Updated: Monday, 10:15 a.m.
Here’s how complicated the ACC’s first postseason in the playoff era is:
The bowl fates of N.C. State and Duke could be determined by a drawing.
The source of confusion for the Wolfpack and Blue Devils? Notre Dame.
Under Notre Dame’s complex agreement with the ACC, either Triangle school could get jumped in the order by the Fighting Irish.
Notre Dame’s inclusion also could send one ACC team, possibly North Carolina, outside the conference’s bowl lineup to find a postseason home.
It’s all pretty confusing, even with only the ACC title game between No. 2 Florida State and No. 12 Georgia Tech on Saturday in Charlotte yet to be played.
It all will be sorted out Sunday when bowl reps from the ACC’s top games meet in Charlotte. After the teams are selected in the College Football Playoff process and the Russell Athletic Bowl makes its choice, Notre Dame’s bowl fate will be decided.
There will be four bowls in what the ACC is calling its Tier I – the Belk (Charlotte), Sun (El Paso, Texas), Pinstripe (New York) and either the Music City (Nashville, Tenn.) or Gator (Jacksonville, Fla.).
Six teams – No. 19 Clemson (9-3), No. 21 Louisville (9-3), Boston College (7-5), Duke, N.C. State and Notre Dame – are eligible to play in the Tier I games, and one of those six will go to Orlando, Fla., likely Clemson, before the Tier I bowls make their picks.
Since there’s no order to the Tier I selections, the games interested in Notre Dame will submit their names for a drawing. The bowl that wins the drawing will get to select Notre Dame.
Notre Dame is a full ACC member in all sports but football. The Irish will play an average of five ACC opponents per season for 12 years, under its current deal. That deal puts Notre Dame in the ACC’s bowl order and the Irish shares a part of the ACC’s bowl money, after the CFP process.
Notre Dame, which has lost its past four games, played in the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium in New York last season, so it’s possible only three bowls will be in the drawing for the Irish.
Either Notre Dame or N.C. State is an appealing choice for the Belk Bowl, the game’s executive director Will Webb said Sunday.
“We know we have good options,” Webb said. “We’ll have to see who’s on the table and how it all plays out.”
For the first time, the ACC’s opponent Dec. 30 in Charlotte will be from the SEC, with Tennessee (6-6) or No. 15 Georgia (9-3) making the most sense. South Carolina will open the 2015 season in Charlotte, which knocks it behind the other two but not off the Belk Bowl’s list.
If Notre Dame ends up in Charlotte, N.C. State could go to one of the other Tier I bowls or it could fall to one of the four Tier II slots. Duke can’t fall out of the Tier I slots.
The ACC will place the teams in the Tier II slots in the Military Bowl (Annapolis, Md.), Quick Lane (Detroit), Bitcoin (St. Petersburg, Fla.) and Independence (Shreveport, La.).
The Military Bowl on Dec. 27 would make the most geographic sense for N.C. State. With the American Athletic Conference on the other side, the Military Bowl could be an N.C. State-East Carolina matchup.
The four 6-6 teams – North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Virginia Tech and Miami – are not eligible for Tier I bowls.
There will be an extra ACC team after the Tier II bowls are sorted. That team could find a home in the Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth, Texas, on Jan. 2, depending on how the Big 12’s bowl order shakes out.
The Big 12, which will have two teams in the CFP process, won’t have enough teams to fill all of its slots.
At the top of the ACC’s order, Florida State (12-0) and Georgia Tech (10-2) are on track to be in the New Year’s Six selection process, regardles of the league title game’s outcome. So there likely won’t be any trickle-down affect to the Tier I or Tier II bowls.