ACC: Chick-fil-a Bowl
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.
ACC champion Florida State will face Northern Illinois on Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013 in the 79th annual Discover Orange Bowl. The game will have an 8:30 p.m. kickoff (ET) and will be nationally televised by ESPN.
In addition to the Seminoles, Clemson (Chick-fil-A), Virginia Tech (Russell Athletic), Georgia Tech (Hyundai Sun), Duke (Belk), and NC State (Franklin American Mortgage Music City), all accepted bowl invitations.
From the ACC's release:
Florida State (11-2; 7-1 ACC), ranked 12th in the final BCS standings, captured its 13th ACC title since joining the league in 1992. But the ACC gridiron title is the Seminoles' first in eight seasons, and its first berth in a BCS bowl game since claiming the inaugural ACC Football Championship Game in 2005. FSU, coached by Jimbo Fisher, has now posted a 30-10 record over the past three seasons and will be making its ninth appearance in the Discover Orange Bowl, last facing Penn State in the 2006 classic, a triple overtime loss to Penn State. The Seminoles will be facing Northern Illinois, 12-1, and champions of the Mid-American Conference and ranked 15th in the final BCS Standings. Florida State is 3-5 in its previous eight Orange Bowl appearances but is 25-14-2 overall in 41 bowl games, a winning percentage of .634, the sixth-best winning percentage nationally among teams with 15 or more bowl appearances. Ironically, Northern Illinois’ head coach, Dave Doeren has been hired by FSU’s Atlantic Division rival NC State, and will not coach in the bowl game.
Clemson (10-2; 7-1 ACC), ranked 14th in the final BCS Standings, and co-champions of the ACC’s Atlantic Division, will be making its eighth appearance in an Atlanta bowl game when the Tigers face 8th-ranked LSU (10-2) in the Chick-fil-A Bowl in the Georgia Dome on Monday, December 31. The game will have a 7:30 p.m. (ET) kickoff and will be nationally televised by ESPN. Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney has guided the Tigers to back-to-back 10-win seasons, the first for Clemson since the 1989-90 seasons. The game will mark the first meeting between these two sets of Tigers since the 1996 Peach Bowl, the predecessor of the current Chick-fil-A Bowl. LSU, currently coached by Les Miles, has won both previous meetings between the two teams, including a 10-7 decision in 1996. The game will be Clemson’s 35th appearance in a bowl game and their fifth straight bowl berth under Swinney. The Tigers have a 16-18 overall bowl record.
Virginia Tech (6-6, 4-4, ACC), will be making its first appearance in the Russell Athletic Bowl, which will be played on Friday, Dec. 28, in Orlando’s Florida Citrus Bowl stadium. The game will have a 5:30 p.m. kickoff and will be nationally televised on ESPN. The Hokies of Coach Frank Beamer, who is the winningest active coach in the NCAA’s Football Bowl Championship Subdivision with 257 career triumphs, will face Rutgers (9-3) of the Big East Conference. Beamer is currently tied with former BYU coach LaVell Edwards for 6th place on the all-time NCAA FBS wins list. The game will mark the 15th meeting between the two teams in a series which began in 1920, but it is their first game since 2003 when both were members of the Big East Conference. Tech, which is 9-16 in its 25 previous bowl trips, has an 11-3 advantage in its series with the Scarlet Knights.
Georgia Tech (6-7, 5-3), the ACC’s Coastal Division champions, are making their second straight trip to the Hyundai Sun Bowl, which will be played on Monday, Dec. 31 in El Paso, Texas. The game, the 79th Annual Sun Bowl, will have a 2 p.m. (ET) kickoff and will be nationally televised by CBS-TV. The Yellow Jackets of coach Paul Johnson will be meeting the Trojans of Southern California (7-5) of the Pac-12 Conference, coached by Lane Kiffin. The meeting is the first between the two teams since 1973, when Tech dropped 23-6 decision to the then-No. 1-ranked Trojans. The Jackets are 1-2 against USC. Tech is making its 41st appearance in a postseason bowl game and has posted a 22-18 record, which ranks as the 15th-best winning percentage among teams with 15 or more appearances. USC, which has a 32-16 (.667) record in bowl games, has the 2nd-best winning percentage. Tech dropped a 30-27 overtime decision to Utah in last year’s Hyundai Sun Bowl.
