There are only six ACC bowls this year, as the conference did not fill its eight bowl tie-ins (though it would have had Miami and North Carolina not been ineligible). All of them have interesting storylines, but some are more intriguing than others. As for which one is actually going to give us the best, most entertaining game between two legitimately good teams? No. 1 is a no-brainer. The rest? Take your pick.
Here’s a look at how this year’s ACC bowl lineup stacks up, from best to worst:
1. Chick-fil-A Bowl: LSU vs. Clemson (Dec. 31: ESPN, 7:30 p.m. ET, Georgia Dome, Atlanta) – This is a chance for the Tigers to redeem themselves against an SEC defense after flopping in a 27-17 loss to South Carolina. More importantly, it’s a chance for Clemson to further distance itself from last year’s humiliating loss to West Virginia in the Discover Orange Bowl.
2. Hyundai Sun Bowl: USC vs. Georgia Tech (Dec. 31: CBS, 2 p.m. ET, Sun Bowl, El Paso, Texas) – The Yellow Jackets needed a waiver from the NCAA to play in this game. Paul Johnson is trying to win his first bowl game with the program. At 7-5, USC was one of the most disappointing teams in the country this year. Neither team has played spectacular defense this year, and both have lost their coordinators for different reasons.
3. Discover Orange Bowl: Northern Illinois vs. Florida State (Jan. 1: ESPN, 8:30 p.m. ET, Sun Life Stadium, Miami) – Don’t write this one off just yet. Remember Boise State-Oklahoma? Remember Alabama-Utah? This is a game FSU should win, but the Noles also should have beaten NC State.
4. Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: NC State vs. Vanderbilt (Dec. 31: ESPN, noon ET, LP Field, Nashville, Tenn.) – Dana Bible will be coaching in place of Tom O’Brien, who was fired at the end of the season. Vanderbilt will be playing in back-to-back bowl games for the first time in school history.
5. Belk Bowl: Cincinnati vs. Duke (Dec. 27: ESPN, 6:30 p.m. ET, Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, N.C.) – Duke is playing in its first bowl game since 1994, a reason in itself to watch. The Blue Devils need to end the season on a positive note, though, after losing five of their last six games.
6. Russell Athletic Bowl: Rutgers vs. Virginia Tech (Dec. 28: ESPN, 5:30 p.m. ET, Florida Citrus Bowl, Orlando, Fla.) – The Hokies are 0-2 against the Big East this year with losses to Pitt and Cincinnati. A loss to Rutgers would mean the program’s first losing season since 1992. This is an important step toward turning things around for 2013.