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Ranking the Watchability of the ACC's Bowl Games in 2015

Author:
Marquise Williams

Marquise Williams

We all have busy schedules and around the holidays things get especially crazy. As much as we’d like to relax on the couch and watch bowl game after bowl game, the combination of work and family makes watching all 41 contests impossible.

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Related: Ranking All 41 College Football Bowls for 2015 — From Must-See to Must-Miss

So we have to pick and choose. Nine of the bowls have ACC participants (and Clemson has a chance at playing for the national title), so fans of the league have many good viewing options as 2015 turns to '16.

Here is a ranking, from one to nine, of the best games of the ACC bowl season. They are listed by a combination of the compelling nature of the game and the chances that the ACC team comes out on top.

1. Orange Bowl – Clemson (13-0) vs. Oklahoma (11-1)

Dec. 31 – 4 p.m. ET, ESPN

There are probably games where the ACC team has a better chance to win. But Clemson is the No. 1 team in the country and shouldn’t be concerned about what Vegas or any of the experts may say. On top of everything else, this will be a wildly entertaining Playoff game. While the other final four matchup will be a slugfest between two defensive teams, Clemson and Oklahoma should produce fireworks thanks to the showdown between Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson and Sooners signal-caller Baker Mayfield. Both teams play solid defense, but the spectacular offenses on both sides make this a can’t-miss game.

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2. Russell Athletic Bowl – North Carolina (11-2) vs. Baylor (9-3)

Dec. 29 – 5:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

Speaking of offense, there should be plenty in the Russell Athletic Bowl too. Baylor finished the regular season No. 1 in points scored per game with 48 and North Carolina is 11th at a shade under 41 points per tilt. The Bears were down to their fourth-string quarterback in the loss to Texas after Chris Johnson suffered a concussion early in the game. They hope to have second-team quarterback Jarrett Stidham back, something they should know this week. North Carolina comes in red hot on offense after an impressive showing in defeat against Clemson in the ACC title game. It will be fun to see if Baylor’s 71st-ranked scoring defense can slow down Marquise Williams, Elijah Hood, and the rest of the dynamic Tar Heels offense.

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3. Peach Bowl – Florida State (10-2) vs. Houston (12-1)

Dec. 31 – Noon ET, ESPN

In terms of overall talent on the field, Florida State clearly has the advantage. But that is not all that determines the outcome of a game. The Group of 5 holds a 6-2 edge over the Power 5 in the last eight major bowl matchups. Motivation is important. In this game, Houston’s No. 12 rushing defense will face off against FSU’s Dalvin Cook, who will have a month to rest his bumps and bruises. Also, Jalen Ramsey and the rest of Florida State's 15th-ranked total defense will try to stop Houston quarterback Greg Ward Jr.

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4. Sun Bowl – Miami (8-4) vs. Washington State (8-4)

Dec. 26 – 2 p.m. ET, CBS

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First of all, anytime Mike Leach is involved in a game, it will be fun. Cougars quarterback Luke Falk missed the Apple Cup against Washington with a concussion and he was sorely missed in the 45-10 defeat. Falk is back practicing and should be ready to go against the Canes. Miami showed a re-birth after Al Golden was fired midseason. The Hurricanes won four of their last five with their lone loss coming to No. 10 North Carolina. If Falk is healthy, he should have a great quarterback duel with Miami’s Brad Kaaya.

College Football Top 25: Miami

5. Music City Bowl – Louisville (7-5) vs. Texas A&M (8-4)

Dec. 30 – 7 p.m. ET, ESPN

The Music City Bowl will feature two true freshman quarterbacks that will view this game as a springboard to 2016. Louisville’s Lamar Jackson has to make strides throwing the ball if he wants to be the long-term answer in Bobby Petrino’s system. But he is dangerous running the ball, as he led the team with 734 rushing yards and nine touchdowns. Texas A&M sophomore Kyle Allen recently announced his decision to transfer, giving the starting job to freshman Kyler Murray. Like Jackson, Murray struggled in the passing game but made plays with his feet. The winning team will be the one that sees their young quarterback step up.

6. Belk Bowl – NC State (7-5) vs. Mississippi State (8-4)

Dec. 30 – 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

This game will feature two more exceptional quarterbacks. The Bulldogs’ Dak Prescott threw for 3,413 yards with 25 touchdowns and just four interceptions. For his efforts, Prescott was named first team All-SEC. On the other sideline, Wolfpack head coach Dave Doeren has his own star quarterback in Jacoby Brissett. The senior passed for 2,448 yards with 19 touchdowns and four picks. The Wolfpack have a sizeable advantage in the running game with Matt Dayes while Mississippi State struggled finding yards on the ground all season.

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7. Military Bowl – Pittsburgh (8-4) vs. Navy (10-2)

Dec. 28 – 2:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

It was a challenging year for the Pittsburgh Panthers. The season began with star running back James Conner tearing his MCL and ended with Conner revealing that he had Hodgkin lymphoma. In between, Pitt contended for the Coastal Division title only to lose two tough ACC games against North Carolina and Miami. What should be a very hungry Pittsburgh squad will face a Navy team in flux. The Middies' last game with star quarterback Keenan Reynolds could possibly be played with a new coach as Ken Niumatalolo appears to be the odds-on favorite to land the vacant BYU job.

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8. Independence Bowl – Virginia Tech (6-6) vs. Tulsa(6-6)

Dec. 26 – 5:45 p.m. ET, ESPN

This is not about the game itself. On the field, it’s two 6-6 teams that had to win their last games to be bowl eligible. Tulsa has a high-powered offense; Bud Foster puts together a tough Virginia Tech defense. But the real intrigue in the Independence Bowl is that it will be the final game for Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer. A beloved figure in Blacksburg, everyone outside of Tulsa would love to see Beamer get win No. 278 in a career that began at Murray State in 1981.

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9. Pinstripe Bowl – Duke (7-5) vs. Indiana (6-6)

Dec. 26 – 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC

Going into the last weekend in October, Duke was 6-1 and had hopes of a Coastal Division championship. But the Blue Devils hit a skid, losing four games in a row before rebounding to beat Wake Forest in the season finale. Indiana has to be excited after qualifying for its first bowl since 2007. The Hoosiers have not won a bowl game since defeating Baylor in the 1991 Copper Bowl. The solid Duke defense — which will be without ACC Defensive Player of the Year Jeremy Cash because of wrist surgery — will be challenged by IU quarterback Nate Sudfeld and 1,000-yard running back Jordan Howard.

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— Written by Jon Kinne, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a college football fanatic. Kinne has been writing about recruiting for the Irish Sports Daily for 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.