After sending 10 league programs to bowl games in 2017, the ACC did one better this year with 11 teams heading to postseason play. Other than North Carolina, Louisville, and, remarkably Florida State, all of the league’s members will be bowling in 2018.
Once again, Clemson leads the charge by qualifying for a College Football Playoff spot for the fourth year in a row and their game against Notre Dame is must-watch television. And for those of us that are really busy at this time of the year, here is a watchability ranking so that you can prioritize your ACC bowl season.
Note: All times are ET.
1. Cotton Bowl (College Football Playoff Semifinal) — Clemson (13-0) vs. Notre Dame (12-0)
Dec. 29 — 4 p.m., ESPN
Two unbeaten teams squaring off in a semifinal matchup has never happened in the four years of the playoff. It will this year in AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, when the Tigers take on the Irish. In 2015, the two power programs staged an epic battle with Clemson holding off Notre Dame 24-22 in a monsoon at Death Valley.
2. Camping World Bowl — Syracuse (9-3) vs. West Virginia (8-3)
Dec. 28 — 5:15 p.m., ESPN
Both Syracuse head coach Dino Babers and West Virginia head coach Dana Holgerson honed their high-octane offensive acumen at schools in Texas. Babers was on Art Briles' staff at Baylor while Holgerson trained under Mike Leach at Texas Tech. Even with Mountaineers star quarterback Will Grier sitting out, points should be plentiful in the Camping World Bowl.
3. Gator Bowl — NC State (9-3) vs. Texas A&M (8-4)
Dec. 31 — 7:30 p.m., ESPN
There should be offensive fireworks in Jacksonville, Fla., on New Year's Eve. Wollfpack receiver Kelvin Harmon has decided to skip the game, but quarterback Ryan Finley has plenty of talented targets and Aggies quarterback Kellen Mond is dangerous both throwing and running.
4. Pinstripe Bowl — Miami (7-5) vs. Wisconsin (7-5)
Dec. 27 — 5:15 p.m., ESPN
The Hurricanes and the Badgers meet in a bowl game for the second year in a row. While Wisconsin was able to beat Miami on the Hurricanes' home field in last year's Orange Bowl, this game in Yankee Stadium in the Bronx should be feature weather that will favor the boys from Madison.
5. First Responder Bowl — Boston College (7-5) vs. Boise State (10-3)
De. 26 — 1:30 p.m., ESPN
The First Responder Bowl is another contest with productive running backs on either side. Boston College's AJ Dillon fought through injuries to post his second straight 1,000-yard season while the Broncos’ Alexander Mattison leads the Mountain West with 1,415 yards on the ground.
6. Sun Bowl — Pittsburgh (7-6) vs. Stanford (8-4)
Dec. 31 — 2 p.m., CBS
This matchup features some running back star power with Pitt’s twin 1,000-yard rushers Qadree Ollison and Darrin Hall. It would have had even more punch had the Cardinal’s Bryce Love not decided to skip the game. Stanford has the better aerial attack, as K.J. Costello is the Pac-12’s second-leading passer and the Panthers are coming off a grand total of eight yards through the air in their ACC Championship Game blowout loss to Clemson.
7. Birmingham Bowl — Wake Forest (6-6) vs. Memphis (8-5)
Dec. 22 — 12 p.m., ESPN
Okay, this may not be the most appealing bowl game from a name-brand perspective, though it should be entertaining. The Deacons can score, as the 59 points in the season-ending win over Duke suggests. And while Memphis will miss running back Darrell Henderson, the nation's second-leading rusher, the Tigers still have plenty of offensive firepower that Wake's defense must contend with.
8. Belk Bowl — Virginia (7-5) vs. South Carolina (7-5)
Dec. 29 — 12 p.m., ABC
Virginia stumbles in after losing their last three ACC games, including surrendering a late lead to the rival Hokies in the regular-season finale. The Gamecocks' offense was humming late in the year, though they will be without wide receiver Deebo Samuel, who is skipping the game to prepare for the NFL draft.
9. Quick Lane Bowl — Georgia Tech (7-5) vs. Minnesota (6-6)
Dec. 26 — 5:15 p.m., ESPN
In Paul Johnson’s final game with the Yellow Jackets, the former Navy head coach will face P.J. Fleck and his boat-rowing crew. Due to an off-field situation, Minnesota has suspended several players from bowl game participation and the Gophers also will be without tackle Donnell Greene, who signed with an agent and therefore is ineligible to play.
10. Military Bowl — Virginia Tech (6-6) vs. Cincinnati (10-2)
Dec. 31 — 12 p.m., ESPN
The Bearcats forged a remarkable turnaround in head coach Luke Fickell’s second year, going from 4-8 in 2017 to 10-2 this fall. The Hokies, meanwhile, went the other way, going from 9-4 to 6-6, though they did win their final two games to become bowl eligible.
11. Independence Bowl — Duke (7-5) vs. Temple (8-4)
Dec. 27 — 1:30 p.m., ESPN
Judging by interim Temple head coach Ed Foley’s Independence Bowl press conference last week, he doesn’t think this is the least exciting ACC bowl matchup. The game in Shreveport, Louisiana, may be the final game for Duke quarterback Daniel Jones, a potential early-round NFL draft pick.
— Written by Jon Kinne, who has been part of the Athlon Contributor Network for three years, covering the ACC and Notre Dame. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.