Summer 'zines predict bowl bids for UNC, Duke
Posted June 30
As usual, my favorite thing about the summer college football magazine blitz turns out to be Athlon’s bowl projections.
Almost all of the magazines do preseason conference standings and most select preseason all-conference teams. Most of those picks are reasonably similar, but Athlon seems to put more time and effort into the complicated postseason smorgasbord than its competition. Almost no one goes back and grades the predictions in December, but it is fun in July to sort through the expectations.
Athlon, like many of the other magazines, favors Florida State to repeat as the national champ, picking the Seminoles over Alabama in the championship game. FSU's slot at the top is about the only given in Athlon’s ACC projections.
Virginia Tech, for instance, is picked by the magazine to win the ACC Coastal and wind up facing LSU in the Gator Bowl. The Hokies tied with Miami and Georgia Tech for second in the division last season at 5-3 but then got royally routed by UCLA in the Sun Bowl.
Duke, last season’s Coastal winner at 6-2 (10-4 overall) and as experienced as any team in the division this season, is predicted to slip to fifth and meet Utah in the Independence game.
UNC has history in NYC
UNC, fifh in the Coastal last season, is picked for third and a trip to New York’s Yankee Stadium to play Nebraska in the Dec. 27 Pinstripe Bowl.
If so, it will be Carolina’s first trip to Yankee Stadium since 1949 (a 42-6 loss to Notre Dame during the Choo Choo Justice era).
Justice was banged up much of his senior season and the Heels, after a 4-0 start, were beaten by LSU and Tennessee in successive games during late October.
But before that game against Notre Dame, which was predicted in preseason to be a battle for No. 1, the Tar Heels had played in Yankee Stadium three times, defeating NYU in 1936 and ’38 and playing Fordham to a 0-0 tie in 1942.
Carolina also had a history in the Polo Grounds, the baseball Giants’ home until they moved to San Francisco after the 1957 season. The Tar Heels went 0-1-1 in two games there against Fordham in 1940 and ’38.
So in that ’38 season, Carolina’s 6-2-1 team played in both Yankee Stadium and the Polo Grounds. Too bad those Heels couldn’t find a way to face someone in Ebbets Field, home of the Dodgers until ’58.
Back to the present, Athlon has N.C. State at sixth and Wake Forest seventh in the Atlantic Division and out of the bowl picture for the second straight season.
Louisville, in its first season of ACC play, is picked for third in the Atlantic and a bowl berth in Charlotte against Mississippi State in the Belk game.
Maryland, which left the ACC after going 3-5 in the Atlantic, 7-6 overall and falling to Marshall in the Military Bowl, moves to the Big Ten and is Athlon’s pick for fifth in the East Division there and a shot at the Texas-San Antonio Roadrunners in the Heart of Dallas Bowl.
Pirates seen as looming AAC power
Like Maryland and Louisville, ECU will enter a new league this season and can only hope the Athlon folks are correct about the Pirates’ immediate impact on the American Athletic Conference.
In their final season of Conference USA play in 2013, the Pirates went 6-2 in the East, 10-3 overall and overwhelmed Ohio in the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl.
The AAC will be more challenging even though former Conference USA cohorts Tulane, Memphis and Tulsa joined ECU in the relocation process.
But if Athlon is on target, the Pirates will make a seamless transition. They’re tapped for second behind Cincinnati, although both are predicted to go 7-1 in the league. But it’s the bowl projection that Ruffin McNeill and his team have to just love – versus Brigham Young in the inaugural Miami Beach Bowl, tentatively scheduled for Dec. 23 in Marlins Stadium.
Talk about a recruiting pitch. McNeill and his staff couldn’t ask for much more.
In its preseason all-AAC picks, Athlon has Pirates Shane Carden (quarterback), Justin Hardy (wide-out, return specialist), Ike Harris (offensive tackle) and Terry Williams (defensive line) all on the first unit.
As usual, the Pirates will have to survive September in decent health to make a strong league run. After opening with N.C. Central on Aug. 30, they have to play at South Carolina (Sept. 6) and at Virginia Tech (Sept. 13) before UNC goes to Greenville on Sept. 20.
It should help that the Bucs then will get an open date leading into league play against SMU on Oct. 4 in Greenville, but injuries again will be the X-factor.
Finally just for the record, I don’t do freelance work for Athlon and never have. I’m just sucker for summer football ‘zines.