When it was announced that postseason eligibility rules would be waived for the 2020 season, it removed some of the stresses around these final weeks for teams fighting to make a bowl game. A program's entire December calendar no longer hinges exclusively on what happens in the fourth quarter of a late-season conference game, for example, but that does not mean that teams aren't fighting for bowl positioning as we come down the stretch.
With eligibility requirements out the window, bowls may elect to invite a team with a losing record instead of a team with a .500 record or better for myriad reasons. On the business side, the bowls will be motivated to invite teams that will command support and attention from in-person attendees -- where permitted -- and in terms of television viewership for the entire country. There's also complicated relationships and contracts with the conferences and the simple desire to put on the best game possible for your event.
So this free-for-all has created an environment where teams are auditioning for better bowl placement with their play down the stretch of the regular season. Our, but coaches are under the impression that with no strict rule about a 6-6 record in play, the best way to improve your bowl selection is to be playing your best football here in December.
The ACC topped all conferences in 2019 with 10 teams in bowl games, but as the bowl schedule continues to change even this late in the process, there may not be that many spots available in 2020. There are currently 10 teams in the league with records of .500 or better heading into these final weeks of play. So while Notre Dame, Clemson and Miami are fighting for College Football Playoff and New Year's Six positioning there are more than a half-dozen teams trying to put together the most attractive profile possible for remaining bowls looking for ACC teams.
Week 14 odds, picks
Syracuse at No. 2 Notre Dame
There are plenty of trends relating to conference underdogs of 30-plus points that would tell you to take a flyer on Syracuse, but don't take the bait. The Orange are coming off heartbreak with a potential game-tying drive ending on a fourth-down spike, and that letdown is more suspect than Notre Dame's potential hangover from a huge win at North Carolina. Even if the Irish are rusty, it will be on offense. Pick: Under 51.5
Boston College at Virginia
Not only has Boston College been forced to turn to a backup quarterback in this late stage of the season, but running back David Bailey was injured in the win against Louisville after scoring two touchdowns. This team on the field won't be representative of the team Boston College has been for most of the year because of those injuries, so take a Virginia squad that has plenty of pent-up aggression after a game-less trip to Tallahassee last weekend. Pick: Virginia -6
Georgia Tech at NC State
Bailey Hockman deserves credit for some stellar play since reassuming the starting job after Devin Leary's injury. The oddsmakers were off on the Wolfpack at the beginning of the year but seem to have settled at a good number. That said, I like the 'Pack to close out a strong 2020 season at home with a win and cover against a Georgia Tech team that just had one of its better performances of the season. Pick: NC State -7
No. 3 Clemson at Virginia Tech
Shame on me for standing in the way of championship-season Clemson. The Tigers got back defensive tackle Tyler Davis and linebacker James Skalski for the Pitt game, and solidifying the interior of that defensive front made all the difference in totally dominating the Panthers. There's a ruthlessness to the way the Tigers take care of business as you get closer to the College Football Playoff, and I expect that to continue in Blacksburg. Pick: Clemson -22
No. 10 Miami at Duke
Revenge game for a Miami team that lost as a heavy favorite to the Blue Devils in the midst of a three-game losing streak to close the season that also included defeats against FIU and then Louisiana Tech in the bowl game. The idea of "Miami goes to Durham in December" should always have you thinking about taking the Blue Devils, but this number isn't quite big enough to bite with Duke's turnover issues. Pick: Miami -15
Last week: 1-4 | 2020 season: 33-37
Each week, we'll be offering these top-half power rankings for the 15-team, one-division ACC. Results matter, but won't match the standings necessarily as we look to identify the teams that have the best chance to contend for one of the top two spots (by winning percentage) and play for the conference championship in December.
1. Clemson (Last week -- 1): Might have given up the No. 1 spot with a close call, but the Tigers left no doubt with a 31-0 start to the first quarter in Death Valley against Pitt.
2. Notre Dame (2): Without a doubt, the Irish have closed the gap with Clemson over the last few weeks, culminating with an impressive win on the road at North Carolina last Friday. The defense that did a great job bottling up Travis Etienne did the same thing to North Carolina's ACC-best offense in the second half of the 31-17 win, limiting the Tar Heels to just 78 yards of offense after halftime. This is an experienced, well-rounded team hitting its stride at the right time.
3. North Carolina (3): There's a temptation to drop the Tar Heels after the loss, but a head-to-head win against NC State and no recent results for Miami make it tough to find a definitive team for the No. 3 spot.
4. Miami (4): The Hurricanes haven't played since the late comeback win at Virginia Tech on Nov. 14, but they are scheduled to return to action on Saturday at Duke.
5. NC State (5): Fans who were looking to pencil in wins for the last two games after the Wolfpack improved to 6-3 against Liberty were reminded of the thin margin for success in the ACC with a one-score win at Syracuse.
6. Boston College (7): Back in action for the first time since the loss to Notre Dame, the Eagles were able to beat Louisville without starting quarterback Phil Jurkovec in the lineup to improve to 6-4 on the season.
7. Wake Forest (6): The Demon Deacons had to pause all football activities in addition to the postponement of the Dec. 5 game against Miami. The next game on the schedule is Dec. 12 against Notre Dame.
8. Virginia (NR): Since Florida State had to cancel on the day of the game, there's no recent outcome to draw a reaction, but there is an ongoing debate with Pitt for this eighth spot. Unfortunately, the two teams, usually Coastal Division rivals, aren't scheduled to play this year to decide it on the field. We're giving the edge to the Wahoos for recent form with three straight wins to their name.
Dropped out: Pitt (8)
Which college football picks can you make with confidence in Week 14? Visit SportsLine to see which teams will win and cover the spread -- all from a proven computer model that has returned over $3,500 in profit over the past four-plus seasons -- and find out.