The Chick-fil-A (former Peach) Bowl — Dec. 31, 7:30 p.m., ESPN, Atlanta Georgia Dome — wants Carolina and in a big way.
On the opposite side of the bowl match is the SEC, possibly last season’s national champ LSU. The Peach gets the second pick from the ACC but is not necessarily locked into taking the loser of the Dec. 6 league title game in Tampa, Fla. There’s enough selection flexibility for the Chick-fil-A to land the Heels (at no worse than 5-3, 9-3) under certain circumstances if they don’t reach the Tampa game.
Having not played in the Atlanta game since 2001 — a win over Auburn in John Bunting’s maiden coaching season in Chapel Hill — Carolina is seen by the bowl’s selection committee as the only can’t-miss attendance target on the board. Fan turnout, in a weak economy, has become the new gold standard of bowl picks.
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At least two ACC bowl affiliates — San Francisco’s Emerald Bowl on Dec. 27 and Washington’s Eagle Bank Bowl on Dec. 20 — would have no objections whatsoever at landing Duke, if the Devils can bleed out two more wins for a 6-6 finish.
Duke hasn’t been bowling since who-knows-when (1994) but does have a well-heeled and nationally diverse alumni base. An important financial factor is that Duke fans will purchase the minimum allotment of tickets, plus some. Those fans may not go to the game, but they will send in their ticket checks.
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The bad news for Duke fans is that David Cutcliffe is definitely on the Tennessee radar if Phil Fulmer is forced out in Knoxville. Saturday’s one-sided loss to Alabama in Knoxville left Fulmer in a Def Con-1 dilemma, too.
Good news for Duke: Cutcliffe (and other possible targets) rate behind Texas’ Mack Brown and Texas Tech’s Mike Leach on the Vols' shopping list. Leach is already dream-hire No. 1 at Clemson.