ACC likely to have 8 or more se­cure bowl in­vites

The Washington Times Daily - - Sports - BY CHARLES ODUM

AT­LANTA | The ACC isn’t as top-heavy as a cur­sory glance would in­di­cate.

Sure, there’s a lot of de­served at­ten­tion on Florida State, Clem­son and Mi­ami. They are the At­lantic Coast Con­fer­ence’s ranked teams and each sits in the top 11 of the BCS standings.

But there is sur­pris­ing depth be­hind the con­fer­ence’s Big Three.

The ex­pan­sion-en­riched depth is in the bloated mid­dle with a group of eight teams, each no worse than one game un­der .500.

The ACC al­ready has six bowl-el­i­gi­ble teams and is mov­ing closer to fill­ing each of its eight bowl slots. Ge­or­gia Tech, Vir­ginia Tech and Duke have six wins and are com­pet­ing with Mi­ami for the Coastal Di­vi­sion ti­tle.

Mary­land (5-3, 1-3 ACC) would be­come the sev­enth bowl-el­i­gi­ble team by beat­ing Syra­cuse on Satur­day.

Syra­cuse, Bos­ton Col­lege and Pitts­burgh are 4-4, giv­ing the league a chance to chal­lenge its record of 10 bowl teams in 2008.

“That says a lot,” says Syra­cuse se­nior de­fen­sive tackle Jay Brom­ley. “No mat­ter what, we’re a pow­er­ful group of teams. Your top is your top, and those guys are where they are for good rea­son. But there’s re­ally no bot­tom for the ACC.”

Brom­ley may have over­looked Vir­ginia (2-7, 0-5) and North Carolina State (3-5, 0-5), the last-place teams in the Coastal and At­lantic di­vi­sions, re­spec­tively. But the pool of bot­tom teams is shal­low when com­pared with the fat mid­dle.

The league’s depth showed last week when Bos­ton Col­lege beat Vir­ginia Tech and Syra­cuse moved back to .500 by beat­ing Wake For­est.

“We don’t play any teams that aren’t good,” said Wake For­est coach Jim Grobe. “All the teams we play — Syra­cuse, N.C. State, Mary­land — all th­ese teams have tal­ent.

“That’s a hard deal when ev­ery week, you’ve got to play good. You don’t have any games when you go in at half­time and every­body’s drink­ing Ga­torade, laugh­ing, gig­gling, talk­ing about what they’re go­ing to do that night.”

There def­i­nitely won’t be any half­time gig­gles for the De­mon Dea­cons this week.

Wake For­est (4-5, 2-4) plays No. 2 Florida State on Satur­day and al­ready has lost to No. 8 Clem­son and No. 14 Mi­ami. Un­less the De­mon Dea­cons can up­set the Seminoles, they’ll have to close their sea­son with wins over Duke and Van­der­bilt to be­come bowl-el­i­gi­ble.

Luck­ily for the ACC, the league has a deep sup­ply of bowl-hope­fuls.

Bos­ton Col­lege (4-4, 2-3) could move closer to bowl el­i­gi­bil­ity when it plays New Mex­ico State (1-8) this week. Pitt (4-4, 2-3) plays No. 24 Notre Dame.

The league’s bal­ance can make it dif­fi­cult to gauge a team. Syra­cuse re­cov­ered from its ugly 56-0 loss at Ge­or­gia Tech with last week’s 13-0 win over Wake For­est.

Mary­land quar­ter­back C.J. Brown said it’s tough to know which Syra­cuse de­fense he’ll face this week.

“They’re all over the place,” he said. “But they just shut out Wake, and Wake played us well.”

Ge­or­gia Tech (6-3, 5-2) is bowl-el­i­gi­ble for the 17th con­sec­u­tive sea­son and will play at Clem­son on Nov. 14 in their fi­nal ACC game. Coach Paul John­son, in his sixth sea­son with the Yel­low Jack­ets, said the league’s depth is noth­ing new.

“I think the league to me has al­ways been tough,” John­son said Wed­nes­day. “I think what hap­pened is this year more than the other years, you’ve got guys who are at the very top. Up un­til a week ago we had three teams ranked in top 10.

“That is a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ent, but there’s al­ways been a lot of par­ity in the league. I think es­pe­cially in the up­per mid­dle and the mid­dle of the league, teams are pretty close.”

Duke (6-2, 2-2) has a four-game win­ning streak and is bowl-el­i­gi­ble for the sec­ond straight sea­son. The Blue Devils could win the Coastal Di­vi­sion by sweep­ing their fi­nal four con­fer­ence games and have Ge­or­gia Tech lose at Clem­son.

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