CORAL GABLES, Fla. — Even the end of the regular season couldn’t bring clarity to the Atlantic Coast Conference.
At least this is clear: Boston College and Virginia Tech have emerged from their respective divisions and will play Saturday for the ACC championship in Tampa, with a spot in the Orange Bowl on Jan. 1 awaiting the winner.
After that, the postseason destinations for nine other bowl-qualified ACC teams remains a mystery.
Who’s going where?
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When will they know?
Good questions, but as of now, there are few good answers.
“They’ll pick where they want you to go,” Miami coach Randy Shannon said Sunday. “The only thing I know is it’ll be Boston College or Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl ... and the rest of it is, who wants you.”
On Sunday, some games were coming into focus.
The Gator Bowl could already be eyeing a Florida State-Nebraska matchup, which would reprise past meetings, like the one that decided the 1993 national title. Miami seems pointed to the Emerald Bowl in San Francisco, where California likely will await.
But the ACC’s bowl dominoes will not begin falling officially until after the league title game.
Ordinarily, teams get plucked by order of finish or ACC record.
This year, however, all 10 ACC bowl-eligible teams finished within one game in the league standings: Boston College, Florida State, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech were 5-3, while Miami, North Carolina State, Clemson, Maryland, North Carolina and Wake Forest were 4-4.
After the BCS spot is filled by the ACC champion, the Chick-fil-A Bowl gets the next choice from the conference, followed by the Gator Bowl and then Champs Sports.
Scenarios are running wild.
There’s a sense that Chick-fil-A might keep hometown favorite Georgia Tech in Atlanta for its Dec. 31 game, which means the Boston College-Virginia Tech loser could wind up in Orlando for the Champs Sports Bowl — since the Gator Bowl braintrust might not pass on the chance to invite Florida State, with Tallahassee a mere 2½ hours away.
North Carolina could fit the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Charlotte, although some expect the Tar Heels to be picked for the Music City Bowl in Nashville instead. Maryland might be Boise-bound. Clemson could wind up in any of five games, including the Champs Sports Bowl.
Wake Forest finished 7-5, and now the EagleBank Bowl in Washington, D.C. against Navy may be the Deacons’ next stop.
North Carolina State has won four consecutive games but is just 6-6 overall, meaning it’s not a definite for the postseason. And Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen also sounds a bit wary, saying he’d be thankful just to get an invite anywhere.
Though the ACC is aligned with only nine bowl games, it is unlikely any of the 10 eligibles from the conference will stay home.
“I think we will place all 10, but dont know where the 10th will be at this time,” ACC spokesman Mike Finn said Sunday. “One of our teams would need to be an at-large team in a bowl game which has an opening. Fortunately, this year, there may be a few of those.”
Which means, for at least a few more days, the angst and guessing will likely continue for most ACC teams — not to mention for the bowl committees, who in this hurting economy would like to have as much time as possible to market their respective matchups.
“We’re all going to make the best of it,” Hogan said.