There’s a little bit of a shakeup in bowl projections from last week. Despite Georgia Tech actually clinching the ACC Coastal since last week (or, actually, perhaps because of it), the Yellow Jackets were downgraded in a lot of projections.
Where a majority of projections surveyed last week slotted Tech for the Orange Bowl, five of nine projections send Tech to the Russell Athletic Bowl, Dec. 29 in Orlando, against a Big 12 opponent. I think this is a much more likely scenario than the Orange Bowl if Tech loses both to Georgia and Florida State, which, it would appear, the projections are forecasting.
Frankly, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Russell Athletic took a pass on Tech if it were on a two-game losing streak, cruel as that may seem. How teams finish is critical to bowls, as they want teams with enthusiastic fan bases (i.e., their tourism dollars). I suppose, in this scenario, how Tech lost the two games would matter, but I’m curious how the fan base would react. I think, if you remove the emotion from it (which, obviously, is not an easy thing for fans to do), it would be hard to still not look at the season as a success and worth celebrating. However, losing two games in a row would be a tough fall from 9-2 and No. 16 in the country.
That said, if Tech beats Georgia, I’d have to think Tech will be bound for the Orange Bowl, whether it beats Florida State in the ACC title game or not. (Although I guess there’s a slight window of possibility that the Jackets could slip in the College Football Playoff with two wins. It's kind of crazy to me that that's out there, even as a remote possibility.) I don’t think it’s the most likely outcome, but I would hardly say it can’t happen.
So, this weekend, Tech fans are rooting for Clemson to lose to South Carolina and Louisville to lose to Kentucky, to protect Tech’s advantage in the CFP rankings. It would also help Tech's cause, both in the case of an ACC title-game win and loss, if Florida State defeats Florida to remain undefeated. If Tech loses to Florida State, it would be preferable for Tech for FSU to go to the CFP and leave the Orange Bowl spot open. And should Tech beat FSU, the Jackets' case for the CFP would be helped by having beaten an undefeated Seminoles team.
And, oddly, Tech has at least a mild interest in hoping for a USC win over Notre Dame. My thanks to Syracuse.com writer Patrick Stevens for pointing this out.
Notre Dame, you may know, is now eligible for the ACC’s bowl lineup should it not make the CFP, which it won’t. However, the Irish are bound by the “one-win rule.” That is to say, the Irish have to be within one win of an ACC school to be selected over it for any ACC bowl. That matters here with the Russell Athletic, in particular. If Notre Dame beats USC, it gets to eight wins. If the Irish are 8-4 and Tech is 9-4 with back-to-back losses, I imagine the Russell Athletic folks would take a pretty good look at Notre Dame, its fan base and TV pull.
Yahoo: Russell Athletic, vs. Oklahoma (I like this projection because it explains its projections)
ESPN: Mark Schlabach: Russell Athletic vs. Orklahoma
Brett McMurphy: Orange vs. Ole Miss
Syracuse.com: Orange (Explanation here also)