I hope you had your fill of summer because it is about to come to an abrupt stop. Sure, there is plenty of nice weather in September. But it is also the time of year that your football team–even the Washington States and Dukes and Mississippis–are still alive for a bowl game. After all, it takes six losses before a team is ineligible for bowl and even that is perhaps going to be loosened up. So nobody gets eliminated in September. So… with Week 1 of College Football JUST around the corner, here is a look at what the bottom 5 teams (excluding teams that are automatically ineligible–North Carolina and likely Miami) in the ACC have to do to become bowl eligible this year.
The Confidential does not care what any outsider thinks, the ACC is going to be fairly strong this year. The weakest teams in the conference–as per the Confidential’s pre-preseason rankings–all have a conceivable shot of making a bowl game this year. Consider:
- MARYLAND. Maryland was abysmal last year. The new coach, Randy Edsall, decided to ignore what has failed for many new coaches by running players out of the program and blowing things up completely. As we saw with RichRod in Michigan, one has to be very careful when dismantling and rebuilding. Edsall permanently lost some of the fan base last year. Winning 10 games over 3 seasons will mean no 4th season. The good news is that Maryland has a tough OOC schedule, but one that was perfectly designed, in the Confidential’s opinion. Maryland opens with FCS William and Mary. They then move up to play Temple, before moving up one more step to UConn. Those are three winnable games. West Virginia is probably a loss most seasons and should be this year. Wake Forest is at home–winnable #4. Boston College is away, but that has to be a winnable game for #5. Now all Maryland needs is to steal a game from the group of North Carolina, North Carolina State, and the even tougher portion of the slate. With 5 “winnable games,” a 6-win season is not at all impossible. Likely? Nah. But possible.
- DUKE. Unlike Maryland, Duke slated its toughest OOC game for Week #2, with Stanford. But this is a post-Luck, post-Harbaugh Stanford team. Still, that has to be considered a loss. Nevertheless, with Memphis, North Carolina Central, and Florida International filling up the OOC slate, a 3-1 OOC record is very reasonable. Finding the next three wins for Duke is a challenge though. The best chances are Wake Forest (even if on the road) and the sanctions-laden North Carolina and Miami games. Both of those games are at home. It’s possible.
- BOSTON COLLEGE. Boston College will be better than last year, but will it translate into victories? BC opens with Miami at home. Who knows the mindset of Miami. But it’s a possible win. Maine is next, which should be a win. Northwestern on the road will be tough, especially if Northwestern loses its season opener to Syracuse and is desperate. Still, Northwestern’s small stadium is not imposing. It’s winnable. The Game 5 road game against Army is a winnable game, obviously. Maryland visits in October, which is yet another winnable game. Finding the next two is a bit tougher. Wake Forest is a road game, but still a possibility. That still leaves a home game against Notre Dame and a road game against North Carolina State. Bowl eligibility is within reach if Boston College can not only meet its potential, but exceed it.
- SYRACUSE. Poor Syracuse. They have a 5th-year Senior quarterback, but inexperience at running back and the continued trend of underwhelming wide receivers. The defense will have one more year of experience, but lost two guys to the NFL. But what really makes this a tough season is the daunting OOC schedule. As previously noted, Syracuse is doing all but scheduling NFL teams this year, with USC, Missouri, and Northwestern on the slate. Minnesota is a battle tested BCS program, while even FCS foe Stony Brook is primed to repeat its college baseball run. In order to go to a bowl, Syracuse HAS to beat Northwestern, Minnesota, and Stony Brook. Even then, Syracuse has struggled so much in conference games since firing Paul Pasqualoni, it is hard to envision going 3-4 in conference. But if they do, the wins will likely come on the road against Rutgers, at home against UConn, and on the road at Temple. About the only good thing is that Syracuse has been 5-2 each of the past two seasons, before imploding due to lack of depth. If Syracuse can somehow get to 5-2 this year, all they will have to do is beat Temple. We’ll see.
- WAKE FOREST. Notably, all of the current ACC teams above are looking at Wake Forest as a necessary win to get to bowl eligibility. So that’s three winnable games for Wake Forest right there–with only Maryland being a road game. Wake Forest also has winnable games against Army and Liberty. And given that Wake Forest has Florida State’s number lately…. well, let’s not go there. Let’s get win #6 from the group of North Carolina, Vanderbilt, and North Carolina State. Actually, Wake Forest could end up winning 7-8 games the way the schedule breaks down.
Of these teams, you can feel strongest penciling in Wake Forest for a bowl. But this is why the week leading up to Week 1 is great. The injuries (excluding Maryland) still seem manageable. Nobody has lost a “winnable game” yet. Even September will retain some enthusiasm. And for the 5 teams with the toughest roads to bowl-eligibility, there is a path. Now they just have to go walk it.