Duke (6-6, 3-5), under the direction of ACC Coach of the Year David Cutcliffe, is making its first bowl appearance since 1994, when it faces Big East foe Cincinnati (9-3) in the Belk Bowl on Thursday, Dec. 27 in Charlotte’s Bank of America Stadium. The game will have a 6:30 p.m. kickoff and will be nationally televised by ESPN. Duke will be facing the Bearcats, who are coached by Butch Jones, for the first time. Duke is making its ninth bowl trip and has posted a 3-5 record in postseason games. The Blue Devils last bowl trip was a 34-20 loss to Wisconsin in the Hall of Fame Bowl Game in Tampa, Fla. The game marks the first appearance by the Blue Devils in a bowl game in North Carolina.
NC State (7-5, 3-5 ACC) is making its third straight bowl appearance when it faces Southeastern Conference foe Vanderbilt (8-4) in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl on Monday, Dec. 31 at noon in Nashville, Tenn. The game will be played in Nashville’s LP Field and will be nationally televised by ESPN. The Wolfpack are making their third straight bowl appearance and fourth in the last five years. Interim head coach and offensive coordinator Dana Bible will guide the team against the Commodores as the school awaits the arrival of its new head coach Dave Doeren, who guided Northern Illinois to back-to-back MAC Championships. State will making its 27th bowl appearance and has a 14-11-1 record (.558), having recently claimed back-to-back triumphs over West Virginia in the 2010 Champs Sports Bowl and Louisville in last year’s Belk Bowl. State’s bowl winning percentage is 14th best nationally among schools with 15 or more bowl appearances. The game is only the second between the two schools in football and the first in 66 years as the Wolfpack dropped a 7-0 decision at Vanderbilt in 1946.
1. Allstate Sugar Bowl: Virginia Tech will have the best chance to make a statement in the ACC against No. 13 Michigan. It's a chance for the Hokies to prove that they can win on a big stage outside of the ACC.
2. Discover Orange Bowl: The Tigers should beat West Virginia, but it's not a guarantee. The Mountaineers' offense, which is No. 19 in the country in scoring, will give Clemson some problems.
3. Champs Sports Bowl: The ACC is 0-3 against Notre Dame so far this season, but Florida State will be the league's best chance at changing that. They're going to need more offensively, though, than they've shown in recent weeks.
4. Chick-fil-A Bowl: Virginia will have a chance to take advantage of an Auburn team that looks nothing like its 2010 form. Auburn hasn't put together back-to-back wins since the last weekend in September.
5. Hyundai Sun Bowl: This game will pit the nation's No. 3 rushing offense against the No. 7 rushing defense, and Georgia Tech will try to snap a six-game losing streak in bowl games.
6. AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl: North Carolina will get Missouri's last performance as a member of the Big 12 before moving to the SEC next year, and the Tar Heels will be looking to send interim coach Everett Withers out with a win.
7. Belk Bowl: This is a matchup between two teams that finished on hot streaks. NC State had two of the ACC's most memorable wins of the season with an upset of Clemson and the school's biggest comeback in school history against Maryland.
8. Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Wake Forest and Mississippi State are two 6-6 teams who struggled down the stretch. The Bulldogs lost two of their last three, and the Deacs lost four of their last five.
The city of Atlanta has become a home away from home for the Hokies, and this year is no exception, as Virginia Tech will be making its third appearance in the city this season. While some fans were quick to question the return visit (especially considering the Hokies are 0-2 there this season), they should know it’s a partnership that has paid dividends. Since 2006, Peach Bowl Inc. has donated and paid an astounding $9.5 million to Virginia Tech in game payouts, donations and winnings from the summer golf event.
The Hokies have paid them back in tickets sold and brand name, top-ranked football.
