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The ACC's New Bowl Selection Process Explained

Spoiler: it's complicated.

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

There's seems to be enough confusion around the process this year that I thought this was worth a brief explanation. The biggest change this year is that there's no more straight selection order. The ACC's bowls break down into three distinct "tiers."

Tier 1
ACC Champ / ACC No. 1 -- Orange Bowl, Miami, Dec. 31 vs. Big Ten / SEC / Notre Dame
ACC No. 2 -- Russell Athletic Bowl, Orlando, Dec. 29 vs. Big 12 3

ACC -- Citrus Bowl, Orlando, Jan. 1 vs. SEC (conditional, when the ACC faces a Big Ten team in the Orange Bowl)

Tier 2 / Conditional Tie-Ins with Big Ten
ACC Nos. 3-6 OR Big Ten Nos. 5-7 -- Gator, Jacksonville, Jan. 2 vs. SEC 3-8
ACC Nos. 3-6 OR Big Ten Nos. 5-7 -- Music City, Nashville, Dec. 30 vs. SEC 3-8

Tier 2
ACC Nos. 3-6 -- Belk, Charlotte, Dec. 30 vs. SEC 3-8
ACC Nos. 3-6 -- Pinstripe, Bronx, Dec. 27 vs. Big Ten 5-7
ACC Nos. 3-6 -- Sun, El Paso, Dec. 27 vs. Pac-12 5

Everything Else
Independence, Shreveport, Dec. 27 vs. SEC 10 (C-USA conditional)
Military, Annapolis, Dec. 27 vs. American
Quick Lane, Detroit, Dec. 26 vs. Big Ten
BITCOIN, St. Petersburg, Dec. 26 vs. American

The College Football Playoff selection committee first determines which teams are in the playoff field as well as the other four New Year's Six bowl games (this year, that's the Fiesta, Cotton, Orange and Peach). It's unlikely that the result of the ACC Championship Game will affect the rest of the conference's bowl lineup.

Here's why:

If Florida State wins, the Seminoles are in the College Football Playoff. Georgia Tech would take the Seminoles Orange Bowl slot and face the highest-ranked available (read: non-conference champ) team out of Notre Dame, the SEC or Big Ten.

If Georgia Tech wins, the Jackets head to the Orange Bowl as the ACC champions. Florida State is likely still in line for one of the New Year's Six bowl games—one of the Fiesta, Cotton and Peach. I'm guessing Peach. So win or lose in the ACC Championship Game, Georgia Tech appears locked into the Orange Bowl.

Here's how the ACC's opponent in the Orange Bowl becomes important. If the ACC faces a Big Ten team in the Orange Bowl, that opens up another spot for the conference in the Citrus Bowl in Orlando. The ACC then slots in for the Big Ten and faces an SEC opponent on January 1. Three different Big Ten teams are probably in line for a New Year's Six bowl game—Ohio State, Michigan State, Wisconsin—but it's anyone's guess whether they'll land in the Orange Bowl.

I'd imagine the only scenario where a Big Ten team lands in the Orange Bowl is if Michigan State can jump Mississippi State in the rankings, though I doubt that happens with Sparty at #10 last week and the Bulldogs at #4. It looks like Georgia Tech will face Mississippi State in the Orange Bowl, which then locks the ACC out of the Citrus Bowl.

If, however, the ACC does face a Big Ten team in the Orange Bowl, Clemson or Duke seem to be logical selections for the Citrus Bowl.

Notre Dame can step over an ACC team and take its place in one of the non-New Year's Six bowl games so long as it finishes with a record better than, equal to or within one win of the ACC team (or ranked higher in the rankings). Since the Irish finished with a record of 7-5, five ACC teams—Florida State (12-0), Georgia Tech (10-2), Clemson (9-3), Louisville (9-3) and Duke (9-3)—cannot be passed over in favor of Notre Dame (7-5).

The Russell Athletic Bowl gets the ACC's #2 selection. With both Florida State and Georgia Tech landing in a New Year's Six bowl, this bowl slot will be filled by one of Clemson, Louisville or Duke (since Notre Dame can't be selected here). My guess here is Clemson is selected for the Russell Athletic Bowl.

The next tier of bowl games have equal selection, and most years will select from the ACC's 3-6 teams—one of the Music City or Gator Bowl (the other selects a Big Ten team), Belk, Pinstripe and Sun. This is where things get complicated.

According to Joe Giglio, these five bowl games will enter into a drawing for the right to select Notre Dame. Once one of these five bowls selects Notre Dame, the other four will make selections out of the remaining available ACC teams.

Once one of these bowls selects Notre Dame, they can't select the Irish again until every other bowl game in the same tier selects them. Once Notre Dame comes off the table, the other three bowls will select from the pool of eligible teams. Assuming Florida State, Georgia Tech and Clemson have been taken, that leaves Louisville (9-3), Duke (9-3), Boston College (7-5) and N.C. State (7-5).

So BC's bowl placement will be a luck of the draw, in a way. If the Pinstripe doesn't win the Notre Dame sweepstakes, Boston College makes the most sense to land here given geography / proximity to fans home for the holidays. If the Pinstripe does select Notre Dame, however, BC could slot into the Sun Bowl or end up being the odd-program out (given the Belk would be free to select two, more local options in Duke or N.C. State).

Purely guessing here, but I'd imagine this is how the bowl selection will go based on the Notre Dame sweepstakes:

Music City OR Gator wins Notre Dame -- Louisville (Belk), Duke (Sun), Boston College (Pinstripe)
Belk wins -- Louisville (Music City / Gator), Duke (Sun), Boston College (Pinstripe)
Sun wins -- Louisville (Music City / Gator), Duke (Belk), Boston College (Pinstripe)
Pinstripe wins -- Louisville (Music City / Gator), Duke (Sun), N.C. State (Belk)

The only way I can see BC falling out of this tier of bowl games is if the Pinstripe scoops up Notre Dame and the Belk takes the local option. In this scenario, I imagine BC would fall to the Military Bowl.

Finally, the ACC selects the teams for the Everything Else group of bowl games—Independence (Shreveport), Military (Annapolis), Quick Lane (Detroit) and BITCOIN (St. Petersburg). Geography and matchups will be the guide here.

Unfortunately, there are 12 ACC bowl eligible teams (11 + Notre Dame) for just 11 spots, so one ACC bowl-eligible team will be left out. The Fort Worth-based Armed Forces Bowl (Army / Big 12 7 / Big Ten) and Tempe-based Cactus (Big 12 6) bowls may open up if those conferences can't fill all of their bowl slots.

Should BC fall out of the higher tier of bowl games, have to think BC ends up in Annapolis. While there's no more "BC rule" in place, I can't see a situation where the 7-5 Eagles are the conference's odd-team out; selected over a quartet of 6-6 teams.

tl;dr: The ACC Championship Game result won't have an impact on the rest of the conference's bowl lineup. The Big Ten can help the ACC get a 12th bowl slot in the Citrus Bowl. Boston College is in good shape to land a Pinstripe Bowl bid unless that bowl wins the Notre Dame raffle. One ACC team is gonna have to hope a replacement bowl comes calling.