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ACC Bowl Projections 2014: Avoiding Rematches And Consecutive Trips

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Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

All the agita over the College Football Playoff and its mid-year rankings—Florida State at #4, really?—has masked a much more far-reaching change to the college football postseason landscape.

This year, the first of the College Football Playoff era, John Swofford and the conference brass will meet on Sunday and determine the postseason fate for the ACC's non-playoff bowls. The power five conferences will continue to work with bowl committees in slotting bowl-eligible teams into the conference's bowl tie-ins, but the power has very clearly shifted from the local Chamber of Commerce to the league office in Greensboro.

You can see this shift take place in the ACC's new bowl lineup. The ACC lists four (well, really five) bowls—the Belk, Pinstripe, Sun and Music City or Gator—as having equal selection status in its "Tier 1" category of bowls. Further, it appears that the conference will limit the schools eligible for the first tier to those with a winning record, so 6-6 Miami, North Carolina, Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech are ineligible for the "Tier 1" category of bowls.

The power conferences were smart in taking much of the selection power back from bowl committees as—at least the hope is—the aim is to create better matchups and avoid having the same schools picked for the same bowl games year after year.

One of the big selection factors, at least historically, has been to avoid bowl game rematches from regular season contests as well as avoid sending the same program to the same bowl game in consecutive seasons. With that, let's take a look at some of the potential rematches that the conference may look to avoid during bowl selection:

Citrus Bowl

Conference tie-ins: ACC or Big Ten vs. SEC
ACC eligible teams: Clemson (9-3), Duke (9-3), Louisville (9-3)
2013 Matchup: South Carolina 34, Wisconsin 24

So long as Michigan State stays ranked as the highest non-playoff, non-conference champion from the Big Ten or SEC, an ACC bowl spot opens up in the Citrus Bowl vs. an SEC opponent. If the ACC can hold on to its spot here (Roll Tide!), Clemson is the most likely ACC team to play in Orlando. The Tigers have already played two SEC teams this season—Georgia and South Carolina—so don't expect either to fall to this spot (Ole Miss?). This bowl game has been a Big Ten vs. SEC affair for more than two decades now, so (obviously) an ACC team didn't land in this spot a year ago.

Russell Athletic

Conference tie-ins: ACC vs. Big 12
ACC eligible teams: Clemson (9-3), Duke (9-3), Louisville (9-3)
2013 Matchup: Louisville 36, Miami 9

The Russell Athletic will have third pick of ACC teams this year, assuming the conference sends a team to the Citrus Bowl. Otherwise, the RAB will have second pick and will pit the ACC up against the Big 12. Assuming Clemson goes to the Citrus, the RAB would select from either 9-3 Louisville or 9-3 Duke here. Louisville didn't a Big 12 opponent this season, and Duke faced bowl in-eligible Kansas, so the rematch factor is nil. However, Louisville did play in the Russell Athletic Bowl a year ago as the American Athletic Conference rep. The conference may go with Duke here in light of that, or simply send the Cards back to Orlando.

Music City

Conference tie-ins: ACC or Big Ten vs. SEC
ACC eligible teams: Clemson (9-3), Duke (9-3), Louisville (9-3), Boston College (7-5), Notre Dame (7-5), N.C. State (7-5)
2013 Matchup: Ole Miss 25, Georgia Tech 17

The Music City is one of the conference's "Tier I" bowls and will pit either an ACC or Big Ten team up against the SEC. If the Music City doesn't select an ACC team, the Gator will (see below), or vice versa. Of the "Tier 1" bowl-eligible teams—one of Louisville (9-3) or Duke (9-3), Notre Dame (7-5), Boston College (7-5) or N.C. State (7-5)—only Louisville has faced an SEC opponent this year, though the Wildcats aren't bowling this year. Georgia Tech took the ACC's spot in this bowl last season, though the Jackets appear to be in line for the conference's Orange Bowl berth win or lose on Saturday night, so that's a nonissue. The Yellow Jackets faced Ole Miss from the SEC, so don't expect the Rebels back in Nashville this year.

Taxslayer nee Gator

Conference tie-ins: ACC or Big Ten vs. SEC
ACC eligible teams: Clemson (9-3), Duke (9-3), Louisville (9-3), Boston College (7-5), Notre Dame (7-5), N.C. State (7-5)
2013 Matchup: Nebraska 24, Georgia 19

The Gator Bowl also pits ACC/Big Ten vs. SEC and this year is the first year of the new bowl tie-in with the ACC after being a Big Ten-SEC game for the past four years. Georgia faced Nebraska in the Gator Bowl last year, so the Bulldogs are likely out for a return trip to Jacksonville this year.

Sun

Conference tie-ins: ACC vs. Pac-12
ACC eligible teams: Clemson (9-3), Duke (9-3), Louisville (9-3), Boston College (7-5), Notre Dame (7-5), N.C. State (7-5)
2013 Matchup: UCLA 42, Virginia Tech 17

The Sun selects an ACC "Tier I" bowl eligible team and pits them up against the Pac-12. Of the ACC's eligible teams here, there are a number of rematches to avoid here. Boston College-USC is one, but Notre Dame faced three Pac-12 teams this season (Stanford, USC and Arizona State). There is a strong possibility that Arizona State lands in this spot, which would likely preclude the Irish from heading to El Paso. Virginia Tech was the ACC's rep in the Sun Bowl this year but is ineligible from taking a "Tier I" bowl slot this year.

