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UNC Football Bowl Prediction

Where will the Tar Heels close their 2016 season?

NCAA Football: Russell Athletic Bowl-North Carolina vs Baylor
The Tar Heels last year at the Russell Athletic Bowl
Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

The North Carolina Tar Heels will be jockeying for position in a Tier One ACC bowl next month. The selection order and criteria can be a bit confusing, and to understand the potential bowl selection for UNC, here is the ACC bowl game order of selection, via the ACC Media Guide:

College Football Playoff (four teams)

If the ACC Champion is not in one of the national semifinal games this year, it will appear in the Capital One Orange Bowl. There is no limit on how many teams the College Football Playoff may choose from a particular conference. There is also a possibility an ACC team could be chosen for a berth in one of the New Year’s Six Bowls if it is ranked high enough. This year only one at-large spot is open in a New Year’s Six Bowl, that would be in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl.

Capital One Orange Bowl

The ACC champion, if not in the College Football Playoff, will appear this year in the Capital One Orange Bowl, with the opponent being the highest-ranked available team from the SEC, Big Ten or Notre Dame. If the ACC champion is selected for the College Football Playoff, then the next highest ranked ACC team will serve as the host team in the Capital One Orange Bowl.

Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl

If the ACC opponent in the Capital One Orange Bowl, in a non-semifinal year, is a team from the Big Ten, then the ACC will have a team selected to the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl.

Russell Athletic Bowl

They have the first pick of ACC teams in 2016 after the College Football Playoff, the Capital One Orange Bowl, the Host Bowls (if applicable) and the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl (only if the ACC Orange Bowl opponent be a team from the Big Ten).

Tier One Bowls

All have equal selection status

Belk/Hyundai Sun/New Era Pinstripe/Franklin American Mortgage Music City or Taxslayer

Tier Two Bowls

Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman

Camping World Independence Bowl

Quick Lane Bowl

St. Petersburg Bowl

Birmingham Bowl (Secondary only — if not filled by the Southeastern or American Athletic Conferences.)

The Tar Heels, unranked with a 5-3 conference record and 8-4 record overall, will likely fall into the Tier One Bowls category. Since those bowls are not determined by rank or standings, the conference and the bowls make those decisions. What will be the factors that go into these selections?

If geographic proximity is a consideration, the league and bowls may want to maximize the Tier One selections by sending UNC to the Belk Bowl in Charlotte, Miami to the TaxSlayer Bowl in Jacksonville, Florida, and Pitt to the New Era Pinstripe Bowl in New York City.

However, I think the league may mix things up and send teams outside of their traditional geographic footprints in an effort to further expand the ACC brand. It may be beneficial for the conference to do so, especially with the launch of the new ESPN ACC Network cable channel in 2019.

My bowl selection for the Tar Heels will be the TaxSlayer Bowl. Out of the Tier One Bowls, the TaxSlayer Bowl is arguably the most prestigious out of the four. Miami, Pitt, and Georgia Tech are the likely candidates for the other Tier One Bowls, and Carolina beat each this season. Originally named the Gator Bowl and held at the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, the TaxSlayer Bowl is one of the oldest continuously played bowl games.

Here are the rest of my selections for ACC bowl games:

  • College Football Playoffs: Clemson
  • Capital One Orange Bowl: Louisville
  • Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl: Florida State
  • Russell Athletic Bowl: Virginia Tech
  • Belk Bowl: Miami
  • Hyundai Sun Bowl: Georgia Tech
  • New Era Pinstripe Bowl: Pittsburgh
  • Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman: Wake Forest
  • Camping World Independence Bowl: NC State
  • Quick Lane Bowl: Boston College

Where do you think UNC ends up? What about the other ACC selections? Let us know in the comments below.