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The Daily Tar Heel

Bowl Picture Muddled by ACC Upsets

A couple weeks ago I used this space to talk about the ACC's bowl possibilities. After Saturday, everything is up in the air.

With Wake Forest upending North Carolina and N.C. State stunning Florida State in Tallahassee, the postseason destinations of the ACC's bowl-eligible teams are in doubt.

1) Maryland: Still at the top of the heap. With Florida State falling to the 'Pack, the Terrapins (6-1 in the ACC, 9-1 overall) hold first place in their hands and have at least clinched half of the ACC Championship. Not bad for Ralph Friedgen's first year.

The Terps have N.C. State left on their plate, and should they top the Wolfpack, the ACC's Bowl Championship Game, the Orange Bowl, and the conference title goes to them.

2) Florida State: Still in contention. Two losses in the ACC is a downright disasterous year for the Seminoles (5-2, 6-3) but they're still a threat to Maryland's Orange Bowl hopes. If the Wolfpack defeats Maryland on Saturday at Carter-Finley, then both the 'Noles and the Terps have two losses.

Now, here's where is gets a little more difficult. Florida State has two tough games left on its schedule -- instate rival Florida at Gainesville, and Georgia Tech. Although it's foreseeable that the Yellow Jackets could beat Florida State, it's not likely. The Gators, on the other hand, are sure to give the Seminoles a Steve Spurrier special -- a huge, lopsided thrashing.

For Maryland to take the Orange Bowl at this point, it would need to be ranked five spots higher than Florida State. Otherwise, Florida State would get the BCS bowl because it beat Maryland earlier in the season.

3) N.C. State: Gotta top the Terps. Right now, the Wolfpack (4-3, 6-3) is just ahead of North Carolina because the Tar Heels aren't bowl eligible yet. If N.C. State can beat Maryland, the Peach Bowl, the No. 3 ACC bowl, could fall to them. A representative from the Peach Bowl has been at UNC's last two games -- both losses -- and again the national rankings of both teams could decide who goes to Atlanta and who goes to Seattle.

If neither is ranked, or they're within five, then UNC gets the edge because of its Sept. 29 victory.

4) North Carolina: Win out, and pray the Wolfpack gets bit. For UNC (4-3, 5-5), it is crucial that it wins its last two games -- otherwise all this bowl talk is for naught. Luckily for them, they play Duke, the definition of a creme puff, and Southern Methodist, also not that good. But if this week showed anything, North Carolina has to finish strong.

With Maryland and Florida State likely to take the Orange and Gator Bowl, respectively, UNC should slide into Atlanta for New Year's Eve.

5) Georgia Tech: Must beat Florida State. Although the Yellow Jackets

(3-3, 6-3) are already eligible, they're 3-3 in the conference, and they've got three problem games in their future: Wake Forest, who clearly is not willing to gently into the good night, in-state rival Georgia and Florida State.

Beating Wake and FSU is key to the Jackets' bowl hopes. If they manage that, they enter the No. 3 free-for-all for the Peach Bowl. The only thing is, the organizers of the Peach might not want Tech back for another year. Last year, the team was less than thrilled to be playing in its hometown, and that couldn't have sat too well with the Peach Bowl folks. If they can't go the Gator Bowl -- chances are, they can't - then Seattle would probably be the Yellow Jackets' destination.

But that's only if Georgia Tech beats both Wake and FSU, and N.C. State loses to Maryland. Those are big ifs, but considering the way the ACC has been going thus far, it's not out of the realm of possibility.

So fans, don't buy your airline tickets yet. There's still two weeks left to make this season even more complicated.

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Rachel Carter can be reached at racarter@email.unc.edu.

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