Carolina Bowl Possibilities
With Saturday's victory over Old Dominion, Carolina is officially bowl eligible. The Atlantic Coast Conference has eight definite bowl tie-ins, and could have as many as a dozen bowl-eligible teams. That means the bowl picture is very, very complicated. That's especially true for the Tar Heels, because the game next week against Duke will have a major bearing on the top half of the league's bowl assignments.
Keep in mind the league's one-win rule, which holds that a team can't be selected over another team that has two or more ACC victories than that original squad. The only way this could impact Carolina is with Duke. If the Tar Heels lose to the Blue Devils, no bowl could pick Duke over Carolina (and, in that scenario, it seems unlikely they would want to).
National championship game: Florida State, if the current path continues.
BCS: Assuming FSU goes to the national title game, and if Clemson beats South Carolina next week, the Tigers should still earn a spot in the BCS. That would be helpful for the Tar Heels because it moves everyone else up a spot.
Chick-fil-A (Dec. 31, 8 p.m.): Here's where things get interesting. Miami is probably the frontrunner, and if the 'Canes take care of Pitt next week, that's the most likely pick. Duke could be another choice if the Blue Devils win next week but then drop the ACC title game. But if Carolina beats Duke, and Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and Miami all take losses next week, the Tar Heels have to at least get a little consideration. Sure, that's a big if. But it's not totally impossible.
The wild card: if Clemson loses to South Carolina and falls out of a BCS bowl, they would land here, and push everyone down a slot.
Russell Athletic (Dec. 28, 6:45 p.m.): The Orlando-based bowl picks after Chick-fil-A, and Carolina has never been there. The Tar Heels would have to beat Duke to make this bowl a realistic possibility. Virginia Tech played in this game last year. If Miami is available, you would think they would be a natural fit. Another primary choice could be Georgia Tech if the Jackets make the ACC title game. The opponent is a selection from the AAC.
Hyundai Sun (Dec. 31, 2 p.m.): Carolina and El Paso haven't crossed paths during the current iteration of the Sun's relationship with the ACC. Georgia Tech has been here two years in a row, so cross them off the list of possibilities. The league championship game loser, which seems likely to come from the Coastal, can't fall below this game. Virginia Tech could be a possible match.
Belk (Dec. 28, 3:20 p.m.): There is virtually no chance that a 7-5 Tar Heel team would fall past this game. The question is whether the Charlotte bowl would also be interested in a 6-6 UNC team. Given what the other choices might be at that point--Boston College, perhaps, or maybe Georgia Tech--it's not out of the realm of possibility.
Music City (Dec. 30, 3:15 p.m.): The only Carolina team in play for this game would be a 6-6 squad. Again, given the other likely candidates, if the Tar Heels were available at this choice, it seems like a good possible match. Or that could be my love of The Pancake Pantry talking. It's very difficult to imagine the Tar Heels falling below this game unless Clemson falls out of the BCS selections, knocks everyone down a game, and, say, Georgia Tech beats Georgia.
Remaining ACC tie-ins: ACC No. 7 to the Independence (Dec. 31 at 12:30 p.m.), ACC No. 8 to Military (Dec. 27 at 2:30 p.m.).