The bowl picture for Georgia Tech continues to be murky, but Yellow Jackets fan can know one thing. They want to pull for Marshall to upset Virginia Tech Saturday.
The Military Bowl is a possibility that seems both realistic and appealing. It has the poetic benefit of offering coach Paul Johnson a meaningful destination for the final game of his Tech career following his decision this week to step down. The December 31 game is played at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Md., where Johnson coached Navy for six seasons before his hire at Tech in December 2007.
However, if the Hokies beat the Thundering Herd – the game was scheduled to ensure Virginia Tech (5-6) had a full season to gain bowl eligibility after an earlier game was canceled due to Hurricane Florence – to get to six wins, it is expected that the Military Bowl will pick them, banking on their sizable alumni base in the Washington area to buy tickets.
Actually, though, even if Virginia Tech loses to Marshall, it’s no guarantee that the Military Bowl – which has the sixth pick of ACC teams in the conference’s bowl lineup (not counting teams in the College Football Playoff and New Year’s Six bowls) – will go with the Jackets. The chance to host Johnson’s final game in his old stomping grounds has appeal to the bowl, but it doesn’t make Tech a definitive choice. Still, their chances would be considerably better without the Hokies in the picture.
Bowl officials have said that there is more uncertainty than normal in projecting the matchups this year in the ACC because there are six teams with 7-5 records, including Tech.
It’s possible that Tech might be selected to one of the ACC’s four “tier one” bowl games that pick in concert with one another and the ACC ahead of the Military – the Belk (Charlotte, N.C.), Pinstripe (New York), Sun (El Paso, Texas) and the Gator (Jacksonville, Fla.) or Music City (Nashville, Tenn.) – but chances don’t look great.
Projections vary, but either No. 20 Syracuse (9-3) or N.C. State (8-3 and plays East Carolina on Saturday) will likely go to the Camping World Bowl in Orlando, Fla., which has first pick of ACC bowl teams (after CFP and New Year’s Six bowl teams), and the other figures to go to one of the four tier-one bowls.
Assuming Pitt loses to No. 2 Clemson in the ACC championship game on Saturday, the Panthers will likely take one more tier-one slot. That leaves five teams with 7-5 records vying for the other two spots – Duke, Miami, Virginia, Boston College and Tech.
Tech would seem a good fit for the Belk – the Jackets have never played there and the fan base is close to Charlotte and would figure to be motivated to attend to send off Johnson – but multiple reports indicate that the game is likely to select Virginia. Miami, with the most prominent national brand of the others, would seem a logical choice for a bowl game trying to deliver a sizeable television audience.
Eddie Morelo, a spokesman for the Sun, said that Tech is “in our picture,” also naming Boston College, Duke, Miami and Pitt. Tech played there in 2011 and 2012.
“We’ve always loved Georgia Tech,” Morelo said.
If Tech were bypassed by the tier-one bowls and then the Military in favor of Virginia Tech, the next bowls to pick are the Independence in Shreveport, La., and the Quick Lane in Detroit. Tech seems to be an option for both games, but not a priority.
It’s not inconceivable that Tech could slip past those games and end up at the Gasparilla Bowl, on December 20 in Tampa, Fla. It wouldn’t be the worst destination, as it’s a warmer destination, which has typically been the team’s preference. The game is played at Raymond James Stadium, where Tech lost to USF in the second game of the season.