I really thought after the Miami game that we were back in the hunt, needing to take care of business and have some other ACC chips fall our way. Well, neither happened today. I was getting ready to write a short post saying maybe next year, but after I stared at the numbers a while I realized we could technically still wrangle a bowl bid with just the right Hail Mary finish to the season (even without beating Florida State).
But it's a hard, dark road. It requires...
...it requires kind of rooting for Duke.
As discussed last week, the ACC has eight bowl tie-ins.
There are now six eligible teams (GT secured a spot):
Florida State (8-0)
Georgia Tech (6-3)
Virginia Tech (6-3)
There are two remaining tie ins. Here's how the rest of the conference lines up, including the games they have left on their schedule.
Maryland (vs. Syracuse, @ VT, vs. BC, @ NC State)
Two wins away (4-4):
Syracuse (@ Maryland, @ Florida State, vs. Pitt, vs. BC)
Boston College (@ New Mexico St., vs. NC State, @ Maryland, @ Syracuse)
Pittsburgh (vs. Notre Dame, vs. UNC, @ Syracuse, vs. Miami)
Three wins away (3-5):
UNC (vs. Virginia, @ Pitt, vs. Old Dominion, vs. Duke)
NC State (@ Duke, @ BC, vs. ECU, vs. Maryland)
Aaaaand Virginia is the first ACC team to be ineligible for a bowl.
What about us?
Wake Forest sits at 4-5. With a conservative prediction that we don't get the W next week hosting Florida State, we need to win both the Duke and Vandy games to hit 6-6. Even if we do that, we'll likely be passed up for a bowl if there two other contenders become eligible (because bowls have discretion over who they invite when there are multiple 6-6 teams vying for a conference tie in, and I assume Wake doesn't have the TV revenue draw of, well, basically any other ACC school).
The big problem is that the teams that remain in contention, as shown above, are basically all playing each other a bunch. Only about half the games that these teams play the rest of the season can be won by a team that either is out of conference or already took a tie-in. The rest of the games will move a contender towards eligibility one way or another.
The guiding principle (for Wake fans who are saving some hope for later crushing) is that we want bowl-eligible teams, non-conference teams, and Virginia (putting the wah into wahoo) to win any games they have against our co-contenders. If Wake can hit 6-6 and the rest of the cards fall in our favor, we could make a bowl. Here's a hypothetical just to show it's possible:
-Wake beats Duke and Vandy to finish 6-6.
-Boston College beats NC State, Maryland, and Syracuse to finish 7-5.
-Maryland loses out (I think it's unlikely, but they haven't looked good since the win over WVU and are missing some key pieces) to finish 5-7.
-Syracuse beats Maryland, but loses to Florida State, Pitt, and BC to finish 5-7.
-Pitt loses to Notre Dame, UNC, Miami, and beats Syracuse to finish 5-7.
-UNC beats Pitt, loses to Duke, and loses to at least one of Virginia or Old Dominion to finish 4-8 or 5-7.
-NC State beats Maryland, loses to BC, and loses to at least one of Duke or ECU to finish 4-8 or 5-7.
That doesn't even really require any ridiculous individual game upsets (beyond the two Wake wins har har). There are probably other permutations that could get us there. On paper, the season isn't over! [Note: In real life, our offense broke its collarbone and everything is terrible.]
Next Week's Games (note: Clemson and Georgia Tech have byes):
Florida State @ Wake Forest: So Florida State comes into the game top 5 in both scoring offense and scoring defense. So Wake is relying on the option (where Tanner has the option to either hurl the ball at the receiver's feet or into the stands depending on the look the defense gives him). So what? #GoDeacs!
Notre Dame @ Pittsburgh: Keeping with the guiding principle, #GoIrish!
Virginia Tech @ Miami: Whatever you like! We're hoping VT beats Maryland the week after, if that factors in.
Virginia @ North Carolina: #Wahoo!
Syracuse @ Maryland: If Maryland wins, we'll have to hope no other team becomes eligible. I lean #GoOrange.
BC @ New Mexico State: Guiding principle, baby! #GoAggies!
NC State @ Duke: I'm not going to type it out, but you know what you have to do. Just say some Hail Marys (boom, full circle) for penance.