It’s time for your bowl edition of the upset watch. Now remember, these are not predictions. It’s a look at which teams in the ACC are the most likely to pull off a stunning upset, or be the team to be knocked down. Teams don’t have to be ranked to be considered for the upset watch. The ACC only has six teams bowling this year, but three of them have a legitimate chance to be involved in an upset. Here they are, starting with the most likely:
1. Duke vs. Cincinnati in the Belk Bowl: The Blue Devils will be motivated by playing in their first bowl game since 1994, and they’ll have the advantage of playing near home, in Charlotte, N.C. Duke’s biggest asset in this game will continue to be its pass offense, and the Blue Devils will have the edge at quarterback with Sean Renfree and receivers Jamison Crowder and Conner Vernon. Cincinnati’s pass defense has been kind this year, and it’s one weakness Duke coach David Cutcliffe should be able to exploit.
2. No. 14 Clemson vs. No. 8 LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl: The Tigers should have learned a lesson from their loss to South Carolina, as they will face a similar challenge against LSU’s stingy defense. Equally as important, though, is the fact that Clemson’s defense has a chance to make a statement and help fans forget about that dreadful performance in last year’s Discover Orange Bowl. LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger has already given Clemson’s D some bulletin board material when he said “they give up a lot of big plays in the passing game.” Them’s fightin’ words.
3. No. 12 FSU vs. No. 15 Northern Illinois in the Discover Orange Bowl: It’s easy to forget the MAC champs are the No. 15 team in the country, according to the final BCS standings. The Huskies haven’t been given much credit in the court of public opinion, but they’re going to be playing to prove they belong in a BCS bowl. And they’ll be facing an FSU team in the midst of transition on its coaching staff, as three assistants, including defensive coordinator Mark Stoops, have left for other jobs. FSU should win this game, there’s no question about it. But FSU also should have beaten NC State, and it didn’t look too convincing in the ACC championship game, or at Virginia Tech. The Noles have been inconsistent, and if they’re not ready and focused, anything can happen in this game.