Last time in this series, we talked about a bowl game in a non-traditional location, and one with a non-traditional name. Judging by the comment section of that one, there is no shortage of opinions on the non-traditional name. It’s probably also a sign of just how desperate we are getting to talk about something when perhaps the most passion comes out about a condiment.
The ACC isn't against tradition, however, and in adding a bowl game located in Boston and another one named after the best condiment ever made, they’ve also kept one of the oldest games that’s existed, and added a game that has a rich history in an underrated location to visit in late December. Both are part of the “after NY6” tier, a group of eight or nine bowls - depending on how things shake out - that will decide amongst themselves who they will invite without a particular pecking order. So let’s take a look at the two furthest west possibilities for ACC teams.
San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl
Location: San Diego, CA
The bowl game played in the old home of the Padres and Chargers has a rich history, and has been played in the Southern California city since 1978. The stadium may not be much, as it was in such disrepair that the Chargers opted to move to Los Angeles and play in a soccer stadium for two years rather than stay there, but the location is arguably one of the most desirable of the entire bowl slate. When the rest of the country is starting to get into the deep freeze, fans get to trek out to warm and sunny Southern California and truly escape for a few days. Visitors would also get to visit a world famous zoo, see a large naval fleet, and reenact their own version of Anchorman.
The game itself will also have the benefit of providing another matching between the PAC 12 and the ACC. For all the bowl games that the ACC participated in, matchups between the two conferences were rare. In fact, the previous alignment promised multiple matchups between the SEC, and at least two with the Big Ten. Only one other game promised an east-west matchup like this, and so the promise of a unique matchup plus the locale values this bowl to near the top of the desired list. No ACC team has ever played in the game, so it’ll be interesting to see how things shake out when they get to make their inaugural pick. It’s a long trip for a eastern-based fan base, but the novelty of the location combined with the great weather for the time of year will probably have this one high on the list for coaches and the AD’s when the jockeying begins.
Tony The Tiger Sun Bowl
Date: Thursday, December 31st
Location: El Paso, TX
This bowl game is one of the oldest, having been played since 1935. What’s truly remarkable is that the ACC has had an official tie in with the El Paso game since 2010, so this will be the eleventh straight year the conference heads to the border town to play, this year against the PAC 12. It’s an old friend to ACC fans at this point, although it’s the friend that few actually want to see.
The problem for fans is that El Paso isn’t really close to any other metro area, doesn’t have a major airport that services it, and isn’t really in any sort of reasonable driving distance for a big base of ACC alumni, and the biggest selling point is the proximity to the Mexican border. The stadium itself also isn’t anything special, although that really doesn’t matter much for bowl games. The game itself usually promises to be a good match up as it will catch a higher-tier PAC 12 team and is one of the only games that actually is played on network TV.
Carolina fans likely don’t want to go back to El Paso any time soon. The Tar Heels are currently riding a two game losing streak, with their last loss coming with Mitch Trubisky’s last collegiate pass against Stanford in the 2016 game. With other places that haven’t seen the Tar Heels in a while, or ever, it feels like the Sun wouldn’t be high on taking Carolina should they qualify for a bowl.
Assuming there are bowl games this year, of course.
Next time, we’ll continue looking at some old favorites that are back in the ACC rotation.