The bowl business is fluid and confusing, but the big loser in Gator Bowl's power play for Florida State stands to be North Carolina.
Last Saturday's loss to N.C. State cost North Carolina a bowl trip to Florida, and the fine print also could cost the Tar Heels a trip out of their home state.
A clause in the Gator and Champs Sports bowls' contracts with the ACC allows both games to pass on the loser of Saturday's conference championship game between Clemson and Georgia Tech. In essence, the clause offers those games a loophole for the ACC's "one-win" rule protecting bowl-eligible teams from getting leapfrogged by teams with two fewer league victories.
Because of the clause, Georgia Tech or Clemson likely will drop down the bowl ladder to the Music City Bowl in Nashville, Tenn., and push the Tar Heels back to the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Charlotte.
UNC (8-4, 4-4 ACC) was in line for a bid to the Dec. 27 Music City Bowl to face SEC foe Kentucky. Music City officials still want the Tar Heels, but they wouldn't have that choice if the Champs Sports Bowl (Dec. 29 in Orlando) passes on Saturday's loser.
And unless Champs Sports officials base their decision on something other than financial profit, North Carolina would be bumped to Charlotte for the second straight year and third time in six years.
UNC would rather play in a different game, in a different state, to give its players a chance to travel, but it doesn't look now like it will have a choice. That's not the way the ACC's "one-win" rule is supposed to work, but it appears that is what's going to happen.
Under the conference's one-win rule, FSU (4-4 ACC) should not be able to jump Georgia Tech (7-1), Clemson (6-2) and Virginia Tech (6-2) to land in the Jan. 1 Gator Bowl.
But the Gator's contract requires it to take the loser of the conference championship game only once in a four-year period, and it already took Georgia Tech in 2006. The Champs Sports Bowl has a similar clause, and it took Boston College in 2007.
Gator Bowl president Rick Catlett said Tuesday that given the chance, he's going to take Florida State for coach Bobby Bowden's final game.
Catlett re-worked his contract with the ACC after he had two straight seasons of teams doubling-up on trips to Jacksonville, Fla. In 2005, Virginia Tech lost to FSU in the championship game and returned to play Louisville in the Gator Bowl. The following year, Georgia Tech lost to Wake Forest in the championship game and returned to play West Virginia in the Gator Bowl.
Catlett and the ACC had a falling out over the details of the contract and the league's implementation of the one-win rule after the 2005 season. That's why Catlett began negotiations with the SEC and ultimately changed his tie-ins to the SEC and Big Ten.
Moving the conference championship game to Charlotte in 2010 will prevent teams from making two trips to Florida in the future, but it won't help the Tar Heels this season.
Normally, the Champs Sports game would welcome a big ticket-selling team like Clemson, and to a lesser extent a nationally-ranked team like Georgia Tech. However, Saturday's ACC championship game is in Tampa, Fla.
That means the Champs Sports Bowl would be inviting a team that was just in Florida and, to boot, coming in with a two-game losing streak.
That's not an attractive choice when you consider No. 17 Miami, with a wide television appeal, is also on the table.
By conference rule - apparently the one that can't be circumvented - the championship game loser can't fall past the Music City Bowl. That leaves Clemson or Georgia Tech in Nashville and the Tar Heels attempting to put on a happy face.
By losing to a 5-7 N.C. State team last Saturday, the Heels fell out of the national rankings, to 4-4 in the conference, smothering the momentum from a four-game winning streak.
Some of the disappointment of the short trip to Charlotte could be offset if Cincinnati loses to Pittsburgh on Saturday. With Catlett set to invite West Virginia to the Gator, the Meineke Bowl is in line to select the loser of the Cincy-Pitt game.
Cincinnati, ranked No. 5 this week, would be the best opponent UNC could possibly face in the postseason, even after a Bearcats loss.
Easy choices for ECU
East Carolina's bowl choices are fairly clear at this point. If the Pirates beat Houston on Saturday in the Conference USA title game, they will return to the Liberty Bowl in Memphis on Jan. 2 and face an SEC team - likely Auburn, South Carolina or Arkansas.
If the Pirates lose, they probably will be headed to the EagleBank Bowl in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 29. C-USA bowl tie-ins generally are sorted by geography, and D.C. would be the closest spot for ECU.
The EagleBank's contract is complicated; it was supposed to get an ACC team, but the league doesn't have enough bowl-eligible teams this season. Army (5-6) is also slotted to play there, but the Black Knights have to beat Navy to qualify, and that game's not until Dec. 12.
If Army loses, ECU's opponent would be an at-large selection. The best-case scenario would be UCLA (6-6), although Northern Illinois (7-5) is more likely.
There's an outside chance that ECU could choose to play in the Armed Forces Bowl but a drive to D.C. would make more sense than a flight to Fort Worth, Texas.
email@example.com or 919-829-8938