Predicting the outcome of all 10 ACC bowl games
The ACC is sending 10 teams to a bowl this year after another successful season.
The games range from Pittsburgh in the Peach Bowl all the way to Boston College in the Military Bowl on Dec. 27. The ACC’s other top teams — Wake Forest, Clemson and NC State, to name a few — are also playing in marquee matchups.
Of the 10 matchups, the ACC is favored to win in seven of them with one push. Virginia Tech and Pittsburgh are the only true underdogs as it currently stands.
Here’s a breakdown — and a prediction — for all 10 ACC bowl games:
Boston College (3) vs. East Carolina
Analysis: Boston College is coming off another successful season under Jeff Hafley. The Eagles cruised to bowl eligibility despite missing quarterback Phil Jurkovec for the majority of the season. They’re a much better team with him under center, and that should bear itself out vs. East Carolina.
Pick: Boston College 27, East Carolina 21
First Responders Bowl
Air Force vs. Louisville (-1.5)
Analysis: Malik Cunningham might still be the ACC’s most underrated player. Louisville lost a couple close ACC games this season or it might have played a much bigger role in the conference title race in November. Cunningham will be the most dynamic player on the field in the First Responders’ Bowl, and that should give Louisville enough of an edge vs. Air Force.
Pick: Louisville 31, Air Force 28
UCLA vs. NC State (-1)
Analysis: NC State’s season flew under the radar, but the Wolfpack were in the mix for an ACC title game berth until the very end of the season. Dave Doeren’s squad is led by quarterback Devin Leary, who put up All-ACC caliber numbers as a redshirt sophomore. If he’s locked in, expect the Wolfpack to cruise vs. the Bruins.
Pick: NC State 35, UCLA 17
SMU vs. Virginia (-2)
Analysis: Virginia might be the best 6-6 team in the country. The Cavaliers have one of the top quarterback-receiver combinations in all of college football in Brennan Armstrong and Dontayvion Wicks. Both are expected to play in the Fenway Bowl. Meanwhile, SMU will have an interim coaching staff in place for the bowl game as Sonny Dykes took the TCU job this offseason.
Pick: Virginia 45, SMU 37
Maryland vs. Virginia Tech (+3.5)
Analysis: Virginia Tech is a healthy underdog here, and it makes sense. The Hokies are breaking a new coaching staff and starting quarterback Braxton Burmeister won’t play in this game after entering the transfer portal. Virginia Tech also won’t have star receiver Tré Turner, who opted out as he prepares for the NFL Draft. Maryland’s continuity should win the day here.
Pick: Maryland 28, Virginia Tech 20
Clemson (-1) vs. Iowa State
Analysis: Both these teams are somewhat decimated going into this game. The Tigers lost both of their coordinators this offseason and are missing a couple key players due NFL opt outs and injuries. However, Iowa State is missing star running back Breece Hall, who has arguably been the Big 12’s best offensive player over the past two seasons. Without Hall to worry about, Clemson’s defense shouldn’t have too many issues shutting down Iowa State’s offense. The fact that Clemson made internal hires at both coordinator spots helps, too.
Pick: Clemson 21, Iowa State 17
Duke’s Mayo Bowl
North Carolina (-9) vs. South Carolina
Analysis: North Carolina got a big boost when Sam Howell decided to play in this game rather than begin preparation for the NFL Draft. The Tar Heels had a disappointing season, but Howell was still effective as a passer and made a huge leap as a runner in 2021. Meanwhile, South Carolina’s quarterback situation still leaves a lot to be desired before it welcomes Spencer Rattler into the fold in 2022.
Pick: North Carolina 41, South Carolina 17
Michigan State vs. Pittsburgh (+3)
Analysis: Without Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh’s offense will be a bit of a mystery in this game. Jordan Addison is still here, but it’s unclear what the Panthers’ passing attack will look like in this game. They’ve already added quarterback Kedon Slovis for 2022, so it’s safe to assume that Pickett’s replacements haven’t blown away the coaching staff during bowl prep. Michigan State won’t have running back Kenneth Walker, but the Spartans should still be able to move the ball.
Pick: Michigan State 31, Pittsburgh 24
Wake Forest vs. Rutgers*
Analysis: Rutgers is reported to be Wake Forest’s new opponent in the Gator Bowl after Texas A&M had to drop out due to COVID-19. If that’s the case, the Scarlet Knights will have just over a week to prepare before they face arguably the ACC’s most potent offense. Wake Forest will likely be heavily favored in this matchup.
Pick: Wake Forest 51, Rutgers 28
Washington State vs. Miami (PK)
Analysis: This is another game that could be in jeopardy due to COVID-19. The Hurricanes are reportedly dealing with issues as they prepare to face Washington State in the Sun Bowl. But if they’re able to play, it should be a great showcase for Miami’s offensive talent in quarterback Tyler Van Dyke and running back Jaylan Knighton. These teams met in the 2015 Sun Bowl, too, with Washington State taking home the win.
Pick: Miami 31, Washington State 30
Note: Betting odds are via DraftKings as of Thursday, Dec. 23.