11/8 – First Look at Our Short List
As we move into November, we are just far enough along that we can start to take a look at creating a “short list” of teams from each conference that might earn their way into this year’s Chick-fil-A Bowl.
At this point in the season, I need to stress that our goal is to have teams either play their way in to our game, or play their way out of it. Remember that as we move through the rest of the season, this list will change. Teams will win and lose and move on and off of our list as we go.
That said, let’s take a quick look at the teams from each conference that are the most likely right now.
IN THE ACC (in alphabetical order)
With five straight wins, a record of 8-1 and a No. 13 national ranking, what’s not to like about the Tigers? Without the close loss to a #4 Florida State team, Clemson would be in the driver’s seat for another ACC Championship. But with the tie-breaker being held by the ‘Noles, the Tigers need to win out and get some help. If they do, they could be in a position to go up to the BCS. If they don’t, they could easily find themselves headed back to Atlanta where they started the year in our Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game.
Just a game behind Miami for the Coastal Division crown, the Blue Devils are poised for a very special season if they can manage another win, or two. Upcoming Georgia Tech will be a tough test on the road, but their season and hopes will hinge on the Nov. 24 showdown with the ‘Canes. Our respect goes to David Cutcliffe for the job he has done in Durham this season – a season that could see Duke make its first trip to Atlanta.
The Seminoles are sitting in a great spot with a No. 10 national ranking and a driver’s-seat position in the Atlantic Division. If not for a one-point loss to NC State, Jimbo Fisher’s team could be positioning for a national championship run. What impresses me most about FSU is their overall balance. With a third-ranked scoring offense (44.8 PPG) and a third-ranked scoring defense (12 PPG), this club has major talent on both sides of the ball. The ‘Noles just have two more ACC hurdles to get past including a Thursday night showdown in Blacksburg against the Hokies. You can bet we’ll have our eyes on that one and we’ll be giving FSU a good look if they are there for us.
The Hurricanes are coming off what could be the signature win of Al Golden’s tenure at The U in what was an impressive 30-12 win against Virginia Tech. Not only does this give them a spark at a critical time, but it puts Miami a full game ahead of Duke in the Coastal Division. However, the ‘Canes still have to go to Durham on Nov. 24 for a game that could decide the division and earn the winner a trip to Charlotte for the ACC Championship. Even if Miami falls a little short, they are still in position to be considered for a trip to the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
IN THE SEC (in alphabetical order)
Les Miles has his Bayou Bengals firmly planted in the top 10 again at No. 7 with their only losses to a #10 Florida team and the #1 Crimson Tide (which, by the way, was a game they had a great chance to win). LSU sports a tremendous defense (10th nationally) and have proven they can run the ball (200 YPG) which is always a winning formula. A great game is in store this week as they host a very strong Mississippi State team for a game with big implications for us. Win or lose, the Tigers are squarely in our picture this year.
Tied with LSU in the SEC West (7-2, 3-2), the Bulldogs have another tough and meaningful game this week in Baton Rouge. After a loss last week in the Snow Bowl reunion game, we’re looking for MSU to rebound and get back to being the team that started the season with seven straight wins. Coach Mullen is top notch and has a great football team that will look to get back on track this week. This is probably another example of a team that, win or lose, is still very much on our radar.
After a red-hot 6-0 start, the Gamecocks hit a rough patch thanks to a schedule that forced them to face LSU and Florida in back-to-back weeks. They are back on the winning track and well rested after an off-week with a more favorable schedule ahead until they have to play rival Clemson on the road Nov. 24. South Carolina is a talented team and we expect them to rally after losing Marcus Lattimore, who continues to be in our prayers for a healthy recovery. We’ll have to watch how they finish, but right now, the Gamecocks are on our board.
We’ll be keeping tabs on all of these teams and the rest of the ACC and SEC schools as we hit the road again this week to scout nine more games.
We were on hand in Starkville for a very impressive road win over Mississippi State last week and we really liked what we saw. Freshman QB Johnny Manziel is really starting to mature and is turning into a great leader on the field with a breakout game against the Bulldogs. He’ll get the toughest test of all this week as they visit the #1 Crimson Tide in what could be one of the best games of the weekend. We’re going to be at this game to keep a close eye on the Aggies for a possible trip to Atlanta for their first SEC bowl appearance.
Be sure to follow us on Twitter (@chickfilabowl) to keep up with our scouts on campus and see what they’re up to.
Chick-fil-A Bowl tickets are getting scarce! Less than 1,000 tickets remain as of Nov. 8, so if you think your team is headed here, you need to purchase now before we reach our 16th straight sellout. By the time we name the teams, the tickets will be all but gone. To order, visit our online ticket store at: http://www.chick-fil-abowl.com/Tickets/BowlGameTickets.aspx
CBSSports.com: Clemson vs. Texas A&M
ESPN.com (Schlabach): Clemson vs. Mississippi State
ESPN.com (Edwards): Clemson vs. LSU
The Sporting News: Miami vs. Texas A&M