Orange Bowl and ACC officials announced a 12-year extension — the term coincides with the four-team playoff college football adopted for 2014-25 — of their contract in July. Since, the question has been, whom will the ACC play?
As ESPN.com’s Brett McMurphy first reported Monday evening, and a source subsequently confirmed, the answer appears to be Notre Dame, the SEC and Big Ten.
Details remain, but here’s how the arrangement figures to work:
During the 12-year playoff run, the Orange will host four national semifinals. That leaves eight regular Orange Bowls, with the ACC serving as the anchor team.
That team will be the ACC champion, unless the champ qualifies for the national semifinals, in which case the Orange Bowl will select another representative from the conference.
Based on rankings and/or a contracted rotation, the ACC squad would face an available team from among the SEC, Big Ten and Notre Dame. Key word: available.
For example, the champions of the SEC and/or Big Ten could qualify the playoff semis. Failing that, the Big Ten champion, per tradition and contract, would head to the Rose Bowl, unless the Rose was hosting a semifinal. Similarly, an SEC champ bypassed for the playoff would head to the so-called Champions Bowl, the new game matching the SEC and Big 12 winners, that, also, in years that the Champions wasn’t hosting a semifinal.
Translation: In most, if not all, of the eight Orange Bowls, the ACC would play a high-profile, top-10 opponent.
Depending on Notre Dame’s ranking, there might be some seasons when the Orange Bowl would draw the No. 3 or 4 team from the SEC or Big Ten. That would occur when those conferences sent their top team(s) to the playoff and No. 2 or 3 to their contract bowl, Champions or Rose.
Conversely, when a Big Ten and/or SEC champion did not make the playoff, and the league’s contract bowl was staging a semifinal, that champion would be eligible for the Orange Bowl.
Confusing, I know.
How might such an arrangement have worked in past seasons?
Contingent upon which bowls were hosting semifinals, last season Clemson would have faced either Arkansas, Wisconsin or Michigan in the Orange Bowl rather than Big East champion West Virginia. Each of those three was ranked at least 10 spots higher than the No. 23 Mountaineers in the final Bowl Championship Series standings.
(Settle down, WVU faithful. That’s not a shot. Just facts. And we all know, 70-33.)
The most recent season Notre Dame would have entered the mix was 2006, when the Fighting Irish completed the regular season 10-2 and No. 11 in the BCS standings. They, along with Wisconsin, Auburn and Arkansas would have been possible Orange Bowl opponents for Wake Forest. The Deacons faced No. 6 Louisville from the Big East instead.
Much more to come on the ACC’s Orange Bowl deal, likely by month’s end.
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