Two teams not in the ACC met in California on Saturday night and significantly altered the ACC bowl order.
Go figure but that’s the power of Notre Dame.
The Fighting Irish lost 38-20 at Stanford on Saturday night and, with a 9-3 record, will almost certainly drop out of contention for a major bowl game and into the ACC bowl order.
This is all part of Notre Dame’s agreement with the ACC. The Irish joined the conference in all sports except football in 2013. Starting with the 2014 season, Notre Dame agreed to play an average of five ACC football games per year.
In return, Notre Dame gets to participate in the ACC’s bowl tie-ins. In the first three years of the agreement, Notre Dame has been in the ACC bowl order only once (in 2014 in the Music City Bowl).
You can’t get 14 ACC football coaches to agree on much but you would be hard-pressed to find one that likes the bowl arrangement with the Irish.
Up until this week, Notre Dame had been high enough in the College Football Playoff rankings (No. 8) to be placed in one of the “New Year’s 6” bowl games (Rose, Orange, Sugar, Fiesta, Peach or Cotton). The double-digit loss to the Cardinal will likely leave the Irish on the outside looking in.
Now, Notre Dame is more than likely to end up in an ACC spot in Orlando. That will move Virginia Tech (9-3), Louisville (8-4) and N.C. State (8-4) down a peg in the ACC order.
Which spot in Orlando, and how many spots the ACC will have in Orlando, won’t be determined until next Sunday.
A review of how the ACC’s complicated bowl process works:
▪ This is the fourth year of the CFP. The ACC champion has made the playoff in each of the first three years. The winner of the ACC championship game (Clemson-Miami) on Saturday in Charlotte will likely make it 4-for-4 for the ACC.
Miami, which lost to Pittsburgh on Friday, was No. 2 in last week’s CFP rankings. Clemson, which beat South Carolina on Saturday, was No. 3.
▪ The ACC has a contracted spot in the Orange Bowl when it is not one of the CFP semifinal hosts (and it is not this year).
With the league champion in the CFP, that means the next-highest rated ACC team is guaranteed a spot in the Orange. That will be the loser of the Clemson-Miami game. Virginia Tech, No. 25, was the only other ranked ACC team last week.
The ACC’s opponent in the Orange Bowl is based on the CFP rankings. The highest-rated team from the SEC or Big Ten — that’s not the league champion — goes to the Orange. If Notre Dame is rated higher than the eligible SEC or Big Ten teams, it would go to the Orange. (Note, however, Notre Dame can’t take the ACC’s spot in the Orange. The Irish can only face an ACC team in the Orange.)
▪ Here’s where it gets tricky: When the Big Ten is the ACC’s opponent in the Orange Bowl, the ACC gets a spot in the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Fla. And the Big Ten’s contract with the Orange Bowl guarantees that will happen three times in a six-year period.
That means the ACC gets a second spot in Orlando, in addition its deal with the Camping World Bowl on Dec. 28, which is also played in the same stadium.
How does the Big Ten get a spot in the Orange Bowl? That’s purely based on the CFP rankings. Last year, Michigan finished No. 6 in the CFP rankings (eight spots ahead of the next SEC team) and faced Florida State in the Orange Bowl.
That gave the ACC a spot in the Citrus Bowl, which went to Louisville, while Miami played in Russell Athletic Bowl (which has since changed sponsors).
This year, the SEC would take the spot in the Orange if Alabama (11-1) is left out of the playoff. If Alabama makes the playoff, it’s more likely the loser of the Ohio State-Wisconsin Big Ten championship game will end up in the Orange.
Either way, Notre Dame will be Orlando’s top priority. The Irish will play in the Citrus Bowl, if the ACC has two slots, or in the Camping World Bowl, if the ACC only has one slot.
Either Virginia Tech or N.C. State would be the choice for the second Orlando slot. (Louisville played there last year).
▪ After Orlando makes its choice(s), the bowls in what the ACC calls “Tier I” will make their choices.
There are four games in Tier I: Belk (Charlotte), Sun (El Paso, Texas), Pinstripe (New York) and either the Gator (Jacksonville, Fla.) or the Music City (Nashville).
The Gator and Music City will take an ACC team three times over the course of a six-year contract, which started in 2014. The Gator is likely to be included again this year, since it has taken only one ACC team (Georgia Tech last year) over the first three years of the contract.
Technically, there is no order in Tier I. The bowls work together and make their choices based on geography and creating the best matchups. There is a drawing in place to break a potential tie but it hasn’t come that yet.
The ACC does limit the pool of teams available in Tier I based on the “one-win rule.” For example, a 6-6 team can’t be picked ahead of an 8-4 team. The overall record is the only factor in the “one-win rule.” The conference record or head-to-head result do not matter.
The potential pool of Tier I teams this year: Notre Dame (9-3), Virginia Tech (9-3), N.C. State (8-4), Louisville (8-4), Wake Forest (7-5) and Boston College (7-5).
At this point, Wake Forest to Charlotte and Boston College to New York make the most sense in Tier I. The Gator will likely choose between the team that gets passed over by Orlando (Virginia Tech or N.C. State) and Louisville.
The Sun Bowl will get the take the last available team.
▪ The Tier II process is fairly straightforward, although there is some room to negotiate between bowls. The Military Bowl (Annapolis, Md.) gets the first choice in the tier, followed by the Independence Bowl (Shreveport, La.), the Quick Lane Bowl (Detroit) and the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Bowl.
Virginia (6-6) will likely be the choice in the Military Bowl with Duke (6-6) headed to Detroit. Florida State (5-6), with a win over Louisiana-Monroe in a rescheduled game on Saturday, will be headed to Shreveport.
The ACC will not be able to fill its slot in St. Pete if there are two teams in Orlando. Boston College could fall to St. Pete if the ACC only has one slot in Orlando.
Joe Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio