Preview | ACC bowl game predictions

By Jermaine Sykes, Staff Writer

With two weeks remaining in the season, teams across the FBS are battling for bowl contention and position. The ACC already has seven teams clinched for bowl season and three other teams on the cusp. 

These are my predictions for which bowl games eligible ACC teams will end up playing in.

Eliminated: Virginia Tech, Virginia and Boston College

There won’t be any bowling for at least three ACC teams in 2022. Virginia Tech started off 2-1 with a big win at home against Boston College. But after dropping seven games in a row, the Hokies sit at 2-8 with no chance at bowl contention. 

Virginia also started 2-1, with two wins over out-of-conference opponents Richmond and Old Dominion. After dropping five of six games in ACC play, the Cavaliers sat at 3-6 going into last Saturday’s game against Pitt, needing to win their remaining three games in order to qualify for a bowl game.

Senior quarterback Brennon Armstrong threw two pick-sixes on the first two plays of their game against Pitt en route to a 37-7 loss. The loss officially eliminated the Cavaliers from bowl contention.

Unlike Virginia and Virginia Tech, Boston College started just 2-7. A huge road upset victory over North Carolina State gave the Eagles their third win of the year. Regardless, the Eagles are just playing for pride to end the year and are mathematically eliminated from bowl eligibility.

On the Cusp: Georgia Tech and Miami

Georgia Tech started its season 1-3. After firing their head coach, the Yellow Jackets turned their season around, splitting their last six games. Upsets over ranked opponent Pitt, along with a win against Duke, showed the country their heart despite trending downward the past few years.

The Yellow Jackets have an improbable route to bowl contention, though. Sitting at 4-6, they  must win their remaining two games to clinch bowl contention. Those two games are on the road against ACC Coastal division winner No. 13 North Carolina and SEC East division winner No. 1 Georgia.

Miami has a more probable yet still difficult path to bowl contention. With a 5-5 record, the Hurricanes have to either go on the road and beat the ACC Atlantic division winner No. 9 Clemson or beat Pitt at home to finish the season. 

Pinstripe Bowl: Pitt

Pitt didn’t repeat as ACC Coastal Champions in 2022, but they’re still bowling. It’s been an up-and-down year for the Panthers, but they won when it mattered most, clinching bowl contention with two ACC wins in a row.

With games against Duke and Miami remaining, I think the Panthers split these two games and head into the Pinstripe Bowl on Dec. 29 with a 7-5 record.

Wasabi Fenway Bowl: Wake Forest

Wake Forest is 6-4 and will not repeat as ACC Atlantic division champions. The Deacons started the season 6-1 and reached as high as No. 10 in the AP poll. Dropping three games in a row is an ugly finish, and I think this downward spiral will continue down the stretch. The Deacons will finish 6-6 and travel to Boston on Dec. 17 for the Fenway Bowl.

Military Bowl: Louisville

Louisville currently sits at 6-4, with games against NC State and Kentucky remaining. I think Louisville drops both contests, finishing at 6-6 and clinching the Dec. 28 Military Bowl with a chance to avenge their bowl game loss from last year.

Holiday Bowl: Duke

Duke has impressed this season and are currently 7-3 with games against Pitt and Wake Forest remaining. In their last few games, the Blue Devils will drop the road game versus Pitt but finish the season with a win against Wake Forest. An 8-4 record is more than good enough to get the Blue Devils a bid into the Holiday Bowl on Dec. 28.

Sun Bowl: Syracuse

Syracuse started the season an unprecedented 6-0, and were ranked as high as No. 14 in the nation. The Orange then went on to drop four games in a row after an injury to junior quarterback Garrett Shrader. Shrader’s return should help the Orange win their remaining two regular season games and walk into the Sun Bowl on Dec. 31 healthy and motivated.

Duke’s Mayo Bowl: NC State

NC State got an unfavorable schedule in a loaded ACC Atlantic Division in 2022, having to travel to Clemson, Syracuse and North Carolina. While they lost to both Clemson and Syracuse, the third time’s the charm, and the Wolfpack will upset their arch-rival UNC, ending their season 9-3 and clinching a spot in Duke’s Mayo Bowl on Dec. 30. 

TaxSlayer Gator Bowl: Florida State

Florida State is making their return to prominence in 2022. The Seminoles are 7-3 with two home games against Louisiana Lafayette and Florida remaining. I think they’ll achieve their first nine-win season since 2016 and take that momentum all the way to the Gator Bowl on Dec. 31. 

Cheez-It Bowl: North Carolina

The UNC Tar Heels have had a good run in 2022, going 6-0 in conference play and 9-1 overall. The Tar Heels will face powerhouse Clemson in Charlotte for the ACC Championship. But before this, UNC hosts two games against Georgia Tech and NC State.

I think the Tar Heels get upset at home by their arch-rival NC State, finishing the regular season 10-2. Another loss in the ACC Championship ruins the Tar Heels’ shot at their first ACC championship since 1980. The sour finish won’t stop the Tar Heels from competing in the Cheez-It Bowl on Dec. 29, but it will keep them out of New Years’ Six contention.

Capital One Orange Bowl: Clemson

2022 marked the return of Clemson. After a down year in 2021, the Tigers returned to the top of the ACC Atlantic, and I project them to win in Charlotte and claim their eighth ACC Championship trophy in nine years.

But what’s next for Clemson? An upset loss against Notre Dame damaged Clemson’s chances to make the College Football Playoff. But head coach Dabo Swinney should still be content with making yet another New Years’ Six bowl game.