The selection committee has set Alabama up to make the College Football Playoff, if one of the top four teams falls on Saturday.
At No. 5 in this week’s CFP rankings, Alabama is poised to jump into the playoff without playing a game.
That could wind up helping the ACC bowl picture. Here’s how:
A Wisconsin loss to Ohio State, a 6.5-point favorite, in the Big Ten championship game, would likely move Alabama up into the playoff and drop the Badgers, ranked No. 4 this week, into the Orange Bowl.
When the Big Ten is in the Orange Bowl, which is determined by the CFP rankings, the ACC gets a second spot in Orlando – the Citrus Bowl (on Jan. 1 vs. an SEC opponent) – to go with its regular spot in the Camping World Bowl (on Dec. 28 vs. a Big 12 opponent).
If Ohio State, ranked No. 8, jumps Alabama and gets into the playoff, the Tide would end up in the Orange Bowl and the ACC would only have one spot in Orlando (the Camping World).
The rankings paint a clearer picture of Notre Dame’s bowl fate. At No. 15 in the CFP rankings, the Fighting Irish (9-3) will likely fall into the ACC bowl order. The Irish, which have lost two of their past three games, would need to jump four spots to get into one of the “New Year’s 6” bowl games. Without playing a game, that’s unlikely.
Notre Dame, which gets to participate in the ACC bowl order based on the deal it cut with the league in 2013, would be Orlando’s first choice – in the Citrus, if it has two ACC spots, or in the Camping World, if it has one spot.
Notre Dame’s inclusion would push everyone else down a peg in the ACC order.
N.C. State (8-4) had hoped to land in one of the bowl spots in Florida. That’s looking increasingly unlikely.
The Gator, which has to take an ACC team three times over a six-year period, is angling for either Virginia Tech (9-3) or Louisville (8-4).
The Gator would take the Hokies if the ACC only had one spot in Orlando. Louisville would be the choice if Virginia Tech were off the board based on South Carolina (8-4) likely being the opponent on the SEC side.
South Carolina beat N.C. State in the season-opener in Charlotte and the Gator would avoid a rematch.
The Belk Bowl had hoped to get South Carolina back in Charlotte for the postseason but is now likely going to get either Texas A&M (7-5), which fired coach Kevin Sumlin on Sunday, or Missouri (7-5).
On the ACC side, the Belk Bowl is likely to choose between Wake Forest (7-5) or N.C. State. The Demon Deacons beat the Wolfpack on Nov. 18, but that’s not part of the criteria.
On the plus side for Wake Forest, N.C. State was in Charlotte for its season-opener (run by the same group that puts on the Belk Bowl) and played in the Belk Bowl in 2015.
Given the location and SEC matchup, N.C. State would prefer Charlotte to the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas.
The date (Dec. 29), national time slot (2 p.m., CBS) and opponent (possibly Oregon from the Pac-12) are all positives for the N.C. State program, but the obvious drawback is it would be difficult for fans to get to the game.
The Pinstripe Bowl (Dec. 27) in New York will likely get Boston College (7-5) or Louisville, if the Gator passes on the Cards.
Duke (6-6) won its final two games to get back to a bowl for the fifth time in six years and is likely headed to Detroit for the Quick Lane Bowl on Dec. 26. The opponent from the Big Ten will likely be Purdue (6-6).
Virginia (6-6) is odds-on choice for the Military Bowl in Annapolis, Md., and Florida State (5-6) – with a win over Louisiana-Monroe on Saturday – for the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La.
There is another slot in the Birmingham Bowl (on Dec. 23) for an ACC team if the second Orlando spot doesn’t open up.
The ACC bowl order will be set on Sunday afternoon, after the CFP rankings are released.
Joe Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio
ACC bowl order
The matchups will be determined on Sunday:
ACC team in 2016
vs. SEC/Big Ten
vs. Big 12
vs. Big Ten
El Paso, Texas
vs. Big Ten