The college football regular season is over, and the teams that will represent the ACC in the postseason have almost all been decided. Nine ACC teams — Clemson, Miami, Virginia Tech, Louisville, N.C. State, Boston College, Wake Forest, Virginia and Duke — have already clinched bowl eligibility. A tenth, Florida State, can do so with a win over lowly Louisiana-Monroe on Saturday.
Where will those teams land for their final games of the year? That is much more murky.
Joe Giglio of the Raleigh News & Observer offered a comprehensive breakdown of the ACC bowl order six days before assignments are doled out on Dec. 3. Strangely, two of the ACC teams with a game left to play before then, Clemson and Miami (who will meet in the conference championship game Dec. 2), seem to have the clearest bowl scenarios.
The winner of the title game will almost certainly wind up in the four-team College Football Playoff. The loser likely will not, which would place that team in the Orange Bowl.
For the rest of the eight teams, the situation is much more complicated.
As Giglio points out, despite the fact that Notre Dame is not technically a member of the ACC during the football season, the Irish are allowed a spot among the ACC bowl tie-ins. Since Notre Dame likely won’t end up in a New Year’s Six bowl by virtue of last week’s loss to Stanford, the Irish will likely take the spot of the highest-ranked ACC team outside of Clemson and Miami.
Even that landing spot, however, is unknown.
Notre Dame will almost certainly wind up in Orlando, but whether it plays in the Citrus Bowl or the Camping World Bowl (formerly the Russell Athletic Bowl) is yet to be determined. The Citrus bowl doesn’t always accept an ACC team (the reasoning is complicated, but it depends whether a Big Ten or SEC team faces the ACC party in the Orange Bowl), but if it does, Notre Dame figures to be that team. That would open up a spot for either Virginia Tech or N.C. State in the Camping World Bowl. If Notre Dame doesn’t wind up in the Citrus Bowl, it will take that spot in the Camping World Bowl.
After the Orlando bowl matchups are decided, the ACC can send four teams to “Tier I” bowls. Those bowls are the Belk, Sun, Pinstripe and either TaxSlayer or Music City. According to Giglio’s reporting, those bowls do not technically have rankings — they will communicate with one another to determine matchups based largely on geography.
Tier I bowls can pick a 6-6 team ahead of 7-5 team, but not an 8-4 team. That means, say, a 6-6 Florida State team could not get a bid to a Tier I bowl unless Virginia Tech (9-3), N.C. State (8-4), and Louisville (8-4) are all chosen to those games. However, the Seminoles could be chosen ahead of Wake Forest and Boston College, which are both 7-5.
Finally, there are four Tier II bowls that can feature ACC teams. These do have an order, with the Military Bowl getting its first choice of matchup, then the Independence Bowl, Quick Lane Bowl, and, if there is still an ACC team left over, the St. Petersburg Bowl.
Based off Giglio’s analysis and two key assumptions — that Florida State will beat Louisiana-Monroe and Notre Dame will wind up in the Citrus Bowl rather than the Camping World Bowl — here are projections for the landing spots of all 10 bowl-eligible ACC teams, plus Notre Dame:
College Football Playoff semifinal: Monday, Jan. 1 — either Sugar Bowl (New Orleans, Louisiana) or Rose Bowl (Pasadena, California)
Winner of Clemson vs. Miami
Orange Bowl: Saturday, Dec. 30 (Miami, Florida)
Loser of Clemson vs. Miami
Citrus Bowl: Monday, Jan. 1 (Orlando, Florida)
Camping World Bowl: Friday, Dec. 28 (Orlando, Florida)
TaxSlayer Bowl: Saturday, Dec. 30 (Jacksonville, Florida)
Belk Bowl: Friday, Dec. 29 (Charlotte, North Carolina)
Sun Bowl: Friday, Dec. 29 (El Paso, Texas)
Pinstripe Bowl: Friday, Dec. 29 (New York, New York)
Military Bowl: Thursday, Dec. 28 (Annapolis, Maryland)
Independence Bowl: Wednesday, Dec. 27 (Shreveport, Louisiana)
Quick Lane Bowl: Tuesday, Dec. 26 (Detroit, Michigan)
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