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BC’s Bowl Options, Explained

Why conference stratification puts BC squarely in the middle of the ACC’s second bowl tier

NCAA Football: Pinstripe Bowl-Boston College vs Penn State Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The ACC’s bowl selection process is... er... complicated.

The ACC Champion goes to the Orange Bowl. Unless the ACC Champion is in the playoff. If they’re in the playoff then the next highest team gets selected for the Orange Bowl. Then the ACC has the Russell Athletic Bowl. But if the ACC plays the Big Ten in the Orange Bowl then the ACC also gets a team for the Citrus Bowl. After the Citrus Bowl then comes the Russell Athletic Bowl. Then after that it’s a free-for-all.


That means there is a lot up in the air for the higher-ranked ACC teams, but when all is said and done, BC ends up sitting squarely in the middle of the ACC’s lower bowl tier.

Let’s try and break things down. Here is the ACC’s bowl selection order, courtesy of College Football News:

The ACC gets a team in the Orange Bowl. It’s the ACC Champion if it’s not in the College Football Playoff. If the ACC plays the Big Ten in the Orange Bowl, the opportunity will be there for another opening in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.

1. Capital One Orange Bowl vs. Big Ten or SEC or Notre Dame

2. Russell Athletic Bowl vs. Big 12

First Tier

– Belk Bowl vs. SEC

– Hyundai Sun Bowl vs. Pac-12

– New Era Pinstripe Bowl vs. Big Ten

– Franklin American Mortgage Music City vs. SEC OR TaxSlayer vs. SEC

It’s one or the other along with the Big Ten. Last year, the ACC played in the Music City, the Big Ten was in the TaxSlayer, so the ACC most likely in the TaxSlayer.

Second Tier

– Camping World Independence Bowl vs. SEC

– Military Bowl vs. American Athletic

– Quick Lane Bowl vs. Big Ten

– St. Petersburg Bowl vs. American

Conditional Tier, if other conferences can’t fill slots

– Birmingham Bowl vs. American or SEC

The ACC has a pretty clear grouping of bowl teams.

Clemson is at the top, followed by...
Florida State and Louisville with 3 losses,
Miami, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, and Georgia Tech with 4 losses, and
NC State, Wake Forest, and Boston College with 6 losses.

The ACC no longer has its old “one win rule” (also known as the “BC Rule,” holla), so technically speaking, any team can be selected in any order. But with the lower two tiers of bowls lining up almost exactly with the lower two tiers of teams, you aren’t going to see a 6-6 BC jumping an 8-4 team to get into the Pinstripe Bowl.

First thing’s first. Let’s assume the ACC gets as many bowls as possible, with Clemson playing in the CFP and the Orange Bowl pitting the ACC against the Big Ten. That would mean the ACC gets into the Citrus Bowl, and the bowl pecking order would be:

(1) CFP Semifinal: Clemson
(2) Orange Bowl: Florida State (currently the next highest ranked team)
(3) BWW Citrus Bowl
(4) Russell Athletic Bowl
(5) Belk, (6) Sun, (7) Pinstripe, and (8) Music City Bowls
(9) Independence, (10) Military, (11) Quick Lane, and (12) St. Petersburg Bowls

After Clemson and Florida State, you’ll likely see Louisville in the Citrus and Virginia Tech in the Russell Athletic Bowls, with the four 8-4 teams filling the 5-8 bowl slots. But technically speaking, those six bowls can assign whoever they want, wherever they want — but they aren’t going to be picking from the pool of 6-6 teams.

That would leave BC among the three teams being divided up among the four “Tier Two” bowls... which is why you’re seeing BC exclusively projected into one of those bowls.

Now let’s say the ACC has the fewest possible bowl opponents: Clemson misses out on the CFP playoff, and the Orange Bowl does not select a Big Ten team to face the Tigers.

That would give the ACC:

(1) Orange Bowl
(2) Russell Athletic Bowl
(3) Belk, (4) Sun, (5) Pinstripe, and (6) Music City Bowls
(7) Independence, (8) Military, (9) Quick Lane, and (10) St. Petersburg Bowls
(11) Birmingham Bowl (conditional) or* At-large selection

*The AAC and SEC will both fill their Birmingham Bowl slots, so the ACC won’t play there this season.

This is the only scenario that could theoretically see BC drop out of the ACC’s bowl tie-ins and into an at-large, fill-in spot for another bowl. You would have Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl, Clemson in the Russell Athletic Bowl, Louisville, FSU, and the four 8-4 teams getting picked for the “Tier 1” bowls, and then the other two 8-4 teams plus the three 6-6 teams getting picked for the “Tier 2” bowls. Given BC’s negative travel reputation, you could see the Eagles being the team that falls into a non-ACC bowl.

However — the above scenario is almost impossible.

The Orange Bowl pits the ACC against the highest ranked Big Ten or SEC team, and with Alabama virtually locked into the CFP & three Big Ten teams sitting just outside the cutoff, the ACC will almost certainly face the Big Ten in the Orange Bowl and add the BWW Citrus Bowl to its lineup.

So, there’s a reason all of this week’s bowl projections put the Eagles into either the Independence, Military, Quick Lane, or St. Petersburg Bowls. Barring something crazy, like the Pinstripe Bowl wanting to take a 6-6 BC team over an 8-4 team for attendance purposes (which is just not going to happen, with Pittsburgh an option for them at 8-4, and BC being Boston College), the Eagles are a virtual certainty to settle into one of those ACC “Tier Two” bowls.