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Virginia is Bowl Eligible: What happens now?

The ACC Bowl Selection Process Is...Complicated

Georgia Tech v Virginia Photo by Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images

The Virginia Cavaliers became bowl eligible Saturday by defeating Georgia Tech 40-36 in a rain-soaked thriller in Charlottesville. But don’t pack your flip flops or winter coats just yet. There might be a month until we know UVA’s bowl destination and opponent.

In the meantime, let’s reacquaint ourselves with how the bowl selection process works. At the very least, this will help you sound much smarter when discussing bowl projections at Thanksgiving. Here’s a breakdown, which you might need to read more than once:

The ACC Bowl Selection Framework

  1. The league has nine guaranteed bowl slots.
  2. The league will send its champion to the Orange Bowl if it doesn’t make the College Football playoff.
  3. Additional bowl slots could open up if an ACC team makes the College Football Playoff or a second New Years Six game (in addition to the Orange Bowl).
  4. An additional slot could open up if the ACC plays a Big Ten opponent in the Orange Bowl. That slot would be in the Citrus Bowl.
  5. Notre Dame will likely get an ACC bowl slot if it doesn’t make the playoff or a New Years Six game.

The ACC Bowl Pecking Order (in descending order of selection priority)

Major bowl games - These are some of the biggest games of the postseason. They get top selection priority.

  • College Football Playoff (if applicable)
  • Orange Bowl in Miami, Florida - against either Notre Dame, or a Big Ten or SEC team
  • Other New Years Six Games (if applicable)
  • Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Florida (if applicable) against an SEC team
  • Camping World Bowl in Orlando, Florida - against a Big 12 team

Tier 1 Bowls - These bowls pick after the bowls above. They pick at the same time and generally try to get the best matchups and biggest crowds possible.

  • Belk Bowl in Charlotte, North Carolina - against an SEC team
  • Pinstripe Bowl in New York City, New York - against a Big Ten team
  • Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas - against a Pac-12 team
  • Music City Bowl in Nashville, Tennessee or TaxSlayer Bowl in Jacksonville, Florida - against an SEC team

Tier 2 Bowls - These bowls pick after the bowls above. They pick at the same time and generally try to make the best match-ups they can.

  • Military Bowl in Annapolis, Maryland - against an American Conference team
  • Quick Lane Bowl in Detroit, Michigan - against a Big Ten team
  • Independence Bowl in Shreveport, Louisiana - against an SEC team

The ACC also has two conditional bowl slots. The league can send teams to the Birmingham Bowl or the Gasparilla Bowl if the normal bowl partners for these games can’t fill them.

So, how will this all shake out?

It’s far too early to tell. The ACC has two legitimate playoff contenders in Clemson and Miami. Notre Dame is also right on the playoff bubble. If one or two of those teams makes it into the playoff, then everyone else essentially “moves up” in the ACC bowl pecking order.

Another story to watch will be how many bowl eligible teams the ACC ends up having. Only UNC has lost enough games at this point to be ineligible for a bowl game. It’s not impossible to imagine a scenario in which the ACC fills all of its bowl slots and has to scramble to place a team or two elsewhere.

One thing that should be noted, however, is that there are 39 bowl games that are looking to fill slots. In each of the last two seasons, a team that finished 5-7 received a bowl bid because there weren’t enough bowl eligible teams available.

Stay tuned to Streaking The Lawn as we continue to cover Virginia’s march to the postseason.