If the College Football Playoff started today, N.C. State would be in the Orange Bowl.
That’s how the ACC’s contract with the Orange Bowl works.
There is a hitch for the Wolfpack to stay in position to play in its first major bowl game: Both Clemson and Miami have to stay in the top 4 of the College Football Playoff rankings. Or N.C. State has to pass one of those teams in the CFP rankings.
The odds are against the status quo. Clemson and Miami will meet in Charlotte on Dec. 2 in the ACC title game – and one team has to lose.
Still, there is a chance for N.C. State (7-3) to land in Miami for the prestigious bowl game on Dec. 30.
The ACC’s six-year contract with the Orange Bowl, signed in 2014 when the CFP format began, guarantees the ACC a spot in the game when it is not one of the semifinal games for the playoff.
The Sugar and Rose Bowls are the designated playoff games this season.
If the ACC champion is picked for the playoff (which has happened the past three years), the next highest-ranked ACC team in the CFP poll goes to the Orange.
The latest CFP rankings, released Tuesday night, have Clemson at No. 2 and Miami at No. 3. N.C. State is the next ACC team at No. 19.
So, if both Miami and Clemson remain in the playoff, N.C. State would be slotted into the Orange Bowl.
Virginia Tech (7-3), ahead of N.C. State in last week’s rankings, dropped out of CFP poll this week after its loss to Georgia Tech.
Last year, Florida State (9-3) was ranked No. 11 and made the Orange Bowl. In 2014, No. 11 Georgia Tech (10-2) filled the ACC slot.
In 2015, the Orange Bowl was a semifinal game for the playoff.
N.C. State would need some help from the committee – to pick both Clemson and Miami after the ACC title game – and it would also need to take care of its own business.
The Wolfpack plays at Wake Forest (6-4) on Saturday night and closes the season at home with North Carolina (2-8) on Nov. 25.
N.C. State coach Dave Doeren said he didn’t watch the CFP rankings show on Tuesday night.
“All we can do is just keep winning and hope that that gets us where we want to be in the end,” Doeren said.
If the loser of the Clemson-Miami game falls out of the top 4, N.C. State will still have some good bowl options and likely would play in the state of Florida.
Orlando could have two slots – the Citrus Bowl on Jan. 1 (vs. an SEC opponent) and the Camping World Bowl on Dec. 28 (vs. a Big 12 opponent) – for ACC teams.
The ACC gets a second spot in Orlando, in the Citrus Bowl, when the Big Ten gets a spot in the Orange Bowl. The ACC is guaranteed a spot in the Citrus three times over the course of the six-year contract. In the first three years of the deal, it has only happened once.
N.C. State and Virginia Tech would top Orlando’s wish list. The Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, where N.C. State beat Notre Dame after the 2002 season, would also be interested in a 9-3 or 8-4 N.C. State.
In the ACC’s bowl order, Orlando would make its choice or choices before Jacksonville.
Joe Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio