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Here’s how this year’s ACC bowl selection process works

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It’s been awhile, so perhaps you’ve forgotten how this all goes down.

NCAA Football: CFP National Championship-Media Day Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The Syracuse Orange haven’t made the postseason since 2013 (VIVA LAS TEXAS BOWL), and there are no guarantees we’re back this year, either. So you’d be forgiven if you were not as up on the bowl selection process as you may have been at another point in your life.

Lucky for us, the ACC Football Kickoff shared exactly how this thing works in a not-so-easy-to-read chart.

In case you, like me, have some trouble reading that thing, I wanted to break down each step of the ACC bowl selection process below, in normal typeface.

Step 1: Playoffs?

You start here, because this determines the rest of the process. If an ACC team (or two) makes the College Football Playoff, then the Orange Bowl is opened up for the next-best conference team, according to the CFP rankings.

Step 2: Orange Bowl

Like I explained above: next-best squad in the ACC, if one or more of its teams make the Playoff. That team would face either the SEC, Big Ten or Notre Dame, depending on rankings and such.

NCAA Football: Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl-Alabama vs Washington Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Step 3: Access bowls?

After they figure out the CFP spot and the Orange Bowl bid, the other ACC teams are eligible for bids in the other access bowls -- this year, the Peach, Fiesta and Cotton. Through the first three years of the Playoff era, the ACC has never placed a third team in the top six bowl games.

Step 4: Citrusy

This only happens if the Orange Bowl opponent is from the Big Ten, apparently. With Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan and Wisconsin all potential contenders for top-10ish place in the polls, that seems more likely than not this year. The ACC would face an SEC team if they were to participate.

Step 5: Camping World Bowl

Formerly the Russell Athletic Bowl, so you’ll be excused for wondering why this seemingly random game is this high up on the pecking order. The next-best remaining ACC team would face off with the whichever Big 12 team’s left down in Orlando.

New Era Pinstripe Bowl - West Virginia v Syracuse Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

Step 6: If we’re in Tier 1, we’d probably go Pinstripe-ing

Here’s the first area you’re even getting a shot at seeing the Orange this year. This tier of ACC tie-ins includes the Belk Bowl, Sun Bowl, Pinstripe Bowl and Music City Bowl/Taxslayer Bowl depending on the year. The ACC played in the Taxslayer Bowl last year, so Music City’s most likely of those two this year.

Because the conference and bowl games are free to slot teams into any of these games based on geography alone, Syracuse could potentially earn its third trip to the Pinstripe in a eight seasons, even if several other conference teams have better records.

Step 7: Tier 2, In this exact order

While the previous step was a free-for-all, this one’s far more orderly. Teams are slotted in, largely based on record, to the following three games:

  • Military Bowl
  • Independence Bowl
  • Quick Lane Bowl

There’s a caveat there, however, which is that you can go out of order for geography/preventing rematches, but you can only jump a team that’s within one win. So if SU won six games and Pitt won eight, the Panthers would still be heading to the Military Bowl, even if the game thought we’d be the more entertaining get.

FYI, we’d probably head to the Quick Lane Bowl out of all of these. And really, that’s the third-best scenario in this lineup for us, in terms of fan travel -- 1. Pinstripe, 2. Military, 3. Quick Lane... everything else is far. And the Independence Bowl (in Shreveport, La.) would have like three Orange fans at it. We don’t want that.

NCAA Football: St. Petersburg Bowl-Miami (Ohio) at Mississippi State Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Step 8: In case of emergency, break glass

The Texas Bowl was no easy swing for Syracuse in 2013, as we beat out San Jose State, Central Michigan and few others for the spot. With luck, it won’t get to this, but if the ACC fills out all of its spots and SU (or other ACC teams) are still without a bowl home, there are potential alternatives.

If the conferences with primary tie-ins to the St. Petersburg Bowl or Birmingham Bowl can’t fill those spots, then they default to the ACC if they have teams in need of invites.

The above sounds concerning, but a) bowls fail to fill their spots all the time, and b) losing teams have made bowls in each of the past two seasons. If Syracuse goes 6-6, they’re going bowling. Plan your trip to Miami Orlando Charlotte Shreveport (probably) New York or Detroit accordingly.