What Bowl Games Make Sense For The ACC?

Chris Trotman

Re-shuffling the ACC's bowl lineup. #goacc

On Thursday, sources told ESPN.com that the ACC's future bowl lineup will include the Bronx-based Pinstripe Bowl and a return to Jacksonville for the Gator Bowl. The league will also likely maintain its partnerships with the Russell Athletic Bowl (Orlando), Music City Bowl (Nashville) and the Belk Bowl (Charlotte).

Despite the rumored additions to the bowl lineup, the ACC is set to lose its tie-in with the Peach Bowl, which will join the commodity bowls -- Rose, Sugar, Orange, Cotton and Tostitos -- as hosts for the new college football playoff. Though it's not like Boston College fans will notice.

There's also the possibility that when the Big Ten plays in the Orange Bowl, the ACC will backfill the Big Ten's spot in the Capital One Bowl. Doubling down on Orlando doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me but OK, let's go with this.

These moves will leave the ACC with the following bowl lineup:

-- Orange (Miami)
-- Citrus (Orlando)
-- Gator (Jacksonville)
-- Citrus Jr. (Orlando)
-- Belk (Charlotte)
-- Music City (Nashville)
-- Pinstripe (New York)

The conference also has current tie-ins with the Sun (El Paso), Independence (Shreveport) and Military (Washington DC) bowls through 2013. Additionally, in the event that the ACC has nine bowl eligible teams, the Conference has a conditional arrangement to send its eighth selection after the BCS to the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco, if either of that Bowl's primary partners are not bowl eligible.

So which bowl games make the most sense for the ACC?

The ACC's bowl lineup has been pretty 'meh' over the last few years with most of the non-BCS bowls scheduled between Christmas and New Year's and the league all but forgotten by January 1. Some destinations are in far-flung locales such as San Francisco, El Paso, Boise (back in the day) and even Shreveport, falling outside the conference's geographic footprint.

The competition has been a mixed bag as well. It seems as if every year the ACC champ was saddled with the least desirable BCS at-large in the Orange Bowl and the conference maintains bowl tie-ins with Conference USA and the service academies (Military), Mountain West (Independence) or the American née Big East twice (Russell Athletic and Belk). The few major conference tie-ins the ACC does maintain are typically filled with programs towards the bottom of the conference's bowl pecking order (Peach and Sun). There's plenty of work here for #NinjaSwoff to be sure.

So what should the ACC's future bowl lineup look like?

I'm of the opinion that unless a bowl game is:

a) in the conference's proximate geographic footprint (for fans / travel)
b) in a major city (again, for ease of access for fans), and
c) against a major conference program
d) should not be played in a baseball stadium (but beggars can't be choosers)

... the ACC should forget about associating with that bowl. Exceptions can be made for a) if there are exceptional cities worth the trip. Basically, Southern California or Las Vegas. The rest I could do without. This immediately DQ's San Francisco, El Paso and Shreveport. This leaves the conference with eight possible bowl games:

-- Orange (Miami)
-- Citrus (Orlando)
-- Gator (Jacksonville)
-- Citrus Jr. (Orlando)
-- Belk (Charlotte)
-- Music City (Nashville)
-- Pinstripe (New York)
-- Military (Washington DC)

Sounds like the Capital One Bowl will be contingent on whether the Big Ten is playing in the Orange Bowl, leaving the conference to find another bowl for the 7-of-12 years when the SEC or Notre Dame is playing opposite the ACC in the Orange Bowl. With conference membership expanding to 15 starting in 2014 (Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Louisville-for-Maryland and Notre Dame), Swofford was quoted as saying the league will look to establish bowl tie-ins with nine to 10 bowl games. That leaves the ACC looking for two more bowl games.

The problem is that if strictly adhering to rule a) above, all of the major destinations within the conference's geographic footprint are already taken. The only bowl city within the ACC's geographic footprint not spoken for is Tampa. It probably makes sense to stake some claim to Tampa -- and not double down on Orlando, for example -- but the only game worth playing there is the Outback Bowl. As such, and barring any new bowl games / locations, the league is probably going to have to venture outside of the conference's geographic footprint to find 2-3 more.

Swofford is then likely looking at either extending the conference's relationship with the Sun Bowl (El Paso) or getting into another Texas bowl game (Alamo?). Breaking into southern California may be tough, so the league may settle on the old Insight Bowl or Las Vegas. I'd be OK with any of those options if it meant the conference ditching its relationship with San Francisco and/or Shreveport.

As for the opponents, so long as the number of opponents from mid-major conferences is kept to an absolute minimum, I'm good with that. No more 2+ bowl games against the Big East, Conference USA and the Mountain West. In the end, I think a bowl line-up that looks something like this would be good:

-- Orange (Miami) vs. Big Ten / SEC / Notre Dame
-- Citrus (Orlando) vs. SEC
-- Gator (Jacksonville) vs. Big 12
-- Citrus Jr. (Orlando) vs. Big Ten
-- Alamo (San Antonio) vs. Big 12
-- Belk (Charlotte) vs. SEC
-- Music City (Nashville) vs. SEC
-- Pinstripe (New York) vs. Big Ten
-- Insight (Tempe) vs. PAC-12
-- Military (Washington DC) vs. mid-major

Your idea ACC bowl lineup? Go.

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