern California (Emerald Bowl, Dec. 26, 8, ESPN): Trojans 24-13. This is obviously not the SC that dominated the Pac-10 for much of the decade. But this also isn’t one of those truly formidable Boston College teams, either. Look, I think Frank Spaziani should have been the ACC’s coach of the year, and I think the Eagles warrant a lot of credit for beating everyone they really should have beaten (losses were at Clemson, Virginia Tech and Notre Dame and at home against Boston College). But they also beat bottom-feeders Virginia and Maryland by a combined six points in the season’s final three weeks. BC is good, not great, and probably won’t leave the west coast with a win.

* Clemson vs. Kentucky (Music City Bowl, Dec. 27, 8:30, ESPN): Tigers 31-17. What a weird team Kentucky is. The Wildcats rank 114th nationally in passing offense and 100th in run defense, yet went 7-5 and got blown out only by Alabama and Florida. There’s no shame in that. So they should be their usual odd, whole-is-greater-than-the-sum-of-their-parts selves. So that basically means that the game will be decided by a factor the Tigers know all too well: Clemsonliness. You may remember it from eggs that were laid such as “at Maryland” and “at South Carolina.” The guess here is C.J. Spiller is sent out on a good note. But that could easily be a very bad guess. It all depends on whether Clemson shows up or not.

* Miami vs. Wisconsin (Champs Sports Bowl, Dec. 29, 8, ESPN): Hurricanes 24-21. The Badgers do two things exceptionally well: Run, and stop the run. That usually leads to wins, and sure enough Wisconsin went 9-3. But its best victories came against … Fresno State in double OT? Michigan State and Northern Illinois by eight points each? At Minnesota by a field goal? There’s not a lot of performance evidence to back up Bucky Badger, though the losses to Iowa, Ohio State and Northwestern don’t look bad. Miami has accomplished a bit more, is playing in its home state and probably has more potential for a monster game. If the Hurricanes can establish the run, it’ll be tough to imagine them losing.

* Virginia Tech vs. Tennessee (Chick-Fil-A Bowl, Dec. 31, 7:30, ESPN): Volunteers 21-17. Other than a complete mauling at Mississippi, the numbers say Tennessee is better than a 7-5 outfit. In 17 national categories, the Vols rank in the top half in all but three – net punting, sacks and tackles for loss. Not that the Hokies aren’t good (top half in all but two categories). But playing in Atlanta has been unkind this season, with losses to Alabama and Georgia Tech. Lane Kiffin could be in for a true breakout game with a month to prepare – and it could cost the Hokies a shot at a 10-win season.

* Florida State vs. West Virginia (Gator Bowl, Jan. 1, 1, CBS): Mountaineers 35-21. As nice as it would be for Bobby Bowden to go out a winner, the truth is Florida State’s defense isn’t very good at all and the Seminoles really shouldn’t be playing a top 25 opponent in a bowl game. But that’s how things are, and Florida State gets to enjoy a wave of good feelings as well as a nasty matchup. Expect West Virginia to run – a lot – and collect a New Year’s Day win.

* Georgia Tech vs. Iowa (Orange Bowl, Jan. 5, 8, Fox): Yellow Jackets 31-17. OK, the well runs dry for the Hawkeyes in this one. Iowa lived a charmed life from the first week of the season (two blocked field goals in the final seconds to save victory against Northern Iowa) straight through most of Big Ten play. Georgia Tech, with its potent run game, won’t let the Hawkeyes stay close for much of this one. The ACC will collect its second straight BCS game victory. Who saw that coming this time last year?

ACC title game record: 1-0
Season record: 68-29 (32-16 conference plus 1-0 title game)

Patrick Stevens

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