“We’re happy to do it,” Stokan said. “Just think about this year: How many schools in the country first off have the opportunity to win 10 games for six consecutive years? Only Virginia Tech and Texas. That’s admirable in itself. Second, when you think about how many schools would bring 31,200 tickets to the kickoff game, and in the same year play a game in the same city against Georgia Tech and sell their 4,000 for a visiting team, and then sell another 17,500 tickets in the same city – third trip – for a bowl game. That’s close to 56,000 tickets that they have sold in Atlanta for these three events. I don’t know how many programs in the country have that kind of fan support.”
It’s almost like Virginia Tech brought a filled Lane Stadium to the city of Atlanta this year.
This year’s Chick-fil-A Bowl is the third CFA Bowl event since 2006 that the Hokies have played in: The 2006 bowl game against Georgia, this year’s kickoff game against Alabama, and Thursday night’s game against Tennessee. Since 2006, Beamer and Dell Curry have both played in the CFA Bowl Challenge golf event three times, and they won it in 2006 and placed second the past two years.
For defensive end Nekos Brown, it’s the third time he’s stayed in the Marriott Marquis downtown because he played in the 2006 Chick-fil-A Bowl his freshman year. He’s grown quite fond of the local Hard Rock Café (which is no surprise considering he is the son of Chuck Brown, who is known as the godfather of Go-Go music, and is a famous songwriter and performer). Brown said he’s got no problem coming back to Atlanta for a third time this year.
“Nah, we’re not sick of it,” Brown said. “If we had to go to any other bowl than a BCS bowl I’d pick the Chick-fil-A Bowl, most definitely.”
The money from the kickoff game goes directly to Virginia Tech, as did the winnings from the summer golf and another half a million donated to the Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund. The bowl revenue, though, is divided among the conference schools. Roughly $2.8 million has gone directly to the school since 2006.
“I think it’s all business, but I think we’ve been good for their business and I know they’ve been good for our business,” said Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer. “ … Our fans have always showed up well here and I know we think Gary Stokan and his staff, just extremely professional, extremely organized, and they’re easy to deal with. It’s just a fact. It’s just a very professionally done operation. That’s what makes it fun for us. We enjoy dealing with them and we’ve been an attractive team for them, and I hope we’re going to be playing down here a few more times.”
"You always hear the rumors about us and Tennessee playing, all the hype that would be around it if that game were to ever actually happen,” Grimm said. “Now we actually get a chance to play them.”
And the chance at yet another important opportunity.
This young team will return a bulk of its talent next year, and a bowl win can go a long way in acting as a spring board into next season. Last year’s win over Cincinnati in the Orange Bowl was a driving force behind the Hokies’ focused and productive offseason workouts, and this year’s bowl game could do the same. Virginia Tech's success in the ACC title game and Orange Bowl last year was a big reason the Hokies came into this season ranked No. 7 in the preseason Associated Press Top 25, and why there was so much substance to the national title talk.
“This is going to be a big game for us,” Grimm said. “Some bowl games are bigger than others, but as for getting to 10 wins, that will give us momentum heading into next year. It will kind of sum up our season if we can get a win, we can come out and finish with 10 wins against and finish as a top-10 team.”
It’s a very good possibility, as Virginia Tech entered this week at No. 11 in the BCS standings. Tennessee leads the series 5-2, but the Hokies should be favored in this game. Virginia Tech is 1-2 in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, and could obviously even that record while at the same time represent the conference against the SEC. Virginia Tech held its own against Alabama in the season opener in Atlanta, but is hoping for a win this time.
"This is a very good example to showcase our talent, and show what the ACC has talent-wise,” quarterback Tyrod Taylor said. “In the ACC, we know we have a lot of talent and we are just looking to go out there and prove it."
