Sports, Football

Projecting BC’s Bowl Game Placement

While Steve Addazio accomplished little more than consistent mediocrity during his time on the Heights, he at least set the mediocrity at a high enough level for the Eagles to go to a bowl in nearly every one of his years in charge. Boston College traveled to five bowl games in Addazio’s seven years as head coach, with 2015 as the lone exception.

Jeff Hafley’s strong campaign in his first year at the helm nearly guarantees that the Eagles will be able to continue this streak, giving BC a chance to end the year on a high note after a disappointing 43-32 loss to Virginia in the final game of the regular season. 

The Eagles’ six wins would more than qualify them for a postseason berth in a normal year, as the NCAA rules that teams must win at least 50 percent of their games to qualify, and BC played 11 games. While this rule has been scrapped this year due to the havoc that the COVID-19 pandemic has wrought on the season, BC is still projected to play in a bowl due to its good standing in the ACC.

So, which bowl game will the Eagles play in, and who will they face? The short answer is that BC is projected to play in either the Gasparilla Bowl, held in Tampa on Dec. 26, or the Military Bowl, which is played in Annapolis on Dec. 28. The Gasparilla Bowl selects teams from a number of conferences, meaning that potential opponents could include Memphis, SMU, or Kentucky. Memphis and SMU would also be potential opponents in the Military Bowl, as well as Houston and Navy, as the game can only be played between AAC and ACC teams.

For the longer answer on how the 2020-21 college football postseason has changed in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, how bowl selection occurs, and which bowl the Eagles will play in, keep reading.

What Does the 2020 Bowl Season Look Like?

All in all, there will be 31 bowl games played this season, a decrease of six games from last season. The original schedule had 40 games, but nine bowls were cancelled, with the majority of the cancellations resulting from the pandemic. Of particular note among the cancelled games is the Fenway Bowl, which was scheduled to be one of the new bowls this year and was to be played in Fenway Park. Bowl season will open on Dec. 19 with the Frisco Bowl and conclude on Jan. 11 with the College Football Playoff Championship. 

Which of These Bowls Can ACC Teams Play In?

A team’s placement in bowl games is primarily a result of its standing within its conference. Each conference has a number of bowl games that it is tied to, and the program’s standing within the conference partially guides the level of bowl game it is selected for. Other factors include the size of a program’s fan base and its proximity to the bowl site. Bowls strive to select a set of opponents that will maximize viewership and ticket sales, although ticket sale potential will largely be unimportant this year as most bowls will be played without fans.

Should the winner of the ACC Championship not make the College Football Playoff, that program will be selected for the Capital One Orange Bowl. This scenario is unlikely, given that ESPN’s Allstate Playoff Predictor gives Notre Dame a 64 percent chance of making the playoff and Clemson a 53 percent chance. The two teams will face each other in the ACC Championship. 

The ACC also has guaranteed tie-ins to the Gator Bowl, Cheez-It Bowl, Military Bowl, and Duke’s Mayo Bowl, as well as secondary tie-ins with the Gasparilla Bowl, First Responder Bowl, Birmingham Bowl, and Citrus Bowl. Secondary tie-ins mean that three or more conferences are associated with the game, and selection will depend on how many teams within the conference are bowl eligible or, in this year, bowl compelling. Guaranteed tie-in bowls are not necessarily more selective or desirable than secondary tie-in spots.                                                                                                                                   

Which Bowl Will BC Go To and Who Will They Play?

If we assume that both Notre Dame and Clemson make the playoff, as ESPN projects, Miami will play in the Orange Bowl. That will leave BC third in the pecking order among ACC teams for a spot in the remaining bowls, just behind North Carolina and North Carolina State. As previously mentioned, national outlets project that BC will either be selected for the Gasparilla Bowl or the Military Bowl. 

The Gasparilla Bowl, held in Tampa on Dec. 26, has tie-ins with a number of conferences, holding associations with the SEC, ACC, AAC, and Conference USA. Matchups in recent years include Central Florida against Marshall, Marshall against South Florida, and Miami against Mississippi State. Potential AAC candidates include Memphis, SMU, and Houston, while Kentucky and Tennessee could come out of the SEC. Louisiana Tech and Florida Atlantic are potential opponents from Conference USA.

Assessing opponents for the Military Bowl is easier as the game can only feature a matchup between an ACC team and an AAC team. North Carolina faced Temple in the game last year, and Virginia Tech played Cincinnati the year prior. The winner of the AAC Championship Game, likely Cincinnati, will be chosen for a more desirable bowl than the Military, but any of the other strong AAC teams would be a potential selection. Options include Memphis, SMU, Houston, Navy, and Tulsa. 

Featured Image by Jess Rivilis / Heights Editor

December 10, 2020