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Bowl Positions (Sit Back and Watch Them Go-oo-oh)

John Swofford has apparently spent the past few weeks really selling the drawing power of the ACC, because over the last few days the league has greatly improved its bowl tie-ins, first by pairing with the Big Ten in the Gator Bowl after 2010, and second by forging a matchup with the Pac-10 in the Sun Bowl beginning the same year. The two bowls currently share a rotating pick between the Big East, Big 12 and Notre Dame, picking either the #2 Big East team or the #4 or #5 Big 12 team.  The Gator Bowl will remain third in the order for picking ACC teams, while the Sun Bowl will take fifth; the Big Ten gives up its slot in the never-had-a-name-that-stuck Champs Sports Bowl to the Big East.

UNC was the last ACC team to play in the Sun Bowl, under what I recall being a slightly unusual situation right before bowl tie-in became prominent. That was in the 1994 season, where Priest Holmes tore the Heels to shreds and carried the Texas Longhorns to a 35-31 victory in what is still the most attended Sun Bowl in history. Those kind of attendances, coupled with two miserable performances under the current Big East deal (Oregon 56, South Florida 21 and Oregon State 3, Pittsburgh 0) was probably the biggest draw for a conference that, let's face it, hasn't been all that impressive in recent years. Also note that the 1994 game, of which I travelled to El Paso to hear every damn repeat of "I've Been Working on the Railroad" from the Longhorn band was so well attended mainly because of Texas fans, although UNC represented.

Swofford was, of course, athletic director at UNC in 1994, and would remain so through Carolina's Gator Bowl appearance in 1997 against West Virginia. I believe this in part drives him to constantly seek out better bowl deals, as two of UNC's best teams ('96-97 and '97-98) were both banished to Jacksonville to beat up on subpar Big East teams as Florida State was in the process of running away with ACC titles at the time. Alas, these deals don't change the landscape much. As it currently stands, the ACC is paired up with the Big East in the Orange Bowl-BCS mess, after which the second ranked team meets the 3rd, 4th, or 5th SEC team. There are tie-ins with both the 2nd and 3rd Big East schools (Gator and Meineke) one middle of the road team from each of the Big Ten (Champs), SEC (Music City) and Pac-10 (Emerald), the WAC champion (Humanitarian) and Navy (EagleBank). After 2010, the ACC will still get that Big Ten team, just in the Gator, the Big East team will instead meet the ACC in the Champs, and the Emerald slot against the Pac-10 looks the shakiest with the advent of the Sun Bowl deal. The only real change is the upgrade of an opponent in the Sun, where the 5th place ACC team will meet the 2nd place Pac-10 team - the West Coast conference bumped the Sun ahead of the Holiday - which might not get the El Paso bowl a better game than it currently sees.

Oh, and there's still no talk of playoff. Because what's the fun in that?