Dec. 31, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Virginia Tech take by ACC blogger Heather Dinich: Virginia Tech is no stranger to the city of Atlanta, as this is the third time this season the Hokies will play there, and the second time they’ll face an SEC team in the Georgia Dome. Hokies fans are probably hoping the third time is the charm, as Virginia Tech lost to both Alabama and Georgia Tech in the city during the regular season. Tennessee, though, hasn’t seen that kind of success under Lane Kiffin yet, and No. 12 Virginia Tech should be favored heading into this game.
That’s due in large part to the Hokies’ defense, which is holding opponents to just 15.75 points per game, and the offensive star power of redshirt freshman Ryan Williams, who is fifth in the country in rushing yards per game, third in total rushing yards and tied for third in rushing touchdowns. He has had nine 100-yard rushing games this year.
Tennessee is one of four 7-5 teams in a muddled group in the SEC East, and statistically, the Vols have been average in just about every category but one this year -- pass efficiency defense. Tennessee is No. 8 in the country, allowing just 99.98 yards per game. Vols running backs coach Eddie Gran better get used to seeing this defense, as he’ll be joining Florida State offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher’s staff eventually.
The Hokies played Alabama in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff earlier this year, and also visited Atlanta for a regular-season game against Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets were in the Chick-fil-A Bowl last year.
"Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech are definitely in our selection process," Stokan said. "We'd be happy and ecstatic to have either one play in this year's Chick-fil-A Bowl. Virginia Tech has a great reputation of being a great bowl team on the field, as well as their fans traveling, and certainly we saw that with the Kickoff game, where they came down in huge numbers for the game against Alabama. We would have no doubt in the case of Virginia Tech coming back to Atlanta. We would welcome Georgia Tech as well, should they be the runner-up in the championship game."
The ACC bowl picture is hardly settled with two weeks still remaining in the regular season. Because the Chick-fil-A Bowl pits an ACC team against an SEC team, there are still games which will have ramifications on the selection process for both sides. The Clemson-South Carolina regular-season finale is one of them. Georgia and Georgia Tech could also come into play. Stokan said there are still about seven SEC teams the bowl is considering, while the ACC has been narrowed down to Boston College, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and possibly North Carolina, should the Tar Heels finish on a hot streak.
Steve Hogan, executive director of the Champs Sports Bowl, said he'll be paying particular attention to the game in Chestnut Hill this week, where UNC will face Boston College. The outcome of that game will make the cut line for conference records at either 6-2, or 5-3. The Champs Sports Bowl can pick any team within one win of the best available team, and the selection becomes wider with a list of 5-3 and 4-4 teams. That will be the scenario if UNC wins this weekend. If BC wins, the Champs Sports Bowl will be looking at a smaller pool of 6-2 or 5-3 teams.
"If for nothing more, it changes the amount of teams available to you," Hogan said. "I just don't believe Virginia Tech will fall to us. They probably go to either Atlanta or Jacksonville, but if Clemson loses, who knows?"
At this point, nobody for sure.
The ACC and the Chick-fil-A Bowl have agreed to a four-year contract extension, which will keep them partners through the 2013 season. The Chick-fil-A Bowl has the first selection of ACC teams after the BCS.
From the release:
“Our 18-year partnership with ACC is among the most important assets we have and is a huge part of our bowl’s success,” said Gary Stokan, Chick-fil-A Bowl president and CEO, in a prepared statement. “The ACC is a big part of our identity. It’s who we are. We consider it a privilege to provide their member institutions a BCS-like experience in both the Chick-fil-A Bowl and in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game.”
The ACC has been a conference tie-in for the Chick-fil-A Bowl since 1992 and the Chick-fil-A Bowl has owned the first non-automatic selection in the conference since 2006. An ACC team has played in 30 of the 41 Chick-fil-A Bowls dating back to 1968.
“The Chick-fil-A Bowl has been a tremendous partner over the years and we look forward to our continued relationship,” said ACC Commissioner John Swofford. “Showcasing an ACC-SEC matchup on New Year's Eve in Atlanta has proven to be a solid formula for success. I know the experience of our teams and fans is second to none and we appreciate every aspect of our association with the Chick-fil-A Bowl.”