Pinstripe

Conference tie-ins: ACC vs. Big Ten
ACC eligible teams: Clemson (9-3), Duke (9-3), Louisville (9-3), Boston College (7-5), Notre Dame (7-5), N.C. State (7-5)
2013 Matchup: Notre Dame 29, Rutgers 16

The Pinstripe, another "Tier I" bowl, is an ACC vs. Big Ten affair. Notre Dame and Rutgers played in the 2013 installment of the Pinstripe, so it's unlikely we'll see either make a return trip to the Bronx. Notre Dame faced three Big Ten opponents during the regular season—Michigan, Purdue and Northwestern—though only the Wildcats are bowl eligible. BC, Duke, Louisville and N.C. State did not face a Big Ten school this season.

Belk

Conference tie-ins: ACC vs. SEC
ACC eligible teams: Clemson (9-3), Duke (9-3), Louisville (9-3), Boston College (7-5), Notre Dame (7-5), N.C. State (7-5)
2013 Matchup: North Carolina 39, Cincinnati 17

This is the first year the Charlotte-based bowl will be an ACC vs. SEC matchup. The 12-year-old bowl game previously paired the ACC's #5 selection with the #3 selection from the Big East/American Athletic. The bowl has taken a North Carolina-based ACC team in each of the last three years, and six of the last seven. If Notre Dame doesn't land here, have to think the Belk makes it seven of eight with N.C. State. The Wolfpack has not faced a team from the SEC this season and last played in the bowl three years ago.

Military

Conference tie-ins: ACC vs. American
ACC eligible teams: Miami (6-6), North Carolina (6-6), Pittsburgh (6-6), Virginia Tech (6-6)
2013 Matchup: Marshall 31, Maryland 30

The Military Bowl is in the first year of conference tie-ins with the ACC and the American Athletic Conference. The AAC only has five bowl-eligible teams (and Temple would make six). Should East Carolina, one of the five AAC bowl-eligible teams, land in Annapolis, have to think the bowl will avoid the regular season rematch against either North Carolina or Virginia Tech.

Duck Commander nee Independence

Conference tie-ins: ACC vs. SEC
ACC eligible teams: Miami (6-6), North Carolina (6-6), Pittsburgh (6-6), Virginia Tech (6-6)
2013 Matchup: Arizona 42, Boston College 19

BC played in the I-Bowl last year, but the SEC didn't have enough bowl-eligible teams to fill this slot which (unfortunately) went to Arizona. None of these four teams faced an SEC opponent in 2013. Miami vs. Florida matchup in Northwest Louisiana beckons.

Quick Lane

Conference tie-ins: ACC vs. Big Ten
ACC eligible teams: Miami (6-6), North Carolina (6-6), Pittsburgh (6-6), Virginia Tech (6-6)
2013 Matchup: N/A

The Quick Lane Bowl is a new bowl pairing the ACC against the Big Ten at Ford Field in Detroit. Looks like this bowl did not inherit the history of the Motor City / Pizza Bowl. We'll remember it fondly. Three of these teams faced Big Ten opponents during the regular season—Nebraska (Miami), Pitt (Iowa) and Virginia Tech (Ohio State)—though the possibility of a rematch here seems remote. Also have to factor in that Pittsburgh just played in Detroit as part of the last Pizza Bowl, though I'm sure the Panther faithful would make the trip if they set up a Pitt-Penn State Quick Lane Bowl matchup.

BITCOIN

Conference tie-ins: ACC or Conference USA vs. American
ACC eligible teams: Miami (6-6), North Carolina (6-6), Pittsburgh (6-6), Virginia Tech (6-6)
2013 Matchup: ECU 37, Ohio 20

Like the Military, don't expect a North Carolina/Virginia Tech vs. East Carolina matchup here. Last year, this was an American vs. Conference USA matchup, but the AAC didn't have enough bowl-eligible teams to fill the slot. Ohio filled the AAC's spot and lost to East Carolina. That's another reason why you shouldn't expect the Pirates to land back in St. Petersburg.

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Trying to make sense of the chaos, here's my best guess which, likely to be (very) wrong:

College Football Playoff / New Year's Six: Florida State
Orange: Georgia Tech vs. Michigan State
Citrus: Clemson vs. Ole Miss
Russell Athletic: Louisville vs. Kansas State

Music City: Notre Dame vs. Georgia
Pinstripe: Boston College vs. Penn State
Sun: Duke vs. Arizona State
Belk: N.C. State vs. Tennessee

Military: Pittsburgh vs. East Carolina
Independence: Miami vs. Florida
Quick Lane: Virginia Tech vs. Illinois
BITCOIN: North Carolina vs. Central Florida

I know the Duke-for-BC swap was floated yesterday, but I think ultimately common sense prevails here. And of course, all of the above is contingent upon the ACC getting that Citrus Bowl spot though, otherwise an ACC school (not BC) could be left out in the cold.

Roll tide.