There are few guarantees in college football. This one is as close as it gets, though.
Florida State (5-5) will play FCS Alabama State (5-4) on Saturday at noon for a sixth win, which would clinch bowl-eligibility after the Seminoles missed out in 2018. While an FSU-Alabama State matchup will likely result in a blowout, it will check one of the boxes on FSU’s list of goals and that it to return to the postseason.
Why is playing in a bowl important? Even if it isn’t the most desirable bowl, or an attractive opponent, a postseason game provides weeks of extra practices for players to work with coaches and improve. It’s critical for younger players’ development but also for a new head coach to observe and critique players for 2020. This, more than even playing in a bowl game, is essential for the growth of a program.
FSU will learn its bowl destination on Sunday, Dec. 8. The playoff field will be set as well as all of the New Year’s Six games. And then the afternoon takes shape as teams are slotted and bowl officials try to arrange attractive matchups.
Where could FSU go? We’ll look at some potential options but realize that it changes week to week. And it will of course depend on if Clemson is in the playoff, FSU’s final record as well as how many ACC teams are bowl-eligible. In addition to that, it’s the record of each of the bowl-eligible teams. Those schools will be put in separate pools, based on bowl tiers, and then analyzed and weighed on their merits based on record.
The ACC lists bowls based on tiers. This would be a grouping of bowls that select after the College Football Playoff, Orange Bowl and any other New Year’s Six slots. Tier 1 bowls include the Gator, Music City (Nashville), Belk (Charlotte, N.C.) and Pinstripe (NYC). If FSU got to seven wins, it’s possible that it would be in a grouping of teams that would be up for grabs by one of these Tier 1 bowls.
And, yes, that would put FSU to the Gator Bowl in play. FSU’s season was supposed to begin with the Boise State matchup in Jacksonville but was redirected to Tallahassee due to a hurricane. Could Gator Bowl officials bring FSU back to Jacksonville for the first time in a decade?
If FSU instead finishes 6-6, it will likely be among a pool of teams in the next tier of bowls. That group includes the Independence Bowl (Shreveport), Quick Lane Bowl (Detroit), Military Bowl (Washington, D.C.) or potentially the Gasparilla Bowl (Tampa) and Birmingham Bowl.
The bowl picture will begin to clear up more in the coming weeks. Here’s how the bowl outlook shapes up right now.
Bowl-eligible ACC teams: Clemson (10-0), Wake Forest (7-2), Virginia (7-3) and Pittsburgh (6-3) are already set and can improve their outlook in the final weeks of the regular season.
The Notre Dame factor: Notre Dame (7-2) will also take one of the ACC’s bowl spots if it isn’t in a NY6 game. The Irish finish with Navy, Boston College and Stanford. So a 10-win season for Notre Dame is possible.
Citrus Bowl may be in play: If a Big Ten team goes to the Orange Bowl, then the ACC would send Notre Dame or an ACC school to Orlando.
ACC teams knocking on the door: FSU (5-5), Louisville (5-4) and Boston College (5-5) are a win away. Virginia Tech (6-3) has two wins over FCS schools so it must pick up a seventh win and could do so against Georgia Tech on Saturday. It’s worth noting that the Cardinals have some easier matchups ahead – at NC State, Syracuse and at Kentucky. BC has a tougher road – at Notre Dame and at Pittsburgh. NC State, North Carolina and Duke each have four wins.
National projections: There is some consensus among national media here, and it’s FSU to Detroit. ESPN.com has FSU going to the Quick Lane Bowl against Michigan State or Western Michigan on Dec. 26. CBSSports.com also has FSU headed to the Quick Lane Bowl vs. Michigan State. The Athletic also has FSU vs. Michigan State in the Quick Lane Bowl. The Sporting News has FSU playing Mississippi State on Dec. 31 in the Belk Bowl.
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