The 42nd annual Chick-fil-A Bowl will be played Dec. 31 at 7:30 p.m. ET and will be nationally televised by ESPN.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson and B-back Jonathan Dwyer were honored Wednesday morning at the state Capitol, where they visited the House and Senate chambers, and were commended for their 9-4 season in 2008.
It only took one season for Johnson to turn skeptics of his offense into believers (some of the congressmen are Georgia alumni).
|AP Photo/John Amis|
|Jonathan Dwyer has no problem with higher expectations heading into the 2009 season.|
The mystique surrounding Johnson's offense has been replaced by higher expectations, and Georgia Tech should earn a top 20 ranking heading into 2009. It's quite a turnaround from last season, when the Jackets were picked to finish fourth in the Coastal Division, and many outside the program didn't know what to expect from new offensive and defensive schemes and a new coaching staff. Dwyer said the increased expectations are a welcome change during winter conditioning as they prepare for 2009.
"All that does is motivate us," said Dwyer, who averaged 107.3 rushing yards per game and was named the ACC's Player of the Year. "We want to live up to the hype and realize the opportunity we have if we do what we're supposed to do and win games. I'm excited about how much respect now we're getting. We have to feed off that and just keep earning respect 'til we reach the top and realize the opportunity we have as a team going in if we're nationally ranked. All we have to do is win all of our games and maybe we'll have a shot to be in the national championship and win the ACC."
Georgia Tech had a shot to win the ACC in Johnson's first season as the Jackets finished in a tie for first place in the Coastal Division with Virginia Tech at 5-3. It was an extremely young team that returns the bulk of its offense in Dwyer, A-back Roddy Jones, B-back Lucas Cox and quarterbacks Josh Nesbitt and Jaybo Shaw.
"Everybody will know what's going on more and be under the same system from last year," Dwyer said. "They haven't changed anything, so I think we'll have a lot more leadership coming back. We lost some important leadership last year, but being young and starting early and everybody being real close as a family, and playing for each other, that will help us next year."
There is more depth at the running back position, which should allow Dwyer to take a few plays off. The incorporation of Anthony Allen and Richard Watson into the lineup could allow for Dwyer to have some company in the backfield. It's also possible he could see some time at the A-back position, which is more like a slot back instead of a fullback.
"It's something I experienced a little bit this year, and something I'm willing to do and willing to learn," Dwyer said. "It will probably make me more versatile and get everyone more playing time. If that's what they want me to play, that's what I'll have to adjust to and do my best to help my team win."
The Jackets relished their role as underdogs in 2008, but the accolades and attention the team received after beating rival Georgia and heading into the Chick-fil-A Bowl might have contributed to their flat performance in the 38-3 loss to LSU. Dwyer said that game was a very humbling experience.
"It changed what we thought about what we needed to do," Dwyer said. "I think it changed the whole program, us and the coaches, knowing what our strengths and what our weaknesses are, and knowing what we have to improve on going into next year."
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
The bowl season provided reasons for change from the top to the bottom in the final version of the power ranking. Remember, this is all based on 2008, not what 2009 might look like. We'll save that one for later.
Here is the final list:
|Mark Zerof/US Presswire|
|Darren Evans' 153 rushing yards helped lead Virginia Tech in its Orange Bowl win.|
1. Virginia Tech (10-4) -- The Hokies gave the ACC its first BCS bowl win since 1999 and broke the league's eight-game losing streak in those games. It was their fifth straight 10-win season under Frank Beamer, and they finished the season on a four-game winning streak.
2. Florida State (9-4) -- Their convincing 42-13 win over Wisconsin was the ACC's only other bowl win over a team from a BCS conference, and the Noles finished with more than eight wins for the first time since 2004. They never lost back-to-back games.
3. Georgia Tech (9-4) -- The Yellow Jackets are a better team than the one that showed up for the Chick-fil-A Bowl, but their 38-3 loss to LSU and the other results forced them to sink a few notches. Still, they won two of their last three games, including a statement win over rival Georgia.
