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Turkey Bowl-ing: UNC's Possible Bowl Destinations

Now that the Tar Heels are officially bowl-eligible, here is a look at where Carolina may be spending the holidays

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Thanksgiving means it's time for everyone's favorite parlor game, "Pick Your Team's Bowl Destination".

UNC's destruction of Duke last week means the Tar Heels are bowl eligible for the second straight year under Larry Fedora and for the sixth time in the last seven years. This is also the first year of the College Football Playoff, meaning there are new bowl tie-ins for the ACC, with some new destinations to go with some old familiar locales.

One of the things to keep in mind as bowl possibilities are discussed is that there are a couple of changes to the selection process versus they way it was done in the past, in which bowls selected in a designated order. Now there are specific tie-ins, sharing of bowl bids with other leagues, tiers of selections, and oh, Notre Dame figures into the ACC bowl mix as well. Joe Giglio of the News and Observer has a good explanation of how all this works here.

What all this means for Carolina is that to have the best shot at a Tier I bowl, the Heels need to beat NC State on Saturday. Tier I bowls are the Belk Bowl in Charlotte, the Pinstripe Bowl in New York, the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas, the Music City Bowl in  Nashville, Tennessee, and the Taxslayer (formerly Gator) Bowl in Jacksonville, Florida. A loss to the Wolfpack likely consigns Carolina to a Tier II Bowl, which include the Quick Lane Bowl in Detroit, the Military Bowl in Annapolis, Maryland, and the Duck Commander Independence Bowl in Shreveport, Louisiana. The ACC also has a tie-in with the Bitcoin (formerly Beef 'O' Brady's) Bowl in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Here are how some of the pundits have placed the Tar Heels in the postseason:


Projected Bowl

Projected Opponent

Mark Schlabach (ESPN)

Belk Bowl


Christopher Wilson (Yahoo)

Military Bowl

Central Florida

Erick Smith (USA Today)



Brett McMurphy (ESPN)



Jerry Palm (CBS Sports)



Zac Ellis (



Phil Steele


Central Florida

Patrick Stevens (


No pick

Jason Kirk (



Bill Bender (Sporting News)



Brant Parsons (Orlando Sentinel)

Music City

South Carolina

**projecting another league does not fill its tie-ins

There are some interesting matchups in those predictions. There sure is a lot of Shreveport in those predictions, too, which is unfortunate. Patrick Stevens does a great job at explaining how all the upper level bowl machinations, especially involving a slumping Notre Dame, impact every team down the bowl roster. The short version is that unless Notre Dame beats USC this weekend, it will likely fall into the ACC Tier I bowls. If that's the case, it probably means UNC falls to the Tier II bowls.

Then again, when it comes to bowl selections, matchups and relationships are important. Among the Tier I bowls, while UNC is historically a good draw for the Belk Bowl, I can't imagine the Belk Bowl (or Music City) would want to miss out on a rabid Clemson fan base or a chance to have a national name like Notre Dame in town. Likewise, the Pinstripe Bowl would love to latch on to Notre Dame or maybe even Duke (since Duke has a large alumni presence in New York). In the Tier II games, given that the Military Bowl will land an AAC team, probably East Carolina, there would probably not be much interest in a UNC-ECU rematch, but there would be a lot of interest  in an NC State-ECU game that did not happen in the regular season this year. On the other hand, not only is Shreveport not a desirable bowl destination, but the epic egg that UNC laid there in 2011 may dissuade both Carolina fans from attending and the bowl from wanting them back.

UNC's best-case scenario is to beat State on Saturday and hope that they are attractive enough to end up in Nashville or maybe El Paso. Otherwise maybe if Carolina ignores the Independence Bowl, the Independence Bowl will ignore them.