Let's jump right into it, shall we?
If you're a Wake Forest fan and were hoping to head to Charlotte for a bowl game next month, things are looking up.
After a tough loss to Duke in the season finale last Saturday, many Wake fans were concerned that the post-Thanksgiving disappointment might have a significant impact on our bowl possibilities. That stress wasn't helped by the fact that Notre Dame was only able to put up a 3-quarter performance against Stanford, which led to them likely falling out of a New Year's Six game and into the ACC Bowl Selection process. At 9-3, the Irish basically moved everyone else in the conference still awaiting their postseason fate (apart from Clemson and Miami) down a peg in the draft order.
So within 24 hours the Deacs went from being a virtual lock for a Tier 1 Bowl, to on the bubble with no games left to play. You'd be excused if you spent 30 minutes on Sunday talking up Shreveport BBQ to yourself to try and justify the potential trip. I was right there with you.
But as the dust has settled, it looks like the Deacs may be staying close to home for its 2nd straight bowl game after all. Predictions for Wake to the Belk Bowl continue to flood in from media sources across the nation in the final days before Selection Sunday. Just how many predictions? This many.
That's 8/11 predictions heading the Deacons' way this week, with a variety of potential SEC opponents on the other end. The ones that didn't have Wake in Charlotte had some flaws in their logic or were simply outdated. NBC Sports, for example, had FSU slotted in the Tier 1 Taxslayer Bowl despite a more recent update that the Noles are trying to "opt-out" of the ACC Selection process altogether in order to play in the Gasparilla Bowl in St. Petersburg.
Given this recent development, this would imply FSU knows it won't be selected for a Tier 1 bowl at all and is thus taking matters into its own hands to stay close to home. Meanwhile, SI putting Wake in the Military Bowl seems to be a slight lack of research done on their part; As fun as it was last year, the committee won't select the same ACC school two times in a row.
But the opinion I trust the most in the whole process is probably The News and Observer's own Joe Giglio, who covers NC State athletics over in Raleigh. His coverage of the ACC bowl process over the last couple of weeks has been nothing short of outstanding and I highly recommend checking it out if you haven't already.
His most recent update seems to indicate Wake is safely in a Tier 1 spot alongside NC State, with the Sun Bowl and Belk Bowl as the two most likely destinations. His sources seem to think it is a toss-up between the two schools for both bowls, but Wake might have a few things going in its favor for the Belk Bowl when decision time finally comes around.
- NC State has played in two Charlotte Sports Foundation events in the last 3 years; the 2015 Belk Bowl and the 2017 Belk Kickoff. Would State fans be as excited to watch a game at Bank of America stadium for the 2nd time in 4 months as Wake fans would be for the first time in a decade? Probably not. That type of thing matters when the committee is deciding how many tickets they can sell. Which leads me to my next point...
- Wake is putting on the full-court press to be in Charlotte. We saw last year just how much it mattered that the AD and staff went all-out for the Military Bowl before Championship Weekend. This year it doesn't seem like the program is remotely hiding where they want to go in the final days before Selection Sunday. Just look:
10-Year Anniversary Mention? Why not.
Who knew the Official Wake Twitter account had such gifs!
In all honesty, these bowls are looking for one thing and one thing only: Fans in seats. When a school can offer a fanbase that will travel well, be active on social media, and create an awesome environment on gameday, it's a dream come true for a bowl. Wake Forest can offer all those things to the Belk Bowl given its close proximity and the excitement around the program that has only grown over the last 20 months.
Between Miss State, UK, Missouri, and Texas A&M, I think the latter two are most likely given the fact Miss State played in the Belk Bowl just 24 months ago and UK has its rivalry game against UL in basketball that same day. That being said, I'd be thrilled with playing any of these teams and I think all would bring a good crowd to the stadium and the Charlotte Uptown area on December 29th.
In conclusion: SEC Opponent. 75 minutes from campus. Incredibly well-respected bowl and committee.
I'm ready to sign on the dotted line. Let's hope on Sunday the folks making the final decisions are too.
For more Wake Forest sports and recruiting updates, follow me on Twitter @DeacFan3.