This week, we’ll continue our look at the Bowl Possibilities for UNC this year by getting into the...lump of games after the New Year’s Six.
Why call them a lump? It sure seemed like that there was a real pecking order last year, with the NY6, the Florida Bowls, then Tier I, and so forth. But with the new contracts, the ACC changed things up a little bit in order to give all of the bowl games some flexibility. Thus, there are only three real tiers of bowl games: the NY6, the big lump, and the additional possibilities.
In the long run, this change is probably for the best. The ACC’s own release on these bowls no longer mentions a wins threshold, rather a combination of that, proximity, repeat matchups, and so forth. Would this criteria have kept Carolina from going to DC and sent them to one of the other Bowls? It’s possible, so maybe it’s for the best that the change is only in effect this year. Either way, it’s become clear that the teams going to particular ACC Bowls will be even more about marketing and less about wins. It should make the back room politicking fun, if you’re into that sort of thing.
So this week, let’s take a look at two games that are established in the bowl lexicon, but will now (potentially) welcome an ACC school.
Date: January 1, 2021
Location: Tampa, Florida
This bowl takes the place of the Citrus as the “If the Big 10 plays in the Orange, the ACC takes the slot.” It’s probably the right call, as the ACC is keeping the other bowl game played at the Citrus Bowl (see below), and while this game is played on ESPN instead of ABC, since the New Year’s Six games air on the same network it might end up being better visibility for the conference should they make it.
The opponent will be the SEC, no matter what, in the game that started as the Hall of Fame Bowl. The Bloomin’ Onion slingers have actually sponsored a bowl game longer than any other corporate entity, which in this age is actually pretty remarkable. The game itself has produced some great matchups, with last year’s being the entertaining Minnesota versus Auburn game that came down to one score. The location is also an upgrade in the sense that it’s played at an actual NFL stadium as opposed to the old Citrus Bowl, but in terms of a tourist destination, fans would probably have wanted the ACC to keep their Orlando tie ins.
That said, Tampa has the other Busch Gardens to offer, as well as the warm Florida sun as winter starts to set in. While the ACC lumps this one into the other bowls, based on the date of the game, it’s likely that they would get the first pick of the non-NY6 teams should the spot open up. It would no doubt be considered a great season for most teams if they ended up here. It would be the first visit by the Tar Heels if circumstances let them play in this game.
Date: December 29, 2020
Location: Orlando, FL
No, this game isn’t being played in Phoenix. The crackers that have the commercials with the big wheel of cheese moved their sponsorship from the Copper Bowl over to the second game held at the Citrus Bowl. Apparently, Camping World was content with just having the actual stadium named after them.
(Insert “there’s not enough money to pay the players” comment here)
As mentioned above, the stadium hosts two games in short order, and the ACC used to have a chance to be in both. Now, the ACC will only send a team to the earlier game. The conference also lists this one among the “others to take an ACC team” on their release, which likely means that the organizers will no longer get the “first non-NY6” pick of the lot. On paper, it seems like a downgrade, but it also gives the bowl folks some more flexibility to select a team that would sell tickets, but maybe wouldn’t be the first choice because of the win-loss record.
The opponent in the game will be the Big 12. Should Carolina be selected, it would be their second appearance in the game. Yes, second. We don’t need to discuss the 2015 game against Baylor, but the same organizers actually ran the 1995 Carquest Bowl that Carolina won against Arkansas 20-10. So, if you’re keeping track, the bowl game that started in Miami and moved to Orlando used to be the Camping World Bowl but is now the Cheez-It Bowl, that used to be in Arizona but they decided to move their sponsorship to Florida. Got it?
Oh well, the game is still in Orlando and may be the best tourist destination of all the bowl games for obvious reasons.
Next week, we take a look at another new kid on the block, and an old friend with a great...or horrible...new name.