The picks: ACC bowl games

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There are still eight games involving ACC games to be played in this offseason. Here’s a quick run through each of them, complete with predictions:

* Independence Bowl: North Carolina vs. Missouri (Dec. 26, 5, ESPN2): Tigers 28-17. Both teams sport 7-5 records, but Missouri doesn’t have much to feel bad about when you look at its resume. Losses to Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Baylor, Kansas State … and an early setback against Arizona State. The Tigers were generally competitive even in their losses (a pummeling against Oklahoma State nothwithstanding). Everett Withers deserves credit for holding things together enough for the Tar Heels to make a bowl game. Just don’t expect him to go out with a victory.

* Belk Bowl: N.C. State vs. Louisville (Dec. 27, 7, ESPN): Wolfpack 30-17. N.C. State football dos and don’ts. DON’T: Pick Tom O’Brien to win a division road game. DO: Pick O’Brien to win a bowl game. His teams are 7-2 all-time in the postseason (and the Boston College team he left in 2006 to go to N.C. State won its bowl game, too).

* Champs Sports Bowl: Florida State vs. Notre Dame (Dec. 29, 5:30, ESPN): Seminoles 24-21. Strange but true: Notre Dame actually beat five bowl teams this year. Who knew? Florida State, meanwhile, did not arrive in Year Two under Jimbo Fisher, but it has the defense to slow down the Fighting Irish. This might be the best game involving an ACC team in this postseason.

* Music City Bowl: Wake Forest vs. Mississippi State (Dec. 30, 6:40, ESPN): Bulldogs 31-10. Wake Forest didn’t fare all that great at home against a .500 SEC team (Vanderbilt) in its last time out. Who’s to say things will go much better at a neutral site against an even more talented opponent.

* Sun Bowl: Georgia Tech vs. Utah (Dec. 31, 2, CBS): Utes 27-24. Yes, Utah lost to Colorado in its regular season finale. No, the Pac-12 wasn’t good beyond its top three (or maybe four) teams this season. Still, Utah has a fine recent bowl history (9-1 in its last 10 bowl games, including 5-1 under Kyle Whittingham) and Georgia Tech does not (six straight bowl losses, including the last three under Paul Johnson).

* Chick-Fil-A Bowl: Virginia vs. Auburn (Dec. 31, 7:30, ESPN): Tigers 23-19. The Cavaliers land on New Year’s Eve against a team that clearly can’t handle the elite teams of the SEC but did pretty well against everybody else. Virginia’s a solid bunch compared to the rest of the “everybody else,” but Auburn still holds a slight edge not far from home.

* Sugar Bowl: Virginia Tech vs. Michigan (Jan. 3, 8:30, ESPN): Wolverines 28-27. It’s the all-Office Space game: What exactly, is it, that you’ve done here? Both teams have gaudy records and deserve credit for avoiding puzzling losses (Michigan’s setback at Iowa excepted). But in terms of resume, the Hokies beat Virginia and Georgia Tech. Michigan knocked off Notre Dame and Nebraska, two teams with far more preseason buzz than eventual in-season payoff. This looks like a toss-up, with the winner walking away with what will probably be their best win of the season.

* Orange Bowl: Clemson vs. West Virginia (Jan. 4, 8:30, ESPN): Tigers 38-27. So Clemson still has Sammy Watkins, right? OK, that means Clemsonliness is not a factor; the wideout has more than counteracted that issue for most of the season. Which in turn means the Tigers should win this game against the Big East champions. Should. But with Clemson, you never really do know.

ACC record: 72-25 (33-15 conference regular season)
Navy record: 7-5
Total: 79-30

Patrick Stevens

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