A plurality of outlets are projecting (guessing?) that Georgia Tech will end up in the Belk Bowl in Charlotte, N.C. The other projections are the Pinstripe, Sun and Military Bowls.
Sports Illustrated: Belk Bowl vs. South Carolina
CBSSports.com: Pinstripe Bowl, vs. Iowa
ESPN: Mark Schlabach: Belk Bowl, vs. Missouri
Brett McMurphy, Belk Bowl, vs. Missouri
Fox Sports: Pinstripe Bowl, vs. Maryland
National Football Post: Military Bowl, vs. Cincinnati
Phil Steele: Military Bowl, vs. East Carolina
Sporting News: Belk Bowl, vs. South Carolina
Ultimately, Tech could end up anywhere between the Orange Bowl and a less desirable destination like the Military Bowl (nothing against the Military Bowl). If Tech ran the table, beating N.C. State, Clemson and Georgia, I’d imagine the Yellow Jackets would make the Orange Bowl, particularly if Miami took another loss.
The second College Football Playoff ranking puts Tech at No. 24, just three spots behind Clemson. Tech’s improved strength of schedule and 10-2 record would likely make the Jackets the No. 2 ACC team in the CFP rankings, which would make them the automatic choice for the Orange Bowl as the ACC representative if Florida State wins the ACC and is selected for the playoff. (In the event that the ACC champion is selected for the playoff, fhe rules of the ACC’s new bowl arrangement requires the Orange Bowl to take the highest ranked ACC team after the champion.)
Tech obviously would also make the Orange Bowl if it won the ACC, which first would require Duke to finish 5-3 or worse and most likely Tech to beat N.C. State and Clemson in order to make the title game, and then beating FSU (presumably) in the championship.
The next bowl in the selection order if the Russell Athletic Bowl. Miami, which has won three games in a row since losing to Tech to improve to 6-3, looks like a possibility there, although the Hurricanes play Florida State in two Saturdays. An eight-win season could get the Hurricanes in, depending on how Duke, Tech and Louisville finish. That said, both Miami and Louisville played there last year, so that may limit both teams’ attractiveness.
The Belk, Music City, Pinstripe, Sun and TaxSlayer (formerly Gator) bowls pick together. Following the announcement of the four-team playoff and the other four bowls in the playoff rotation not hosting semifinals (this year, the Orange, Peach, Cotton and Fiesta), bowl officials from those five bowls will get on a conference call with the ACC to settle on a lineup.
It’s a different process than the previous format, where the ACC bowls picked in order and other rules created a process that the bowls and teams found too restrictive. For instance, there is no longer the “one-win rule” or the rule that the ACC title-game loser can’t fall past the Sun Bowl, which is how Tech ended up in El Paso, Texas, two years in a row (nothing against the Sun Bowl).
“We’ll have a joint conference call about what the teams that are available for selection by the pool bowls and then who they might like to have,” said Michael Strickland, the ACC’s senior associate commissioner. ‘Hopefully, everyone will want a different team, but we have mechanisms in place (if two or more bowls want the same team).”
There will be an emphasis on creating the best matchups, avoiding repeat visits for teams, geographic proximity and teams’ preferences. To that end, I’d think that the Sun and Music City bowls would not want Tech, and the feeling would likely be mutual.
Geography is one reason why the Pinstripe Bowl seems like less of an option for Tech than perhaps the Belk or TaxSlayer. Boston College (6-3, games remaining against Louisville, Florida State and Syracuse) would appear to be a more appealing choice for the Pinstripe. (The TaxSlayer and Music City bowls share one pick. One will take an ACC team and the other will take a Big Ten team.)
Rick Catlett, the president and CEO of the TaxSlayer Bowl, said that Tech is “absolutely” on the radar for his bowl, although he said the only ACC team that’s not on his group’s radar is Florida State.
The Belk has a strong history of picking teams from the Carolinas, but Duke went to the Belk two years ago, meaning both sides may want to look elsewhere.
However, if Tech loses its final three games to finish 7-5, the Jackets would likely end up in the second tier of bowls, the Military (Annapolis, Md.), Independence (Shreveport, La.) and Quick Lane (Detroit) bowls. The process is the same for selection. It’s one reason why Saturday’s game against N.C. State is important. It’s believed an eighth win will go a long way towards securing the Jackets’ place in the first tier of bowls.