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TaxSlayer Bowl looks like a possibility for Georgia Tech

Georgia Tech’s win over Georgia has gotten the attention of the TaxSlayer Bowl.

The Jacksonville, Fla., bowl game, formerly known as the Gator Bowl, is leaning toward inviting either Miami or the Yellow Jackets to its Dec. 31 game.

“I think if we looked at the list, you could probably put Georgia Tech and Miami at the top of our list, with the possibility of North Carolina and Virginia Tech,” said TaxSlayer Bowl president/CEO Rick Catlett on Thursday.

At least publicly, Tech had not been under the TaxSlayer’s consideration as its ACC representative until after its 28-27 defeat of the Bulldogs in Athens on Saturday. Catlett said that the team’s strong finish — winning five of its final six games in the regular season, which besides the Georgia win included a road win over then-No. 14 Virginia Tech — gained the attention of bowl officials.

Catlett also said that Atlanta’s relative proximity to Jacksonville — about 350 miles by car — and the likely desire for fans to see the team finish the season are factors.

“They should travel really well,” he said. “Those are the kinds of things that you look for from the bowl perspective.”

Catlett said that he has spoken with athletic director Todd Stansbury and Paul Griffin, who served as interim AD before Stansbury began his tenure Monday. He said that he ranks Tech and Miami “1 and 1A,” though he said he wasn’t sure which was the 1 and which was the 1A.

Catlett explained that three of the ACC’s four “Tier One” bowls — the Pinstripe, Belk and TaxSlayer — have regional rights on certain conference teams. The TaxSlayer’s are Tech, Clemson, Miami and Florida State. The four bowls select teams in cooperation with each other, the ACC and the teams. If the TaxSlayer picks either Tech or Miami as its top choice, it will receive that school.

The opponent in the TaxSlayer will be from the SEC, possibly Kentucky or Arkansas.

If it isn’t the TaxSlayer for the Jackets, another possibility is the Pinstripe, in New York on Dec. 28. If No. 3 Clemson defeats No. 23 Virginia Tech in the ACC title game Saturday, the Tigers almost certainly will go to the College Football Playoff. No. 12 Florida State would be the likely ACC representative in the Orange Bowl and No. 13 Louisville likely would head to the Citrus Bowl. The next bowl to select an ACC team is the Russell Athletic Bowl, in Orlando, Fla., Dec. 28.

Tech is an outside possibility for the Russell Athletic, although Virginia Tech, Miami and Pitt appear to be much more likely choices. One factor that could favor Pitt is that West Virginia is the likely opponent from the Big 12. Bowl officials could jump at a matchup of Pitt-West Virginia, the “Backyard Brawl” rivalry, which was once an annual series, but hasn’t been played since 2011 because of conference realignment. (A four-year series will begin in 2022.)

However, Virginia Tech and West Virginia start the 2017 season with each other, and it’s likely both teams would prefer to avoid a bowl-game meeting.

Either way, Georgia Tech figures to be in a four-team pool with three out of Miami, North Carolina, Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech to go to the Pinstripe, Sun, Belk and TaxSlayer. The Sun is the least likely, as Georgia Tech made consecutive trips in 2011 and 2012. The Belk is said to prefer North Carolina or Virginia Tech, and owns the rights to both. The Pinstripe owns Pitt’s rights, and the Sun’s top choices are North Carolina and Pitt. One possible outcome: North Carolina goes to the Sun, Miami goes to the TaxSlayer, Virginia Tech goes to the Belk and Georgia Tech goes to the Pinstripe.