According to ESPN's Brett McMurphy, the Russell Athletic Bowl is now the leading candidate to get the ACC's second team in the new bowl lineup beginning in 2014. With the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl set to join the new College Football Playoff semifinal rotation, the ACC will lose its slot in that game beginning in 2014.
A few weeks back, it appeared that the Gator, Belk and Music City would share the ACC's top pick after the Orange Bowl. Each of those three bowls would pit the ACC up against the SEC. However, the Russell Athletic Bowl has become the leading candidate to take the ACC's top team after the College Football Playoff and the Orange Bowl.
Cue anonymous industry source:
"Those bowls (Gator, Belk, Music City) believed they were going to be pooled at No. 1 (after the Orange Bowl)," an industry source said. "Somehow things changed. This is a huge blow to the ACC" to lose the Gator Bowl exclusively.
Ehhh ... I'm sure other fans of southern programs not frozen out of the Gator will disagree, but count me among those that doesn't consider Gator Bowl exclusivity to be a huge loss for the conference. Other than the Gator having a significantly larger bowl payout, which I'm sure will be adjusted once the game features 100% less Big East, and the date of the game, I don't see the appeal for the Gator.
Though it's not like the conference will never play in the Gator Bowl. The Gator, along with the Music City, would each get an ACC and Big Ten school three times over a six-year period. Plus, think the current bowl lineup selection order is confusing? Imagine what would happen when three bowl games all get pooled to pick the number one team. Then all three of those top bowls would stage an ACC vs. SEC game? Where's the fun / variety in that?
The ACC's rumored opponent in the Russell Athletic Bowl is the Big 12, which would break up the ACC's current bowl game lineup heavy with opponents from the SEC and the American Athletic Conference. Orlando would then be in a position to stage two games with teams from four of the five major conferences between the Capital One Bowl, expected to keep its SEC and Big Ten tie-ins, and the Russell Athletic Bowl. There's still a "good possibility" that when the Big Ten plays opposite the ACC in the Orange Bowl that the ACC would slot into the Capital One Bowl, doubling down on Orlando bowl games.
The Citrus Bowl is also undergoing a (sorely needed) $175 million facelift that includes new suites, 8,000 club seats, more restrooms and concession stands and new banquet and ballroom spaces which makes the game a bit more attractive.
The conference's bowl lineup is shaping up thusly:
-- Orange / College Football Playoff (Miami) - ACC champ vs. Big Ten / SEC / Notre Dame
-- Russell Athletic (Orlando) - ACC #2 vs. Big 12
-- Capital One (Orlando) - ACC vs. SEC - conditional for when the Big Ten plays in the Orange Bowl (at least 3-of-12 years)
-- Gator (Jacksonville) / Music City (Nashville) - ACC vs. SEC
-- Belk (Charlotte) - ACC
-- Pinstripe (New York) - ACC vs. Big Ten
Additionally, the conference will strike deals with at least three other bowls. The league brass is in Amelia Island, Florida this week discussing the future bowl lineup, the possibility of an ACC Network and scheduling for a 15-member league once Louisville joins the fold.