Duke is the Triangle's best bowl chance
Posted October 13, 2013
We're essentially at the midpoint for the ACC football season and, of the three Triangle-area teams, Duke has the best chance of going to a postseason bowl game.
Let that sink in for a minute.
Assessing the bowl chances for Duke, State and Carolina, we find little room for slip-ups along the way.
A Devilish Mood in Durham
How important was Anthony Boone's return for Duke? It could mean the difference between a bowl game and no bowl game. Admittedly, there are a lot of things left to be determined for Duke this fall, but Boone's surprise start against Navy has the Devils positioned to do something practically unheard of in Durham - make back-to-back bowl trips.
At 4-2, the Devils only need two more wins to become bowl eligible. To put that another way, Duke only needs to split in a group of four fairly winnable games (Virginia, State, Wake and Carolina) to go bowling for a second straight season.Yes, three of those games are on the road - only the game against NC State will be in Durham - but it''s certainly doable for the Devils to get two wins from that group. Anything else would be gravy.
Duke also has a road game against Virginia Tech and a home contest with Miami, but the four games previously mentioned will determine the success of their season.
Not Packing for a Bowl Yet
NC State's bowl path is a bit more challenging. At 3-3, the Pack has less margin for error than Duke - a full game, to be exact - in the second half. The upcoming bye week should help injured players like Brandon Mitchell, Pete Thomas and Rashard Smith recover. their return to healthiness may be a lot more important for State than a strong showing in Tallahassee on Oct. 26.
Assuming State does lose at Florida State, the Pack will need to take three out of five from the remaining games: home vs Carolina, at Duke, at BC, home vs ECU and home vs Maryland. If the team we saw against Clemson and Central Michigan shows up for those five contests, State's likely to make the 6-win plateau. But the Richmond/Wake/Syracuse State team will struggle to get to five. A healthy Mitchell at quarterback - like Boone at Duke - may be the difference.
Back on their Heels
At 1-4, Carolina has a difficult path to a bowl - especially considering Miami (and a potential 1-5 start) looms large on the schedule. The one bright spot? The Heels' schedule gets easier. They'll need to win 5 of 6 from the following: home vs Boston College, at NC State, home vs Virginia, at Pitt, home vs ODU and home vs Duke. It's not impossible, but the margin for error is basically nil. Beating Miami Thursday night would do wonders to alter that equation.