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2020 Bowl Game Possibilities for UNC Football: The New Year’s Six

Assuming there’s a season, the way the ACC lines up for bowls changes this year.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 30 Orange Bowl - Florida v Virginia Photo by Aaron Gilbert/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

OK, let’s get the obvious out of the way: with the current COVID status around the world, there’s a significant chance that any sort of football season doesn’t happen this year. Yes, this is discussion is a moot point if college football doesn’t happen in 2020, or if it’s moved to the spring who knows if these bowl games are played.

So, with that out of the way, let’s assume that the season proceeds either as planned, or at a minimum enough to where there’s still a bowl season during the holidays. With the expectations for Carolina raised this year, it’s reasonable to have an idea as to what the bowl options are for the Tar Heels should they hit that magic six win threshold.

The 2020-21 college football season brings a new bowl arrangement for the ACC. A couple of games join the fray, a few are gone, and the annual shuffle of the New Year’s Six has happened. So, as we slip into summer with an eye on the start of the college season, we’re going to spend the next few weeks taking a peek at each of the possible bowls that Carolina could be invited to. Two bowls a week, except for this one where we’ll address the cream of the crop:

College Football Playoff Bowls:

Rose Bowl Game

Date: January 1, 2021

Location: Pasadena, CA

Yes, after a couple of years away from the big two, the College Football Playoffs fall back on January 1st this season with the Rose Bowl hosting the first game.

The Rose Bowl normally pits the Pac 12 against the Big 10 on a lush green field in sunny California, it is arguably the bowl game that everyone wants to end up in because of the iconic imagery and lush history. In this most recent iteration of contracts to get our current set up, the only way someone from a different conference could go would be in this situation: every third year when it hosts a playoff game.

The season would have to go really...really...well for the Tar Heels to end up here. If we’re being honest with each other, this isn’t a realistic goal for 2020 Carolina Football, but if they go undefeated, fans could absolutely line the streets of Pasadena and walk to the Rose Bowl to watch the first CFP game of the day.

Sugar Bowl

Date: January 1, 2021

Location: New Orleans, LA

The Big Easy normally wraps up New Year’s Day with a contest of the SEC versus the Big 12, but this year they’ll showcase the other CFP semifinal. Surprisingly, this would not be the first time Carolina has played in this game. If you haven’t yet, make sure to check out Matt’s post from last year about the 1946 Tar Heels’ trip to New Orleans. You may recognize the superstar who led them down there.

Since this game is geographically closer to Chapel Hill, if the Tar Heels miraculously finish number 1 in the CFP rankings, this is where they would be assigned. They also would go here if the top ranked team is closer to Pasadena and they were number two. Beyond that, it’s literally in the hands of whether they are three or four.

So, how likely is it that the Tar Heels will ring in 2021 under the California sun or on Bourbon Street? Not...likely. The big orange wall in South Carolina will likely be a favorite to end up back at one of the sites, and the Tar Heels’ schedule just isn’t strong enough to get there unless they beat the Tigers. Is it possible? Yeah, it’s possible, but maybe we fans should be a wee bit more realistic about their “best case” scenario.

Orange Bowl

Date: January 2, 2021

Location: Miami, FL

The ACC has a guarantee to send a team to this bowl game in the seasons it isn’t one of the CFP sites. Considering the strength of the conference in recent years, it’s been boon for the ACC to be able to send one of their teams to this game when Clemson has been able to own one of the CFP spots.

Like the Rose Bowl, the Tar Heels have never made the trip down to Miami to play in a game called the Orange Bowl. They have, however, played in the stadium that hosts the game. In 1995, they played in the now defunct CarQuest Bowl, where they defeated Arkansas. The Tar Heels could have ended up here last year, if a couple of those really close games had gone another way, they absolutely could have taken the spot that Virginia ultimately used losing to Florida last season.

The Orange Bowl is a realistic goal for this squad. With Clemson set to be a national contender again it’s understood that the Coastal Champion will likely be the one that ends up in Miami, baring another Atlantic team rising up to contend with the Tigers and finishing higher in the CFP standings. In short, win the Coastal, and Miami is likely where you’ll end up one way or the other, because you’ll either go as the ACC Champion by upsetting Clemson and knocking them out of the CFP, or you’ll take the spot Clemson vacates by going to the CFP.

So what if Carolina can’t make it to the NY6? Next week we start digging into the new lineup the ACC has.