Will Webb will watch N.C. State and North Carolina with great interest Saturday.
Webb, the executive director of the Belk Bowl, would like to see both in-state schools become bowl eligible to have the chance to play in his bowl game in Charlotte on Dec. 30.
Webb will also track Duke, Georgia Tech, Louisville, Miami, Clemson and Notre Dame.
“We’ve been keeping our eye on everybody,” Webb said. “There are a lot of scenarios in play.”
That’s not just bowl-speak this year. The new structure of the postseason, with the advent of the College Football Playoff, coincides with the ACC’s new bowl agreement.
There will be more flexibility under this structure but also the potential for more confusion, especially with Notre Dame added to the mix.
Unlike the ACC’s previous bowl agreement, where the Belk Bowl picked fourth after the league champion was placed into the Bowl Championship Series (RIP BCS, 1998-2013), there’s no set order, save for one spot, to the bowls tied to the ACC.
“It’s not a pecking order,” Webb said “It’s who fits where best.”
The CFP will select the top four teams in the country for the playoff and also place eight teams in the “New Year’s Six Bowls.”
Based on the CFP’s latest rankings, that would put Florida State (No. 3) in the playoff in the Rose Bowl and Clemson (No. 19) in the Orange Bowl.
The ACC has a contracted spot in the Orange Bowl. That means, if the conference champion is in the playoff, the next highest-ranked team is guaranteed a spot in the Orange Bowl.
Three teams made the CFP rankings: No. 19 Clemson, No. 21 Duke and No. 22 Georgia Tech.
That means Steve Spurrier is in position to help send his old school, Duke, to the Orange Bowl, but more on that in a minute.
With the Peach Bowl, a longtime ACC partner, now part of the “New Year’s Six,” the Russell Athletic in Orlando, Fla., gets the first choice of ACC teams after the CFP process.
The Belk Bowl will be in what the ACC calls its “Tier One” bowls with the Sun Bowl, Pinstripe and either the Music City or Gator. There will be four bowls in the first tier, and either the Music City or Gator will take an ACC team but not both.
The “Tier Two” bowls will select in this order: Military, Independence and Quick Lane Bowl in Detroit.
Basically, the ACC has eight tie-ins, plus the teams that will be placed by the CFP. There already are eight bowl-eligible teams, including Notre Dame.
One more big difference this year: The day after the ACC title game in Charlotte on Dec. 6, the bowl representatives will meet in Charlotte and wait for the CFP selections.
Then the four bowls in the first tier will make their selections with no set hierarchy. If the Belk and Music City bowls want the same team, Webb joked, “we might have to flip a coin.”
“We’re going to have to work together,” Webb said. “We’ll hash through the teams available and see if we can figure it out.
“Geography and logic will be applied. For us, there’s an awful lot of teams in our proximity.”
What this means for the Triangle’s 3 teams
At 8-1, Duke is one of seven ACC teams that is bowl eligibleentering Saturday. The Blue Devils’ spot in the CFP rankings puts them in position to go to the Orange Bowl, for the first time since the 1957-58 season, if Florida State wins out and Clemson stumbles in one of its final three games with Spurrier’s South Carolina as the logical obstacle. Clemson is at Georgia Tech Saturday.
Will an 11-2 Duke, assuming a loss in the ACC title game to FSU, be ranked ahead of a 9-3 Clemson? That’s up to the committee, but it’s a pretty realistic scenario at this point.
If Clemson stays ahead of Duke, the Blue Devils’ bowl fate gets more complicated.
Notre Dame, No. 18 in the CFP rankings, would not be in one of the “New Year’s Six” bowls based on its current ranking.
That drops the Irish (7-2) into the ACC order. The Russell Athletic would almost certainly take Notre Dame if given the chance.
Under the ACC’s agreement with Notre Dame, the Irish would have to win out and be 10-2 to be picked ahead of an 11-win Duke team.
If Duke finishes 11-2 and Notre Dame finishes 9-3, the Russell Athletic can’t take Notre Dame, but it could take Miami, Louisville or Georgia Tech.
If Duke doesn’t go to Orlando, the Blue Devils would likely be in the first-tier pool with the Sun Bowl or Pinstripe in New York making the most sense of the choices in that group.
•N.C. State, UNC:
The Wolfpack (5-5) needs one win in its final two games to become bowl eligible. UNC (4-5) needs two wins in its final three games. One of those games will be against each other, so it’s possible only one will get to a bowl game.
A 6-6 finish will probably leave the Wolfpack or Tar Heels in the second-tier pool.
The ACC did away with the “Boston College rule,” which prevented a 6-6 team from jumping a team with an 8-4 record or better in the bowl process, at least for everyone but Notre Dame.
But there’s still a provision which would keep the 6-6 Wolfpack or Tar Heels from getting into the first tier. If four teams finish 8-4 or better, which is likely, then a 6-win team can’t be selected for a first-tier game ahead of those 8-win teams.
If N.C. State can finish 7-5, it would jump to the top of the Belk Bowl’s list.
UNC played in Charlotte last year but at 7-5 would be an attractive choice for the Sun or Music City bowls.
The Military Bowl in Washington on Dec. 27 would be the preferred second-teir destination for N.C. State or UNC.
The Quick Lane Bowl in Detroit on Dec. 26 would be better than a trip to Shreveport, La. on Dec. 27 for the Independence Bowl.
At 6-6, neither UNC nor N.C. State could afford to be choosers.