4. Wake Forest (8-5) -- What separates the Demon Deacons from the other 8-5 teams is how they finished the season -- with back-to-back wins. They redeemed themselves in what was virtually a home game for Navy in the EagleBank Bowl, and had one of their best offensive performances all season.
5. Maryland (8-5) -- The Terps ended the season on a positive note with their win over Nevada, and that helped ease the disappointment of losing three of their last four regular-season games. Instead of worrying about missed opportunities, they took care of the one they were given.
6. Boston College (9-5) -- Yes, they have nine wins, but the Eagles also ended the season with back-to-back losses, a struggling offense and a fired coach. Instead of concentrating on Vanderbilt -- a team both Wake Forest and Duke were able to beat during the regular season -- the Eagles were stuck on what could have been.
7. North Carolina (8-5) -- The Tar Heels lost three of their last four games, including the Meineke Car Care Bowl, but it wasn't as if UNC got blown out by West Virginia. They countered Pat White with Hakeem Nicks, but it wasn't enough as UNC couldn't get its running game going in the 31-30 loss.
8. Clemson (7-6) -- The Tigers ended the season the way it began -- floundering on offense. Clemson finished with just four rushing yards in a 26-21 loss to Nebraska in the Gator Bowl, but deserve credit for a 4-3 finish under Dabo Swinney.
9. NC State (6-7) -- The Wolfpack made progress in Tom O'Brien's second season by earning a bowl bid, but depended too heavily upon quarterback Russell Wilson down the stretch. With no other answer, NC State relinquished a first-half lead and Rutgers snapped the Wolfpack's four-game winning streak.
10. Miami (7-6) -- The Hurricanes collapsed at the end, ending the season with three straight losses, one less quarterback and no offensive coordinator. A good effort against Cal in the Emerald Bowl was negated by fourth-quarter mistakes.
11. Virginia (5-7) -- The Cavaliers remain status quo after being just one of two ACC teams not to play in a bowl game this season.
12. Duke (4-8) -- The Blue Devils were only two wins shy of bowl eligibility in David Cutcliffe's first season and he is already talking about the potential for 2009.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
We know what the ACC's best win was (Virginia Tech over Cincinnati in the Orange Bowl), and there shouldn't be much debate about the worst loss (Georgia Tech to LSU). But there were moments and plays within the games that defined the bowl season for the ACC. Here's a look at the best and worst the conference had to offer in its 10 games:
|AP Photo/Matt Cilley|
|Da'Rel Scott came off the bench in the second half, running for 174 yards and two TDs.|
BEST STORY: Breaking curfew and breaking tackles: Maryland running back Da'Rel Scott was benched for two-and-a-half quarters for breaking curfew (Boise must be more interesting than it sounds), but came in and rushed for 174 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries in the Terps' 42-35 win over Nevada.
BEST SOUVENIR: Sod. After beating Wisconsin in the Champs Sports Bowl, FSU punter Graham Gano cut a swatch of sod out from the 3-yard line near where two of his punts went out.
BEST QUOTE: "BCS -- finally, we got one!" -- Virginia Tech cornerback Victor "Macho" Harris.
BEST CATCH: Easily UNC's Hakeem Nicks' behind-the-back vs. West Virginia. Anyone who watched Nicks reach behind his back, grab the ball with his left hand and pass it to his right for an eight-yard gain had to think NFL. The remarkable catch set up T.J. Yates' 4-yard touchdown run to give North Carolina a 30-24 lead.
BEST STAT: 32. The Wake Forest seniors finished as the winningest class in school history with 32 victories after their win over Navy in the EagleBank Bowl.
BEST COACHING JOB: Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech. The entire ACC owes him a big "thank you" for breaking the league's eight-game losing streak in BCS bowls. Beamer had to have been feeling the pressure after last year's loss to Kansas, but he kept the team and the staff together and directed the Hokies to a 20-7 win over Cincinnati in the FedEx Orange Bowl.
WORST ENDING: Miami's fumble and botched two-minute offense against Cal. There was poor clock management on the Canes' final possession, and freshman quarterback Jacory Harris fumbled the ball in the fourth quarter as Miami squandered its chance to beat Cal in the Emerald Bowl.
