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An early guide to how the ACC is assigned bowls

With the second half of the season about to start and UNC in bowl contention, it’s worth reminding what bowl tie-ins the ACC has and their order

College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Capital One Orange Bowl - Alabama v Oklahoma Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

Carolina has not been to a bowl game since the 2016 Sun Bowl in El Paso. Yes, since the Tar Heels last played in a bowl game, the basketball team has won a national title, anyone entering school that year would be a senior this year, and the coaching staff looks a hair different.

The last two seasons have essentially seen bowl eligibility become an afterthought for UNC fans pretty quickly, even when six wins are the base requirement. This year, though, with the team going 3-3 through (in)arguably the most difficult part of their schedule, Carolina fans can actually contemplate what the bowl scenarios are for their Tar Heels.

We’re going to wait a few more weeks before we really start going over bowl predictions as a lot can happen with six games to go, but consider this your early guide into the bowls the ACC will participate in and their order of selection. That way, when people start referring to “Tier 1” bowls and whatnot, you know what they mean. All of this info is from theacc.com but to save you the trouble of navigating that site, it’s broken down below. Also, as I’m not paid by any of the sponsors, I’ll avoid using the sponsor names unless it’s specifically the name of the bowl.

College Football Playoffs

Carolina is not going to either of these games. Not even a chance. The only reason I mention these games is that should Clemson do as expected and be one of the top four, it opens up a spot for someone else in the...

New Year’s Six

Contractually, the ACC gets a spot in the Orange Bowl no matter what. If Clemson is elevated, then it notes the “next highest ranked ACC team” gets that slot against either Notre Dame, someone from the SEC, or someone from the Big 10. That “next highest ranked” part is important, because as of this week, the only team ranked in the conference is Clemson. Thus, if Carolina runs the table and wins the Coastal, it is absolutely conceivable they could be in Miami. Also note the “rankings” are the College Football Playoff rankings released by the committee on December 8th.

The Cotton Bowl is technically reachable as well for the ACC, but that’s not happening this year so for the purpose of simplicity, we’ll just focus on the Orange.

Orlando Bowls

  • Citrus Bowl, Orlando, FL, 1/1, 1 PM
  • Camping World Bowl, Orlando, FL, 12/28, Noon

It is at this point that we leave the world of the CFP rankings and everyone gets lumped into a pool. It’s important to note that for the purposes of ACC Bowl Selection, should Notre Dame not make one of the NY6 bowls, then they are included in this pool. It’s an important distinction because the Sugar and Rose Bowls are contracted just like the Orange is to be filled by teams of a certain conference, thus Notre Dame can only appear in the Playoffs, the Orange, or the Cotton.

Should the Orange Bowl select a Big 10 team, then the Citrus Bowl gets first pick of the remaining ACC bowl teams. The Camping World Bowl goes next, or goes first if the ACC is playing the SEC or Notre Dame in the Orange Bowl.

Tier 1 Bowls

  • Pinstripe Bowl, New York, NY, 12/27
  • Music City Bowl, Nashville, TN, 12/30
  • Belk Bowl, Charlotte, NC, 12/31
  • Sun Bowl, El Paso, TX, 12/31
  • Gator Bowl, Jacksonville, FL, 1/2

While this looks like five bowls, it’s really four for our purposes. The Gator and Music City Bowls are either/or, as they’ll decide which one gets the ACC when this group of bowls pick. For all intents and purposes, all of these bowls have equal standing when it comes to picking. They’ll work it out amongst themselves as to who goes where. Again, this is not based on rank but solely based on the choice these particular bowls want to make.

Additional Bowls

  • Quick Lane Bowl, Detroit, MI, 12/26
  • Independence Bowl, Shreveport, LA, 12/26
  • Military Bowl, 12/27, Annapolis, MD

This group of three is up next and guarantees a spot for an ACC school. The same rules as above apply, as each one of these have the same level of importance in terms of picking order and have first rights of the teams that are left.

Also Possible

  • Gasparilla Bowl, St. Petersburg, FL, 12/23
  • Birmingham Bowl, Birmingham, AL, 1/2

These two have affiliations with other conferences. However, the ACC can send a team to either of these bowls should they not be able to fill their slots with their first affiliations.

The short story is that if UNC gets enough wins to be bowl eligible, they will go somewhere: none of that “got the wins but didn’t play in the postseason” shenanigans will happen to the Heels. The ACC has made sure to have enough affiliations to take care of all of their teams. The first CFP Rankings will be announced on Tuesday, November 5th, and by that point Carolina should have a better idea as to what, if any, bowl outlook they have.