Projecting the ACC’s future bowl partnerships with last season’s results is an inexact endeavor, to be sure. But no matter how you forecast the pairings, they confirm how much better the league’s postseason landscape will be.
Windfalls from the four-team playoff that debuts in 2014 include better opponents, more money, greater flexibility, and the same applies to the other power conferences: Southeastern, Big 12, Pacific 12 and Big Ten.
In fact, ACC teams will play opponents from each of those leagues in the new world order. In the present structure, which expires after the 2013 season, the ACC has no guaranteed bowls against the Big Ten or Big 12.
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The current bowl food chain:
Orange: ACC champion versus another Bowl Championship Series qualifier.
Chick-fil-A: ACC-SEC in Atlanta.
Sun: ACC-Pacific 12 in El Paso, Texas.
Belk: ACC-American Athletic in Charlotte.
Music City: ACC-SEC in Nashville.
AdvocCare V100: ACC-SEC in Shreveport, La.
Military: ACC-Conference USA in Annapolis, Md.
The future world order:
Orange: In years the Orange does not host a playoff semifinal, the league champ plays there against the SEC, Big Ten or Notre Dame.
Capital One: This Orlando game traditionally matches the Big Ten and SEC, but in seasons the Big Ten plays the ACC champion in the Orange, the ACC faces the SEC in the Capital One, a quality, if occasional, addition for Commissioner John Swofford.
Russell Athletic: With the Chick-fil-A among the six bowls run by the College Football Playoff’s selection committee, it’s out of the ACC’s every-day lineup. The Russell Athletic inherits the No. 1 non-playoff ACC selection and will pair that team against the Big 12.
After the Russell Athletic, four ACC teams will be pooled for the Belk, Sun, Pinstripe and Gator/Music City (during the six-year cycle, the ACC will play in the Gators and Music City three times each). The Belk, Music City and Gator (Jacksonville, Fla.) matchups will be against the SEC, the Sun versus the Pac-12, the Pinstripe (Yankee Stadium) against the Big Ten.
Yet to be announced but close to finalized, the ACC will play the Big Ten in a new Detroit-based bowl, and the American Athletic in the Military.
For purposes of this exercise, I included conference newcomers Syracuse and Pittsburgh, both of which were bowl-eligible last year in the Big East. I excluded North Carolina and Miami, postseason ineligible because of NCAA violations.