WORST DECISION: Clemson's comeback gets sacked. Trailing 26-21 in the fourth quarter, the Tigers had crept as close as Nebraska's 10-yard line with under two minutes left to play. On second and goal from the 10, quarterback Cullen Harper was sacked for a loss of 16 yards. The veteran should have gotten rid of it.
WORST QUARTER: Second quarter of the Chick-fil-A Bowl. LSU outscored Georgia Tech 28-0. 'Nuff said.
WORST INJURY: NC State quarterback Russell Wilson's knee injury. While Wilson was sidelined for all of the second half against Rutgers in the Papajohns.com Bowl, his replacements combined to throw three interceptions. The Pack's 17-6 halftime edge quickly disappeared.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
It's unfortunate, it really is, but let's face it -- the pressure is on to win bowl games, not just show up and, well, have fun.
Some coaches wrestle with which approach is better -- treat the bowl as a reward, and take it easy on the players, or treat it like a November game that means something.
It's OK to simply be happy to be there if you're Vanderbilt, which was in its first game since 1982, but not if you're Georgia Tech, which was in its 12th straight bowl game. The ACC had two very different results in the Chick-fil-A Bowl and the FedEx Orange Bowl, and it's no coincidence the head coaches had polar philosophies when it came to their preparation for it.
Frank Beamer's approach last year didn't work. Paul Johnson's approach didn't work this year.
Lessening the load at bowl practices and treating the game as a reward rather than a must win has proven at times to be an ineffective approach, especially when teams like LSU are diligently practicing the triple option without a football to help simulate the speed.
Johnson, meanwhile, shortened practice from two hours to about 90 minutes, and instead of taking advantage of the unlimited practice time, they took two weeks off for exams and practiced just nine times. Players swapped jerseys and joked around. And they were embarrassed by a team they could have hung with and probably beaten had they come prepared to play. This is not to say that Georgia Tech didn't work hard during its practices, just that LSU probably worked harder.
Beamer changed his approach this season, and started working harder earlier. The players followed, and in the end, they had more fun winning than Georgia Tech had preparing. Odds are next season Johnson has a different approach.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
With an NCAA-record 10 bowl games, the ACC had a 4-6 finish, capped with a win in the Orange Bowl. Despite its losing record, I'd say the ACC fared pretty well this postseason.
My picks, however, did not.
I got a season-low three games right, with correct calls on Florida State, Miami and Wake Forest. NC State, UNC, Georgia Tech, Boston College and Clemson all let me down, as I picked them to win. All but the Yellow Jackets provided entertaining games, though.
The Meineke Car Care Bowl gets my vote for the best bowl game involving an ACC team, despite the loss. The Chick-fil-A Bowl was easily the worst.
Most everyone had their highs and lows. Overall, it could have been much worse, but there is still room for growth and improvement in the conference, and considering how young it was, we should see some of that next season.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Granted, they don't have far to go, but Yellow Jackets' fans needed less than four days to buy Georgia Tech's entire allotment of 17,500 tickets.
The school is trying to find an additional 2,000 tickets for the Chick-fil-A Bowl against LSU in the Georgia Dome. Georgia Tech has finals this week and will have its first bowl practice on Saturday.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Both Clemson and Georgia Tech are having news conferences today regarding their bowl games, and Chick-fil-A president Gary P. Stokan confirmed they'll be selecting Georgia Tech. The Gator Bowl is expected to select Clemson.
"We think Georgia Tech is the most deserving team in the conference," Stokan said this morning. "They won their way into our game by impressively beating Miami, who was ranked at the time as well as Georgia. Paul Johnson is coach of the year in the ACC and certainly our mission of the Chick-fil-A Bowl is to put the best matchup on the field. Although we know there may be economic impact that may be given up, our bowl is a reward for the players, and the kids at Georgia Tech certainly deserve an opportunity to play in the Chick-fil-A Bowl."