Things worked out pretty well for BC this bowl season. The Eagles (7-5) were selected by the Bronx-based Pinstripe Bowl, one of the ACC's "Tier I" bowls, opposite a familiar foe and regional recruiting rival in Penn State. Shady Big Ten selection committee power moves aside, things probably couldn't have gone much better for BC this year.
One of the reasons BC came out OK in this whole thing was the conference's decision to limit the pool of "Tier I" bowl teams to those with a winning record. That left the ACC's four (five) "Tier I" bowl games—the Music City or Gator, Belk, Pinstripe and Sun—to select from five ACC teams after Clemson came off the board: Louisville (9-3), Duke (9-3), Notre Dame (7-5), N.C. State (7-5) and BC (7-5). Basically, send your Pinstripe Bowl swag to fans of the All-Time Leader in Pinstripe Bowl Victories as a thank you for that seventh regular season win.
Things would not have worked out as well for BC if, say, the Eagles were competing for a spot in the 2007 ACC bowl lineup. Of course, there are two (really, three) more programs vying for the same set of bowl games now, but let's go with this anyway.
As a refresher, here was the ACC's bowl lineup and selection criteria back in 2007, courtesy, of all places, umterps.com.
2007 Atlantic Coast Conference Football Bowl Selections Procedures
Bowl Championship Series
The winner of the Dr ACC Football Championship Game will be selected to play in the Bowl Championship Series. Unless the winner of the Dr Pepper ACC Football Championship Game is ranked No.1 or No. 2 in the final BCS Standings and plays in the BCS National Championship Game, then the ACC Champion will serve as the host team of the FedEx Orange Bowl in Miami, Fla. The BCS may also select a second ACC team, if one is eligible for selection (Won at least nine regular season games and is ranked among the Top 14 in the final BCS Standings), there is an At-Large berth available and the team is selected by one of the four BCS Bowl Games-FedEx Orange (only if the ACC Champion is in the BCS National Championship Game), Allstate Sugar, Tostitos Fiesta and Rose Bowls.
After BCS makes selections, then the selection order is:
1. Chick-fil-A Bowl, Atlanta
2. Konica-Minolta Gator Bowl, Jacksonville
3. Champs Sports Bowl, Orlando
4-6. Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl, Nashville
Meineke Car Care Bowl, Charlotte
Emerald Bowl, San Francisco
7. Roady's Humanitarian Bowl, Boise
1. The runner-up of the ACC Championship Game, provided it has 8 wins, is guaranteed not to fall further than the Music City Bowl. Of the remaining three years in the current ACC contracts, Music City has responsibility to protect the Championship Game runner-up twice, Champs Sports has it once (Gator took CGRU last year). If they so desire, the Chick-fil-A, Gator, and Champs Bowls can pass on the CGRU this year.
2. Otherwise, if the bowl does not select the team available with the best Conference record, then it must choose a team that is within one conference win of the team with the best conference record (ie 5-3 to 6-2), or the bowl may take a team that has more than a one game difference, if the team is ranked more than five spaces above the team with the best Conference record in the final BCS Standings.
3. After Champs Sports Bowl makes its selections, the next three bowl partners-Music City, Meineke, Emerald-submit their preferences. If the three can agree on their choices, then those selections stand. Otherwise, the selection goes on financial order, which is 1. Music City; 2. Meineke; 3. Emerald.
tl;dr: The ACC had seven bowl slots outside of the BCS (Orange Bowl). The ACC Championship Game runner-up could not fall further than the Music City Bowl, the "BC rule" was still in place and the Music City, Meineke (now Belk) and Emerald (now Foster Farms) worked together to select teams four through six.
Let's see where BC might have landed.
Despite finishing third in the final College Football Playoff rankings, Florida State finishes second in the simulated BCS standings, so the 'Noles would have made the BCS National Championship Game.
With Florida State in the BCS National Championship Game, Georgia Tech would have similarly qualified for the BCS and an Orange Bowl bid given it finished 12th in the simulated BCS rankings and finished with at least nine wins.
That leaves nine ACC bowl eligible teams for seven bowl slots: Clemson (9-3, 6-2 ACC), Louisville (9-3, 5-3), Duke (9-3, 5-3), Boston College (7-5, 4-4), N.C. State (7-5, 3-5), North Carolina (6-6, 4-4), Pittsburgh (6-6, 4-4), Miami (6-6, 3-5), Virginia Tech (6-6, 3-5). We'll leave Notre Dame out of this since the Irish weren't part of this year's ACC bowl lineup and this is our hypothetical thought exercise, dammit!
We know that the Peach Bowl <3s Clemson, so let's go ahead and pencil Clemson into Atlanta. The Tigers couldn't be jumped by BC, N.C. State, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Miami or Virginia Tech anyway by virtue of the "BC rule," so the Peach would have come down to Clemson, Louisville or Duke. Duke played in Atlanta last year anyway so they'd probably be out for a return trip regardless, so deciding between Clemson and Louisville, a team it beat during the regular season, is a straightforward one.
After all the grief the Gator Bowl committee gave BC for the 2007 ACC Championship Game woes despite the city of Jacksonville doing the absolute bare minimum to support the conference championship game in the first place, that bowl will never willingly select BC so long as another team is available. Out of a pool of Louisville, Duke, BC, North Carolina and Pittsburgh, via the one-loss rule, newcomer Louisville (9-3, 5-3 ACC) seems like the logical choice for Jacksonville.
The Champs Sports/Russell Athletic Bowl comes next and gets to chose between Duke, BC, North Carolina and Pittsburgh (3-5 N.C. State, Miami and Virginia Tech can't be selected over 5-3 Duke by virtue of the one-loss rule). Let's say the RAB selects plucky 9-3 Duke for Orlando.
Then we get to the flex spots, where the Music City, Meineke/Belk and Emerald/Foster Farms work together to determine teams four through six out of a pot of teams that includes BC, N.C. State, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Miami and Virginia Tech. Since those schools all finished within a game of one another in the final conference standings, this is a free-for-all (which is extremely bad news for BC).
Since North Carolina played in the 2013 Belk Bowl, I'd imagine N.C. State lands here as yet another local-ish selection by the Charlotte-based bowl. Then let's say the Music City is happy to select the relatively local option in Virginia Tech, while the Emerald/Foster Farms selects Miami for a return to the Bay Area.
Now, BC, North Carolina and Pittsburgh are left with the final bowl slot: the Humanitarian Bowl in Boise. Out of those three schools, only BC has played for all. of. the. spuds, so we'll say that the conference sends someone new like, I don't know, Pittsburgh.
That leaves BC and North Carolina are left to find replacement bowl slots. Problem is there was only one of those this year: the Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth (which went to Pitt this year, filling in a vacant Big 12 slot). If the decision came down to BC or North Carolina for one final spot, one guess as to which one the conference would select...
BCS National Championship Game: Florida State (13-0)
Orange Bowl: Georgia Tech (10-3)
Peach: Clemson (9-3)
Gator: Louisville (9-3)
Champs Sports/RAB: Duke (9-3)
Music City: Virginia Tech (6-6)
Meineke/Belk: N.C. State (7-5)
Emerald/Foster Farms: Miami (6-6)
Humanitarian/Idaho Potato: Pittsburgh (6-6)
Armed Forces: North Carolina (6-6)
Home for holidays: Boston College (7-5)
While the current system isn't perfect by any means, obviously BC made out pretty well this year vis a vis previous year's bowl lineups. Excluding teams without a winning record from the "Tier I" bowls and adding a few local-ish bowl game destinations for the new northern tier of the conference has put the Eagles in a much better position than it used to be when it comes to ACC bowl selection. A trip to the Bronx-based Pinstripe Bowl is better than no bowl at all. Ask Ohio, Middle Tennessee, UAB, Temple and Texas State.