Sun Bowl: Miami, L 14-20
I love the Mark Richt hire and believe Miami will get better, however this season, finishing with five losses, is just one more year in a long line of mediocre ones for Hurricanes football since joining the ACC. In the 2000-2005 seasons, Miami played in the Sugar, Rose, Fiesta, Orange and Peach (twice) bowls, going 4-2 in those games. Since then they've played in the MPC Computer (Boise), Emerald, Champs Sports, Russell Athletic, Independence, and Sun (twice) bowls going 1-6 with their last bowl win being a 21-20 win over Nevada in the 2006 MPC Computers Bowl.
They again were undisciplined (9 penalties for 105 yards) and lost the Sun Bowl in snowy El Paso to Mike Leach's Washington State Cougars. The Hurricanes are the most penalized team in the nation averaging 9.3 penalties for 84.1 yards per game.
The Cougars threw the ball 53 times, and led 20-7 at halftime. As snow picked-up and Miami stole the momentum, the Wazzou offense stalled, but they held Miami to just 14 points. The game was over when their running back missed a wide open receiver and threw an interception (the ball slipped due to the snow).
Pinstripe Bowl: Duke, W 44-41
Senior safety and star player, Jeremy Cash, was out for the Blue Devils, handicapping their defense. Fortunately for Duke, the offense was able to make up the difference and they squeaked out a 44-41 OT victory, after Indiana's would-be game-tying field goal flew high above the uprights and was narrowly deemed no good.
Cutcliffe has led Duke to four of their six bowl appearances since 1960, and for the first time since that 7-6 1960 Cotton Bowl victory over Arkansas, they emerged victorious.
Fun Fact: Hoosier player Alex Rodriguez scored a touchdown in the game, which was played in Yankee Stadium.
Independence Bowl: Virginia Tech, W 55-52
Just about everybody in our Bowl Pick'em Group correctly selected the Hokies to win and that's not too surprising. Not only was it Frank Beamer's final game, but they were playing a 6-6 team from the AAC, whose best win came against New Mexico.
Maybe most surprising is that Virginia Tech surrendered 52 points. The Hokies, despite the win, are a far cry from the teams Beamer was fielding from 1995 to 2011. It's great that he was able to leave a winner, appreciated for his accomplishments, and the program can now move forward with a strong hire coming in from Memphis. The Coastal division may be rapidly improving.
Military Bowl: Pittsburgh, L 28-44
Pittsburgh was embarrassed by Navy. After an impressive kickoff returned for a touchdown to begin the game, they were thoroughly out-played, giving up 44 points. They began the season 6-1 and received a fair amount of hype going into a big Thursday night home game against North Carolina. They lost that contest, starting a weak 2-4 finish. Pitt finished third in the Coastal, and like the two teams above them, proved to be a tad overrated.
Russell Athletic Bowl: North Carolina, L 38-49
Baylor handed the ACC their worst loss of the bowl season. For the second straight year, UNC was throttled in their bowl game. It wasn't even that they couldn't keep it close (losing by 11 isn't so awful), but rather that they never had a chance. Baylor ran at will, collecting a record shattering 645 rushing yards. They pushed UNC around and proved them to be soft. The Tar Heels, for all their wins, are just Russell Athletic Bowl participants whose best win came at home against an eventual five-loss Miami.
Belk Bowl: NC State, L 28-51
No surprise here. Dak Prescott went out with some offensive fireworks. Mississippi State's star QB threw for 380 yards and four TDs. NC State is not good and didn't deserve to go to a bowl. Their best win was over Syracuse... but these days you have to be atrocious to not get a bowl invite and they're not Gamecock bad.
Music City Bowl: Louisville, W 27-21
Facing Texas A&M from the vaunted SEC West, Louisville had one of the better performances from an ACC team this bowl season. Lamar Jackson ran for 226 and passed for 227. While Petrino may be more familiar coaching a Brian Brohm style pocket passer, it seems they've finally settled on Lamar Jackson as their QB for the foreseeable future. With him at the helm and a stout defense, the future is bright for Louisville.
Peach Bowl: Florida State, L 24-38
The 'Noles had one of the most deplorable bowl performances in the ACC. Everett Golson transferred from Notre Dame when he got beat out by Malik Zaire. When Zaire was injured he wasn't there. Now beat out by Sean Maguire, he wasn't at the Peach Bowl (personal reasons, so we won't fault him for that). When "SMag" went out with an ankle injury, FSU was forced to use a third-string QB. "SMag" returned, but played very poorly (4 INTs). More shocking though was the poor performance of Florida State's defense. Make no mistake, FSU will be back with a vengeance next season, but with the benefit of hindsight (Clemson won despite the ACC's apparent weaknesses), it's fun to see "the Death Star" being destroyed by the "light."
Orange Bowl: Clemson, W 37-17
The Tigers obviously had the most impressive bowl win in the conference. North Carolina and Florida State were favored and upset, while Duke (+2.5) and Clemson (+4) were underdogs who proved Vegas wrong. The Tigers didn't just beat the hottest team in college football, they thoroughly out-muscled a historically great program and proved all the pundits wrong. Lee Corso picked against the Tigers, as he did when we played Notre Dame. David Pollack, a particularly objective analyst, picked against the Tigers, just as he did in the ACC Championship game. Butch Davis... Kirk Herbstreit... Joey Galloway... all picked the Sooners. It seems the only ones picking the undefeated #1 Clemson Tigers were us, the Clemson media at-large, and Desmond Howard.
"You can't doubt us now. You can't doubt 14-0." - Ben Boulware
ACC Bowl Record: 4-5
Overall, a mediocre bowl performance because of North Carolina and Florida State's failings. Clemson's contemporaries atop the ACC were unremarkable, but some of the lesser bowl teams - Duke and VT - highlighted the conference's depth.
It could certainly have been worse. The AAC had a rough 2-6 performance. Frankly, it doesn't seem to impact Clemson one bit though. Let the pundits pick against the "champion from a weak conference." A 5-5 bowl record will mean an ACC team is atop of collegiate sports.