Indeed, it’s been a peculiar year not only in the ACC but also nationally, rendering annual bowl projections more perilous than usual.
The glut of postseason events — 35, most instantly forgettable — and dearth of eligible teams likely will mean bids for every 6-6 squad and, perhaps a 6-7, or even a few 5-7s, the latter based on Academic Progress Rates.
Blame parity. Blame NCAA sanctions or the threat thereof.
So if the Hokies, who have reached postseason 19 consecutive years, beat Virginia to gain the sixth victory needed for eligibility, where might they head? And what of the outside chance of them qualifying at 5-7?
“I think it’s impossible,” Tech athletic director Jim Weaver said of handicapping the Hokies’ possible postseason destination.
Ah, but we must try.
The five bowls scouting Saturday’s game are Atlanta’s Chick-fil-A, Orlando’s Russell Athletic, El Paso’s Sun, Charlotte’s Belk and Washington, D.C.’s Military. The ACC-affiliated bowls not attending are Miami’s Orange, Shreveport’s Independence and Nashville’s Music City.
So let’s go in pecking order:
* Orange (Jan. 1, 8 p.m.): The winner of the Florida State-Georgia Tech ACC championship game Dec. 1 heads to South Beach. Suffice to say, bowl and television suits prefer the Seminoles (10-1 pending Saturday’s game against Florida) to the Yellow Jackets (6-5 entering Saturday’s game at Georgia).
* BCS at-large: If Clemson defeats South Carolina on Saturday to complete the regular season 11-1, the Tigers are a strong candidate to give the ACC a second consecutive at-large — the Sugar Bowl surprisingly chose 10-2 Virginia Tech last year.
* Chick-fil-A (Dec. 31, 7:30 p.m., vs. SEC): Of the possible bowls for Virginia Tech, this is the least likely. If the BCS bypasses Clemson, the Tigers land here. If Clemson is unavailable, the choices hinge on Saturday’s results.
At 7-5 with a victory over Boston College on Saturday, North Carolina State would be a viable candidate. As hometown Georgia Tech would be, but only if the Jackets upset Georgia and are 7-6. Duke (6-5) also could slide into the mix with a victory over visiting Miami on Saturday.
* Russell Athletic (Dec. 28, 5:30 p.m., vs. Big East): The Hokies’ first Orlando bowl appearance is probable only if Clemson receives a BCS at-large and N.C. State goes to Atlanta. If Clemson goes to the Chick-fil-A, and N.C. State defeats Boston College, the Wolfpack is almost certain to play here.
* Sun (Dec. 31, 2 p.m., vs. Pacific 12): Conference policy says the league title game loser can not fall below the Sun. But Georgia Tech played in El Paso last year and could be 6-7, presuming losses to Georgia and Florida State. Those circumstances could prompt an arrangement that sends the Hokies here.
Given Virginia Tech’s disappointing record, few fans figure to travel in postseason regardless, so El Paso might not be all bad, especially if the Pac-12 opponent were Southern California.
* Belk (Dec. 27, 5:30 p.m., vs. Big East): Given Duke’s small fan base, Charlotte is the Blue Devils’ most convenient destination. If Duke beats Miami and goes earlier, Virginia Tech could land here.
* Music City (Dec. 31, noon, vs. SEC): The Hokies played in the inaugural game, routing Alabama 37-6 in 1998, a precursor to their national title game appearance a year later. Hard to imagine the Music City passing on Virginia Tech if it’s available.