For the first time in three years, North Carolina will be playing in a bowl game.
Based on the ACC’s selection process, here’s where the Tar Heels could end up.
Barring a monumental upset in the ACC Championship Game, Clemson will head to the College Football Playoff and Virginia will serve as the ACC’s representative in the Orange Bowl.
No ACC team will achieve a high enough CFP ranking to earn an at-large selection, nor will Notre Dame.
This is where the Irish, currently ranked No. 16 in the CFP rankings, enter the picture to take the remaining bowl slot that has a stand-alone place in the ACC’s agreement.
Tier I Bowls
This is where the Tar Heels will end up, as all four of the ACC’s bowl games with equal selection priority will be able to pick Carolina after Saturday’s results.
With eight wins, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest are the only two teams that are guaranteed selection from the league’s top-tier selections.
After that, the ACC’s remaining teams are “equal” in the eyes of bowl games, leaving it their discretion regarding ticket sales and television ratings to award their bid.
That leaves Boston College, Carolina, Florida State, Louisville, Miami and Pittsburgh for the four remaining spots.
Out of that bunch, there’s no doubt that Carolina and Louisville have the most optimism surrounding their programs as they head into the postseason with great potential fans that will ride that wave to celebrate their turnarounds.
So, where’s Carolina going?
The Tar Heels will be an attractive choice thanks to Mack Brown, freshman phenom quarterback Sam Howell and the program’s return to prominence this season.
Having played in the Sun Bowl in 2016 and the Belk Bowl and its predecessor four times, it would figure those two are out.
That leaves the Pinstripe and Music City Bowls, which last chose an ACC team in 2015.
In a move that would be beneficial for both bowl games and both programs, it makes sense that the Pinstripe, with a large contingent of UNC alumni in New York City, would take the Tar Heels, while the Cardinals end up close to home in Nashville.
About the Pinstripe Bowl
Set for Dec. 27 with a 3:20 p.m. kickoff at Yankee Stadium, the Pinstripe Bowl will match an ACC team against a Big Ten Opponent on ESPN.
Carolina has never played in the game, where the ACC has struggled, going 1-4.
According to Sports Business Daily, players were gifted "A variety of New Era products" last season.
And the rest of the ACC’s Tier I bowl games?
That leaves the Hokies and Deacons for the Belk and Sun Bowls, and with apologies to Wake Forest, Virginia Tech fans are a little more likely to sell more tickets at Bank of America Stadium and drive television ratings.
As great as Wake Forest has been this season, it remains the smallest school among Power Five programs, and that will unfortunately always work against the Deacs. Yet another reminder that college athletics are about profits rather than fairness.