Georgia Tech doesn’t need additional motivation to beat Georgia this Saturday in Athens, but the Yellow Jackets have some if they want it.
It’s possible that the Jackets, with an upset of the No. 5 Bulldogs, could be the first team picked in the ACC bowl lineup after Clemson’s anticipated placement in the College Football Playoff.
The Camping World Bowl in Orlando, Fla., which has the first pick of ACC teams after those in either the College Football Playoff and New Year’s Six bowl games, has Tech on its list of candidates. Florida Citrus Sports, which runs the Camping World Bowl, sent bowl scouts to the Jackets’ past two games, against Miami and Virginia.
Tech is “absolutely” under consideration, Florida Citrus Sports spokesman Matt Repchak said. “If we’ve got reps on the road (at their game), we’re talking about them on Monday morning.”
Unless Pitt beats Clemson in the ACC championship game, it is not likely that the ACC will have a team besides Clemson in the CFP or a New Year’s Six bowl, giving the Camping World Bowl the No. 2 selection.
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Ending the season in the bowl previously known as the Champs Sports Bowl and the Russell Athletic Bowl would be a remarkable conclusion to a season that began 1-3 and a deserving reward for winning seven of its final eight regular-season games (including a win over Georgia). The Dec. 28 game pits representatives from the ACC and Big 12.
Tech could benefit from an ACC bowl picture that is particularly muddled this season. Barring an unforeseen loss to either South Carolina this weekend or Pittsburgh in the ACC title game December 1, Clemson is a lock to get into the CFP.
But after that, how the remainder of the league stacks up as far as bowl appeal is soupy and could well change again after this weekend’s games.
Syracuse is 8-3, N.C. State is 7-3 and then there are five teams at 7-4 – Georgia Tech, Boston College, Pitt, Virginia and Duke.
“There’s a lot of parity in the ACC this season, and it changes really week by week in terms of what we’re looking at,” said Trey Giglio, chairman of the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La.
Besides beating UGA and then earning a top-25 ranking (which would seem a strong possibility), the Jackets would also be served by neither Syracuse nor N.C. State getting to nine wins and also Pitt, Virginia and Duke not getting to eight. Tech also being able to demonstrate that it would come to Orlando in large numbers would also help. Tech has not played in Orlando since 2004, when the Jackets beat Syracuse in the Champs Sports Bowl.
“I think we’re always interested in somebody that would be excited about coming,” said Repchak, the Florida Citrus Sports spokesman.
Repchak said that bowl scouts make a point to visit with fans prior to games to gauge interest. Tech probably didn’t help itself with an announced crowd of 37,543, the smallest home crowd in coach Paul Johnson’s tenure.
If Tech loses, the Camping World Bowl’s interest would drop off, particularly if Syracuse or N.C. State can get to nine wins and other teams get to eight.
The next options would be the ACC’s four “tier one” bowls – the Belk, the Pinstripe, the Sun and either the Gator or Music City bowls – which pick in concert with each other and the ACC. Syracuse seems like a fit for the Pinstripe Bowl in New York. The Belk would seem a possibility for Tech as might the Sun, which hosted Tech in 2011 and 2012.
The Music City and Gator take turns picking a team from the ACC. Tech played at the Gator Bowl (then TaxSlayer) in 2016 and would likely not be a destination.
After those four bowls, the Military Bowl in Annapolis, Md., picks next, followed by the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La. Giglio from the Independence Bowl and Steve Beck, president and executive director of the Military Bowl, both indicated interest in Tech at 7-5. The Jackets have never been to the Military Bowl and were last in Shreveport in 2010. It seems unlikely that Tech would get past either of those two bowl games.
Johnson coached at Navy prior to coming to Tech and is held in high regard there. Beck said it would be “interesting to have Paul Johnson back up at Navy” for a bowl game.