ACC: 2012 Chick-fil-A Bowl

Video: Chick-fil-A Bowl preview

December, 13, 2012
12/13/12
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LSU's stubborn defense goes up against Clemson's high-powered offense in the 2012 Chick-fil-A Bowl (Dec. 31, 7:30 p.m. ET -- ESPN).

Predictions: ACC bowls

December, 26, 2011
12/26/11
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I finished the regular season with a picks percentage of 74.2, but I missed the one that mattered most and failed to pick the upset in the ACC championship game. That’s why they call it an upset. My grand total for the season stands at 72-26 heading into bowl season. Plenty of room for improvement, but there are a lot of tough calls and games that can go either way this bowl season. Here are your picks for the non-BCS bowls:

Advocare V100 Independence Bowl -- Missouri 31, North Carolina 28: The Tar Heels will get an inspired performance in interim coach Everett Withers’ last game, but Missouri is a better team than its five losses indicate. North Carolina will make one or two costly turnovers, and the Tar Heels’ defense won’t be able to make enough stops in the red zone.

Belk Bowl -- NC State 28, Louisville 21: Both quarterbacks will need to get better protection than they have for most of the season, and both teams have seen their defenses improve, but NC State has done a tremendous job this year of forcing opposing quarterbacks into mistakes, and Teddy Bridgewater will find that out quickly. The difference will be NC State’s front seven on defense.

Champs Sports Bowl -- Florida State 21, Notre Dame 17: This is significantly below the 30 points both teams are averaging this year, but Florida State’s defense will again be the difference. Even if the Noles can’t get things going again offensively, Florida State’s defense and special teams are good enough to offset it against the Irish. Notre Dame is No. 116 in the country in turnover margin, and Florida State is capable not only of forcing quarterback Tommy Rees into a turnover, but also of scoring on it.

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl -- Wake Forest 24, Mississippi State 21. The Demon Deacons have too many difference-makers on both sides of the ball for the Bulldogs to overcome. It’s been a record-setting year for Price and receiver Chris Givens, and freshman cornerback Merrill Noel leads the nation with 20 passes defended. The difference will be Wake Forest’s passing game and its ability to protect the ball.

Hyundai Sun Bowl -- Georgia Tech 28, Utah 24. The Utes couldn’t handle a floundering Colorado team that had just one league win in the regular-season finale, and this will be a much more difficult challenge. Those within Georgia Tech’s program are tired of hearing about the six-game losing streak, and coach Paul Johnson is at his best when he’s got something to prove. Georgia Tech will catch Utah off-guard with several big plays, control the clock and in turn the game.

Chick-fil-A Bowl -- Virginia 24, Auburn 21: The Tigers lost both coordinators in a span of a week, and leading rusher Michael Dyer has been suspended for the bowl game for a violation of team rules. Without those three components, Virginia has an edge. Plus, Auburn is a shadow of its 2010 national championship team, while Virginia has made a dramatic turnaround this year. Statistically, Auburn has one of the worst offenses in the country, and the defense has been at the bottom of the SEC.

Upset Watch: ACC bowl edition

December, 21, 2011
12/21/11
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The Upset Watch is back, this time in postseason form. For those of you who paid attention during the regular season, you know that this list has been the kiss of death for several teams this year. There was a seven-week stretch during the season in which every game listed at No. 1 on the upset watch came true. None of the games listed in the final week of the regular season, though, came to fruition. Virginia Tech dominated UVa once again, Clemson lost to South Carolina for a third straight time, and -- would you believe it? --Maryland blew a 27-point lead against NC State (believe it).

As we head into bowl season, here is a look at which teams have the best chance to be upset -- or in some cases, play the role of spoiler. Remember, these are NOT predictions (those are coming soon). Rather, it’s an impartial look at the most likely upsets involving the league:

Virginia vs. No. 25 Auburn in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. We’re going with the final BCS standings, but the perception also seems to be that just because Auburn is in the SEC and is still the defending national champ (oh, and also because Virginia got blown out 38-0 by rival Virginia Tech in the regular-season finale), the Tigers will win. Not so fast. Consider that Auburn lost both of its coordinators in a week’s span and its leading rusher is suspended for the game. Those are factors that can’t be ignored, and anyone who’s paid close attention to the Cavaliers this season would probably tell you they’re better than they played against the Hokies.

No. 11 Virginia Tech vs. No. 13 Michigan in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. If you’re going by the final BCS standings, a Michigan win would be considered an upset. If you’re going by public perception and the Associated Press Top 25, which has Michigan at No. 13 and Virginia Tech at No. 17, it wouldn’t be. ESPN.com consistently refers to the BCS standings, so we’ll stick with that. Both programs have faced their fair share of criticism for their at-large BCS bowl bids, but it seems (at least from this chair) that the Hokies have endured more. They are out to prove they deserve to play in the Sugar Bowl, but Michigan’s stingy defense coupled with the abilities of quarterback Denard Robinson will make that a difficult task.

No. 15 Clemson vs. No. 23 West Virginia in the Discover Orange Bowl. The Tigers should be favored to win this game, and they are the higher-ranked team, but Clemson, as you know, is a wee bit unpredictable. Which team will show up? The one that dominated Virginia Tech twice, including in the ACC championship game? Or the one that lost three of its final four regular-season games and turned the ball over too frequently? The Mountaineers, much like Clemson, have a high-powered offense with several of the nation’s top playmakers. If Clemson’s defense isn’t up to the challenge, the ACC will strike out again on the BCS stage.
The intangibles are adding up in Virginia’s favor.

Auburn has lost its offensive coordinator, Gus Malzahn, who was introduced on Wednesday as Arkansas State’s new head coach.

Auburn lost its defensive coordinator, Ted Roof, who left last week to take the same position at the University of Central Florida.

Auburn lost its leading rusher, tailback Michael Dyer, who was suspended for the Chick-fil-A Bowl game against Virginia.

At some point, these changes become an issue, but Virginia coach Mike London said Auburn’s loss of Dyer hasn’t affected the Cavaliers’ approach.

“It really doesn’t affect how we prepare,” London said. “This is a great team. They’re the defending national champs, so you better believe they have high school All-Americans and some kids that are highly recruited. You look and you see other guys that also carry the ball and when they put the ball in their hands, there’s no shortage of talent there.”

There is, however, a lack of identity for Auburn right now, and a sense of uncertainty. That’s not the case at Virginia, which couldn’t be more positive about the direction the program is heading under London. In only his second season, London won the ACC’s Coach of the Year Award, and he’s not done yet. If the Hoos beat Auburn, they will tie a school record for improvement from one season to the next. Virginia went from 3-8 in 1986 to 8-4 the following year. So far, Virginia has gone from 4-8 to 8-4.

If they can take advantage of Auburn’s personnel changes, an already good season could become great for Virginia.

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