ACC Bowl Selection Mythbusters

Articles, Sports

With all of the focus being on the selection of the top four for the College Football Playoff (as it should be), there’s a lot of misunderstanding and misinformation regarding the selection of the other hundreds of thousands of bowls out there*.

* do not ever complain about having more college football to watch on TV

Myth: The College Football Playoff committee ranks teams by evaluating and comparing resumes, and those rankings determine the selection for the New Years Six bowls.


Beyond the top four spots, the CFP poll DOES determine who gets slotted into the at-large New Years Six spots and who gets the top Group of 5 spot. That part is true. However, the bowls are very much involved in manipulating the rankings in a way that gives them the power to pick and choose teams as their guests. As we saw last year, teams will be ranked one way this week to give the impression of an honest comparison of teams, but will mysteriously move next week without having played a game. The frightening possibility for UNC fans is that we ASSUME this only happens outside of the top four, but we have no idea. “Eye Test” is a dangerous, dangerous phrase.

Myth: The Russell Athletic Bowl and the Pool 1 Bowls (Belk, Music City, Pinstripe, Sun, TaxSlayer) pick teams based on comparing the resumes of eligible teams. 


The only “resume” rule at play is that bowls can’t pass up one team in favor of another if there’s a two-game difference in record. For example, 6-6 Virginia Tech is eliminated from Russell Athletic Bowl consideration because they can’t be picked over Florida State, UNC, Pitt, or Louisville. Beyond that, it’s up to the wishes of the bowls as we’ll see when those 6-6 Hokies are picked over a 7-win Duke team who beat Virginia Tech. Resumes don’t matter in bowl selection at this tier.

Myth: Bowls pick teams based on ticket sales and prestige.

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There’s certainly plenty of evidence to suggest that this is true, but two factors absolutely keep this from being confirmed: the politics at play behind the scenes, and the massive importance of TV ratings.

A good example is the 2013 Chick-Fil-A Bowl where the selection came down to 10-3 Duke vs. 9-3 Miami as the ACC representative in the prestigious bowl. There’s no doubt which program carried more prestige, but a resurgent Duke brought more intrigue than Miami to a bowl that needs no help with ticket sales or TV ratings, especially going up against Johnny Football. The bowl passed on Miami and received one of the most memorable bowl games in recent years, and ended up as the most-watched non-BCS bowl that year.

Still, sales and prestige are incredibly important to bowls, and we fully expect that to play out with the Virginia Tech Hokies this years. With Frank Beamer’s final game there for the taking, the Hokies are probably the only guaranteed non CFP sellout this bowl season.

Myth: There’s a pecking order among the Pool 1 Bowls.

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The four Pool 1 bowls are all “even”, and each will throw out the ACC team they’d like to host. If there’s no conflict, it’s set. Those are the four teams in those four bowls. However, if there is a conflict, there’s a tie-breaking procedure which could likely include a draw or some sort of rotating “waiver wire” type pecking order. Just because it’s not made public doesn’t mean it’s not there, but it only comes into play when multiple bowls want the same team.

Myth: Ultimately, bowl selection comes down to how many tweets fans send to football media or directly to the official bowl accounts in order to lobby for their favorite teams.


Now that you understand how all of this works, check out our next-to-last edition of our ACC Bowl Projections.