N.C. State turned in its best ACC record in 23 years.
It was only good enough to get the Wolfpack to the Sun Bowl.
N.C. State (8-4), which finished No. 24 in the College Football Playoff rankings, will take on Arizona State (7-5) at 3 p.m. on Dec. 29 in El Paso, Texas.
Duke (6-6) won its final two regular-season games to get into the postseason for the fifth time in six years. The Blue Devils will face Northern Illinois (8-4) in the Quick Lane Bowl in Detroit at 5:15 p.m. on Dec. 26.
The ACC ended up getting an extra slot in Orlando, in the Citrus Bowl, but it went to Notre Dame (9-3). The ACC’s agreement with the Fighting Irish allows them to participate in the conference’s bowl order.
It’s the second time in three years, Notre Dame’s inclusion in the ACC order has bumped N.C. State down to a lesser bowl.
The Wolfpack went 6-2 in the ACC, for the first time since 1994, but wasn’t able to climb into a preferred bowl spot in Florida.
The two spots in Orlando went to Notre Dame and Virginia Tech (9-3), while Louisville (8-4) filled the slot in the TaxSlayer Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla.
N.C. State coach Dave Doeren tried to put a positive spin on the Pac-12 matchup.
“We’re excited any time we get into the postseason and play a team from a league we don’t cross over with very often,” Doeren said.
Unfortunately for the Wolfpack, it was a down year in the Pac-12. The Sun Devils actually fired coach Todd Graham after a 6-3 league finish. Graham is still planning on coaching in the bowl game.
While N.C. State was disappointed not to get to Florida, Duke was happy to be back in a bowl game. The Blue Devils started the season 4-0 but then lost six straight. At 4-6, they needed to beat Georgia Tech and Wake Forest in the last two regular-season games and they rallied to do it.
“I could not be happier for a group of young men who had their backs against the wall heading into the final two weeks of the season, fought through that adversity, and now will reap the benefits of their hard work and commitment to this program,” Duke coach David Cutcliffe said in a statement released by the school.
Duke has a 1-3 bowl record under Cutcliffe but beat Indiana in the 2015 Pinstripe Bowl, its most recent bowl game. That was Duke’s first bowl win since 1961.
Northern Illinois finished tied for second in the West division of the Mid-American Conference. The Huskies opened the season with a 23-20 loss to Boston College but knocked off a “Power 5” opponent, Nebraska, on the road on Sept. 16.